Bay Area superintendents request revised education budget

- A group of superintendents from Tampa Bay school districts joined together Thursday to urge lawmakers to go back to work to re-think the education budget which, they believe, will fund school security at the expense of classrooms.

At a joint news conference in Tampa, the superintendents from Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk Counties explained, while they agree school safety is a top priority, it shouldn't take funding away from learning.

"We do have the resources to do both, to have a strong educational system and strong security school safety system," said Pinellas County Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego.

Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people, lawmakers decided every school in Florida must now have an armed school resource officer on campus.

Superintendents are concerned that, although overall education funding is increasing, the state is forcing districts to allocate the majority of it to security and out of the classrooms.

Administrators worry each district will end up short millions of dollars that would have strictly been used to teach students, forcing leaders to cut educational programs and extracurricular activities, while putting teacher raises in jeopardy.

Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning hand-delivered a letter to Governor Rick Scott asking him to call lawmakers back to Tallahassee to re-examine the budget; Browning said the state has a surplus and should be able to fund both.

"This would be the year to really make the case as say, 'Legislature, you need to come back because you have funded school safety...but you've done it at the expense of education,'" Browning said.

The governor's office released a statement that read, in part:

"In this year's budget, K-12 public schools are provided hundreds of millions of dollars and the flexibility needed to make each school safer while still increasing Florida's per-pupil funding to a record high... The Governor has been clear — the No. 1 priority right now is making our schools safer, and he's glad that the Legislature provided funding for that specific reason."

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