Time and funding stand in front of school safety

On Monday Gov. Rick Scott released a School Safety Improvement Plan in response to the senseless murder of 17 children and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

We have printed the entire plan on the next page. Please take a moment to read it.

This plan contains sweeping changes to school security requirements, staffing, mental health resources and gun regulations.

In a fully-funded perfect state, we would love to see a majority of this plan put in place. These are changes that have been talked about for years, even in this newspaper. The changes and ideas have echoed in the hallways of Tallahassee. They have always been issued with a disclaimer of “if we had the money” or “maybe someday.”

Some of it seems so simple. For example, putting a dedicated mental health counselor in every school, and our own sheriff has said he wants a resource officer in every school. It also seems like basic common sense to say that if someone is dangerous enough to warrant a restraining order, they probably do not need to be purchasing a gun.

We wish we had a magic wand to wave over this plan and poof! It becomes real tomorrow.

But we don’t have a magic wand, money doesn’t grow on trees and the proposed $500 million isn’t going to cut it.

Gov. Scott wants these changes to be in effect as of Aug. 13…this year. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But, as Sheriff Bob Johnson said, it’s physically impossible to add the resources officers at schools by the start of the new school year. If he had complete funding tomorrow, he couldn’t make it happen in that time frame. With few candidates applying for deputy positions, it would be monumental to hire all that are needed and have them completely trained by the first day of school.

Scott says if needed he will freeze the entire capital outlay budget for the sake of making all of these changes happen – not realistic. Our schools would not be able to fix a broken fire alarm until every one of the tens of thousands windows in Santa Rosa schools is bullet proof. Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Joey Harrell estimated that the school remodels alone could cost at least $10 million.

If Gov. Scott’s proposed allocation ($450 million for schools and resource officers) was divided equally among the 67 counties in Florida, Santa Rosa would get roughly $6.7 million. And we know it won’t be an across the board division. It will likely be based on size of county, number of students, etc. But, if it were, subtract from the $6.7 million the $1.3 million needed for resource officers and you are left with just roughly $5.4 million to hire 33 mental health counselors (roughly $1.2 million according to payscale.com), renovate 33 schools, implement new district wide training and everything else on the list. See where we are going? Only common core math would make it work.

The district just cannot do it with that little funding. And funding is part of the reason some of these changes were not made sooner.

As for the legislature, we challenge you to make this plan happen in a reasonable time period. Yes, the funding and timeline have to be adjusted for it to even be feasible. Yes, some pet projects will have to wait. Yes, there are less than 10 days left in session. Yes, this plan will mean that both parties have to compromise a little.

Make. It. Happen.

As Gov. Scott spoke on his plan to a room of reporters, Andrew Pollack appeared beside him. Pollack was the father of 18-year-old Meadow who was shot to death inside that high school.

He challenged not only Florida but the entire U.S. to make him the last father of a murdered child at school.

We applaud Gov. Scott for wanting this to never happen again. There is no price too high for our children’s safety. But please let the funding flow and let it happen in a reasonable time period. Don’t do more harm than good.

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Navarre Press

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Navarre FL 32566

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