Dems sink proposal to add officers to schools

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An amendment to the House supplemental budget proposal that would have invested $30 million for school districts to hire resource officers failed to be adopted after Democratic resistance and a vote along party lines.

Under the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, school districts with limited access to officers would have been given priority access to this funding. Hayes, who is also a sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, called this amendment a significant step towards safer schools.

“The value of school resource officers is vast. We need to properly prioritize our budget and take care of those children in our society who deserve the most protection,” Hayes said during House floor debate Friday.

The proposal came amid a national conversation about school safety spurred by the story of 17 shot to death two weeks ago in a Florida high school. President Trump’s call to train and arm teachers as a deterrent to future gunmen has been rejected by members of both political parties as well as the survivors of Florida’s recent school shooting.

Gov. Jay Inslee raised concerns about this tactic with the president Monday at an annual meeting of governors at the White House, saying that teachers in Washington were firmly against being armed.

“I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen, that educators should educate and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first-grade classes,” Inslee said to the president.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal also criticized the president’s call to arm teachers, calling it unproductive.

“Arming a kindergarten teacher or high school biology teacher, there’s no evidence that we can find that this actually helps,” Reykdal said.

In an interview with the Columbia Basin Herald, Reykdal felt differently about a proposal to invest in school security guards, saying he would welcome it. Still, Reykdal said, the conversation shouldn’t be either/or — lawmakers should tackle anything that could lead to safer schools, including a serious debate about gun control.

“Should we spend all of our time trying to stop a school shooter, or should we put some money and time into preventing a school shooter?” Reykdal said.

Democratic state lawmakers resisted Friday’s proposal to add more resource officers to schools, calling instead for more time to look at the issue. Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, argued against adoption of the amendment on the House floor Friday.

“I’m going to ask for a ‘no’ vote so we can take a little bit of time, look comprehensively at what we can do about school safety, and bring a proposal forward before (the legislative session ends) that perhaps doesn’t cost as much but does address the issue that’s at the top of our minds,” Robinson said.

Though she agreed that a comprehensive plan was needed, Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, said investing in security officers had to be at the top of the list of priorities.

Rep. Morgan Irwin echoed that sentiment.

“Now we’re saying we don’t have money to protect our children,” Irwin said. “I reject that. If we don’t have money for this, what are we doing here?”

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