GOP State Lawmakers To Propose Millions For School Safety

May 16, 2018

Supporters of increased school funding gathered in front of the legislative building on Wednesday.
Credit Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

Top Republicans on the House Select Committee on School Safety say they are poised to introduce bills for more than $20 million in funding for new initiatives.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly started its short session Wednesday aimed at tweaking the state's biennial budget.

While thousands of North Carolina teachers descended on the legislature demanding higher pay increases and improving school resources, the Republican co-chairs of the school safety committee revealed their plans.

Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) said the committee would soon recommend $5 million to provide students with an app that allows people to anonymously report cases of bullying and other threats.

"This app will aid in someone hearing that someone might be thinking of harming themselves or they might be hearing from someone that they're thinking about harming other people," Torbett said in an exclusive interview with WUNC.

Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) co-chairs the House Select Committee on School Safety
Credit Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

The school safety committee will also soon consider bills to provide $12 million for school resource officer, SRO, grant program, which would be $5 million above what is already provided in the current budget.

The new safety funding initiatives will also include $4 million for improving school building security and additional training opportunities for SROs.

What neither Torbett nor Lewis could provide was a solid number on funding for hiring nurses, psychologists, counselors and other student support staff. But the GOP leaders did say they were working finding money for that purpose.

Lewis said these funding initiatives will be covered under the $23.9 billion spending target legislative leaders set for the coming fiscal year. He added that cooperation among state agencies would be key to getting the funding in place.

Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) co-chairs the House Select Committee on School Safety
Credit Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

"If we can get more services by relying on health and human services, working through Medicaid or other funding sources that maybe can get federal grants that the Department of Public Instruction can't get, the idea is to get those people in place so we're trying very hard to get a plan made now that these agencies can work together," Lewis said.

Lewis said ultimately he could see the legislature approving around $40 million for school safety initiatives.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, asked for $130 million in his budget proposal, to address school safety and youth mental health.

Cooper also asked the legislature to freeze planned cuts to the corporate tax rate as well as the income tax for people who earn more than $200,000. GOP leaders said they have no intention of doing that.