By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — School Safety was top of mind for lawmakers today at the State Captiol.

Its been almost three weeks since an ex-student gunned down 17 students and staff members were gunned at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Now, across the country the talk has turned to preventing similar tragedies.

In Minnesota, Republicans are proposing an idea that would use money districts already have to improve student safety. The money is part of a fund that’s used to replace a school’s roof or fix heating problems. Democrats, however, say that’s not enough.

The bill does not include any specific school security measures — and it taps an already existing school safety program.

“It is not new money, at this point,” Rep. Jennifer Loon (R), chair of the House Education Finance Committee, said. “The program right now is in existence. It was actually started in 2015 for all school districts.”

What would be new, according to Rep. Loon, is the way school districts would be able to use it.

“The purposes for this program have not allowed, specifically, for safety improvements, or maybe if there’s some new construction that is needed for safety, that would not have been allowable use under this program,” Rep. Loon said. “My bill would make that an allowable purpose.”

But Democrats aren’t on board. They support some safety improvements, but after the school shooting in Florida they want Minnesota to do more.

“I’m all for giving school districts more flexibility to use the money we’ve appropriated, but this will do nothing to prevent mass shootings in Minnesota schools,” Democratic House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman said.

Rep. Hortman is calling for a vote to restrict access access to guns, instead.

“It’s really frustrating to me,” she said. “Rep. Pinto has one provision, in particular — gun violence prevention orders — that would allow law enforcement a mechanism to take guns from someone who has articulated a willingness to hurt themselves or other people. That would actually protect our kids.”

“My number one goal is making sure that schools have what they need to do the best they can to, again, make sure our schools are safe,” Rep. Loon said.

Gov. Mark Dayton plans to unveil his own school safety plan Wednesday that he’s already said could include bulletproof glass and steel doors.

One thing we likely won’t see in Minnesota: Top school administrators from around the state told lawmakers they don’t want armed teachers.

Pat Kessler