AG, lawmaker seek $10M for Indiana school protection

Attorney General Greg Zoeller and a Republican state senator said Thursday they will seek $10 million to place more law enforcement in Indiana's schools.

Zoeller and Sen. Pete Miller of Avon said the money would be provided to school corporations as a matching grant to hire additional "school resource officers" like those already used in Indiana schools. Funding would be limited to up to $50,000 per school district for up to two years, but Zoeller says that could change as lawmakers consider the measure in their upcoming session.

"Many have asked, 'What can Indiana do now to enhance school safety?' and this is something legislators can do early in 2013," Zoeller said in a statement.

Zoeller and Miller said they began work on the measure before the Newtown school shooting and that the officers would do more than simply protect against shootings. The proposal would expand a statewide program that keeps police in schools to help with mentoring, resolving disputes and other issues.

The attorney general's office commissioned a study of the state's school officer program and found that parents are most concerned with students bringing weapons and drugs to school and bullying and fighting. School administrators polled in the study, conducted from Nov. 5 to Dec. 12, overwhelmingly said they would like additional officers, but also said they did not have the money to pay for them.

Incoming School Superintendent Glenda Ritz said the measure would "ensure that our schools, personnel, and students are safe and secure." Zoeller said he has talked with Gov.-elect Mike Pence but has yet to secure the new governor's support for the measure.

Any new state spending will have to compete with demands from Republican leaders to restore spending cuts in education and a coming drop in transportation money, along with Pence's proposal to cut the personal income tax by 10 percent.

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