AVON, Ind. – State officials have approved nearly $23 million in grants to fund school security.

The grants are awarded each year to help districts pay for school resource officers and upgrades like new equipment. This year, 425 schools have been approved to receive these funds, according to David Hosick, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

“Last year, there was $19 million allocated in the fund, and $13.5 [million] of that went to school resource officers,” said Chase Lyday, president of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association.

After installing equipment, school districts have recently shifted efforts toward strengthening their force of school resource officers, Lyday said. He believes Indiana’s school safety grant program is big help toward helping districts hire these officers, he added.

“With tax caps and string budgets for school districts, it’s very difficult to afford a police officer, the benefits, all of the equipment necessary to properly equip them,” said Lyday, who is also the police chief for Avon schools, which has applied for grant funding to add a new SRO position.

Lyday said he believes Indiana needs more SROs, adding that many school officials want to add officer positions if they had the funds available.

That includes Eric Bowlen, superintendent for the Martinsville school district.

“We have 10 buildings,” he said. “And we can’t, we don’t have 10 officers every day.”

Bowlen is also a member of the Indiana Secured School Safety Board, which makes decisions on grant applications.

“More and more school districts are applying for this grant,” Bowlen said. “So it shows you that there’s a big need.”

The grant program has given more than $130 million dollars to schools since it launched eight years ago, Hosick said.

With the state legislature set to work on a new budget next year, Lyday is calling on lawmakers to increase the money allocated for school security.

“If the state doubled the amount of money in that secured school safety grant, it would be spent well on school resource officers and other much-needed equipment to keep schools safe,” Lyday said.

School districts must provide matching local funds for the state grants they receive through this program, Hosick said. Letters will be sent out Thursday to notify grant recipients of the funding they’ll receive, he added.