Despite budget problems at the state and federal levels, one area of continued, ongoing support by state legislatures
around the country are allocations to school districts and local schools to enhance their security systems. State legislatures have provided in their budgets monies specifically for security technology and these funds have been significant, many in the multi-millions of dollars.
ESA members have been active around the country to take advantage of government funding by local schools. County and city school budgets in almost every state show grant funds or direct appropriations for purchasing, installing and maintaining security technology. The ESA has been supporting efforts to secure additional funds for states to use in the federal budget for these purposes, and will request Congress to support allocations to states in a formula grant program by a federal agency, whether through the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security or another agency. Many ESA state chapters have been at the forefront of state legislation or state budget allocations in the past several years.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, Connecticut took the lead on school security, vowing to make changes to protect teachers, visitors, students and the members of the community from another tragedy. The governor and the state legislature were able to introduce, pass, and sign a bill all within a month of the shooting. This new statute would allocate funds to schools for security equipment. Now in its third year of funding, more than $22 million has been allocated for security equipment and resources to protect children in emergency situations.
The “template” for school security funding can be found in Virginia, which has allocated $6 million in both 2013 and 2014 to various schools to ensure they would be able to purchase the security equipment needed to stop another attack in the future. Schools can receive between $1,200 and $100,000 towards paying for school safety resources, including, video monitoring systems, metal detectors, classroom locks, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems, and direct communication links between school and law enforcement agencies.
After the success of Connecticut’s statute, other states followed suit. For example, Indiana’s governor secured approval of a yearly amount of over $9 million to individual schools, to add security equipment. The states used a criteria system to decide which schools need the money more. The criteria was based on a number of factors, including, which schools were most in need of modern security equipment, those with relatively high numbers of offenses, and schools with equipment needs identified by a school security audit.
Each of these individual states passed bipartisan school security bills, in large part because of the people in the community advocating to their state and local elected officials. People wrote letters, made phone calls, set up meetings with their elected officials, and worked with other interest groups to advocate for more security.
The take away for ESA members is to not only act upon a valued public good by contributing to the security of our schools, but consider ways that you may expand your current business to provide some of the electronic security services being done at the local level. To get involved, identify your local school principal, members of the elected school board and inform them of your expertise and interest at upgrading the security of the school. Speak at the local PTA meeting on security issues or offer to assist school officials in studying the security capabilities of the school. Work with local law enforcement, police, fire and EMS officials. Reach out to school boards and city councils to understand how school funds are allotted. Read the minutes and know the agendas of the school board and the city council to see if ordinances or budgets on school security come up for discussion. Be there at these meetings and contribute to the decision making process. In some instances, security companies have obtained contracts for installing communications systems or metal detectors. It may also be beneficial to reach out to the architects and engineers who are involved in decisions regarding school building structures.
Presenting your security knowledge and ability to provide the right type of equipment are key factors to success. Make sure all contracts are competitive and that local businesses are valued by the local government and elected officials. Don’t overlook parochial (religious) or private schools which are in need of security as well. A great marketing potential often overlooked in the rush to assist public schools.
School security will be with us for a long time. It is one of many good opportunities for marketing and sales into the future.