Sunday, October 21, 2018

U.S. Rep. Bilirakis urges AG Sessions to focus millions on resource officers for nation’s biggest school districts

Shortly after the Feb. 14 Parkland school shooting, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis told the Pasco County School Board that putting more money into trained resource officers was a "no brainer."

With the passage of a federal omnibus spending package, the Palm Harbor Republican is working to steer millions toward school officers in the nation's largest districts, two of which — Pasco and Pinellas —  he represents.

On Monday, Bilirakis sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to direct $75 million in the federal funding bill  toward Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. Earlier in the month, Sessions announced he would put more money into the competitive grant program, prioritizing school districts seeking to hire more law enforcement.

"Sadly, in my Congressional District, there is currently insufficient funding to provide at least one SRO on every school campus," Bilirakis wrote to Sessions. "I implore you to once again use your discretionary authority and use these funds to expand the COPS hiring program, particularly for large districts serving 50,000 or more students, as they face a significant burden in hiring in trying to hire enough SROs for every campus."

Florida has 14 districts with more than 50,000 students. Most have said they need more than $1 million more than the state Legislature has allocated to ensure at least one officer per campus.

Pasco County Schools, for instance, have 37 resource officers and would need 47 more to staff every school. The district estimates its total cost for SROs in each school to be $5.2 million; it received a total allocation of $3.5 million.

Pinellas County officials have projected a $12.4 million gap between its existing funds and its anticipated costs to place an officer in every school.

Related coverage: Tampa Bay needs millions to pay for school security law

The money would not be guaranteed, as districts would have to apply for funding. But Summer Robertson, Bilirakis deputy chief of staff, said she believed the Florida districts would have a "good likelihood" of gaining support for their efforts.

"The pot will be expanding and available quickly," Robertson said, noting its addition to the budget comes April 1.

She added that Bilirakis is already working to secure funding in the coming year budget for resource officers, as well.

"This is about protecting our children and ensuring that they feel safe when they go to school to learn," Bilirakis said in a released statement. "I want every parent to have the confidence of knowing that a well-trained, seasoned professional is at the helm."

Comments
ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 14, 2018

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 14, 2018

Frustrated with a string of legislative losses, the Florida Education Association — the state’s largest teacher union — selected new leadership for the coming three years. New president Fed Ingram promised to “start winning ag...
Published: 10/20/18
Student who mangled fingers with school table saw sues Pinellas School Board

Student who mangled fingers with school table saw sues Pinellas School Board

A Northeast High School student who mangled his fingers using a table saw in class in 2016 is suing the Pinellas County School Board for negligence, asking for at least $15,000 in damages.According to a lawsuit filed Oct. 12, Brandon Jacob ...
Published: 10/19/18
State to designate Florida ‘Schools of Excellence’ for flexibility on some rules

State to designate Florida ‘Schools of Excellence’ for flexibility on some rules

Eighty-eight Florida schools will join 630 others in gaining relief from some state education laws as "Schools of Excellence."The recognition, developed by lawmakers in 2017 as part of HB 7069, grants principals greater autonomy in daily operations, ...
Published: 10/19/18
Florida education news: Campus climate, contract talks, student discipline and more

Florida education news: Campus climate, contract talks, student discipline and more

CLIMATE SURVEY: Large majorities of Pinellas County teachers say they feel valued and safe at their schools. District officials plan to break down these and other survey results by school, and use the information to make any needed improvements....
Published: 10/19/18
New survey shows most school staff in Pinellas feel valued, safe

New survey shows most school staff in Pinellas feel valued, safe

Pinellas County schools recently wrapped up a new type of survey which asked school-level staff to evaluate aspects about their workplace.The results show about 70 percent of the 3,952 respondents agree that they feel valued by the adm...
Published: 10/18/18
Pasco school employees ask for 4.5 percent raises plus a bonus

Pasco school employees ask for 4.5 percent raises plus a bonus

Contending the school district has more money available than it has discussed, the United School Employees of Pasco requested 4.5 percent raises plus a nonrecurring bonus for all its support personnel during negotiations Wednesday.A similar requ...
Published: 10/18/18
Gradebook podcast: Are 11th and 12th grades a waste of time? A discussion on dual enrollment and early college

Gradebook podcast: Are 11th and 12th grades a waste of time? A discussion on dual enrollment and early college

As a Florida state lawmaker, John Legg often spoke about how the final two years of high school were becoming less important to students who had already passed many of their graduation requirements and could benefit from better preparation for colleg...
Published: 10/18/18
Florida education news: Teacher pay, school threats, special education and more

Florida education news: Teacher pay, school threats, special education and more

TEACHER PAY: Pasco County's school employees union prepares to make a salary request that exceeds what district officials have said is available. The sides have delayed negotiations two months while awaiting updated financial information. •...
Published: 10/18/18
Pasco school district gets strong credit ratings for upcoming issue

Pasco school district gets strong credit ratings for upcoming issue

In advance of selling $67.5 million in certificates of participation, the Pasco County school district sent several high level officials to New York to pitch for a good credit rating.The effort paid off, chief finance officer Olga Swinson told t...
Published: 10/17/18
Pasco County school employee contract talks turn to salaries

Pasco County school employee contract talks turn to salaries

After a two month break while awaiting updated financial data, negotiators for Pasco County school employees and the district administration return to bargaining this week, with plans to start talking pay.The United School Employees of Pasco intends ...
Published: 10/17/18