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Governor Seeks $121 Million More For Youth Crimes Programs

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Building on Florida's efforts to confront its headline-generating wave of youth-related crime, Gov. Lawton Chiles has presented a 1994-95 budget that calls for spending an additional $121 million on programs to protect schools, assist troubled juveniles, and prevent students from adopting criminal behavior.

In issuing his $38 billion budget recommendations last month, the Governor cited safety as the state's top priority.

"Our strategies are focused on the prevention of problems, but when problems arise, quick intervention is an opportunity to get young people back on the right track,'' Mr. Chiles said. "We won't hold back a helping hand to juveniles who need it--but we won't hesitate to put the handcuffs on those who continue to choose the wrong path.''

The state's assault on crime follows a number of highly publicized attacks on foreign tourists, including the murder of a British man allegedly killed by a group of juveniles at a highway rest stop near Tallahassee.

The legislature convened in a special session last fall to address the crime issue. (See Education Week, Oct. 27, 1993.)

One piece of legislation resulting from that session--prohibiting the possession of most firearms by minors--took effect this month.

"The Governor has identified the need for a coordinated approach to safety in public schools,'' said Ron Sachs, a spokesman for Mr. Chiles.

After-School Programs

To enhance preventive measures, the Governor is seeking $37 million to establish after-school and weekend programs for as many as 50 students at every middle school in the state.

Middle schools will be kept open and staffed from 3 to 8 P.M., when students will be able to do their homework, participate in recreational activities, and eat dinner. Once a week, a nurse will visit to take care of the students' medical needs.

Weekend programs will have similar activities.

The Governor will ask the legislature for $12 million for additional school-safety officers and monitoring equipment. He also proposes spending $60 million to build two juvenile academies where offenders could complete their education while serving their time.

Another $53.4 million would be used to improve juvenile-justice programs and add more beds to residential-commitment centers.

Over all, the Governor's education budget includes a 6.65 percent increase in general revenue, bringing total state school spending to nearly $7 billion.

In line with the accountability standards that Florida has been putting in place over the past few years, the budget calls for $116 million to add two more days of instruction and one more day of teacher training to the school calendar.

The Governor is also seeking $27 million to serve an additional 9,211 3- and 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten and $8.3 million to bring social and medical services to 71 more schools.

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