Florida schools have been begging for security funding for years

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — In light of the mass shooting at a south Florida high school, 9 Investigates reporter Christopher Heath found out schools across Florida have been begging for security funding for years without much help.

The Florida Department of Education asked for more money for safe schools in 2013, but the state said no.

In 2014, Orange County Public Schools asked the state for more money for school safety resources.

The Legislature said no.

In 2015, the Florida Department of Education again asked for more money for safe schools. The Legislature, again, said no.

Safe Schools is a program that largely pays for school resource officers and security at Florida’s schools, however, it is not only shared by all 67 counties, it has also not seen an increase since 2011.

“I just don't understand the logic of the Legislature," said Orange County Public School Chairman Bill Sublette in an interview on Central Florida Spotlight. “They are hurting kids, they are endangering our kids."

In 2008, funding for Safe Schools was at $75.6 million. By 2011, that figure had been cut to $64.4 million.  Meanwhile, enrollment in Florida schools has expanded since 2009, growing by more than 300,000 students.

“It makes it very clear that our Legislature has not put the money in to protect our students and our schools,” says Orange County mother Kathleen Oropeza, who heads up advocacy group Fund Education Now.  “These children are our most precious resources, and if we can’t afford to spend money on them, on mental health counselling if they need it, what are we doing here, the Florida Legislature needs to step up and do their jobs.”

But it’s not just money for Safe Schools.

In 2017, the Florida Legislature revamped its method for allocation of capital funding.  Traditional public schools right now split their capital funding with charter schools even though there are five times as many traditional public schools and traditional public schools are held to higher building standards for safety than charter schools.