Just a few weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder got the national media attention he craved when he announced $45 million in federal funding for 356 new resource officers in schools throughout the country. Holder stressed that, "our top priority must always be the safety and well-being of our children."
Really? Why, then, has federal funding for school resource officers in many places, including Ohio County, been slashed?
Resource officers are professional law enforcement personnel assigned to schools. In Ohio County, the sheriff's department and Wheeling police have been providing officers to many schools for years.
Most of the funding comes from local sources, however.
In 2010, Wheeling received $115,000 in federal money for resource officers. That was trimmed to $100,000 in 2011.
Then, last year, the grant funding was slashed to just $40,000. This year, the total is $30,000.
Local officials, aware of how useful school resource officers are in many situations, have had to take up the slack. This year alone, the Ohio County Board of Education is providing $196,000 for the program.
West Virginia as a whole has suffered from cuts in federal grants for school resource officers. In 2011, a total of $2.8 million was provided for the purpose in the Mountain State. Last year the total plummeted to $1.3 million.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, agreeing that "school safety should be a priority," told our reporter he is "a bit frustrated" at the federal funding program.
He should be upset. So should other West Virginians. Clearly, Holder wants to make himself and his boss, President Barack Obama, appear responsive to the need for better security in schools - while they make it more difficult for areas like ours to keep the youngsters safe.
West Virginia's delegation in Congress should be demanding answers about why the Obama administration is shortchanging us - and our precious children.