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School Safety Act passes NC House, funding is uncertain

School Safety Act passes NC House, funding is uncertain

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CHOCOWINITY, N.C. -

Your child's school was supposed to get a school resource officer, extra guidance counselors and a panic button in every classroom, all to make the schools safer.

But now, changes in the "most comprehensive" school safety legislation since the Newtown massacre might not happen and some local school leaders are worried the costs will fall on them.

When Chocowinity Middle School Principal Dale Cole first heard about House Bill 452, he thought lawmakers had good intentions.

But then, "My second question was how is it going to be paid for?" Cole, who also won 2013 Principal of the Year, says. "Is it going to be another unfunded mandate?"

Cole says his concerns became reality when the NC House of Representatives passed the "School Safety Act" late last week without approving all the money needed to make it happen.

"The things that required funding, that have to be paid for, it seems, have been cut," Cole says. "Several of those things seem to be the items, in my opinion, that would make the most difference in school safety."

They're things like more school resource officers, extra counselors and panic buttons in every classroom.

Bill sponsor Rep. Rick Glazier (D) of Cumberland County says House members stripped these parts of the bill to make them part of the budget process –which means portions of the bill's $34 million could be cut from next year's budget.

"It would be extremely disappointing to a lot of people and lead to a less secure setting for children in our public schools if these monies were not kept in by the Senate," Rep. Glazier said last week.

He says although there's no guarantees, he's confident all the money needed will emerge in the final budgets from both chambers of the General Assembly.

Still, Cole says if lawmakers expect schools to help front the costs of these safety measures, he thinks they should ask school leaders for suggestions on how it's spent.

"That's the problem that you get into with a one-size-fits-all policy," he says. "It's that you end up spending a lot of money on things where that money could be better used elsewhere if they would ask for some feedback from people at the ground level."

Cole says instead of putting an resource officer in every school, he thinks the money would be better spent on extra school counselors to help address mental health issues.

The stripped-down bill kept things like establishing anonymous tip lines, requiring annual safety drills and giving local law enforcement maps and master keys to schools - all things most schools in our state already do.

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