Legislative panel announces $35 million for school security

By: Lindsay Marchello - Carolina Journal

RALEIGH — The House Select Committee on School Safety has announced plans to appropriate $35 million for a bevy of school safety measures in the upcoming budget.

Committee Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett and Chairman John A. Torbett, R-Gaston led a press conference Thursday, May 24, detailing how the $35 million will be divided.

The school safety committee was created after the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Lawmakers were tasked with finding ways to improve school safety and prevent future tragedies. Two subcommittees — one focusing on student mental health and the other on physical security — were formed out of the full committee. In the end, that committee sent 14 recommendations to the General Assembly.

The General Assembly plans to use $10 million for mental health grants for personnel such as school counselors and nurses, $12 million for school resource officer grants, and $5 million for an anonymous tip line app for students. Three million dollars will be set aside for school safety equipment grants, another $3 million for training school based mental health professionals, and $2 million for community partners to provide grants for students in crisis.

“This is not the end. This is only the beginning,” Torbett said. “We are addressing these issues and we thought we’d get out in front in short session. We will continue to look at other options and issues as the committee moves forward.”

The committee also plans to leverage $30-$90 million in federal funding for student health through Medicaid. Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, said this will come in the second year and will require a state plan amendment.

The amount Republican lawmakers settled on didn’t please Gov. Roy Cooper, who previously recommended $130 million for school safety in his budget proposal.

“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,” Ford Porter, Cooper’s spokesman, said in a statement. “These programs are important and the legislature’s investment is simply not enough to protect our students.”

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph cautioned against Cooper’s budget because he says it contains a structural deficit for the second year.

“We have to keep into perspective what he is asking for and what we can do with our taxes,” Tillman said.

Lewis said this is only the first step in the process of making schools safer and the committee would continue to work toward achieving that goal.

“To provide safer schools is a journey, not a destination,” Lewis said.

Lindsay Marchello

Carolina Journal