Zero cost. After thirty years as an entrepreneur, I have been a Trustee and administrator at two public K-8 charter schools for the past twelve years. I have worked with annual budgets as these schools grew from 53 students to over 1,600 students today. Safety has been my first priority since the founding of these schools in 2000 shortly after Columbine.
As our schools have done, districts can place an armed contract deputy sheriff on duty in every school at an additional cost to the taxpayer of $0.00. Known as a School Resource Officer (SRO), these contract deputies can be in every public school at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
How? Merely allow the average class size to rise by one student. There is scant hard evidence that class size has an impact on student learning[i]. Most studies fail to show any material effect. The major determinant of student success in the classroom is the quality of teachers not the quantity of students.
According to 2012 DPI data, the average elementary school has 499 students[ii] . Assuming an average class size of 19, this requires 499/19 = 26.26 classrooms. Teacher turnover guarantees that one or more of these classroom teachers will leave next year. By allowing 20 students per class, the average school will require 499/20 = 24.95 classrooms saving 1.31 classroom with a teacher the average school.
Here in Brunswick County, our contract deputy costs $45,600 annually. This cost includes reimbursing the sheriff’s department for the salary, benefits, equipment, and uniform of the armed deputy assigned full-time to our school. Our average teacher salary is $33,213; and with FICA taxes and benefits at about 25%, our average total teacher cost is $41,332.
Saving 1.31 teachers on average by adding one student to each classroom would yield $41,332 X 1.31 = $53,732. This would pay for the armed contract deputy and would leave $8,132 excess for additional safety programs and teacher emergency training.
Because many elementary classooms have a teacher assistant and because we are eliminating 1.31 classrooms per school, either the assistant’s salary could be saved also or the assistant could be shared among the other classrooms.
Frankly, I think the solution to protecting our students is even simpler than that outlined above. The “Troops to Teachers” program[iii] here in NC helps our retiring military find positions as teachers in our schools. Three 20+ year Marines and a 20+ years Army Special Operations soldier serve as teachers or administrators in our two schools. They, along with others demonstrating competence in handling firearms, could be certified with little additional training to substitute for, or furnish back-up to, the SRO if they volunteered to do so at no added cost to the school. Texas has allowed properly trained teachers to go armed since 2008.[iv] The issue of board and teacher liability must be dealt with as part of this alterneative.
Under current law in South Carolina, the authority in charge of a school may grant any employee with a concealed carry license permission to possess a firearm on campus. No such permission is needed for a concealed carry permit holder to have a firearm in their locked vehicle on school property. On December 18, 2012, Rep. Lowe of the South Carolina General Assembly introduced House Bill H.3160 that allows a concealed carry holder to carry on campus at all times provided that the principal and the local school board are notified of his intent and that the firearm is concealed and loaded only with frangible bullets. In the Bill, this right to carry can only be denied by the school board upon a showing of just cause. [v]
Each district or school should be able to decide how best to protect their children; but impediments to economical, rational solutions should be removed by the General Assembly. And should teachers and other school employees be uniquely denied their Second Amendment rights? Do those who denied these rights to the personnel in Newtown carry some responsibility for the outcome that resulted from this denial?
Finally, pleas for more tax dollars should be rejected as unnecessary, particularly in these hard times.