Indiana governor seeks $5 million to boost school security

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Gov. Eric Holcomb

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana’s governor has asked legislators to approve a $5 million boost for a state grant program aimed at helping improve school security.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office released a letter Friday seeking the money for the Indiana Secured Safety Grant Program, which was started in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. It currently has a $9 million annual budget to help schools buy safety equipment or hire police officers.

The letter said the most recent round of grant applications requested $3.5 million more than was available for the state’s 289 public school districts and some 80 charter schools.

The new funding request comes as Indiana schools have seen dozens of copycat threats since the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

Legislative leaders said approval for moving the money from the $2 billion in state reserves can be done before the legislative session ends on Wednesday.

“I think it is money well spent, whatever it requires to harden our schools, to protect our kids,” Republican Senate leader David Long said. “We’ll leave it to the experts to decide how best to do that.”

Lawmakers allocated $10 million for the first two years of the school security grants, but that funding was slashed in 2015 to $3.5 million a year under then-Gov. Mike Pence. He later added several million back.

Holcomb’s letter also said he was directing the state homeland security and education departments to prepare additional school security recommendations by Aug. 1.

Lawmakers are planning to establish a legislative study committee on school safety to meet over the summer and fall and have asked the state Department of Education to audit each school’s safety plan.

Long said Thursday that he believed additional school security funding could be included in the next two-year state budget that the General Assembly will write during its 2019 session.

“I think that’s going to be a priority not just this summer, but for next year’s budget,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a much better idea of what it’s going to cost by then.”

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