A plan to pay Georgia public school teachers $10,000 to be trained to carry guns in the classroom is meant to enhance security at Georgia’s public schools, according to a spokesperson for the Georgia lieutenant governor’s office.
“This is a proactive initiative to increase safety preparedness for faculty, law enforcement, and [school] systems who choose to participate. It’s sad, but it is the sign of the times, and the Senate is prepared to take action to protect all of Georgia’s students and school system personnel,” Ines Owens, policy and communications director for Lt. Gov. Burt Jones’s office, told The Epoch Times in an email.
Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times. She has publicly said her organization “categorically” opposes the plan and that the money would be better spent hiring counselors.
In her email, Ms. Owens said Mr. Jones is open to discussing the matter with anyone who has questions.
“The Lt. Governor’s Office is open to communicating with anyone on this issue, as long as the conversation is centered around facts and the true intent of the legislation, not what the media is trying to sensationalize,” she said.
Ms. Owens stressed that the training and stipend program, part of legislation that two state senators have committed to introduce during the General Assembly’s 2024 session, is entirely voluntary.
“Teacher participation is voluntary—there are no mandates to participate,” she said.
Republican Georgia state Sen. Max Burns, who has committed to introducing the legislation, wrote in a statement released on Oct. 25 that the proposal has only one objective.
“The safety of our school children and their classrooms is our first responsibility,” Mr. Burns wrote. “This legislation provides another tool to enhance school safety.”
According to the Oct. 25 statement, arming teachers is one element of a larger ongoing plan designed to help local officials make their schools safer.
Gang Training in Plan AlsoThe new law also requires the state Professional Standards Commission to create a safety and anti-gang training program for school employees to improve security and identify gang members and recruiters.
“One of the most critical duties we have as public servants is to protect those who are most vulnerable—including all of Georgia’s children,” Mr. Jones is quoted as saying.
The new proposal is meant to work with existing law to advance those aims, according to Ms. Owens.
Information from the lieutenant governor’s office shows that the proposed plan includes the $10,000 stipend and requirements for enhanced safety training, more robust school safety plans, increased local decision-making authority, and certified firearms training tailored to an education environment.
Ms. Owens said the training and stipends would be provided at no cost to the participating teachers or districts. The Georgia General Assembly has allocated $115 million to make school safety grants of up to $50,000 for every K–12 school in the state.
“These are state-funded grants. There will be no cost to teachers or systems who choose to participate in this voluntary program,” she said.
Few Georgia school districts have chosen to allow armed teachers in the classroom.
In 2014, Georgia began allowing school boards to permit trained personnel, including teachers, to carry guns at school. It’s unclear exactly how many of the 181 districts have done so. At least five allow some non-officers to carry guns. In Barrow and Cobb counties, that policy applies only to security personnel without police certification, not teachers.