School safety recommendations are in, but not how to pay for them

(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
Updated: May. 8, 2018 at 6:45 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The governor's SAFE Council released ten recommendations on Monday to improve school safety in Alabama.

Early responses from both state leaders and school officials were positive.

"The governor's initiative, I applaud," Joe Windle, Tallapoosa County superintendent said.

"Overall I think they are good recommendations," House speaker Mac McCutcheon said.

The recommendations touched on a lot of priorities, from physical school safety, to mental health care, to training. The proposals included hiring more school resource officers and Master's level mental health care workers, along with paying for additional security tools for schools.

What the recommendations did not include: how to pay for these new hires.

"The issue will always be how do you fund those resource officers. And how do you do it on a reoccurring basis," said McCutcheon.

McCutcheon said the state will likely have to scrape money together to fund the program.

"We've got to look at our budgets, we've got to say 'Ok how much money could you put into this from a state perspective,' and then we've also got to look at the local level, and go to the local level and say 'Ok how much of a match can you help us with this,'" he said.

McCutcheon said even if the state sees a good budget with additional revenue, a lot of that money will already be spoken for.

"You have other state services such as Medicaid that has to be provided for as well so it's not an easy quick fix to be sure," McCutcheon said.

However, local districts, especially in more rural areas, may not have the money available to match anything from the state.

"We probably do not have the resources to match more resource officers," Windle said.

The question for lawmakers is how to pay for these new recommendations, or else see them go unheeded.

"Right now it's a good point, it's a good recommendation, but we still got a lot of work to do," McCutcheon said.

Some proposals, like issuing a bond to fund one time security purchases such as cameras and door locks, could be more doable, as it will be a one time expense.

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