TOPEKA — A bill requiring school districts to upgrade security passed the House by a wide margin on Wednesday despite concerns about a reference to a National Rifle Association program.
Two dozen Democrats who support the bill signed a statement denouncing inclusion of the NRA's Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program, and two Republicans opposed the bill because it didn't include a provision for arming teachers.
The Kansas Safe and Secure Schools Act would task the Kansas State Board of Education with creating standards for the structural integrity of buildings and entrances, as well as the use of security cameras, communications and intrusion detection systems. House Bill 2773 also requires safety plans to be in place by Jan. 1.
The bill provides $300,000 to KSDE to implement the measures and $5 million in matching grants for districts.
"This is not the overall answer to school security measures but is a good first step in providing a safe and secure learning environment for Kansas schools," said Rep. Leo Delperdang, R-Wichita.
Opposition stems from a section of the bill that allows local school boards to provide firearm safety curriculum, including but not limited to the Eddie Eagle program. A long list of Democrats who signed a statement opposing the "advertisement for the NRA" starts with Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, of Prairie Village.
"The NRA program can be chosen by a school board if they so elect," the Democrats said. "It should not be given specific reference in this bill over any other gun safety program. We also have concerns that we take time away from curriculum areas such as reading, math, science or history to include instruction on a topic that can be easily accessed in other forums outside of our public schools."
Those concerns weren't enough to derail their support for the bill, which goes to the Senate after passing with a margin of 119-5.
Among those voting no were Rep. Jesse Burris, R-Mulvane, and Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, who said Kansas law allows for school employees to carry a concealed handgun and called for further safety considerations.
"The possibility that a school district employee could be carrying a concealed firearm arguably deters, or could deter, a mass shooting," Burris and Garber said. "Further, an armed employee could stymie a mass shooting."