$30 million plan would add 300 school resource officers

PHOENIX - A state lawmaker and Arizona sheriff revealed a $30 million proposal to hire nearly 300 new school resource officers in Arizona.

State Senator Rich Crandall, along with Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu outlined their idea Tuesday in front of the State Capitol.

It's the latest in a series of recent proposals tossed around by leaders in Arizona since the Newtown, Conn., shooting which have included arming teachers with guns and having volunteers patrol schools.

In addition to the additional SRO's, the plan would also fund $4.5 million to improve mental health assessment to pro-actively identify threats and $1.5 million to expand school guidance counseling.

Voters would have to approve taking money from the clean elections fund, which is partly generated from volunteer donations and fees from civil, criminal and traffic tickets.

"Our proposal works. Other plans raid the general fund, which can't support any of the proposals and doesn't guarantee ongoing funding. We address mental health, school counselors and needed Deputies and Police Officers in Schools. We have 2,200 schools in Arizona and as much as we'd like, we simply can't fund an SRO in every school. Our plan also allows for school districts and charters to voluntarily choose whether or not to arm teachers and/or administrators," said Crandall.

Crandall said other ideas include a tax on alcohol sold in Arizona or a fee on private party auto sales. However, Crandall admits those options would be difficult to get passed and would not be popular.

Despite the $30 million price tag, Crandall admitted the proposal would only mean school resource officers would be in a third of Arizona schools.

Babeu offered an alternative to those schools left without an SRO.

"We need to amend Arizona laws for Gun-Free School Zones, to allow schools without SRO's to designate certain school administrators and designated teachers to be armed to initially defend against any violent attack on their school. Law enforcement will provide annual training and qualification for these designated school staff," said Babeu.

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