TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Department of Education is asking lawmakers to increase funding for mental health services, bringing the total up to $100 million in the coming year. But even with the $25 million increase, the state will still staff counselors below the nationally recommended average.
Jacob Oliva is the K through 12 chancellor.
“We’re close to between one to 400 to 500, which is a decrease over the last couple of years. We’ve added almost five to 600 school counselors statewide,” Oliva said.
The recommendation is winning rave reviews from lawmakers.
“I think that’s a key, number one to keeping our kids out of trouble. But number two, trying to determine those problems before they occur,” said Rep. Ralph Massullo.
House PreK through 12 Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Chris Latvala of Clearwater called the increase a big step forward.
“And when you are a school psychologist and you have two or three schools that you cover, it’s hard to find those kids that have the severe issues,” Latvala said.
The PTA is also on board with more counselors, but they would like to see the ratio of counselors to students listed on school report cards for parents.
“I don’t know that parents realize the disparity,” said Angie Gallo with the Florida PTA.
DOE is also asking for $200,000 to cover increased liability insurance costs as a result of having armed teachers in some counties.
“And hopefully, they’ll never need it,” Latvala said.
The ask comes as a former guardian, a non-teacher in Pinellas County, was charged with pawning his gun and bulletproof vest multiple times for gas money.
He was charged with five counts of false verification of ownership.
DOE is also asking for $8 million to provide instant communication with police and other first responders for schools statewide.