Minnesota Senate Republicans are responding to the recent school shooting deaths in Florida with a plan to fund school security improvements throughout the state.
Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, introduced legislation Monday that would establish a safe schools revenue program to provide general fund allocations to school districts. Nelson, the chair of the Senate education finance committee, said the funding would be separate from the existing safe schools levy that districts can impose on local taxpayers.
“We must have safe and secure schools. That is essential,” Nelson said.
Nelson, who is a candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s 1st District, doesn’t yet know how much money would be needed to get the program underway. She said she is waiting until the release later this week of the new state budget forecast.
Under the bill, school district officials could decide how to spend the money. The prescribed options include hiring law enforcement officers and making security enhancements to facilities, such as the installation of bulletproof glass.
“Each school district would be able to determine how best to make our schools safer,” Nelson said.
The bill does not mention the arming of teachers.
Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said he does not expect the Senate education policy committee, which he chairs, to take up that issue “right away.” But Pratt said the option of teachers carrying guns already exists in Minnesota.
“Superintendents and principals can already, with written authorization, allow a permit holder to carry a weapon on school property,” Pratt said.
Democrats are also working on school security proposals.
Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie, said he wants to put more counselors in schools and make sure classrooms doors can be locked from the inside during emergencies. But Cwodzinski, a retired teacher, said his former colleagues are not interested in carrying guns on the job.
“We don’t have enough time for training how to teach,” Cwodzinski said. “I can’t imagine teachers going through all the training necessary in order to know how to handle a firearm in a war-like situation.”