Georgia's lieutenant governor said Wednesday that he wants to pay teachers $10,000 a year to encourage them to carry guns in schools.

Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, speaking at Austin Road Elementary School in Winder on Wednesday, said he wants the state to spend more money on school safety, including paying for teachers and other non-officers to take firearms training, and paying teachers who hold a firearms training certificate an annual stipend.

His plan also calls for stricter standards for already-required school safety plans and boosting the amount of money the state gives schools to hire school resource officers with police certification. Salary and benefits for such officers can cost $80,000 or more.

"We feel like this is the best way to prepare faculty, but also prepare law enforcement and the system however we can," Jones said, saying the state should be "proactive" to prevent shootings.

Former President Donald Trump and others have called for arming teachers, saying gun-free school zones create targets for armed assailants.

Others, though, say teachers shouldn't be pressed into service as armed responders. Lisa Morgan, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said her teacher group "categorically" opposed anyone besides certified officers carrying guns in schools.

"Teachers should not be armed in the classroom," Morgan said. "We are not there to serve as law enforcement and introducing more firearms into the school is not a way to solve the problem of violence in our schools."

Critics also say that lots of practice will be needed to use a gun properly in an emergency, and that there's a history of even regular police officers accidentally shooting their guns at schools.

Barrow County Superintendent Chris McMichael said that although his district has allowed its security chief to carry a gun, the school board would have to carefully examine whether it wanted to arm other employees. He was more enthusiastic about the prospect of increased funding for school resource officers, saying the district currently has 15 or 16 officers, not enough to have one in each of its 20 schools.

Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith was more enthusiastic, saying armed teachers could be a "force multiplier" in case of a shooting.

Morgan suggested Jones instead write legislation to hire more counselors. She also said the promise of a stipend would be seen as unreliable by teachers, after the state cut stipends it had promised board certified teachers during the Great Recession.

Since 2014, Georgia has allowed local school boards to permit trained people who are not certified police officers to carry guns at schools, including teachers. It's unclear how many school districts have done so, although at least five school districts have passed policies to allow some non-officers to carry guns. In Barrow and Cobb counties, that policy only applies to security personnel without police certification and not teachers.

Jones and his allies emphasized that the program would be voluntary. Teachers would not be required to participate, he said, and teachers would only be allowed to carry guns in a district where the school board voted to allow it.

Georgia has 180 school districts and more than 2,300 public schools teaching 1.75 million students.

"These are not mandates," said state Sen. Max Burns, a Sylvania Republican who said he would sponsor the legislation in 2024. "These are local decisions by a local school board to tailor programs that fit the unique situations in your school system."

Jones, who is positioning himself as a likely candidate for governor in 2026 in what could be a competitive Republican primary, said he would not support further restrictions on guns as part of any school safety package.

"I'm not talking about that. We're talking about trying to protect the school systems right now," Jones said.

It's unclear if other top Republicans support Jones' proposed legislation. Kaleb McMichen, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jon Burns of Newington, said Burns was unable to comment because he hadn't seen the plan. Spokepersons for Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods, also Republicans, didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Jones' program is modeled on a proposal in Texas that did not pass that would have paid teachers an extra $25,000 a year if they took firearms and mental-health training and learned first aid. That proposal came in the wake of a 2022 shooting in which a gunman killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers in 2022 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Instead, the state mandated that every campus should have a certified officer. Texas schools have struggled to meet that mandate, saying they don't have enough money and that police officers are in short supply.

Like Georgia, Texas already allows teachers to carry guns, but has had few takers.