Georgia’s lieutenant governor wants to pay teachers $10,000 a year to carry guns at school
WINDER, Georgia (AP) — Georgia’s lieutenant governor said Wednesday that he wants to pay teachers US$10,000 a year to encourage them to carry guns in schools in the United States.
Republican Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, speaking at Austin Road Elementary School in Winder on Wednesday, said he wants the state to spend more money on school safety, including paying for teachers and other non-officers to take firearms training, and paying teachers who hold a firearms training certificate an annual stipend.
His plan also calls for stricter standards for already-required school safety plans and boosting money the state gives schools to hire school resource officers with police certification. Salary and benefits for such officers can cost $80,000 or more.
“We feel like this is the best way to prepare faculty, but also prepare law enforcement and the system however we can,” Jones said, saying the state should be “proactive” to prevent shootings.
Former President Donald Trump and others have called for arming teachers, saying gun-free school zones are targets for armed assailants.
But Lisa Morgan, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said her teacher group “categorically” opposes anyone besides certified officers carrying guns in schools. She suggested Jones instead write legislation to hire more counsellors.
“Teachers should not be armed in the classroom,” Morgan said. “We are not there to serve as law enforcement and introducing more firearms into the school is not a way to solve the problem of violence in our schools.”
Critics also say that lots of practice will be needed to use a gun properly in an emergency, and that there’s a history of even regular police officers accidentally shooting guns at schools.
Barrow County Superintendent Chris McMichael said that although his district allows its security chief to carry a gun, the school board would have to carefully examine arming other employees. He supports increased funding for school resource officers, saying the district has 15 or 16 officers, not enough to have one in each of its 20 schools.
Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith was more enthusiastic, saying armed teachers could be a “force multiplier” in case of a shooting.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teacher group, called for school safety funding to be rolled into the state’s school funding formula, making it reliable from year to year, instead of being doled out in one-time grants.
Margaret Ciccarelli, PAGE’s top lobbyist, said that in a recent survey, 4,000 members ranked letting non-officers carry guns as last among preferred school safety measures. Top priorities were mental health interventions, more school resource officers and better safety plans.
Since 2014, Georgia has allowed local school boards to permit trained people who aren’t police officers to carry guns at schools, including teachers. It’s unclear how many districts have done so, although at least five school districts allow some non-officers to carry guns. In Barrow and Cobb counties, that policy only applies to security personnel without police certification, not teachers.
Jones and his allies emphasise the programme would be voluntary. Teachers wouldn’t be required to participate, and teachers could carry guns only in districts where a school board voted to allow it.