Arming teachers and school funding dominate Senate debates Tuesd - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

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Arming teachers and school funding dominate Senate debates Tuesday

Issues of how schools are funded and how they're kept safe became the big topics of the day at the State Capitol Tuesday. Source: WLBT Issues of how schools are funded and how they're kept safe became the big topics of the day at the State Capitol Tuesday. Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Issues of how schools are funded and how they're kept safe became the big topics of the day at the State Capitol Tuesday.

A bill about who could conceal carry and why was in Senators' hands. Given the recent school shootings, they moved to amend that bill and create a path for armed teachers.

"At the end of the day, we believe the best defense from someone who has a weapon who is trying to do harm to innocent people who are law abiding citizens to have weapons also," said Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

The Lieutenant Governor compared the bill the Mississippi's Church Protection Act, passed in 2016. That bill allows anyone with an enhanced concealed carry license and proper training bring a firearm into a place of worship, provided the church itself allows guns inside.

Similarly, under the amendment to the new bill, it would be a school's choice whether to allow firearms. Teachers and other school employees would have to receive 12 hours of training every two years from the Department of Public Safety. But not everyone thinks more guns is the answer.

"I don't think there's a legislative will here to do the right thing regarding making our schools more safe and not allowing guns on our campuses," noted Sen. Derrick Simmons.

MAE President Joyce Helmick is also opposed to teachers carrying guns on campus:

“Today, HB 1083 was voted out of the Senate Judiciary A Committee with an amendment allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons into the schools. Having more guns in schools is not the answer to school safety. In fact, it is the opposite of making schools safer. The Mississippi Association of Educators vehemently opposes any measure to arm teachers. The role of teachers is to educate our children, not to act as armed guards. This should be left to professional law enforcement, who are skillfully trained for more than 12 hours, which is all the Senate Amendment currently mandates for teachers. We should let the teachers teach, and let trained law enforcement personnel provide protection to our children, teachers, and school administrators. Teachers are already charged with so many responsibilities outside their roles as educators -- the idea that they should now be asked to serve as armed guards is ridiculous.”

The state already provides matching funds for schools to hire trained officers.

And it was standing room only in the Senate Education Committee. Their only item on the agenda was a rewrite of the school funding formula. Supporters say it's a more simplistic formula that they call student-centered.

"It increases funding for 107 out of 142 school districts," described Education Chairman Senator Gray Tollison. "I think going forward the fact that people have confidence in it will make a lot of difference. And you have those accountability provisions to make sure districts are spending it in a way that it helps students."

Opponents say the problem isn't the current formula. Senator David Blount made note during the meeting that he believed the public had lost confidence in the legislature. Some members spoke about the concern that schools would get less than if the current formula was fully funded.

"If EdBuild is not funded, it's going to fall by the wayside the way we allowed MAEP," said Senator David Jordan.

The bill was approved by the Education committee and now goes to the full Senate for more debate.

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