The State Senate today unanimously approved legislation introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) that would provide grants to Pennsylvania schools to address the issue of school violence and improve school safety.
Scarnati said that Senate Bill 10 was introduced in response in part to the tragic school shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December.
“This legislation takes a crucial step to provide schools with the funding they need to protect students and teachers, through the expansion of targeted grants for School Resource Officers, School Police Officers, violence prevention programs and emergency preparedness initiatives,” Scarnati said.
Scarnati’s legislation paves the way for increasing the Safe Schools line item in the state budget. Currently, roughly $500,000 a year is awarded in Safe Schools Targeted Grants. Scarnati has proposed increasing that amount to a total of approximately $10 million per year.
“A core responsibility of government is to ensure the greatest level of security possible in our schools,” Scarnati said. “Protecting our children is not a partisan issue; this is an issue of importance for every school district, urban, suburban and rural.”
According to Scarnati, many school districts across the Commonwealth currently employ armed police and school resource officers. “These trained professionals provide an invaluable contribution to their schools, offering far more than just protection from physical harm,” Scarnati explained. “Such skilled school leaders also play a central role in creating a safer environment at academic institutions, by engaging students and preventing bullying.”
Senate Bill 10 was thoroughly vetted earlier this year during the Senate Education Committee and Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee joint hearings on the issue of school safety and violence prevention.
Scarnati said there has been significant support and encouragement for Senate Bill 10, from parents, teachers, school administrators, superintendents and public safety officials across the State. In addition, the bill is supported by the State Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).
“I am pleased that this important legislation to help guard our students and educators has received such widespread support,” Scarnati said. “We must step up as a Commonwealth and take the lead in protecting the most vulnerable and precious in our society, our children.” Scarnati said.
Senate Bill 10 will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Contact: Casey Long, (717) 787-7084