By Denise Dick
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni is introducing legislation to allocate $34 million in 2014 and 2015 for school safety.
The money would come from the state’s general revenue fund, Schiavoni, D-33rd of Boardman, said at a news conference Friday at Market Street Elementary School with Boardman school officials.
Earlier this year, legislators heard 30 hours of testimony from school officials across the state about the need for improved school security, but the only action taken was a law allowing school districts to place levies on the ballot for school security, Schiavoni said.
“In my opinion, that doesn’t get the job done,” he said.
School districts would apply for the money, and his bill would require the state board of education to establish the criteria and procedure for awarding the safety funds to school districts.
The amount of the awards would range from $25,000 in each of the two years to $100,000 each year depending on a district’s enrollment.
A district the size of Boardman would be eligible for $75,000 each year, he said.
Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri said his district’s buildings average 75 years old and aren’t equipped with safety technology and amenities of newer schools. But recent events across the country, including the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, demonstrate the need for safety measures to protect schools.
If Schiavoni’s bill becomes law, Lazzeri said, the school district would purchase new door locks that prevent people who shouldn’t be in the schools from getting in but also don’t present fire hazards if students and personnel need to get out.
Earlier this week, township voters passed a replacement levy by four votes. A portion of the dollars generated would go toward more security measures within the district, including new entrances and a new communication system between classrooms. However, the outcome remains unclear as a recount is mandatory because of the narrow margin.
Sgt. Chuck Hillman, school resource officer, said the school district and police department work closely on school safety issues.
“It does come down to dollars, money being available to do certain things,” he said.
Schiavoni believes he has support for the legislation. He says the amount he wants to allocate isn’t a lot in terms of the larger budget, and many people believe school security needs improvement.
“I’d like to hear the arguments of why it won’t work or why it couldn’t,” he said.