Politics & Government

NC teachers who carry guns in schools would get pay raises under new bill

There’s a new push to allow North Carolina teachers to carry guns in school that some state lawmakers think has a chance of being approved this year.

The School Security Act of 2019, filed Wednesday, would boost the salaries of teachers who underwent specialized police training to carry firearms on campus. The same bill was filed last year and died in committee, but Sen. Jerry Tillman, one of the new sponsors of Senate Bill 192, said that the climate has changed to give the legislation more support this year.

JERRY TILLMAN
Sen. Jerry Tillman

“This is an idea whose time has come,” said Tillman, the Senate majority whip and a Republican from Randolph County. “With the heightened awareness of the legislature, I believe this bill will see success.”

The bill’s two other primary sponsors are Republican senators Ralph Hise and Warren Daniel.

Last week, the School Self-Defense Act was filed in the state House to allow for armed teachers but would not pay them extra for taking on that responsibility. The bill had also been filed last year and died in committee.

Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said Wednesday that the group would continue to fight any efforts to arm teachers with guns.

“It is a disaster waiting to happen,” Jewell said. “We continue to be opposed to arming our teachers with firearms. Arm us with the resources we need to teach our kids to be safe.”

Interest in arming teachers increased statewide and nationally following the February 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. But many teachers echo the NCAE’s view on the issue.

Twenty-five percent of North Carolina teachers surveyed said “yes” or “maybe” to carrying a gun in their classroom if they were allowed to do so, according to an Elon University/News & Observer/Charlotte Observer poll.

But in that same 2018 survey, 78 percent of educators said it was a bad idea to arm teachers. Even if guns are limited to a small number of teachers who received specialized training, 69 percent in the survey were still opposed.

But Tillman, a retired school administrator, said that as new security issues are reported at schools, the interest in arming teachers has gone up.

The School Security Act would offer a 5 percent salary boost to up to 3,000 teachers who complete the state’s training programs and become “teacher resource officers.” These teacher resource officers would have the same arrest powers on campus as a school resource officer, who is a certified law enforcement officer assigned to work in schools.

The bill would provide $9.3 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year to cover training and raises for teachers.

Under Tillman’s bill it would be kept confidential which teachers are armed. He said that will make shooters think before walking into a classroom not knowing if they’ll encounter an armed teacher.

“It’s a big deterrent to somebody going to shoot up a school,” Tillman said. “You need to stop them any way you can.”

But Jewell said the answer is more support staff, not more guns.

“We need to be armed with support specialists — counselors, nurses, school psychologists — all of those trained professionals who meet the social-emotional health needs of our students,” he said.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.
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