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Florida Gov. Signs Bill Allowing Armed Teachers for Classroom Defense

13 May 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis is touring the state to tout a new school voucher program that's projected to help as many as 18,000 students go to private schools next year. They then go through police-like training with a sheriff's office and undergo a psychiatric evaluation and a background check.

The law expands the Guardian Program created a year ago which allowed non-teaching school staff to be trained to carry guns on campus.

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday approved a measure that would make it easier to arm educators and school faculty in the state.

The bill makes other changes to a school safety law enacted after 17 people were killed in February 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

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After starting out its first year offering 18,000 of the scholarships at a cost to the state of more than $130 million, the number of scholarships would increase after that by.25 percent of the total public school enrollment. Only 25 of the state's 67 school districts now use the program, according to Fox News. Most of the commission recommendations take effect immediately, while expansion of a "guardian" program takes effect October 1.

Later, at Mt. Moriah Christian Fundamental Academy in St. Petersburg, DeSantis called it a historic day and said the new program would be "a real turning point in the lives of thousands and thousands of kids".

The 92-page measure also: changes how teachers can qualify for the controversial Best and Brightest bonus; further expands the playing field for charter schools; and creates a new grant enabling struggling schools to address some of their students' social needs. The original program allowed faculty and staff, but not classroom teachers, to receive firearms training and eventually the ability to carry on campus. The current program is more limited in who can participate, in most cases specifically excluding teachers.

Just 25 of Florida's 67 public school districts now participate in the narrowly-structured Guardian Program which bars many types of school employees from volunteering. "I need to believe that state leaders want Florida's students to succeed but, given the evidence, I'd say they're setting our students and neighborhood public schools up for failure in the near future". "And if you choose to vote for this, we will not be voting for you come the next school board election". DeSantis said he wanted to reward top teachers at high-performing schools, and lauded the new system as a way to get that done.

Story updated to reflect while almost all of the recommendations made by a commission formed after a mass shooting at a Parkland high school took immediate effect, changes to the "guardian" program that makes more teachers eligible to carry guns in schools will be implemented October 1.

Florida Gov. Signs Bill Allowing Armed Teachers for Classroom Defense