$35 million for school safety will go toward training school resource officers, but not hiring them

The Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to include $35 million for school safety programs in Colorado’s 2018-19 budget. In doing so, they laid out guidelines for how the money can be used that alleviate one of the major concerns of opponents.

Both the House and the Senate voted to include a large allocation for school safety grants in the budget. The footnote in the budget amendment said it could be used for physical improvements to facilities that improve security and for “resource security officers,” without specifying whether that meant hiring or training or both.

Some Democrats and community groups objected strongly to hiring more school resource officers because they worry about the criminalization of children, particularly students of color. They wanted the money to go toward a broader set of uses, like training in restorative justice and more mental health services.

In voting to include the amendment in the final budget, the committee members said it could be used for building security improvements, hardware, coordination with emergency responders, and training for school resource officers and other school personnel.

This money is one-time funding, and Joint Budget Committee Chairman Millie Hamner, a Dillon Democrat, said it would not have been appropriate to use it to hire people.

Opponents of deploying more resource officers in schools feared that the original amendment would open the door to hiring, and that once more officers were hired, there would be pressure to keep funding those positions, even at the expense of other needs. The inclusion of training for other school personnel in the eligible uses potentially allows for a broader interpretation of school safety that extends beyond law enforcement and emergency response.

The House and Senate still need to vote on the final version of the budget. A separate bill will lay out the eligible uses of the money in more detail, as well as the process for applying for and distributing grants. 

“I’m really pleased to see us prioritize school safety in this budget in this way,” Hamner said.