Putnam Blames GOP Legislature’s “Complacency,” Rick Scott’s DCF, and Video Games for Parkland Massacre
In an implicit attack on House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Adam Putnam on Sunday criticized the Republican-controlled Legislature for not doing enough to fund school safety in recent years — and said the Legislature had left schools like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School vulnerable.
In an extended interview with WJXT Jacksonville, Putnam also criticized Rick Scott’s Department of Children and Families for failing to respond to repeated red flags about the Parkland shooter. He also repeated a GOP talking point claiming that violent “video games” are partially to blame for mass shootings. Putnam’s remarks represent perhaps the most high-profile attack from a Republican on Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature’s neglect of school safety.
Watch the full interview here.
While Putnam appears comfortable blaming Republican politicians for mass shootings, he has refused to take on the gun lobby and endorse even the bare minimum of gun safety reform. Since the Parkland shooting, Putnam has completely ignored the key demand of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students: a ban on assault weapons. He has also refused to back gun safety measures backed by Republican lawmakers — including raising the minimum wage for firearm purchases and creating a three-day waiting period for buying firearms.
PUTNAM ON THE LEGISLATURE’S CUTS TO SCHOOL FUNDING: “The Legislature’s commitment to funding that Safe Schools account has gone down over time. I think that complacency unfortunately, potentially crept in…. It’s unfortunate that it took the Parkland event to refocus everyone on the need to harden these schools.” [WJXT, 3/4/18]
PUTNAM ON RICK SCOTT’S DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: “What we have learned is that there were a lot of breakdowns in the system. I mean that this, the kid… the monster who shot up that school was like a walking red flag. The police had been to his house, between two dozen and three dozen times. The teachers were told if they saw him on campus with a backpack to immediately call the police. DCF had visited the home because he posted a video on-line that saying that he wanted to be a shooter and he was threatening to cut himself.” [WJXT, 3/4/18]
PUTNAM ON VIDEO GAMES: “I grew up hunting with my brothers and with my father and understanding very clearly how to handle that firearm safely. I instill those lessons in my children. And I am a member of the NRA. And that does not make us akin to someone who would kill 17 teachers and students in Parkland High School at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. And so, I am tired of that comparison. It could not be more wrong. And in fact I would go so far as to say, that if more children had families who instilled those types of lessons in them, rather than learning their lessons of the firearms about a violent video game or some fantasy, then we would be safer.” [WJXT, 3/4/18]
BACKGROUND ON REPUBLICAN CUTS TO SCHOOL SAFETY:
Florida Association of School Administrator President on Feb. 1st: The Florida House Has Scheduled No Increase in Safe Schools. According to an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat by Florida Association of School Administrators president Bill Lee, “Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2018-2019 education budget included a $10 million increase in Safe Schools funding. We applaud him for making this a priority and taking action. Florida schools currently receive $64 million in Safe Schools funding, which is more than $10 million less than the 2002-2003 fiscal year — yet there are 303,497 more students enrolled in Florida schools. The Florida Senate has graciously heeded the governor’s recommendation and included a $13.7 million increase in Safe Schools funding. The House has included no increase in theirs.” [Tallahassee Democrat, Bill Lee op-ed, 2/1/18]
Tampa Bay Times Column: Romano: Until the Parkland shooting, lawmakers ignored requests for school safety funds. [Tampa Bay Times, John Romano Column, 2/20/18]
Corcoran’s House of Representatives “With Its Ideological Mission to Strip Money From the Public School System, Has Been the Biggest Stumbling Block” for Safe Schools Funding. According to a Tampa Bay Times column by John Romano, “Not surprisingly, the House of Representatives, with its ideological mission to strip money from the public school system, has been the biggest stumbling block. For the past couple of years, Scott has suggested increasing the safe schools allocation, and the Senate’s early recommendation for the 2018-19 academic year included a $13.7 million increase. Yet, up until last week, the House proposal remained stagnant. Now, in the wake of the Parkland tragedy, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other legislators are suddenly interested in increasing the budget for school safety.” [Tampa Bay Times, John Romano Column, 2/20/18]
Safe Schools Funding Dropped From $75 Million to $64.5 Million After the Recession, Has Stayed At That Level Despite Annual Requests For Increases. According to a Tampa Bay Times column by John Romano, “Back in the pre-recession days of more than a decade ago, the school safety portion of the education budget was slightly more than $75 million annually. It dropped to $67 million in Charlie Crist’s final year as governor, and then dropped to $64.5 million in Rick Scott’s first budget of 2011-12. That number has remained stuck at $64.5 million ever since. This is despite the Department of Education requesting increases every year. This is despite Scott making campaign pledges to increase school safety funds in 2014. This is despite law enforcement officials and school districts around the state publicly acknowledging they do not have the funds to provide adequate security on campuses.” [Tampa Bay Times, John Romano Column, 2/20/18]
FASA Executive Director: $75 Million From 15 Years Ago Would Need to Be $112 Million to Keep Pace With Inflation. According to a Tampa Bay Times column by John Romano, “When FASA executive director Juhan Mixon appeared before the Board of Education last summer, he said the $75 million budget from 15 years ago would need to be $112 million just to keep pace with inflation and the growing student population. Instead, the 67 school districts are still divvying up $64.5 million.” [Tampa Bay Times, John Romano Column, 2/20/18]