Recently, ESA and SIA joined together for a meeting on Capitol Hill with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. After reviewing ESA’s Electronic Security Guidelines for Schools, both ESA and SIA were able to successfully convince the chairman to consider requesting that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) review state grant allocations and determine where school districts could possibly receive federal funds for security technology. This comes after a committee hearing on providing more funds to secure “soft targets,” such as schools, from terrorists and criminals. The effort would highlight requirements that state and local recipients request a portion of the federal money towards purchasing, installing, and maintaining equipment for school security programs.
The DHS allocates over $1 billion in state grants annually to a multitude of specific categories of programs through its Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP). Within this grant, $402 million is dedicated to “support the implementation of the National Preparedness System to build and strengthen preparedness capabilities at all levels.” That there is still no specific amount dedicated solely to school security technology is an issue that ESA is seeking to change.
The House Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, together with the two appropriations subcommittees that fund DHS (House and Senate), are well underway in their fiscal year 2017 funding process. Committees will consider funding levels and programs between February and May, finalize these funding bills prior to the July Republican and Democratic conventions, and consider final allocations for the beginning of the fiscal year Oct.1, 2016. Last year, SIA and ESA sought to influence the Department of Justice funding levels for school safety federal grants, requesting $15 million specifically for technology acquisition; this was not finally approved by the Congress. This fiscal year cycle, both SIA and ESA will educate Congress on the need for providing school districts with immediate funds to upgrade school technologies.
During the presentation to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, SIA and ESA indicated that there were over 130,000 public and private schools (K-12) around the country in urgent need for improvements to acquire security technology equipment and emergency response communications to protect students, teachers, and visitors to these facilities. In addition to SIA and ESA, joining in the presentation was Secure Schools Alliance, which is supported by SIA. ESA is also supporting this session of Congress HR 2667 – The School Safety Act, introduced by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) – to authorize the Department of Justice to provide up to $30 million annually in school security protection. In addition, Rep. Larsen and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) have agreed to start a Congressional School Safety Caucus in which U.S. House of Representative members will focus on our priorities. The first meeting of the caucus will be on March 2, 2016, on Capitol Hill.