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KEEPING OUR KIDS SAFE

 

We have 306 public schools in Rhode Island, with hard-working teachers and excited students.  Every one of those students is supposed to board the school bus every morning and come home that afternoon safely.

But lately, parents have had to endure watching too many episodes of school violence across this country.  Moms and dads come up to me at all kinds of events, and ask, “What more we can do?”  We can’t possibly sit back and give more security protection to politicians on Smith Hill than we give our children and think that’s OK.

Executive orders and sheets of paper are not going to stop criminal madmen from committing criminal acts.  Just think of airports.  We prevent weapons from getting on airplanes not by a sign on the door, but by TSA agents and security.

In Cranston, we have four school resources officers, conducted threat assessments, started upgrades, and added police details. But I want to do more.

Today I’m announcing that as Governor, I’m going to split the cost with each city and town to fund a school resource officer, or police details, for every single school.  That’s a 50/50 split, and up to the cities and towns to take advantage of it. I’ll support enabling legislation to allow retired officers and military police to be part of that force.

What’s the cost? There are 306 public schools in RI and I’m considering that a school resource officer’s salary and benefits would be roughly $80,000 per year when looking at cost profiles.

At $80,000 per year x 306 schools = $24,480,000. The state’s 50% share would then be $12,240,000.

I examined the past few budgets and found one specific department that is completely out of control with its spending and needs to be reined in, and that’s the General Assembly.

Under Raimondo’s watch, from 2016 to 2018, the GA budget increased by $9.4 million dollars or roughly 25%.  Twenty-one individuals under the purview of the JCLS – the organization that runs the operations of the assembly – make over $100,000 per year (FY 2019), when the GA is only in session for six months per year.  They also have executive assistants making more than most Mayors ($90,000/yr).

They’re going to need to learn to live within a sane budget so that our kids have the security these politicians enjoy when they’re at school.  The remainder of the funding will come from reining in overspending in other departments as well.

Additionally, for one year, we’re going to jump-start school safety upgrades and spread it out equally. We’re not going to have some application and committee to decide who gets the fund and who doesn’t.  Every school is going to be eligible for $30,000 for safety upgrades, and the schools will be able to say what safety the equipment works best for that school.  This isn’t a one-size fits all approach – there will be lots of local control. However, this will be a reimbursement method so that it does not get abused and used towards other capital expenses.  The idea is to rapidly improve safety mechanisms inside the schools, while cities and towns build room in their budgets for more long-term upgrades. Examples of such equipment include video monitoring, door intruder defense systems, a bullet-proof film for windows, etc.

The cost will be $9.1 million dollars, and be taken out of the School Building Authority’s Capital Fund.