House approves bill to make private Jewish school security funding recurring
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 11/7/23-Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, talks about House Bill 7C, which provides security grants for at-risk schools, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. The bill passed the House and moves to the Senate. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

The bill itself contains no monetary commitment.

Amid a staggering rise in antisemitism in and outside Florida, lawmakers may soon have the option to make funding for private Jewish day schools a recurring part of the state budget through legislation that cleared the House with overwhelming support.

The bill (HB 1109), sponsored by Palm Bay Republican Rep. Randy Fine, passed on a 108-6 vote.

All “no” votes were from Democrats.

If approved in the Senate, the bill would require the Florida Department of Education to establish a regular funding model for security measures at Jewish day schools and preschools. The funds could only cover the cost of cameras, fencing, shatter-proof windows, perimeter lighting, guard personnel, security-related transportation and “non-hardening security measures” like detection and prevention services.

The bill itself, however, contains no monetary commitment.

Gainesville Rep. Yvonne Hinson, who challenged the bill in committee last month, incorrectly asserted that it “gives $50 million” to Jewish schools while no state funding goes to public school security.

“I need to call attention to that,” she said. “Fifty million dollars (for) 100 private schools. School safety for all 67 counties? Not one dollar.”

She voted against the measure. So did Reps. LaVon Bracy Davis of Ocoee, Ashley Gantt of Miami, Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg, Felicia Robinson of Miami Gardens and Patricia Hawkins-Williams of Pompano Beach, though none spoke out before the House floor vote Thursday.

Bracy Davis and Williams had voted “yes” on the bill in committee.

Fine, who is Jewish and one of the House’s most bellicose members, lambasted Hinson for misrepresenting his legislation.

“Read your bills. Know your facts,” he said.

He recounted how, after winning his seat in 2016, he fought to secure $600,000 for Jewish school protections after members of the community sought his help. He did the same each year after. The nonrecurring apportionment this year is $5 million.

That doesn’t include tens of millions more that lawmakers routed to Jewish schools for security after threats and acts of violence in recent years, including an additional $45 million in the last year which, combined with the prior $5 million, is the sum to which Hinson was likely referring.

But none of it is regular or guaranteed, Fine said, and with his term limits in the House approaching, he wants to give lawmakers the option to create a permanent earmark.

“I’m done in two weeks. And maybe you’ll see me (in the Senate), but who knows? But even eight years from now, I’ve been a lone voice fighting for a lot of this stuff, and I don’t know that these kids will be kept safe. Because they weren’t before I go there, and with garbage like that,” he said, pointing at Hinson, “I don’t know that they will be after.”

Robinson told Florida Politics she voted against the measure not because she opposed its aims, but due to the contempt Fine showed Hinson, the chamber’s oldest Democratic Representative.

“We’re supposed to be in better times now, and for Rep. Fine to stan there on the floor and call (her) garbage, that was triggering. And it wasn’t addressed. Things went on as usual,” she said. “Everybody was going to vote up on the bill, for the most part. It wasn’t a bad bill. But this was about disrespect. It happens quite often, and it gets to be emotional.”

According to a House staff analysis of Fine’s bill that includes details of Florida’s school safety expenditures, the Legislature has given $1.2 billion to public school districts since 2018 to improve security provisions on campuses.

That doesn’t include a separate school hardening grant program into which the Legislature has poured hundreds of millions of dollars over the same period.

HB 1109 will next be sent to the Senate, where an identical measure (SB 1396) by Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters awaits a hearing before the third and final committee to which it was referred.

So far, SB 1396 has yet to receive a “no” vote.


Editor’s note: This report has been updated to include a comment from Felicia Robinson.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Incels of floridumb

    February 22, 2024 at 7:48 pm

    Only in dangerous florida would you need guards for a Jewish school…

    A home for hatred, homophobia and antisemitism, florida is not safe for Jews.

  • KathrynA

    February 23, 2024 at 10:13 am

    They do need security, but so do the thousands of public schools in our state.

Comments are closed.


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