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ESA Finds Disturbing News About Federal Funding for School Security

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 8, 2014

By John Chwat
Director of Government Relations

Some members of Congress object to the federal government having any impact on local school districts regarding policy and funding criteria. They point to the longstanding tradition of local control over school policies and elementary and secondary school requirements. Other members support federal grants to school districts for a host of subjects including school security. This has been especially true after a number of shootings at schools around the country.

Federal school security grants, which are usually presented as "formula” grants based on state requirements for recipients of federal money, are apportioned to school districts from the federal government to the states and down to the district levels. But a more detailed look at these grants paints a troubling picture of how the money is actually being spent.

During Day on Capitol Hill last April, ESA leaders met with a top official in the U.S. Department of Education regarding the agency’s school safety program. What ESA learned during that meeting was deeply disturbing: None of the $90 million passed by Congress in 2014 for school security grants was allocated for security technology, such as surveillance systems, access control, electronic security and other devices. Instead, the funds were used for research, security assessments and other projects.

In fact, Congress is considering allocating another $90 million to the DOE in the 2015 fiscal year budget for school security. ESA leaders were told during the meeting that most of these funds would be used for the same purpose as this year’s funds, and not for the purchase or installation of equipment.

Congress also appropriated $75 million to the U.S. Department of Justice in FY 2014, and is expected to allocate the same amount in the next budget for school security.

Looking at the fine print of these allocations reveals that Congress has approved or will soon approve more than $330 million for research and planning for school security, but not one dime for acquiring technology to protect students, teachers, employees and visitors at schools. This stands in stark contrast to U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants to the states, some of which have been used for the purchase of security equipment.

For example, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana announced in June that more than $9 million would be allocated to 250 schools and districts throughout the state for school security. Of this amount, he said, at least $5 million would be spent on security equipment, including upgrading surveillance cameras with high definition quality and stronger zoom capability, as well as other technology.

While some federal agencies, such as DHS, are assisting school districts with acquisition of school security technology, most agencies are not. ESA is currently working with the Security Industry Association (SIA) and other manufacturers and associate members – including ADT, Tyco, Interlogix, Honeywell and others – to address the issue of school security grants in the next cycle of funding by Congress, which is well underway.

ESA and SIA plan to reach out to educational and law enforcement associations and organizations in an effort to broaden the appeal of urging Congress to consider specifically allocate a portion of the funding to schools or districts to purchase technology to secure the building and protect the children, teachers and employees.

This initiative is targeted at school security funding for the 2016 fiscal year budget, which begins now for federal agencies that are determining how much to budget for their various programs. The process culminates with the President submitting his budget in February 2015 to Congress, which will finalize the budget before the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2015.

In addition to this initiative, state bills and budgets also will be developed for 2015 at the start of the next cycle of state legislative sessions, when money will be allocated for school security technology procurement for schools and districts within their respective states.

ESA Director of Government Relations John Chwat can be reached at John@TheChwatGroup.com, or at (703) 684-7703.

Tags:  Congress  federal legislation 

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