Jun 2, 2022 - News

Virginia will spend $27 million to get more cops in schools

Illustration of an apple wearing a police cap.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Virginia will spend more than $27 million to increase the number of police officers in schools under a state budget lawmakers sent to Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The murder of 19 grade schoolers and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, last week has revived debate about the best way to protect students from mass shootings.

Details: The budget agreement more than quadruples state spending on police in schools and is enough to hire 150 additional officers.

  • The bulk of the money will likely fund police positions in elementary schools because most middle and high schools in Virginia are already staffed by police officers, Donna Michaelis, the director of the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety, tells Axios.

What they're saying: Youngkin pushed for the spending, calling it an important step to keep kids safe in schools.

  • His initial proposal would have mandated police in every elementary, middle and high school, but the final language makes it optional.
  • "It is critical that we have school resource officers in schools, safety audits, and collaboration between school leadership and local law enforcement," Youngkin's press secretary, Macaulay Porter, tells Axios.

Yes, but: The role of police in schools has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years over concerns about kids getting charged for petty infractions.

  • Virginia schools referred more Black students to law enforcement than any other state during the 2017-2018 school year, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.
  • The botched law enforcement response in Uvalde has also complicated the debate.

The other side: Democratic lawmakers told Axios that they would have preferred to see the money go toward hiring more school counselors and psychologists.

  • "If you look at what happened in Florida and you look at what happened in Texas — school resource officers didn't stop the violence," Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, a Henrico County Public Schools teacher, said.

The budget passed with broad bipartisan support. It also includes:

  • 5% raises for teachers and state employees.
  • $4 billion in tax cuts.
  • Language prohibiting Richmond from holding a second casino referendum this year.

What's next: The budget now goes to Youngkin's desk for review.

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