By Benjamin Yount
SPRINGFIELD — What can Illinois do to prevent a school shooting? Likely not much, because whatever Gov. Pat Quinn’s school safety summit recommends will cost money, and Illinois does not have a dime to spare.
Quinn met with almost a dozen law enforcement agencies, several school groups, and a handful of mental health organizations Tuesday in Springfield for the first school safety summit. The governor called for the meeting shortly after a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at a school in Newtown, Conn.
“I think there may be some ideas for legislation,” Quinn said as he brushed off questions about specific school-safety recommendations. “I am going to be giving a speech a couple weeks from now, the State of the State, and I think we really need to make sure this issue is brought front and center.”
The governor talked, in a meandering news conference after the safety summit, about the old “duck and cover” school safety drills from a previous generation. Quinn said the new safety focus should be about “sharing and caring.”
“We never can have silence about violence,” the governor said.
Other members of the school safety summit said getting students to speak-up about potential threats is, perhaps the best idea from the Springfield meeting.
It would also be the cheapest.
Roger Eddy, a former state lawmakers and current head of the Illinois Association of School Boards, said Illinois cannot afford to do much more than talk about school safety.
“Certainly most things are going to cost money and resources,” Eddy said. “And some communities are going to have to make tough choices about that.”
Cinda Klickna, who spoke at the safety summit for the Illinois Education Association, said the price tag could be huge.
“If you are going to have resources for students, programs for students, and personnel to help students, you are going to have to pay for it somehow,” Klickna said.
Quinn angrily denied that if Illinois were to pay the nearly $1 billion it owes local schools and local government that there would be ample money for school safety.
“I’ve gone out and gotten resources for our schools, and for a lot of other things in Illinois, two years ago. Check it out,” Quinn retorted.
The Illinois Comptroller’s office reports that the state owes local schools across Illinois $706 million, and owes local governments $250 million.
Eddy said it’s tough to keep school resource officers or add new security measures when local districts are being shorted by the state.
“In many cases it does come down to funding,” Eddy said.
Quinn did not say when he expects to have final recommendations from the safety summit. The governor will deliver his State of the State speech Feb. 6.
Contact Benjamin Yount at [email protected]
By Benjamin Yount