In a speech responding to the massacre of 20 elementary school children and six teachers in Connecticut last Friday, the NRA called for armed police officers to be stationed in schools across the country.
I’ll be honest here: of all the ideas I’ve heard over the past week that involved putting more guns into schools to prevent gun violence (e.g. arming teachers), this is probably the least ridiculous.
The jury is still out on whether this is a good or bad idea, and whether this would actually stop another Sandy Hook or at least limit the damage, but if we’re opening up discussions about all options, then let’s talk about what it would take to implement the plan and, more importantly, what it would cost.
Ohio has 3,625 school buildings – which means at least this many full-time law enforcement officers would need to be hired or redirected to schools in order put one law enforcement officer in every school building. An eight hour day seems unlikely if we are serious about protecting teachers and kids who show up early and who stay late for extracurricular programs, but we’ll stick to a one-officer-per-day-per-school assumption just to make the math easier.
With a going rate of about $40/hr for off-duty officers, we’re looking at a minimum of around $60,000 a year per school for a full time officer – or nearly $220 Million dollars statewide, just for the salaries.
Assuming these are all new hires, we’re talking about A LOT of new police officers. The Ohio Highway Patrol, for example, only employees 1,500 troopers. This new group of school police officers would be twice that size even before we include management and support personnel. (prediction: Public Safety Director Tom Charles will propose a plan to put Troopers in schools within the next month)
And it’s a lot of money. Just the salary – before you factor in everything else like benefits or liability insurance in case a student is accidentally shot – is nearly the same as all the money the Ohio Turnpike brought in this year. Add in the rest of those costs, and we could be talking twice that amount.
Without a doubt, deploying trained law enforcement professionals to schools is a much better option than handing out guns to gym teachers, or hiring $8/hour private security guards. But could it really work in Ohio?
Some of our state’s school districts already use “resource officers”, which are typically sheriff’s deputies or other law enforcement officers on loan to the schools during the school year. Many are part time, while others work a full-time schedule and split their days between multiple school buildings in a district. The funding for these officers typically comes from multiple sources, including the school district, the county, the police department/sheriff’s office and a variety of federal, state and local grants.
But the money, especially at the state level and, indirectly, at the county and local level, is drying up.
Recent cuts to education and local government funding by Governor Kasich have actually resulted in the layoff of resource officers. And it will likely get worse next year.
Kasich cut nearly $1.3 BILLION from Ohio’s schools in his first budget, while making huge cuts – 50% in the 2013 budget – to the local government fund. And we’re expecting even bigger cuts to be announced in his next budget, including a potential 100% cut of the local government fund so Kasich can pay for an income tax cut he thinks will help win him reelection in 2014.
So… Yes, putting trained law enforcement professionals in schools is the best of all the protective options.
But could it really be implemented in Ohio under the current administration?
Schools, cities, counties and everyone else will be strapped for cash as Kasich steals their funding to pay for his reelection campaign. And given Kasich’s history with law enforcement and Ohio’s “idiot” cops, there’s no chance we’ll see expanded resource officer funding – or any funding for local first responders – unless someone on Kasich’s team does some polling that determines it’s going to help John win a few more votes.