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February 1, 2013

Bill may help with school resource officers

Attorney general holds conference at Clarksville Middle School

CLARKSVILLE — The state attorney general said he hopes to see more funding and a broader scope of use in a bill that would help schools get resource officers during a press conference at Clarksville Middle School on Thursday.

Greg Zoeller, Indiana attorney general, had the conference at the school to congratulate the district and the Clarksville Police Department for beginning their school resource officer program and talk about Senate Bill 1, which would establish a fund for districts and charter schools to apply for grants through to help pay for school resource officers. But districts in Southern Indiana have shown mixed interest because they’re not sure whether the funds are one-time monies or recurring, especially because of already mounting budget concerns for some school corporations.

“That has been one of the concerns and it’s a concern even in the bill we originally sponsored ...” Zoeller said. “I think that’s been understood as a problem and my guess is particularly the leadership in the [state] Senate is focused on how to have a recurring funding stream.”

The introduced version of the bill puts $10 million into a state safe schools fund, which could give districts 50 percent of the cost of school resource officer programs, capped at $50,000.

Zoeller said the uncertainty of whether districts will continue to receive money for resource officers is understandable.

“Nobody wants to hire a full-time person without knowing a funding stream that carries forward,” Zoeller said. “So it’s a question that everybody’s focused on ...  how the Senate and House decide to address that need is left for later.”

Zoeller said since the bill is still new, there’s opportunity to amend it in a several different ways and it may get additional funding from federal sources.

“I think it’s been the subject of a lot of attention from other kinds of interests,” Zoeller said. “So what’s likely to happen will be to have a much more expanded overall school safety, rather than just a school resource officer.”

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