By Chase Kamp
Southeast Valley Ledger
State Senator Rich Crandall (R-Mesa) and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu announced on Jan. 15 a comprehensive $30 million dollar plan that aims to put a school resource officer, or SRO, in a third of Arizona’s schools. The proposal would also allow schools the option of training and arming select numbers of administrators and teachers for security purposes.
The proposal is one of several recently announced by Arizona lawmakers and government leaders. Crandall argued his and Babeu’s proposal is the most politically and fiscally feasible.
The proposal would provide $30 million to add nearly 300 SROs, $4.5 million to improve mental health assessment to pro-actively identify threats and $1.5 million to expand school guidance counseling.
The plan proposes to redirect Clean Elections excess funding through a ballot referral in 2014. In 2002, the passing of ballot Prop 301 guaranteed $7.8 million annually for SROs, but the state swept additional funding for the program in 2009, forcing many schools to drop their officers.
Governor Jan Brewer said in a recent address that she planned to increase funding for SROs but did not specify an exact amount.
Crandall said the majority of superintendents he has spoken with do not like the idea of arming teachers or administrators, but that the voluntary option would be available for schools that were unable to hire SROs.
“We have 2,200 schools in Arizona and as much as we’d like, we simply can’t fund an SRO in every school,” Crandall said.
“I don’t want to arm a couple of teachers in every school, but what is the alternative?” Babeu said. “We need a permanent funding source, since the general fund may be eliminated, yet the threat to our schools remains.”
Kevin Quinn, President of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and an active SRO in Gilbert, was on hand to offer his support for the proposal.
Though Quinn said his organization did not officially endorse the arming and training of teachers and administrators, he said he understood the action as an alternative for financial hurting schools and districts.
Other options include a tax on alcohol sold in Arizona or a fee on private party auto sales, though Crandall said those paths were less likely to succeed.