K-12 schools in the U.S. have been described as "soft targets" for terrorist and other public safety concerns in Washington, DC. Recently ESA joined with SIA to sponsor the first Congressional School Safety Caucus event on Capitol Hill which highlighted the threat, and brought government focus on funding school security technologies. The event hosted Rep. Rick Larson (D-WA) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) as original sponsors of the Caucus, who have also introduced legislation (HR 2667), the School Safety Act seeking to authorize funding options for security technology to school districts under a federal grant program. Other speakers were present at the event, including an official from the Department of Homeland Security and other school officials.
The event resulted in an outreach effort by both SIA and ESA on Capitol Hill to target Congressional offices in which there have been cases of school shootings or violence, Congressional districts with industry members and various House officials who have responsibility for school related grant programs. Conducted concurrently with the Caucus was a series of visits supported and attended by SIA and ESA on Capitol Hill. Meetings were held with the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member and key staffs relating to Homeland Security programs. Meetings were also held with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ranking Member Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), and House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Ranking Member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS). One option going forward in the Congressional review of funding school security is a FEMA and Department of Homeland Security state grant program that could be enhanced for these purposes.
Congress is now well underway in its consideration of a Fiscal Year 2017 (calendar year 2016) federal budget and ESA and SIA efforts are targeting support for increased state and federal grant funding for school security technology. ESA has pointed out on Capitol Hill and in the agencies over the last several years that Congress has included millions of dollars for studies and reports on school security assessments and standards but little or no funding for technology acquisition, despite large amounts of funds at the state level. This year, ESA has continued its educational efforts with Congress, with the educational community (including the National School Board Association, PTA's and other school groups), law enforcement and others to support increased K-12 security technology.
How can you help ESA and the industry in this outreach effort to enhance your presentations to a local school official? Contact your Congressman and Senators and urge their support for funding to the state specifically for K-12 security upgrades or security equipment to protect against terrorist activity or public safety threats. A simple message that schools pose a soft target and should be well equipped to meet these challenges by providing sufficient funding from the federal government to the states and then to school districts. Urge parents and school officials to ask for more funds. One of the school officials ESA met with indicated that she only has in her district $70,000 to allocate for security equipment and has to ask residents to pay a $3 extra fee for these devices. ESA members can benefit from industry outreach efforts (and expand marketing and service presentations to individual school officials locally) by contacting Congress now.
For several years, Congress has focused on the Department of Education and the Department of Justice to provide federal grants to schools for studies on school security. ESA has initiated an outreach project this year to explore efforts to provide funds to states from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While much funding is already being directed to States by the federal DHS, there needs to be a greater emphasis on an option for states to secure more funding for school security.
Some key points for ESA members in this one area of Federal support include:
- Contact your local school officials to determine their schedule and availability to procure security systems;
- Provide advice and counsel on what systems to purchase (present the ESA School Security Guidelines Study for officials to review);
- Determine how a bid or procurement process will work and if there are problems encountered please contact me as we need to know how the funds are flowing or not at the local level and available to members);
- Secure allies in your presentation whether parents, law enforcement, teachers, neighbors, local and state elected officials;
- Let us know if there are no funds or a lack of funds for this purpose and if the school has asked the state for funding and received nothing.
If there is a contract for security technology that ESA members can share with me, this would be disseminated to their Congressional offices immediately and utilized in our industry efforts to secure additional funds. Feel free to send a press release or description of the school security enhancement efforts. In many states the grant funding for these purposes has assisted ESA in our national efforts; states such as Indiana, Connecticut, Washington and many others.
If any ESA member wishes to have a targeted approach to their elected official, feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will respond accordingly.