TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — House members are targeting superintendent pocketbooks to get Florida schools to better comply with new state safety standards.
The Education Committee unanimously advanced its school safety bill Thursday morning. It gives the state more power to enforce security policy put in place post-Parkland.
The Department of Education would have the authority to withhold superintendent pay if schools don’t comply with the rules. The terms require armed guards or police on campus, reporting systems for threats and better mental health services.
The House legislation comes after a grand jury report, in December, found districts were inconsistent on implementation.
“The grand jury assessment brought that out," said Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Beverly Hills, the bill's sponsor. "Having the department have a little more oversight and direction to those districts I think is important.”
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission helped draft many of the new security protocols some districts haven't fully embraced. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri chaired the group, and last summer, went so far as to threaten outing districts that failed to comply. He pushed for more enforcement power in a June news conference.
“We are calling them out,” the sheriff had said. “The sad part is it shouldn’t take any of that for people to do the right thing.”
Though the bill received unanimous support from lawmakers in the committee, there are critics.
Joy Frank with the Florida Association of District School Superintendents told representatives the threat of docking pay gave her angst. Schools, she said, are doing the best they can with new rules.
“There are so many provisions," Frank said. "It’s very complex, it’s very detailed. We’re working very diligently to make sure we’re in compliance.”
The bill has one more committee stop before reaching the floor, Appropriations. Senators have a similar measure also working through committee.