By John Chwat
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.
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
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
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.