Governor Roy Cooper announced his version a budget plan in the Roberson media center which would allocate $130 million to school safety. Cooper toured the school before briefing press, faculty, and students on his proposed plan.
Cooper began his day meeting guidance counselors and school nurse Lynn Smarjesse. He then stopped by the Golden Fleece Media Group’s pressroom, the renovated foods lab, and got a sneak peek of a number from the musical “Legally Blonde,” which is debuting this weekend.
Cooper referred to himself as a product of public schools as his mother was a teacher and he was a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His three daughters also attended public school.
“As a parent and as the governor, I have a duty to try and keep children safe. And to try and keep a child from ever having to text a parent ‘Mom, there’s a shooter in my classroom,’” Cooper said.
The governor called for “common sense” gun policy reform last month, including a comprehensive plan which includes tighter background checks, tougher permitting laws, and new age requirements.
His new funding proposal would be allotted in the following ways if voted through by the General Assembly.
- $40 million to fund over 500 new positions for mental health professionals, such as guidance counselors and nurses, as well as training for teachers to prepare for an incident and recognize red flag signals in students
- $10 million to fund additional student resource officer positions and ‘rapid deployment’ training
- $65 million for one time spending on system upgrades such as monitoring and buzzer apparatuses
- Half a million dollars for updating digital school risk management plans to prepare surrounding officials in response to an incident
- Cooper also called for general increases in North Carolina teacher and staff pay
Roberson has over 45 outdoor entrances, creating an additional set of concerns for monitoring who can enter and exit the building.
The administration began locking all exterior doors in January and the county installed buzzer systems on the two main front and back entrance in April.
“Our public schools need to be supported. When it comes to school safety, we cannot rely on Washington nor can we wait for Washington to act. We need to keep guns out of our schools, and we need the resources to prevent violence,” Cooper said.
Mike Ruby, the head of the Buncombe County Student Resource Officer Program, and Superintendent Tony Baldwin also spoke to Cooper’s initiative of “Safer Schools, Healthier Kids.” Baldwin addressed students directly calling the presentation historic.
“I know you have so many things on your plate, but this is an important moment not only for TC Roberson High School but for schools the state of North Carolina. You are here with history for the state,” Baldwin said.
Johnston voiced her appreciation for Cooper’s presence along with Representative Brian Turner and Western Governor’s Office Director Drew Christy.
“What I’m so thrilled about is our governor gets you and he cares about you. He has a plan that really gets to the heart of [student] concerns,” Principal Bonnie Johnston said.
Cooper closed with an appeal for youth and adults to continue communicating their expectations from elected officials as he works to gain support for the proposed budget.
“We must act. I’m calling on the General Assembly to act. Students, parents, and educators are depending on us, and I need your voices to be loud,” Cooper said.