CHIPLEY - The $400 million worth of school safety legislation Gov. Rick Scott supported signed into law Sunday may not go as far as anticipated when it is allocated to Washington County.
At a Washington County School Board meeting Monday, Superintendent Joseph Taylor pointed out the base funding per student amounts to just 47 cents. Washington County School District, as other districts statewide, is reviewing the funding and how it will be used.
A round-table discussion has been schedule for Monday, April 2 at 4 p.m. at the district's headquarters, 652 N. Third St.
"The governor's proclamation before the session started was that they were going with a $200 increase into the base student allocation - the ultimate was 47 cents," Taylor said. "The monies that came (from) the $400 million actually came out of other parts of the budget; they just shifted stuff down."
The math is well-convoluted. A 2018-2019 Florida Department of Education funding spreadsheet shows a list of items designating - and de-funding - programs. While $172,599 is added for the mental health component in Washington County School District, about $22,600 has been cut from other areas, such as instructional materials, digital classroom and reading allocation.
"We got the increase, but it's very specific about what we can do with it," he added. "I still have not seen the fine print on what they mean by 'safe schools.'"
Most of the $723,000 in new funding is designated to the safe schools and mental health components, which total about $430,000 combined.
Also, Taylor reminded School Board members, in order to receive the new funding, the school district will need to meet certain criteria and follow a checklist of stipulations guided by the state.
"In each of these - whether it's the school safety piece or the mental health, or any of those - we're going to have to send back an approval letter saying we've fulfilled all of these," Taylor said. "There will be a checklist."
The marshal program, which is the piece that addresses training and arming teachers, is opt-in. Although the board did not discuss the program at Monday's meeting, it may be discussed during the April 2 round-table workshop, officials said.
School districts across the state, while clearly supportive of increasing mental health services and improving school safety, have reportedly been against arming teachers. According to a Tallahassee Democrat news article on March 9, the state budget had not provided enough funding to staff campuses across the state with deputies. It would cost about $360 million to get a deputy on each campus, the Florida Sheriffs Association estimates; however, the budget for the program is only $162 million.