Governor Glenn Youngkin met with three of his cabinet members on Wednesday after a mass shooter killed children on Tuesday at a Texas elementary school.
“This morning, Governor Youngkin received a briefing from Secretary Robert Mosier, Secretary Aimee Guidera, Secretary John Littel, and State Superintendent Jillian Balow about actions taken to protect children in schools and the resources available at the state level to provide mental health access as needed in response to yesterday’s tragedy in Uvalde, Texas,” spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement.
“The Governor has asked his administration to evaluate steps already taken and future steps to help ensure our schools are safe. The Governor previously requested an additional $50 million in the budget for School Resource Officers and is hopeful the General Assembly will prioritize this important request,” Porter added.
In October 2021 as part of his campaign, Youngkin promised to require every school to have school resource officers or lose state funding, according to The Sun Gazette.
During the 2022 General Assembly session Delegate Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach) introduced legislation to make that happen, but legislators passed an amended version that just requires schools to coordinate with local law enforcement officials, in response to concerns that requiring an SRO in every school would be an unfunded mandate.
In addition to requiring schools to coordinate with local officials, the final version of the bill requires law enforcement in areas to designate an officer to receive school-related training in areas where a school does not have an SRO.
That leaves Youngkin’s goal to expand SROs dependent on the success of his budget proposals as negotiators work behind the scenes to prepare a compromise for legislators to consider next week.
In objections to Greenhalgh’s original bill placing an SRO in every school, the Virginia Association of Counties said, “Though not opposed to the policy intent of these bills VACo voiced concerns over these proposals based on the potential local fiscal impact.”
In a financial impact report on the bill, most localities that responded said compliance would cost localities from several hundred thousand dollars up to about $1.5 million. Some localities reported no additional cost, while Fairfax County said it would cost $19 million to place SROs in its 141 elementary schools; Fairfax already has SROs in all middle and high schools.
“The bills would represent a recurring cost increase to these localities. Additionally, localities noted that the bills do not indicate if the staffing requirements would extend to all alternative and program sites that serve students; as such, some estimates include the costs of staffing those sites while others do not,” VACo said in its February press release.
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