FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill that could put Kentucky on a path to using state funds to pay for school districts to hire armed law enforcement officers advanced out of a House committee Tuesday.
The bill sponsor said student resource officers are already required under Kentucky law to be inside school buildings.
"The original intent was to have an SRO on every school campus," Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, said.
Bratcher said House Bill 63 aims to make sure the SRO requirement doesn't become an unfunded mandate since the current law doesn't include state funding to pay for the program.
It's up to districts to cover the cost of hiring officers.
Bratcher said his bill would allow districts to avoid having to have SROs in all schools if they can't afford to pay or staff the program for now.
He said the legislation would allow the state time to gather information from districts about funding needs and put Kentucky on a path to using state funds for SROs down the road.
"We have the statistics of who doesn't have an SRO, but we don't know why they don't have one," Bratcher said. "This is a good first step to get funding."
Rep. Tina Bojanowski, a Louisville Democrat and JCPS teacher, said doing this takes power away from local school districts, which is something Republicans fought hard to let districts keep during the pandemic.
"It frustrates me when the General Assembly argues local control, but then when the local decisions may be different than the decisions they want, then they want a state level approval process for a program," Bojanowski said.
In general, Kentucky's law requiring armed officers on all school campuses is controversial.
Those against it want the legislature to repeal it completely.
"You can build relationships and build trust," Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said. "You do not need a weapon to do that and in fact it doesn't help."
Those who support SROs say it's an unfortunate but necessary precaution.
They also feel it could help improve community relations with police officers.
"They need positive role models," Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, said. "They need to learn that they can trust a police officer or a law enforcement official. That seems to be lacking in our society."
HB63 made it out of a House committee Tuesday.
It now heads to the full House for consideration.
If approved, it still needs to be voted on by the Senate before going to the governor's desk.