After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary last December, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre offered his organization's solution to the problem: Get the feds to put armed guards in every school. Turns out, that's expensive. So some school districts decided to take the idea into their own hands. But, thanks to understandably cautious insurance companies, that's expensive, too.
The New York Times reports on the for-some-reason-unforeseen roadblock.
In northeast Indiana, Douglas A. Harp, the sheriff of Noble County, offered to deputize teachers to carry handguns in their classrooms less than a week after 26 children and educators were killed in a school shooting in Newtown, Conn. A community member donated $27,000 in firearms to the effort. School officials from three districts seemed ready to sign off. But the plan fell apart after an insurer refused to provide workers’ compensation to schools with gun-carrying staff members.
Estimates for the additional costs insurers might charge vary. The Oregon School Boards Association puts it at $2,500 annually for each armed staff member. An administrator in that state suggests an additional $5,000 a year for arming and training one staff member. Some insurers, like EMC Insurance, say the risk is so great that they won't provide any insurance at all. In Texas, where liability lawsuits face strong legal discouragements, the insurance has been less of an issue.
One of the initial criticisms of the NRA's plan for trained, armed guards paid for by the federal government was that it was prohibitively costly. A research team at Cleveland State University did the math under two scenarios: either having one guard per school or a number of guards scaled to the school's population. The researchers then calculated the annual cost based on estimates of $75,000 or $90,000 in salary, benefits, training, and equipment.
The costs to districts, if the estimates from the Oregon schools are correct, are also substantial nationally. If each school has one staff member trained and equipped with a weapon, that would total $7,500 per school per year, under its valuations. Or, broken down by school type and category of cost:
That's $740 million for public schools and $250 million for private — nearly a billion dollars of additional cost. If the schools can get insurance at all. Of course, that cost is both negotiable (the article notes a Texas district that saved costs in that way) and, unlike the NRA proposal, absorbed on a district-by-district basis.
If you figure that more than one teacher might be armed, those costs go up quickly. Using the Cleveland State data, we took a look at how much it would cost to insure one out of every ten teachers, assuming a school has a teacher-to-student ratio of one-to-30. Under that scenario, the cost for all schools tops $1.1 billion—for insurance alone.
Debate aside, the insurance industry—an industry predicated on reducing the likelihood that something costly will happen — doesn't seem to consider the idea of putting armed people in school s a good one.
Jenny Emery, head of the Association of Governmental Risk Pools, said none of her members plan to withhold coverage like EMC. But many are strongly recommending other security alternatives, she said, noting that cooperatives provide some form of risk financing to about 80 percent of public entities across the country.
“I haven’t seen evidence yet that suggests people are determining that arming teachers is a recommended way to manage risk,” she said. “Far from it.”
Which doesn't suggest that insurance premiums for gun-toting middle school teachers are likely to come down any time soon.
Photo: A fourth grade teacher learns how to use a Magnum. (AP)