More than three dozen South Carolina school districts will receive grant money to help them put armed officers at currently-unprotected schools. However, state officials say more money is needed to place a school resource officer (SRO) in the remaining 300 schools statewide which still lack a law enforcement presence.
The state Department of Education on Wednesday announced the 38 districts which will receive part of the $2 million set aside in this year’s budget. The agency said the districts were chosen based mostly on their index of taxpaying ability, with districts that have lower tax bases getting priority.
“This really just went to districts that do not have (officers) and couldn’t afford them,” spokesman Ryan Brown said.
The grants had been a priority for Gov. Henry McMaster and some legislators after a spate of school shootings nationwide. McMaster had requested the funding in this year’s budget. Lawmakers eventually included the $2 million after debate about how to address those schools which still lack SROs on campus.
Brown said each grant will allow a district to pay for an officer or deputy from its local law enforcement agency. “The amount of funding varies by how much each municipality or sheriff’s office requires to fund an SRO,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The grants will go towards officers in schools — largely elementary or middle — which do not currently have them. Brown said a district cannot use the money to support an existing position.