A proposal by the National Rifle Association for armed police officers in every school is picking up an unusual ally -- the state House Democratic leader.
Chad Campbell said the state used to provide more than $14 million a year to help schools hire safety officers. That got cut in half as part of budget-balancing moves. And the only reason the rest did not go away is it was part of a 2000 voter-approved plan. Campbell said he believes the state can find the money.
"We waste so much money on stupid things in this state. We have plenty of money to protect our kids," Campbell said. "I'm so tired of arguments from the right that we don't have the money for programs like this when they hand out corporate welfare and special interest taxpayer handouts every single day down there. We can fund protecting our kids."
But Republican Rep. John Kavanagh who heads the House Appropriations Committee said funding an officer for every one of the nearly 2,000 schools in the state makes no sense.
"That would be a phenomenal expense and it would detract from other educational expenditures. And I don't think it's necessary," Kavanagh said. "What about the school yard? What about playgrounds? What about parks?"
But Todd Rathner, an NRA board member from Arizona, said the state does have a responsibility.
"I know that sometimes there is a reluctance on the part of our Republican friends to appropriate money for certain things because they believe in smaller government," Rathner said. "But there are certain roles for government. And certainly, if we're going to have public schools then they ought to be protected."
The issue will become part of the budget talks when the Legislature convenes next month.