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A School Safety Bill Is Sailing Though The Legislature, But Its Biggest Hurdle May Come In 2020

AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner

The Kentucky Senate unanimously agreed to school safety reforms Friday, but what the popular bipartisan bill leaves out could prove the bigger challenge in years to come.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are rallying behind Senate Bill 1, a comprehensive reform package that would call for more school resource officers and guidance counselors, a new state school security marshal, and consequences for schools that fail to meet new guidelines. It comes a year after a gunman opened fire in Marshall County High School, killing two 15-year-old students, Preston Cope and Bailey Holt, and wounding many more. 

Thursday, the families of the victims offered raw testimony before a Senate committee. 

"We can't protect them from the world," Brian Cope, Preston's father, said. "But for eight hours a day, we should be able to let our children go to school and learn and not be looking over their shoulder and worried what's going to happen, is something going to happen?"

The panel sent the school safety overhaul to the full chamber without any no votes. 

But bill sponsor Max Wise, a Campbellsville Republican, cautioned colleagues that identifying workable solutions is only half the legislative battle. 

"Also I want to make sure everyone is aware this is a part one," he said. 

That's because the current bill contains no new dollars, meaning it will be up to the 2020 General Assembly to find the funding during what promises to be another tight budget session.

"We want to make sure that we keep our focus on school safety, and not just this session, but as we go forward with the funding session, that's when we're really going to have to be prioritizing how much are we willing to back up the dollars behind school safety," he told WUKY. 

Senate Bill 1’s relatively seamless passage in committee and the Senate is also due in part to what’s left out – more controversial proposals like arming teachers or placing tighter restrictions on guns.

Wise has said lawmakers are free to debate other ideas in separate bills.

Senate Bill 1 now moves to the House. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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