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Governor and Legislature at Odds Over Unspent Guardian Funds

August 24th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are butting heads over what to do with unused money for school districts to arm school staff members.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting the Florida Legislature passed sweeping school safety legislation.
While they decided against the idea of arming teachers, lawmakers still put $67 million aside to train and arm school staff.
When Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law he did so with one reservation.
“If the $67 million in there is not used, I want to work with them [the Legislature] to move those dollars over for more law enforcement,” said Scott.
So far about 1/3rd of Florida’s school districts have adopted the guardian program in some form.
Twice as many have rejected the idea.
Now the Governor says it time to make the $58 million left over available for other needs.
Andrea Messina with the Florida School Boards Association says the money could make a big difference for districts struggling to come into compliance with the law.
“The school districts, the sheriff’s departments, the police chiefs, the counties, they’ve all incurred additional costs,” said Messina. “This is a pot of money that might help them recoup some of the costs that they’ve already expended.”
Senate and House leadership aren’t on board though.
They argue the guardian program needs time to grow, fearing the program could fail if the funds are pulled too soon.
When asked about the Legislature’s reluctance to re-appropriate the guardian funds Governor Rick Scott said, “I want to do everything we can for our kids, so I’m going to fight to make sure that money goes back into our schools for more law enforcement.”
Messina says she’s confident the Legislature will come around eventually, but the sooner the better.
“This fiscal year certainly is a hope for us,” said Messina.
School districts say if the funds do become available districts need to be allowed to use them how they see fit.
Whether it be for school hardening, mental health or hiring resource officers.

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