Ahead of the release of his short session budget, Governor Roy Cooper today shared his recommendations and requests to improve school safety and youth mental health. The Governor’s budget will recommend $130 million to protect students and prevent school violence. Cooper announced his school safety package at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough where he was joined by educators, school support personnel and law enforcement.
“North Carolina’s classrooms must be safe and supportive places for educators to work and children to learn,” said Governor Cooper. “We should address both classroom security and youth mental health needs and my budget takes meaningful steps to prevent school violence and protect teachers and students.”
The budget recommendation is in addition to specific policy changes that the Governor supports to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands. Read more about those policy changes HERE.
The budget recommendations include:
Investing in Public Safety Upgrades ($65 million) – The budget directs building improvements for better safety and security at K-12 public schools, state universities and community colleges. The funds should update communication systems so educators and law enforcement can quickly respond to critical incidents, audio-visual security systems for real-time monitoring, panic alarms, state-of-the-art doorways, and other tools to prevent and respond to threats.
Improving Student Support Services ($40 million) – School nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers play a critical role in identifying and treating youth mental health needs early before they become more serious. This funding allows schools to hire additional personnel to support students and youth mental health.
Increasing Funding for School Resource Officers ($10 million) – Recognizing the important work school resource officers (SRO) do on the front lines to keep students and teachers safe, the Governor’s budget invests $7 million in the Department of Public Instruction to increase the allotment of funds for high school SROs to cover the real cost, from roughly $38,000 per high school to approximately $50,000 per high school. Another $3 million would supplement the grant program for officers stationed at elementary and middle schools. The budget will also recommend reducing the match requirement for Tier 1 and 2 counties so more districts can afford officers.
Preparing a Risk and Response Program ($444,000) – When emergencies occur, schools and first responders need a plan in place to keep students and teachers safe. The Governor’s budget recommends $444,000 to the Department of Public Safety to support the School Risk Management System that provides assistance with risk planning, school-wide exercises and monitoring to each school district. This web-based program allows school officials to work with first responders, law enforcement and emergency management to maintain a comprehensive digital School Risk Management Plan that enables officials to quickly respond to potential threats in our schools.
Supporting Youth Mental Health ($15 million) – The budget provides funding for innovative programs to support the mental health needs of children and youth. That includes resources to increase the availability of evidence-based training programs that help teachers, school staff, and mental health professionals identify and respond to student mental health challenges. It supports new funding to provide services to children with identified behavioral health needs and programs designed to give tools to families and providers who care for them. The budget also includes funding for early childhood programs and critical new family strengthening initiatives that will build family and child resilience, address childhood trauma, and prevent adverse mental health outcomes later in life.
“I was pleased to be able to join Governor Cooper today for his announcement on measures that will help improve safety and support services for the 1.4 million students in our public schools. This package includes the necessary components that need to be addressed by the General Assembly,” said Brenda Stephens, NC School Boards Association Vice-President and member of the Orange County Board of Education.
“North Carolina PTA fully supports funding schools and we recognize that school safety is a critical priority for all parents, educators, students, community members and policy makers. Given our history of advocacy for the health and safety of all children, we support the budget recommendations to improve school safety by more adequately funding important student support positions. North Carolina PTA and parents across the state know that without enough nurses, psychologists, social workers, and guidance counselors in our schools, there are not enough professionals keeping our students healthy, safe, and ready to achieve their full potential," said North Carolina PTA President Virginia Jicha.
“Our students deserve schools that are safe. These critical investments will give all of our students the opportunity to be successful and will help students receive the support they need,” said Mark Jewell, Guilford County educator and NCAE President.
“We appreciate the Governor’s focus on this important issue and look forward to working with him and the General Assembly to ensure our schools are as safe as possible," said Katherine W. Joyce, Executive Director of the N.C. Association of School Administrators.