Fla senators discuss school safety with superintendents

Legislators say placing School Resource Officers in every school would cost $90K per officer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Senators heard from superintendents from across the Sunshine State Wednesday about a need for more money to address school safety. 

The Department of Education may be asking for less money this year for school safety, which has two of Northeast Florida's lawmakers jumping into one of the most important topics in Tallahassee this legislative session.

"But it's definitely a hot topic, of how we're going to pay for additional security," said Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean. 

"We had a good discussion, good information from our superintendents," said Republican state Sen. John Thrasher.  

Thrasher and Bean were in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Wednesday in Tallahassee. They discussed the constantly controversial component of school safety and money.  

The Department of Education budget requests $64 million for school safety. But that reflects losses over the past five years to Northeast Florida's school districts. The losses could approach a million dollars total.

"And that's where you heard Sen. Thrasher point out, there was no additional money for new security. That's where Sen. Thrasher says, I hope this isn't your final answer," said Bean.  

Thrasher and Bean said superintendents throughout the state voiced concern about "hardening" schools, which is making it tougher for someone to gain access to classrooms without permission.

They also said they heard leaders plead for local control with whatever money the legislature ends up sending to school districts.

"The money that we do give, how can we give them even more flexibility, so they can match it with sheriff's offices... How can they use that money best to fortify and secure the schools the best they can?," said Bean.  

"Let's not try to micromanage. Whatever money we give in addition to what we gave last year, let school districts decide, let's not micromanage the money," said Thrasher.  

Sen. Thrasher told Channel 4 that one of his colleagues in the Senate heard from a county sheriff in Florida and that the estimate for placing a School Resource Officer in each school would come to $90,000 per officer. In total, it would cost between $400 million and $500 million dollars to outfit each school with an officer.

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