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The School Safety Crossroads: How Funding Can Change Everything

Don Gemeinhardt
July 14, 2022
There have been 27 school shootings in America so far this year. Although the government has continued to fund safe school initiatives, there are many schools that have not taken advantage of the funding and grants, leaving their students and staff in danger. We have seen incidents happening anywhere and in any place, whether the school is in an urban or rural area. While schools may be underfunded locally, the federal government has continued to increase grants and other allocations to help with school safety. Faculty, staff, administrators, students, and parents need to act now as this funding has a deadline. Many schools are at a crossroads and they must choose to use this type of funding or lose the opportunity and keep their schools in a vulnerable state.
 
We are living in a time when it’s hard to feel safe. Let’s explore how smart decisions about funding for school safety can change everything:
 
Rethinking COVID-19 Funding
Since 2020, schools have only spent a portion of available funding for COVID-19 problems. Many schools are not applying for these funds, such as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). If you take into account other funding under EANS (non-profit schools), HEERF (colleges), and GEER (governor’s emergency funding), you will still see a lack of action to apply.
 
The first major stimulus package during the COVID-19 pandemic was called the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and included about $150 billion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments. There is still a large amount of this money that needs to be used. The federal government continues to extend the use of the funds so the schools and states do not have to give them back. In most cases, schools have until September 2025 to use the funds.
 
Although there is still time to act and use these funds, another option is to rethink this funding and use it for a different reason that would be more valuable to schools at this point. U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. and Congressman Mike Garcia (CA-25) just recently introduced the Safe Schools Act, which would allow COVID relief dollars allocated to schools through the ESSER Fund to be used for school safety and security improvements instead. If passed, it would allocate almost $1 million per school for safety which could make a significant difference.
 
Utilizing the Safer Community Act (SCA)
The Safer Communities (SCA), which addresses various types of gun violence, was recently signed into law by President Joe Biden. It will help with school safety by funding school violence prevention efforts, training, and the implementation of safety measures at primary and secondary schools. It will improve mental health services for children and families, school safety issues, and training in all areas from faculty, community, and support personnel to student awareness areas, with an extra focus on lower-income areas under various programs. This act will also help our communities to control the unsafe, dangerous, criminal use of weapons.
 
The states and agencies have one year to implement the funding under this program and the time limit is five years to complete, which fits most grant requirements. According to President Biden, "it's going to save a lot of lives."
 
The measure also establishes a Federal Clearinghouse on school safety evidence-based practices, which serves as a federal resource to identify and publish online evidence-based practices and recommendations to improve safety. Areas of concern include pediatric mental health care access, community violence intervention and prevention initiatives, school-based mental health services grants, and more.
 
The bill will also put the funding in critical areas like the STOP and COPS programs. While they have a year to be developed, these funds may help with current applications and they certainly provide more possibilities for next year.
 
More Funding Leads to Safer Schools
Schools that have used the funding that has been available have all significantly improved their safe school climate and greatly reduced the overall violence in our schools, according to the Active Shooter Incidents 20-Year Review. Another official document, The Institute of Education Services’ Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety, June 2022, shows areas of improvement. For example, between 2009–10 and 2019–20, the percentage of public schools that reported having one or more security staff present at school at least once a week increased from 43 to 65 percent.
 
However, it also showed some major issues that are still occurring due to a lack of funds. For example, in 2019–20, most schools (54%) reported their efforts to provide mental health services to students were limited in a major way by a lack of funding. Forty percent reported inadequate access to licensed mental health professionals as a major limitation. With so much funding available, schools should consider applying right away.
 
What does this all mean to our schools?  Despite the feeling that violence has increased all over, it has dropped in almost all categories in schools that have funded and implemented programs to increase the security of their students. While there are few exceptions, the schools that have applied for these funds are far safer than those that have not. The districts, both urban minority schools and rural schools, that have a low-income base continue to be the least prepared. Some states have been strong in offering school safety funds, and hopefully more will follow.
 
This is the crossroads for a lot of schools that must use this type of funding or never have the opportunity and continue to keep their schools in a vulnerable state—far more than if they used the funds and grants out there. CrisisGo can guide your school with funding so your school community will be more prepared. For more information and guidance about how funding can change everything, please contact CrisisGo’s grant expert, Don Gemeinhardt at don@crisisgo.com

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