TAMPA, Florida - The president's gun plan includes $150 million for school security to help with training, equipment, and school resource officers. That money may help some Bay area school districts add officers at elementary schools.
State education officials are in Tallahassee this week having the same discussion on how to fund $100 million in school security improvements.
Funding is one reason why the Hillsborough School Board voted down the superintendent's plan to add armed security officers at elementary schools. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said while she understands the need for the board to gather more information, money should not be an issue.
The district has $97 million in a rainy day fund. Elia's plan would cost $2 million to start hiring and training officers right away. She said her proposal would cost the district around $3.7 million each year to maintain, and state and federal funding may help with some of the cost.
It's a sight many Hillsborough parents at elementary schools like to see: a law enforcement officer at arrival and dismissal, and sporadically throughout each school day.
Allison Moore's daughter attends Seminole Heights Elementary School. She said she'd like to keep an officer on campus. "It's not that I'm against guns. I'm for stricter gun legislation. It is helpful as a parent to see officers on campus."
Parent Titus Wimbley said, "I feel more at ease. Gun violence is running rampant."
Titus's son, 6-year-old Antonio, said he likes having the police officer at school. Antonio said, "He makes sure nobody gets hurt."
Yet, despite most parents' desires, the Hillsborough School Board voted against the superintendent's plan to hire and train 130 armed school security officers to finish staffing all elementary schools.
Titus said, "They should just approve it. Why wait? It's our kids safety at the end of the day."
"You can't send a child to school, or administrators, if they do not feel safe," said Elia. She started working on her school security plan with local law enforcement right after the Connecticut shooting and said the district needs to be proactive sooner than later.
Elia said, "We saw in Connecticut what could happen. It's a tragedy. I don't want to overact. I want to be smart."
Tampa police, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and other agencies have officers at elementary schools, but only through the end of the school year.
"The sheriff has committed to spending under $2 million dollars of his resources. It's not even a money issue, it's a manpower issue as well. We cannot sustain it," said Lt. Chad Chronister, head of the sheriff's school resource officer program. "We're hopeful they will come up with an alternative plan."
If the school board does not change its mind about adding school security officers at elementary schools, Tampa police officials say it's too early to say if they can continue the extra presence at elementary schools. Sheriff's office officials say while they don't have the manpower to do so, deputies have been instructed to patrol their zoned schools more often.