MARIETTA, Ga. — What could $69 million buy?
Hopefully, better security at schools across Georgia, according to newly-elected Governor Brian Kemp.
During Wednesday’s annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Kemp said each school would receive a one-time check of $30,000 to fund school safety projects -- totaling about $69 million in new safety funding across the state.
“I definitely approve of the work the legislature and Governor Deal did to address this issue last year, but there is more to do,” said Kemp during the event. “The classroom should be a safe haven for students, not a hunting ground for school shooters.”
One school superintendent plans to take that $30,000 and double it to protect students for years to come.
Dr. Grant Rivera, the superintendent for Marietta City Schools, said he wants to put the money toward a grant that would, in theory, help double school safety funding from the state.
“It’s called a COPS grant, which allows us to really work collaboratively with our City of Marietta and take federal funds and really figure out how we can get more programming and support in our buildings, so that way, our children feel the impact of this $30,000 every single day for years to come,” Rivera said.
The Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant helps law enforcement hire more school resource officers to engage in community policing in and around schools to prevent school violence.
In addition to the $30,000 boost in funding, Kemp said in Wednesday’s speech that he wants to give teachers a pay raise. During his campaign to become Georgia governor, Kemp promised a $5,000 pay raise, without raising taxes. That proposal could cost the state about $600 million.
Kemp also said he wants to put mental health counselors in schools, something Rivera said his district is watching closely.
“For us in Marietta, we prioritize mental health and we have had numerous programs … where we focus on the whole child,” Rivera said. “What Governor Kemp is doing in his not only focus, but financial support, will just allow us to make sure we can continue comprehensive services that wrap around the whole child, wrap around the whole family and focus just as much on the mental health of the child as the academic success of the child.”
Kemp said he plans to outline more of his plans to improve Georgia’s education system at tomorrow’s State of the State Address. Rivera said the $30,000 check is a good place to start.
“Also equally important is, they haven’t dictated what to do (with the $30,000). Every one of our schools is different and every one of our communities is different,” Rivera said. “So, to have the flexibility to put toward school safety, but not be micro-managed in what that looks like, is really an important vision for us to execute.”