More than 500 Tennessee schools without SROs despite state funding available

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Just $98.4 million of the $140 million provided by the state last summer to put an armed school resource officer in every school in Tennessee has been used, a state report shows, mainly due to staffing problems, according to one lawmaker.

Last summer following the Covenant School shooting, the General Assembly allotted $140 million so every school in the state could have an armed SRO as a part of a school safety initiative.

However, according to a state report released in February, just 67% of public elementary schools and 75% of public middle and high schools have taken advantage of the funds.

Read the latest from the TN State Capitol Newsroom

“There’s currently 500 public schools within the state of Tennessee that are still not equipped with a school resource officer,” Sen. Paul Bailey, (R-Sparta), said. “There just aren’t those individuals available with POST certification to be able to work in those schools.”

Bailey told News 2 rural districts are struggling the most with staffing.

According to the report, just four of Haywood County’s six eligible schools have a full-time SRO, despite additional funding available to the district. In addition, none of Cannon County’s five schools have SROs even though 100% of the district’s schools are part of the SRO grant program.

The staffing problem has also impacted one of the largest school districts in Tennessee – Metro Nashville Public Schools. When the grant was initially announced last summer, Chief John Drake told reporters the department didn’t have enough officers to accept the full amount of money offered.

“Grant funding will be for full-time SROs. We can’t ask for grant funding when we don’t have full-time staff,” Drake said.

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Following backlash from Republican lawmakers, MNPD ultimately accepted $3.3 million to partially cover the salaries of SROs currently in MNPS middle and high schools with a goal to expand to elementary schools if the department can hire enough officers.

To read the full report, click here.

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