Florida schools begged Republican lawmakers for security funding before yesterday’s massacre. Their response says it all

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Florida’s Department of Education begged Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee for a $10 million school safety budget increase for each of the last three years but got turned down, and that’s one reason inadequate school security failed to prevent yesterday’s school massacre in Parkland. Instead, GOP legislators hit Florida public schools statewide, in real terms, with a 24% funding cut for school security since 2007.

In 2007, Florida spent $75.6 million annually on the state’s “Safe Schools” budget (see chart below) which pays for school security statewide, which Republicans reduced by 15% to $64.4 million beginning in 2011, where it stands today. When inflation is considered, Florida Republicans would have to boost spending to $89.3 to 2007 levels.

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Florida schools have had to cut their security details in half because of the combination of less money and having to fund everything from after-school programs to bullying prevention to suicide prevention all from the same shrunken budget. TCPalm.com reports:

The Department of Education has asked the Legislature for more Safe Schools funding each of the past eight years, records reveal.

Resource officers in Florida, in large part, are paid for from a pool of money called Safe Schools, earmarked each year strictly for school districts to use on safety and security expenses.  The state’s 67 school districts this year are sharing $64.4 million, an amount unchanged  for the past seven years.

Schools are supposed to use this money for a gamut of safety-and-security needs, from bullying prevention to after-school programs, yet more than 80 percent is spent on school resource officers.

“The money … is nowhere near enough to do what’s necessary to keep schools safe,” Andy Tuck, a member of the state Board of Education, said at a July 17 meeting… “For four consecutive years, we have proudly proposed a $10 million increase in school safety, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to make this a reality,” Tuck said in a statement to the USA TODAY Network.

Republicans have controlled Florida’s two legislatures since 1996 and all three branches of government since 1999.

But they’re obviously not interested in school safety, even though shooting incidents have only increased since the expiration of President Clinton’s assault rifles legislation in 2004.

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The Republican Party of Florida’s top agenda has been to remake Florida into gun owner’s – and murderer’s – paradise, by stripping away gun controls and passing the nation’s first “Stand your ground” law.

While the gun rights group never trumpets the impact of school security funding, they did brag about Governor Scott’s five ‘historic’ bills signed in 2014 to weaken Florida’s gun laws. Rick Scott is the Republican Party’s prospective Senate candidate for 2018 and he sports an A-rating from the NRA in exchange for bad legislation and countless thoughts and prayers.

Florida’s homicide by gun rate rose 31.6% in the years since Republican Governor Jeb Bush signed “stand your ground” into law, while the statewide homicide rate jumped 24% even as other states saw fewer murders.

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“We can argue how (funds are) allocated, what’s for training and school resource officers,” Mixon told the Board of Education on July 17 according to the TCPalm. “(But) it is not a simple fix of an educator carrying a gun.”

Unfortunately, the currently GOP dominated legislature and Florida’s Republican Governor Scott are more interested in getting an A-grade from the NRA and funding massive tax cuts, then spending an extra $25 million annually on unprofitable school security that might save a regular person’s child from a bullet.

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Grant Stern

Editor at Large

Grant Stern is a columnist for the Washington Press. He's also mortgage broker, writer, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida.

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