The Valentine Days massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, FL rattled America. And as good politicians do, when you sense a parade is coming, you rush to get at the front of it.
And we do have some good politicians in Alabama. One of the first to find a bully pulpit was Lt. Governor candidate Will Ainsworth of Guntersville. He wanted to arm teachers. But as we pointed out here, the great majority of educators we talked to thought this a very bad idea. And from all reports, this effort by Ainsworth never gained much traction.
Our colleague, Trish Crain at AL.com, has done a fine job of detailing what has happened at the statehouse since the Parkland tragedy. You can read her summary here.. She points out that of the nine bills filed after Parkland, only one was approved. This will allow schools to use money previously earmarked for technology to also be used for school safety purposes.
Of course, since any good crisis requires a lot of study, Governor Kay Ivey signed an Executive Order creating the “Securing Alabama Facilities on Education” council. This group is to make a report by April 30. Not to be outdone by the governor, Rep. Terri Collins came up with a bill to establish the Alabama Task Force on School Safety and Security. As of this writing, I do not know the fate of the Collins bill.
Since ideas are being tossed out, here is one that probably none of our 35 senators or 105 house members have considered.
Why not end the Alabama Accountability Act and spend the money now being diverted from the Education Trust Fund to private school scholarships toward making all of our 730,000 public school students safer?
For example, since this program began in 2013 we have diverted $116 million from ETF. Just how much money is this? One superintendent told me she could employ one School Resource Officer (SRO) for a year for $80,000 to cover salary and benefits In other words, what we have given to the accountability act would put 1,450 SROs in our schools. That would cover almost every school in Alabama.
Who knows. Maybe a task force or committee will suggest such an idea. But I’m not holding my breath until it happens.