Update: Monday, Governor Walker officially signed his School Safety Plan into law, which includes $100 million to upgrade security in schools.
The Senate made minor adjustments to Walker’s original proposal.
Original Post, March 15, 2018:
Governor Scott Walker has plans he says will make Wisconsin schools safer. He called the legislature into special session to take up safety proposals that would increase security in schools.
Walker revealed his school safety package today – one day after a national school walkout, held in response to the shooting in Parkland, FL that left 17 people dead.
Students at dozens of Wisconsin schools participated in the walkouts calling for stricter gun laws, and some even protested outside the governor’s office in Madison.
One of the bills would fund a $100 million grant for security upgrades in schools – another would create an office of school safety within the office of Attorney General Brad Schimel.
Other measures would require mandatory reporting for any threats of school violence – and amend the state’s bullying law to include prompt parental notification.
However, there’s no provision to arm teachers, or any gun control measures included in the package.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke says he believes Walker’s call for upgrading security would include money for armed guards, rather than arming teachers – but as far as gun laws go, he’s not sure what additional restrictions can be passed.
“When you look at school shootings that have taken place, school shooters by and large have, if not all of the time, have passed background checks, and or have gotten their weapons legally, so I’m not sure what other laws that we can pass, that would help prevent these school shootings. The main thing that we need to do is make sure that the buildings are secure, and the kids are safe,” he says.
Steineke says directing resources to helping kids with mental health issues should be a priority as well.
The Assembly had already adjourned for the year, but Speaker Robin Vos says the chamber will come back sometime next week to take up the plan.
However, critics of Walker’s package, like Democratic State Representative David Crowley, say it misses the mark.
Crowley says Governor Walker’s heart is in the right place as far as wanting to do something, but he says the conversation is about how to reduce gun violence and he doesn’t believe the package addresses that.
“I think that if we’re going to do something to make schools safer, more importantly the whole community safer, the best thing that we could do is pass universal background checks. It’s important that we as citizens understand what our role is as it relates to reducing gun violence, and that role is to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of dangerous people,” he says.
Crowley also says reinstating the 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases may make a good amendment to Walker’s bills.
UW-Milwaukee Political Science Professor Kathleen Dolan says she’s not surprised the plan avoids gun control measures. She says it indicates Walker is “playing it safe” in an election year.
“It serves schools’ interests and it certainly serves the governor’s reelection’s interest and makes it look like he is responsive on this issue. But, it does so without engaging or antagonizing the NRA or the Koch brothers or any other forces on the right who would not want this package to include any sort of gun control legislation,” she says.
Dolan predicts lawmakers from both parties may try to amend the plan to include items they think are missing.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in statement today that he’s not entirely sold on the plan, and that the Senate will take up its own safety package on Tuesday.
Fitzgerald says the plan will “closely align” with Walker’s, but he didn’t offer details.