Republican nominee for governor Brian Kemp revealed a new $90 million school safety plan Wednesday.
At his Buckhead campaign headquarters, the secretary of state was joined by Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, and their families to make the announcement.
The three-pronged platform focuses on creating dedicated support counselors in Georgia high schools, providing $30,000 in one-time funding for all Georgia’s public schools to address safety and restructuring the Department of Education to add a School Safety Division.
Kemp said the support counselor program would be modeled after former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue’s graduation coach program, a 2006 initiative that pushed for one "coach" per high school that provided additional support to help high school students graduate on time.
The $23 million support counselor program would “assist and guide students who are battling mental health issues, opioid abuse, violence in the home, bullying and suicide.”
After the press conference, Kemp said addressing mental health is one of the biggest issues that affect school safety, adding he and his wife, Marty, have had many conversations on the campaign trail with Georgians about how to address it.
He also said providing more mental health services in schools can help prevent school shootings and other gun violence in schools, and that his proposal doesn’t have anything to do with guns or the debate over access to guns.
The one-time funding for safety will allow schools discretion over how to protect their campuses. Kemp said he consulted with local school superintendents and legislators to gauge interest in the funds and how much schools might need.
The final pillar of the plan would create a school safety division within the Department of Education that would help administer those one-time funds and advise school systems on security and safety concerns.
When asked how the plan would be funded, Kemp touted his larger plan as governor that would put caps on state spending and free up more room in the budget to cover new proposals.
Kemp’s plan has supporters in both legislative chambers. In a statement, house speaker David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge) said he is proud of the legislatures’ record on increasing school safety, and looks forward to Kemp building on that if elected governor.
“Brian Kemp understands the need to do more,” Ralston said. “As a leader, his vision for giving our schools more resources is just one way he will lead Georgia to a brighter tomorrow.”
State Sen. John Albers (R – Roswell), who chairs the senate Study Committee on School Safety echoed that statement.
“[Kemp’s] initiatives to increase school safety funds to $92 million, add critical mental health solutions and implement best practices in each school will assure all Georgia schools are safe,” Albers wrote.
His Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, also has a proposal for school safety that includes mental health.
Abrams’ platform includes using federal funding for mental health and early intervention programs and using ESPLOST funds to help create a school safety and security task force that would augment funding for school districts who need more.
One key difference is that Abrams has called for gun safety reforms that she believes will keep guns out of schools and keep classrooms safer.
The Abrams campaign has said her school safety plan would be funded by reprioritizing the state’s education formula, which was fully funded this year for the first time in recent history.