Gov. Rick Scott is going against the wishes of legislative leaders and is asking the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Commission to transfer $58 million in money from the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to school districts for additional school safety.
The guardian program is part of the school safety package lawmakers passed following the Parkland school shootings earlier this year. Lawmakers set aside $67 million to deputize and train certain school staff to carry firearms to provide additional security on school campuses. The program was named for a football coach who died while trying to save students during the Parkland shootings,
But a survey of school districts shows only $9 million dollars of that money has been used and Scott now wants to transfer the rest of the money to allow school districts to use the funds to help pay for additional school safety officers. The governor sent a letter late Thursday asking the Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up legislators from both chambers and has the authority to make budget decisions, to transfer the money.
“When I signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” Scott wrote to commission members. “I made it clear that any unused funding for the voluntary guardian program should be redirected to hire additional safe-school officers this year.”
Scott says if the money isn’t transferred by the commission it will sit in the budget and unused until next year, while local schools struggle to pay for safe-school officers to patrol school campuses.
The incoming leaders of the Senate and House, Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, have spoken out against Scott’s proposed transfer of guardian program funds. They say the program need time to grow and the money should remain in the guardian program.
“Any new idea takes time for people to accept,” Oliva told the Associated Press last week. “When school resource officers were first mentioned as a possibility at schools, the big outcry was ‘never in my school.’ Today the outcry is for a police officer in every school.”
“We cannot let this money go to waste in Tallahassee,” Scott wrote in his letter to the commission..
“This is not the right decision for the safety of our children and grandchildren,” Scott added.
Currently, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission has no meetings scheduled.