Students in 38 S.C. schools soon will have the protection of a full-time school resource officer thanks to a $2 million addition in the state’s 2018-’19 budget.
But that money — split among 38 school districts, ranging in pay and benefits from $30,000 to $65,000 per officer — is not enough to cover the cost of placing a full-time officer in more than 300 other S.C. schools that currently do not have an officer.
Still, the money is a step forward for the state, which plans to have a full-time officer in each school by 2020, state Education Department spokesman Ryan Brown said Tuesday.
Efforts to put a school resource officer — or SRO — in each school were supported by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who, in January, asked legislators to include $5 million in the state’s budget to help hire officers. In March, McMaster made that request again after 17 Parkland, Fla., high school students and staff were killed by a gunman on Valentine’s Day.
“Because there is nothing more important than the safety of South Carolina’s young people, Governor McMaster’s stated goal is to have a trained law enforcement officer in every school in the state throughout every school day,” McMaster’s spokesman Brian Symmes said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
“This is a solid first step towards making that happen, but there is more work to be done. The governor will continue to advocate for further investment and it will continue to be a priority of his until that goal is realized.”
Democratic state Rep. James Smith — who is running against McMaster for governor in November — said Tuesday that, as governor, he would call on lawmakers to add more money to the state’s budget to cover hiring more SROs. “No child in South Carolina should go to school in fear for their safety.”
Sixty-seven S.C. school districts applied for part of the $2 million in added state money in August. The 38 winners — those that will get state money to hire new SROs — were chosen based on need and their taxpaying ability, the Education Department said.
Prior to this year, the state budget did not include any money for SROs. Instead, school districts, local police agencies and local governments covered the cost for SROs in 837 of the state’s more than 1,200 schools.
The $2 million primarily will allow local law enforcement agencies to hire officers for elementary and some middle schools. Most high schools already have SROs, the Education Department’s Brown said.
For example, Edgefield County’s two middle schools both have an SRO, and its high school and career and technology center share another, said district spokesman Arthur Northrop. But the district’s four elementary schools do not have an armed officer. However, with the new state money, one of Edgefield’s elementary schools will get an SRO.
In Florence County School District 2 — which was awarded state money to hire an SRO — the elementary and middle school now share an officer, said school board member Mona Lisa Andrews.
Getting state money to hire an added SRO will better ensure the safety of the district’s 1,200 students, Andrews said.
“It’s a big plus,” she said. “It’s just a win-win for all stakeholders and students as well.”
SC divvies up money for added SROs
Thirty-eight S.C. school districts will receive from $30,000 to $65,000 each to help hire one new school resource officer in each district. No Richland, Lexington or Kershaw district was awarded money. The districts getting money for SROs are:
▪ Anderson district 2
▪ Bamberg district 2
▪ Barnwell districts 19, 29 and 45
▪ Clarendon districts 1, 2 and 3
▪ Dillon districts 3 and 4
▪ Dorchester district 4
▪ Florence districts 2, 3, 4 and 5
▪ Greenwood district 51
▪ Hampton districts 1 and 2
▪ Laurens districts 55 and 56
▪ Marion district 10
▪ Orangeburg districts 3 and 4
▪ Spartanburg districts 1, 3 and 4
▪ York 1