TOPEKA — The House Republican leadership offered an outline Tuesday of a school-safety proposal that includes $5 million for infrastructure upgrades, development of statewide security standards and authorization of firearm courses for students in kindergarten through high school.
The funding would be allocated by the Legislature to the Kansas State Board of Education for distribution as grants or matching funds.
“Schools will be able to make improvements to facilities if they need to, put in special doors, put in cameras. Also, they can spend those dollars on training,” said Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka.
The state Board of Education would be required by the House GOP plan to develop guidelines for security of buildings. These strategies would be crafted with assistance from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Kansas Department of Health and Environment and other state agencies, the House GOP said.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said local school districts would be asked to step forward with detailed solutions to identified security deficiencies at schools.
The magnitude of the safety shortcomings in schools will be more clear as districts formulate proposals, he said.
“We’re working on a plan that will protect our kids and work on the infrastructure and do it in conjunction with our local school districts and local law enforcement,” he said. “We believe our local communities have the answers.”
Rep. Brenda Dietrich, a Topeka Republican and former superintendent of Auburn-Washburn schools, said parents had the reasonable expectation that Kansas public schools would be safe havens for children.
She said the Republicans’ bill would direct the state board to produce guidelines on staff and student training drills, building infrastructure, lock-down procedures, safety-plan implementation and other topics.
“School safety is certainly the highest priority, now more than ever,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us to set some standards across our school districts in Kansas, of which there are 286, that will be good for schools.”
Rep. Eric Smith, R-Burlington, said the bill would feature a firearm education program for students at all grade levels.
The House was scheduled to debate a comparable bill providing for gun safety instruction, but the legislation was pulled off the calendar after the massacre of students at a Florida high school.
Smith said the recommended curriculum for public schools in Kansas could include the “Eddie Eagle” initiative sanctioned by the National Rifle Association.
“It also would include any other evidence-based curriculum,” he said.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said the GOP recommendations amounted to an initial step toward gun safety and reflected the activism of Kansans to press for change. The next step for “real gun safety in schools is to get guns off of school campuses,” he said.