By Alex Granados
Republican lawmakers announced at a press conference last month $35 million in school safety grants that made their way into the revised 2018-19 budget.
The one-time money is meant to temporarily address school safety needs while the state gathers more information on what districts and schools require to protect students.
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” said Rep. David Lewis (R-Dunn). “I think this is an ongoing process.”
The school safety plan stems from work performed by a committee on school safety that came into existence following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and met regularly prior to the short session.
Governor Roy Cooper has his own school safety plan in his budget proposal. It amounts to a total of $130 million, including $65 million for making buildings safer and $40 million for additional personnel. Legislative Democrats also floated a similar plan yesterday.
But Republican lawmakers say it is too soon to know exactly how much money is needed. Part of the ongoing process going forward will be getting reports from districts sent to the state Department of Public Instruction so that legislators can understand what schools require. Rep. Linda Johnson (R-Kannapolis) said additional recurring money needs to be added to the budget in the future.
“Because the issue came up at the time that it came up, and the amount of effort that had to go into it, this is not the end, this is just the beginning,” she said.
The Republicans’ plan also includes between $30 and $90 million in new federal funding for student health, but that will not come until the second year because North Carolina needs a Medicaid State Plan Amendment before it can start collecting the funds. Essentially, the money will come from reimbursements from Medicaid for services the state is already providing.
Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Archdale) said lawmakers must act so that parents do not have to worry when their kids leave for school every day.
“I walked the halls of schools for about 40 years…and my prayer every day was ‘give us a good, safe day for these kids.’”[sponsor]
In an e-mailed statement, Cooper criticized the Republicans’ plan.
“Legislative Republicans’ misguided priorities are perfectly captured by their plan to fund tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporations while shortchanging youth mental health and school safety,” he said. “These programs are important and the legislature’s investment is simply not enough to protect our students.”
Along with the money for school safety, Republicans also filed several bills this session that deal with policy changes to address school safety.
H.B. 933 Reciprocity/School Psychologist Licensure
H.B. 934 Threat Assessment Teams/Peer to Peer Counsels
H.B. 937 SROs Defined/Training Standards
H.B. 938 Expand Use/School Risk Management Plans
H.B. 939 School Building Vulnerability Assessments
H.B. 940 SRO Report by LBEs to Center for Safer Schools