Colorado lawmakers want to set aside about $35 million from the state’s general fund to pay for police officers in school and security upgrades on campuses across the state.
An amendment to the state budget passed through the House after a session that lasted late into the night Wednesday. The House gave final approval on Thursday to an amendment that had bipartisan support.
“The [amendment] that ultimately prevailed was an amendment that sends $35 million into the school resource program with a footnote adding in there that this money is to be spent on [school resource officers], SRO training and site security,” said Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Douglas County.
State Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver) also supported the amendment which came a little more than two weeks after thousands of Colorado students walked out school calling for an end to gun violence.
“The students deserve a bunch of credit,” Garnett said. “We hear them. We are listening to them.”
The budget amendment basically sets up a savings account to pay for school resource officers and security improvements at schools. The money is there, but the state can’t cut a check yet. First, the Senate needs to give final approval to the budget. Then, lawmakers have more work to do before any school can use a portion of the $35 million.
“We’re going to have to run another bill to give spending authority to that cash fund,” Rep. Neville explained.
Debate over use of the funds started Wednesday. Some Democratic lawmakers expressed concern about potentially using money to “harden” schools.
“I’m not seeing the additional counselors that we need in our schools to point out a troubled kid, or the training for our teachers to know when a student is having trouble not just at school with a bully but also at home because of abuse,” said Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Arapahoe County).
Rep. Garnett said the discussion of specific policy on Wednesday was premature.
“We haven’t even had that debate yet,” he said. “I think people misunderstood the process and misunderstood that we set money aside.”
If the Senate passes the budget, lawmakers will have about 40 days to figure out how the $35 million will be spent. Rep. Neville said he envisions a grant program where schools could apply for a portion of the money.
“This is a way that we can all actually get behind and move forward to do something to actually protect our students,” Neville said.