April 09, 2018 10:22 PM
Several school security bills were debated in the Minnesota Senate E-12 Finance Committee Monday, but there's still no firm agreement on how to fund projects in local school districts.
One proposal by Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, would allow school districts to impose new tax levies to raise millions of dollars in new revenue specifically for school security.
"There may be some sticker shock but it doesn't get cheaper," Wiger said as he testified in front of his fellow lawmakers regarding his bill.
Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, authored a bill that would allow school districts to use existing funds now earmarked for maintenance to also be used for school security. It would allow that repurposing of funds for seven years.
"This would allow them to adjust their priorities so they could get to work immediately," said Pratt, as state leaders expressed an urgency in addressing the issue of school security.
"Let's say an average of about 2,000 students over that seven-year period, you would see $1.4 million in projects that could be done to help boost up these schools and help them with redesigned entry ways or reinforced glass," Pratt told the Senate committee. He says they could also use it for new locking systems or to redesign emergency drills.
Osseo School District officials are supportive of Pratt's bill. It's the state's fifth largest school district, with 21,000 students and 32 school buildings. The district has a list of projects it would be able to pursue if they could access funds now set aside only for long-term maintenance.
"We would do what we consider target-hardening," Dave Moredock, of the Osseo School District, told lawmakers. "We would increase the security around our entryways. We have three of our comprehensive high schools that still have an open atrium-type entry system where once you come in the front door you have access to the entire campus."
"The funding source that we use is operating capital, and it has been woefully inadequate," said Patricia Magnuson, executive director of Finance and Operations for Osseo Area Schools.
There's also a bill up for consideration that would unify the hour-long suicide prevention training for teachers so they know how to recognize signs in students and guide them towards the help they need. Right now, that training varies across the state. Mental health advocates say the current models used aren't always effective in terms of helping teachers develop tools to help students in need.
No bills were voted on Monday. Instead, they were tabled for possible inclusion in a larger bill at the end of session.
Tom Hauser and Katherine Johnson
Updated: April 09, 2018 10:22 PM
Created: April 09, 2018 05:58 PM
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