At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., brought back a bill to help boost security at schools around the nation.
Back in July, Bilirakis unveiled the “Promoting Resource Officers Together for Exceptionally Critical Targets with Key Investments in Districts and Schools Act” (PROTECT KIDS Act). He reintroduced it last week.
The bill would hire more Student Resource Officers (SROs) in schools by setting aside $250 million–up from the $225 million he called for in July–from the federal government that the U.S. Department of Justice will use in a matching grant program over five years. The funds would be used to match funds from local school districts and municipalities to hire SROs. The bill requires the Justice Department prioritize larger school districts with 65,000 students or more. Under the proposal, districts can apply for up to $10 million with a limit of $20,000 for each school.
Bilirakis weighed in on Friday as to why he had brought the bill back.
“Immediately after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I met with our local Superintendents and law enforcement. They told me that the single most important thing I can do to improve school safety is to help them secure funding to hire more certified law enforcement officers as SROs,” said Bilirakis.
Bilirakis insisted that the Sunshine State would benefit from his proposal.
“Sadly, the school districts in the 12th Congressional District and throughout the state of Florida do not have sufficient resources to provide a certified School Resource Officer on every campus,” he said when he first introduced the proposal. “Many of these districts are among the largest school systems in the country. While we successfully increased federal grant funding in our last budget bill for the purpose of hiring school resource officers, I knew more support was needed. The PROTECT KIDS Act will help assure parents that their children have a safe and secure learning environment.”
Bilirakis returned to that theme on Friday and noted that other states would also benefit from his proposal.
“Just last year, SROs prevented or intervened in school shootings in Maryland, Illinois, Texas, and even my home state of Florida,” Bilirakis said. “Unfortunately, many school districts are lacking the financial resources to implement the advised minimum standards, which is very troubling. There is nothing more precious and important than the well-being of our children, and I remain committed to securing the funding needed to ensure school safety.”
So far, Bilirakis has not rounded up any cosponsors nor is there a sponsor over in the U.S. Senate. The bill was sent to the U.S. House Education and the Workforce and the Judiciary Committees last week.