School uniform legislation on its way to Fla. governor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Capitol News Service) – Legislation providing fourteen million dollars to school districts that voluntarily adopt a school uniform policy is on it’s way to the Governor. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, some are questioning the lack of controls on how the cash will be used.

This year, 8 school districts took advantage of a first ever school uniform policy. It gives   ten dollars to the district for every student enrolled. The cost was four million. This year, lawmakers are upping the ante to 14 million.

“We want to use it as an option, not a mandate” said Sen. Don Gaetz.

And for the first time, charter schools can get the money, which caused Sen. Jeff Clemons of Palm beach some concern.

“We have a lot of educational needs in the state of Florida. 14 million dollar could be used for something, in my estimation, more important than school uniforms” said Clemons.

Once it was clear the legislation was passing, some questioned why schools aren’t required to spend the money on uniforms…they can spend it on anything they want.

Sen. Chris Smith (D-Broward County) wondered why.  “I’d hate to see a school district reside the football field when we’re giving them ten dollars towards uniforms or something.”

The lack of controls was also a concern for Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner.

“This gives money to school districts without any instructions. and parents don’t have the right to the funds” says Joyner.

A uniform will cost parents about thirty dollars. Most families, we’re told, spend between two and three hundred dollars a year.

That’s a lot more than the ten dollars schools are getting for each student.

Willie Schumacher, who co owns G. Willie’s Uniforms says prices vary. “Pants for the  boys run around sixteen dollars” she told us.

Last years cash was a one time appropriation. But now that lawmakers have made the program permanent, more districts are likely to adopt uniforms. If only to get more money.

Questions were also raised about religious preferences and uniforms, but sponsors said the states largest district, Miami-Dade, adopted uniforms last year and has has no problems.

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