NewsPinellas County


Districts scramble to fund safety improvements and education

Local leaders say state funding isn't sufficient
Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-12 19:13:09-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Impossible... that’s the word school leaders are using to describe next year’s budget. School districts are being tasked to increase safety and fund education.

Yet, Pinellas County is only getting 47 cents extra per student. At the same time, they’re expected to make millions in safety upgrades at schools. Leaders say: It simply doesn’t add up.

Safety is at at the forefront in every parent’s mind since the Parkland shooting.

“Yeah! You can never be too safe,” explained Mary Atkins, a mother of three from Largo.

From school resource officers to mental health services and security upgrades, your child’s campus is about to get a safety makeover. It comes at a price, however, and it's an expense school leaders say is impossible to foot.

“Oh my god! Really? Is what I said! Oh my god!,” Rene flowers, Pinellas County School board member explained when she saw the improvements could leave the district with a multi-million dollar deficit.

In Pinellas County alone, they’re getting an extra $2.3 million from the state but they need a whopping $2.9 million to add school resource officers and another $2.3 million to add mental health councilors. Putting the district $3 million in the red! That means the district will likely be forced to make cuts in order to make schools safer.

“Something is going to have to give. We don’t want to dismiss anything in our budget because everything we have already is bare bones,” Flowers added.

Districts across Florida are now scrambling to make ends meet.

“It’s like you guys need to do all of this, make all these changes, and we’re going to give you this little bit,” Jessica Summers, the president of Pinellas County’s PTA explained.

Tampa Bay area school district leaders and leaders from the largest school districts in the state tell ABC Action News it’s too early to say where they’ll have to slice money from, but it won’t be an easy feat. 

“The children are the future. They are what’s coming up and if we are not providing them with a quality education- a fully funded education- and a safe place to learn, then how are they expected to be our next generation?,” Summers questioned.

School leaders tell ABC Action News this budget shortfall couldn’t come at a worse time when Florida’s population is swelling…and they’re tasked with helping more kids with fewer dollars.