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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Hillsborough school district eyes federal plan to fund security

TAMPA - On Tuesday night, school board members voted down a plan that would have put an armed security presence in every elementary school in Hillsborough County. They didn't want to dip into the contingency fund for the $2 million expenditure this year, and they wondered where the millions of dollars would come from in future years. Less than 24 hours later, they might have an answer — or they hope at least an assist — from the nation's capital. As part of his sweeping crackdown on gun violence, President Barack Obama talked of giving $150 million to local school districts so they could hire more school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers and counselors.
That came as good news to those connected to Hillsborough County schools. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia placed a phone call on Wednesday to Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education, seeking details on how to apply. "Additional funding coming in would be extremely helpful to allay some of the fears the board members have," Elia said. "Depending on how they do it, it could be a piece of the puzzle." Board member Carol Kurdell said she would welcome any help from other levels of government. "I think it's a national issue and a safety issue," she said. "I certainly think safety issues should be shared by local, state and federal." The only piece of Elia's security plan the board passed Tuesday was an $8,500 expenditure for a safety study by a nationally renowned school security expert. The rest of the plan was rejected, including a proposal to hire 130 security officers for the elementary schools. Middle and high schools already have a law enforcement presence. Many times as they discussed the matter Tuesday night, board members worried about the financial impact. "We have cut and cut and cut," Kurdell said. "We have to live within our budget." Though details on how to qualify for the federal funding are lacking, Kurdell is hopeful the local school district can tap into some of the money.

rshaw@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7999
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