Arkansas bill seeks armed officers for all schools

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas bill would fund a school resource officer position for every public school in the state.

Democratic Rep. Scott Baltz filed the draft this month requiring Arkansas school districts to have the officers by the 2020-21 year, the Jonesboro Sun reported . School resource officers are armed law enforcement officers assigned to school campuses.

The bill is in response to looming safety questions at public schools in the wake of mass shootings at schools in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas.

“My motivation is keeping kids and teachers safe,” he said.

The proposal would be costly, at about $40 million, according to Baltz. But he estimates the state has about $151 million in surplus that could go to funding the positions.

Republican Sen. Trent Garner argued Wednesday that the bill would be risky because of fluctuating surplus funds, becoming an unpaid burden for schools or local police departments.

“They can go up and go down,” he said. “That’s not a good way to fund school safety.”

Baltz said he’s open to other funding mechanisms as well.

Garner’s plan includes securing schools with a volunteer veteran and off-duty police officer force, providing funding for equipment like metal detectors and arming teachers.

“Look, police are a vital part of solution, but they can’t be the only part,” he said. “How much of that $40 million could go toward those other things?”

Republican Rep. Dwight Tosh said he supports Baltz’s bill.

“I think there’ll be a lot of support, but funding is key,” Tosh said. “I feel like most legislators would really take a position that we need to do something, and I think we have a legal and moral obligation to do what we can.”