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$35 Million In School Safety Enhancements Among Top Priorities Being Rolled Into State Budget

Thrusday, May 24 |  This morning the House Select Committee on School Safety Chairmen and other House and Senate leaders held a press conference to unveil a package of proposals that will be, as Co-Chairman Rep. David Lewis (R- Harnett) said, “incorporated in the budget in some way.” He outlined components of the $35 million package of school safety enhancements that includes:

  • $10 million for mental health personnel through grants allowing school districts to fund additional psychologists, counselors, social workers and nurses, depending on their needs
  • $2 million for community partners to provide grants for students in crisis
  • $3 million for training for school-based, mental health professionals
  • $5 million for expansion of the SpeakUP NC student threat reporting cell phone application to all middle and high schools statewide
  • $12 million for the SRO grant program, including
    • $7 million in current funding
    • $5 million in additional funds
    • $2 million match for every $1 million in local funds
  • $3 million for school safety facility improvements, such as doors, cameras, etc.

Lewis also stated that, starting this year, the General Assembly is working to leverage an additional $30 to $90 million in federal funding for student health through a revision to the state’s Medicaid plan.

“This is not the end; this is only the beginning,” said Rep. John Torbett (R- Gaston) and the Select Committee’s other Co-Chairman. He emphasized the General Assembly’s determination to improve school safety in North Carolina, stating that the House Select Committee was “formed with great haste and due diligence” with the goal of doing two things: generating a defensive and offensive posture and improving the mental health resources of students and former students on NC campuses.

The package of enhancements derives from the 15 recommendations that the committee put forth to the General Assembly, which, according to Rep. Lewis, are being thoroughly discussed and considered during the current short session.

Legislators in the press conference also mentioned a new software being utilized through the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which will enable state researchers to “capture a cost to bill the Medicaid program,” ensuring further resources for student mental and behavioral health through enhanced federal reimbursements to the state.

Rep. Donna White (R- Johnston) spoke about the SpeakUp NC app, stating that the pilot had provided successful results in preventing and detecting school violence, teacher-student relationships, substance abuse, and more in the five districts where it has been tested the last three years, and she is pleased to see it expanded statewide.

Several lawmakers spoke during the press conference, stating this is a concerted effort to ensure that schools in North Carolina are safer for students both in physical security measures and enhanced mental health resources.  They said the funding for this school safety package will be included in the state budget conference report, now being rolled into Senate Bill 99 and set for release this weekend, and some other proposed policy changes recommended by the House Select Committee will move forward as separate legislation. The committee will resume its work after adjournment of the 2018 short session.

Jacqueline Wyatt | NCASA