Gov. Rick Scott is doubling down on his call to move $58 million, currently not being used in the voluntary Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, for school security.
While the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was authorized to have $67 million for law enforcement to set up guardian programs with school districts, only $9 million of that had been used. Last week, Scott called on the Legislative Budget Commission to approve using the remaining $58 million to boost school security.
Weighing in on the matter last week, Scott said the Parkland shootings helped prompt his decision.
“Immediately following the tragedy in Parkland this year, we took emergency action to make our schools safer,” Scott said. “While I am proud of the major legislation we passed this spring, I was clear that we would need to continue to work together to keep our students safe. That’s why I outlined this plan to Legislative leadership in March, and today am living up to my commitment to urge them to redirect unused money from the voluntary guardian program back into our schools for more security.
“I am confident that the Legislature will take the appropriate actions to ensure that this funding can be used this school year,” Scott added. “Every student and parent in Florida deserves to know that our schools are safe and our kids are protected.”
Scott’s office offered some of the details on how the funds would be used.
“The $58 million will be redirected to school districts for the specific purpose of enhancing school safety,” the governor’s office noted. “Under the Department of Education’s proposal, once redirected, the $58 million will be disbursed to Florida school districts based on their student population. This funding can then be used to partner with local law enforcement to hire additional school officers. This year, school districts were provided $162 million specifically for school safety.”
On Thursday, Scott sent letters to every member of the Legislative Budget Commission, calling on them to support his proposal.
“After completing a survey of Florida school districts and sheriff’s offices, the Florida Department of Education has confirmed that only $9 million of the $67 million budgeted for the voluntary Guardian Program will be used,” Scott’s office noted. “The governor has called for the remaining $58 million to be redirected to school districts for additional safety this school year. If the Legislature does not act, this funding will revert back to the state budget and will not be able to be used to enhance school safety.”
Scott is getting the support of a fellow Republican in the state Cabinet on the matter.
“The Florida Legislature should move quickly on Gov. Scott’s request to ensure Florida schools can get the funding they need to protect our kids. As a father of two young children, this is especially important to me. As soon as this money is allocated by the Florida legislature to the school districts, my office will expedite the payments,” said Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis on Thursday.
“These dollars should go to our schools so they can implement safety measures including hiring more school police officers,” Patronis added. “Our school districts, many of which are short on public safety resources, can make the quickest use of this money with the school year having already started. If this money is not allocated to the school districts, they will not be able to use the remaining $58 million this school year.”
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.