1/15/2013 8:46:00 AM Governor opposes having teachers, principals locked and loaded
Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Parting ways with some other Republicans, Gov. Jan Brewer said Thursday she does not want armed teachers, principals and volunteers in public schools.
In an interview with Capitol Media Services, the governor said she is instead leaning toward the idea of restoring at least some of the state funds that schools used to hire trained police officers.
Cash for these "school resource officers' has been cut sharply in prior years to help the state balance its budget. But Arizona now is looking at a possible $600 million surplus for the coming fiscal year.
Her stance puts her in the same camp as House Minority Leader Chad Campbell who advanced his own plan for more school resource officers earlier in the week.
"I believe in safe areas,' she said.
"We need to make sure that our most precious resources are safe,' the governor continued. "I will do what it is I can do moving forwards in regards to school safety.'
But Brewer said that, given all the demands on state funding, she cannot agree to the $100 million price tag on Campbell's plan for more officers. She called that unrealistic.
Details of her own plan will come Monday when she gives her State of the State address.
Brewer acknowledged that some of her Republican colleagues believe the best way to protect children is to have more people with guns in schools to offer protection.
Attorney General Tom Horne proposed having each school designate a single individual who would have access to weapons that presumably would remain locked up until needed. Horne offered to make his 36 investigators, all of whom are sworn peace officers, available to provide training to those who are designated.
And earlier this week, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he sees no reason why individual teachers who own guns should not be able to bring them to work.
Brewer said she's not interested in anything like that.
"I guess they're entitled to their opinion,' she said. "I'm not a supporter of that.'
Brewer also has to make a decision soon on whether the state will expand the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program, to cover everyone up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. That's about $25,400 a year for a family of three.
Arizona currently provides care up to the federal poverty level. But even there, there are exceptions as the state, in a budget-cutting move, stopped enrolling single adults even if their income put them below the federal poverty level.
While the main focus is providing health coverage, with the federal government picking up most of the cost, the governor's decision is also linked to the question of gun safety.
That is because an expanded program would also mean more people who could get mental health coverage. And there is evidence that some people involved in mass shootings, including Jared Loughner in the 2011 Tucson incident that left six dead, had fallen through the cracks and not received treatment that might have precluded their action.
Brewer, though, reiterated her stance that additional restrictions on weapons are not appropriate. And she chastised those who are making such calls.
"You know, some people want to make this such an exaggerated issue,' she said.
"But the bottom line is that it's part of the Constitution,' the governor continued. "It's the Second Amendment of the land.'