BRUNSWICK, Maine — Police will be able to stow AR-15 patrol rifles inside Brunswick’s public schools after a 7-1 school board vote Wednesday.
Board members approved new, larger lockers for school resource officers to secure their larger weapons while on duty at the schools.
Official costs were not available, but the expense of the lockers is estimated to be several hundred dollars each.
Officers routinely carry their sidearms inside schools, said Detective Mike Andreotti, but have left their “patrol rifles” in their squad cars parked outside the schools. Andreotti told the board that having the larger weapons within the schools will allow them to respond to emergency situations more readily.
School board member Brenda Clough voted against the proposal.
Board members also voted to voice their displeasure with Gov. Paul LePage’s budget plan — approving a resolution that calls it “an unbalanced attack” on public education.
Under LePage’s proposed budget, funding of teacher pensions would be transferred from the state to local school districts. Additionally, the governor suggested he intends to divert casino revenues originally intended to fund Maine’s schools to plug budget holes elsewhere.
Board members approved the resolution 7-1, with William Thompson in opposition.
While discussing results of reading and math assessment tests administered during October 2012, Assistant Superintendent Greg Bartlett said the governor’s approach to school funding is shortsighted.
He referred to a quote by late-18th century American education reformer Horace Mann, cited by the governor during his State of the State address in February, which described education as “the great equalizer.”
“My understanding is that Horace Mann was referring to our public schools, not our charter schools,” Bartlett said, “meaning that no other institution in your community or in this country is more democratic than your local public school. We take all children, and education is the key that will help to lift them from whatever status they may be in through no fault of their own to a much better quality of life.
“I’m concerned, as an educator, that we may be losing sight of that as we go forward,”
He cited several alarming trends that likely will worsen if public education funding is further reduced.
The number of homeless students in Brunswick “has risen dramatically” from six in 2008 to 21 during the current school year.
Additionally, school personnel are seeing increases in the number of emotionally disturbed children in their classrooms, and at far younger ages than ever before.
“It’s not just Brunswick, it’s happening all over,” Bartlett said.
In other business Wednesday, the board also approved a new three-year contract agreement with the district’s bus drivers and custodians union. Details of the new contract were not immediately available.