N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled a $130 million school safety budget Thursday, offering a first glimpse at how the state might respond to the clamor for better protection in the wake of February's mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school.
State lawmakers, who will convene May 16, are already holding study sessions on how to respond to gun violence in schools but have not released any budget plans.
Cooper released the school safety proposals at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough before unveiling his full budget proposal. The biggest spending, at $65 million, would go toward making buildings safer. The money would be available to K-12 schools, community colleges and universities for communication and camera systems, panic alarms, doors and other physical improvements to deal with possible attacks.
He calls for $40 million to go toward hiring more counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses, and $15 million for additional "innovative programs" to address students' mental health challenges.
"We should address both classroom security and youth mental health needs," Cooper said. "My budget takes meaningful steps to prevent school violence and protect teachers and students."
The budget provides $7 million to increase the state allotment for school resource officers from $35,000 to $50,000 per high school, designed to cover the actual cost of hiring armed officers to patrol those schools. Another $3 million would go toward grants to hire such officers for elementary and middle schools.
Finally, the governor's budget would provide $444,000 to support a web-based School Risk Management System that helps schools work with law enforcement and emergency staff to prepare for threats or attacks.
Cooper's strategies are similar to those being discussed by local officials in Charlotte and Raleigh.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Clayton Wilcox is seeking just over $9 million from county commissioners to strengthen buildings. His plan also calls for $624,000 to hire five more CMS police officers, including one who will lead active shooter training, as well as two locksmiths and two electronics specialists to upgrade security.
Superintendents in Wake and CMS are seeking county money for more counselors, social workers and psychologists, with $5 million in Wake Interim Superintendent Del Burns' plan and $4.4 million in Wilcox's.
In March, Cooper had recommended policy changes to make schools safer, including stronger background checks for handgun buyers, raising the age for eligibility to buy assault weapons and enacting "extreme risk protection orders" that would let law enforcement temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.