In a legislative season that will be marked by budget cuts, Washington Gov. Gary Locke’s first budget proposal is a request to spend an extra $5.2 million on school safety. The cuts mandated by the passage of tax-slashing Initiative 695 will come later, Locke said in a press conference Dec. 9.
“We must provide schools that are safe and civil environments,” he said. “School safety is a top issue.”
The two-year budget the Legislature passed earlier this fiscal year included $4.5 million for security personnel, enough for 56 schools. But 48 other schools applied for the security money and were turned down due to lack of funds, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“Safe schools are a bipartisan issue,” said Rep. Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon, co-chairman of the House Education Committee. “It’s going to take some money to make this happen.”
The Republican co-chairman on the House Education Committee, Rep. Gigi Talcott, said Locke’s proposal fell short.
“A positive first step,” said Talcott, R-Lakewood, “but again, Gov. Locke fails to target the root of the problem. Placing guards in the hallways does not address the source of school violence.” Talcott advocated character and values education as a better way to make schools safer.
Last winter, the Legislature increased school safety spending by $12 million over two years. In addition to security staff, the budget included money for alternative schools, teacher training, and safety planning.
Locke also said he wants the Legislature to pass a law requiring school districts to adopt written policies against bullying and malicious harassment in schools. Teachers and administrators should be trained to follow those policies, Locke said.
Locke made the budget proposal after hearing from about a dozen Viewlands Elementary School students who serve as “conflict managers.” Locke praised the school’s four-year-old conflict management program, telling the children they were helping to create “a new ethic of kids resolving things peacefully.”