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House approves money for school security measures


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Schools could soon be able to tap a state technology fund for security measures such as paying for school resource officers or surveillance cameras.

The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday voted 96-4 for the bill. The Alabama Senate will now consider whether to go along with House changes to the proposal.

The legislation by Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Montrose is one of the few school security proposals nearing final passage in the Alabama Legislature. Other bills introduced to arm teachers and limit or ban the sale of assault weapons already failed this legislative session, which is expected to end next week.

Rep. Bill Poole, a Republican and chair of the Ways and Means Education committee, said the total amount to be made available was just under $45 million. Funds would be allocated to districts based on enrollment. Each school would decide how to use the money for nonrecurring expenses like securing entrances, installing security cameras or hiring a school resource officer on a one-year contract.

“Any tool that we can add to the toolboxes that schools have to keep the premises safe is critical,” Poole said. “Montgomery shouldn’t tell each school system how they specifically manage each dollar and I like that we can give the school systems flexibility.”

Democratic lawmakers voiced concern that the money could be used to arm teachers or school employees. Rep. John Knight introduced an amendment to prohibit purchasing weapons for educators with the money, but it didn’t pass. Poole said that under current law, weapons can’t be carried inside schools.

According to the Legislative Services Agency, schools received a total of $21.4 million from the technology fund in 2016, but no money in 2017. A separate bill would steer an additional $58.8 million to the fund.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced support for the legislation.

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