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More dollars to go to officers?

By CHELYEN DAVIS

RICHMOND—When the House Appropriations Committee announces its budget proposals on Sunday, it will include additional money for school resource officers and school security.

This legislative session, coming on the heels of the Sandy Hook school shooting, has seen several proposals to increase funding for more school resource officers.

But many—including bills from Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford, and Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania—were pricey, requiring that the state put in money for all schools in the state to have an SRO. Those bills each carried an estimated price tag of $134 million.

None passed individually, but House Republicans promised to address the issue through the budget process.

The House’s proposal will put more money into the existing grant program that localities use now to pay for school resource officers, who are uniformed and armed law enforcement officers.

Del. Beverly Sherwood, R–Winchester, who chairs the budget-writing committee’s public safety arm, said the House budget will have $1.7 million—most of it newly appropriated—for matching grants that schools could use to hire SROs or school security officers, which is a different thing.

She said, in a House floor speech Friday, that the $1.7 million is equal to the highest amount ever budgeted for the SRO program, though it is much less than what was proposed in bills that would have required an SRO in every school.

Sherwood also said her announcement was timely, coming as it did a day after a school shooting in Atlanta that she said was stopped by an off-duty school resource officer. CNN reported that the alleged shooter—a student—shot a fellow student in the head and was then apprehended by the officer.

Letting schools use the money for SROs or school security officers gives them “the flexibility to choose the right level of security needed for their schools,” Sherwood said.

She said the House budget will also set up a $30 million revolving grant program for school security upgrades. Schools could be eligible for up to $100,000 a year to improve their security infrastructure.

Funding additional school resource officers is also a recommendation of the governor’s school safety task force.

Both the House and Senate budget-writing committees will announce their full budget proposals on Sunday. Over the rest of the session, lawmakers will have to work out differences between the two houses’ budgets.

 Chelyen Davis:  540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

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