Florida’s SBA wants more safety improvements

Florida’s SBA wants more safety improvements

(Fla.) With the tumultuous mid-term elections in the rearview mirror, school officials have gathered in Tampa this week to finalize a slat of legislative goals for the coming session.

Topping the list is school safety—a move aimed at a getting the message out early to lawmakers and gun lobbyists that the package of laws approved last spring isn’t enough.

“We need to drive the narrative,” Suwannee County School Board member Jerry Taylor, told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this week. “If we do not drive the narrative, someone else will drive it for us.”

Just three weeks after the Parkland school shooting, where a gunman killed 17 students and staff, former Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation that raised the minimum age to purchase any firearm to 21 from 18; imposed a three-day waiting period on gun purchases; provided funds for school police officers and mental health counselors; and allowed local school districts and sheriffs to arm certain school personnel.

At the annual meeting of the Florida School Boards Association, members adopted platform language that would build on those steps by asking the Legislature to provide even more money for local security and mental health initiatives for the schools, including repeating revenue streams to keep officers and guards in place.

The FSBA, which represents all but three of the state’s school boards, will also press lawmakers to provide money for hiring school counselors and “to expand and enhance mental health services available through school and community coordinated services, and to provide enhanced wraparound services.”

A long-standing dispute over state tax law is also a priority. The group wants the Legislature to revise tax laws so that schools can benefit from rising property values—a longstanding demand from schools, which they say will help them better safeguard classrooms.

Other priorities of the FSBA include:

  • Addressing the growing need to recruit and retain highly effective educators through an increase in the base state grant by a minimum of 3 percent, or $126, per student over the 2018 allocation; and
  • Authorizing school districts to re-employ school-based leaders, instructional personnel, and school safety personnel after one month, rather than 12 months, after retirement as currently required by law.

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