Bills would let Florida schools put unused guardian funds toward officers and other safety needs

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Two Democrats who are critical of Florida’s school guardian program have filed long-shot legislation seeking to redirect money earmarked for training and arming school personnel toward other school security measures.

The proposals, filed by Tampa Sen. Janet Cruz and Boca Raton state Rep. Tina Polsky, would allow school districts that do not opt into the guardian program to request leftover funding from the program for other purposes, such as school hardening or salaries of school resource officers.

The measures (SB 304, HB 1167) are unlikely to garner support from the Republican-dominated Legislature, which in the wake of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland approved the controversial guardian program. The school guardian program was seen as a less expensive option for school districts to comply with a state law requiring armed security on school grounds.

The school guardian program was seen as a less expensive option for school districts to comply with a state law requiring armed security on school grounds.

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However, Polsky said allowing millions of dollars for the program to go unused is a “gross misuse” of state taxpayers’ money. “We have a responsibility to allow these leftover funds to be used by our school districts to protect our children immediately,” she said in a statement Friday.

When asked about the leftover funds last month, Helen Aguirre Ferre, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said “guardian funds are not sitting idle.” Applications for the program "continue to roll in and are being processed,” she said.

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