SCHUMER: FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ANTI-VIOLENCE EFFORTS IN ROCHESTER-AREA SCHOOLS HAS BEEN DRAMATICALLY CUT, MAKING IT EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO PREVENT THE NEXT SANDY HOOK OR MAJOR SCHOOL STABBING LIKE RECENT INCIDENT NEAR PITTSBURGH SENATOR URGES FEDS TO RESTORE FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS THAT CAN BETTER SECURE SCHOOLS LIKE FAIRPORT HIGH SCHOOL HELP KEEP ROCHESTER STUDENTS SAFE
brFederal Funding For School Safety Programs Training, Technology and Security Has Declined By Over $100 Million Over Last 5 Years, Preventing Monroe County Schools From Making Investments in Safety SecurityFairport HS Looking To Install Single Point of Entry, A Critical Safety Measure During Major School EventsbrbrBrWith Less Federal Funding Available, Schools like Fairport and Brighton High Schools Are Forced to Dip Into Education Funding If They Want To Pay For Safety Programs That Can Bet
Today at Fairport High School, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer revealed that federal funding for antiviolence efforts in schools has been dramatically cut over the past few years, leaving Rochesterarea schools without critical funding to implement safety programs that can help prevent horrific incidents like Sandy Hook or the recent stabbing attack at a Pittsburgharea high school. Schumer explained that these federal programs help schools purchase safety technology, provide safety training and funding for school safety officers. Specifically, Fairport has recently installed singlepointofentry systems on every school in the district except for the High School and officials are now investigating ways to equip the High School with single point of entry so security can better safeguard large gatherings of students and faculty. Fairport, Brighton, and other local districts are seeking funding to make other security improvements such as the installation of security cameras or providing training to staff and students. With the dramatic decrease in federal funding, however, schools are being forced to pay for security initiatives out of funding normally allocated for educational programs. Since school budgets are always strapped and violence is still an everpresent concern, Schumer urged the federal Department of Education to restore and implement school safety programs that have been cut over the years, to help schools like Fairport High School institute the safety measures they need.
"As a parent, I know that the safety, health, and success of our children are always at the front of the mind. Sandy Hook, Columbine, and the recent incident in Murrysville are national tragedies, and they remind us that we simply must invest more, not less, to keep our children safe at school," said Schumer. "Sadly, federal support for school safety initiatives has declined steeply over the past few years, putting a strain on local school budgets and leaving important safety projects unfunded. All it takes is one student or one incident to change lives forever, which is why it's time we right the ship and restore funding for these critical programs. We must do everything in our power to allow our schools to bolster their safety programs to make sure we have the tools at our disposal to better prevent the next Sandy Hook."
Schumer was joined by Dr. William Cala, Fairport School District Superintendent; Dr. Kevin McGowan, Brighton School District Superintendent and President of the Monroe County Superintendent's Association; Jody Siegle, Executive Director of the Monroe County School Boards Association, and Fairport Police Chief Maureen Chisholm.
"The need for improved school safety continues to grow at a rapid pace," said Fairport Central School District Interim Superintendent William Cala. "Given the serious loss of funding sources over the past few years, additional federal support for these initiatives is extremely important and I appreciate Senator Schumer's assistance on this issue"
Over the past few years, funding for Department of Education (DOEd) and Department of Justice (DOJ) programs designed to help schools improve their safety systems and prepare for any emergency situation has rapidly declined - well over $100 million in the past four years. Schumer pointed to specific grant programs whose funding has declined or the program no longer exists, like the DOEd's Safe and Drug Free Schools Grant Program - which provides schools with financial assistance for drug and violence prevention activities and activities that promote the health and wellbeing of students - and the REMS Program (Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools) - which provides funding to schools to review and improve emergency management plans, train school staff, conduct building and facilities audits, and communicate emergency response policies to parents and guardians.
In fact, Fairport had received grant funding in the past from the Dept. of Education's Safe and Drug Free Schools Grant Program which they used to create the first ever position of "Asset Coordinator" to be a dedicated staff member to work with students, local law enforcement, and the community on issues concerning student safety, antidrug education, mental health issues, and more. The Rochester City School District received a REMS grant, which they used to strengthen their emergency management procedures, plans and partnerships. They improved training and safety plans, conducted CERT (Community Emergency Management Training) classes with staff and students, improved building radio systems, completed Districtwide radio narrow banding, and created and maintained an Emergency Management Advisory Council.
Schumer also pointed to the DOJ's Secure our Schools Grant Program, which provides funding for placement and use of metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures, as well as security assessments, security training of personnel and students, and coordination with local law enforcement. Funding for the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program, which includes the Secure our Schools Grant Program, has gone from $298 million in funding in FY10 to $214 million in FY14. Funding for the DOEd's Safe and Drug Free Schools Program has declined from $191 million in FY10, to just $90 million in FY14. The budget for REMS Grants comes out of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program. Schumer explained that as funding for the DOEd has declined, they have been consolidating, reorganizing and shuffling money away from these important grant programs.
The Fairport School District is interested in several safety upgrades for the schools in their district, including: making Fairport High School a "single point of entry." Fairport HS is the last school in the district which still does not have single point of entry and that is one of their highestpriority safety projects. This single point of entry would help keep the school secure during major events. Also the district would consider hiring heir first ever School Resource Officers, which can be funded by the REMS program. Fairport has plans to continue to deploy security cameras in vulnerable areas on their campuses, and is looking to secure funding for these cameras which can cost as much as $3,000 each.
The Brighton School district is interested in pursuing new technological solutions to help them monitor campus activity. Brighton High School, for example, has an openlunch policy that they'd like to maintain, but they want to set up a signin, signout system so they can better keep track of student whereabouts in the event of an emergency. The Brighton School District is also seeking funding for the installation of new security cameras and for counseling and mental health programs.
Schumer underscored the need for increased antiviolence funding by pointing to Monroe County Schools' own 2011 Student Risk Behavior Survey, which found that 4.7% of students admitted to bringing a weapon to school within the previous month.
The decline in federal support for school safety initiatives has further tightened school budgets, and at a time when state funding is also tight, it has forced schools to make tough decisions about what they can and cannot fund. In many cases, schools must choose between cutting classes, or sports, and installing new security features, or a host of other projects that would benefit the school. Therefore, Schumer is urging the Department of Education to reinstate and implement these grant programs in a way that gives local school districts the flexibility to use the funds to best protect and prepare their students and employees for an emergency situation. Schumer will also be pushing Congress to increase overall funding for these programs within DOEd's budget to make it more likely that these grants go to local school districts. Schumer is also urging federal appropriators to provide more funding for DOJ's COPS grant program in FY15, some of which could be put toward the Secure our Schools Grant Program.
A copy of Schumer's letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is below:
Dear Secretary Duncan,
Thank you for your ongoing work to protect and support students both in school and in their communities. This is a mission that should be central to the work we do both in Congress and throughout the federal government. I am writing today to urge you to take action on the growing amount of violence in schools by providing funds and implementing programs for violence prevention and preparedness under the Safe and DrugFree Schools and Communities (SDFSC) program. It is vital that current and former programs and their goals, such as the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) program, be reinstated and properly implemented to ensure the safety of students, teachers and school officials.
As you know, funding for SDFSC significantly decreased over the past five years from $191 million in 2010 to approximately $90 million in 2014 while violent acts continue to plague our schools, causing our children physical and emotional stress and anxiety. We have all seen and witnessed the unspeakable tragedies and violent acts that have occurred in the past few years such as Sandy Hook. According to a survey of superintendents conducted by the New York State School Boards Association, the biggest obstacle to enhancing school security is cost.
I am eager to work with my colleagues in Congress to fully fund programs that will better prepare our schools for any emergency that may occur. I ask that the Department of Education also do its part and create a national plan that will provide necessary resources to our already financially strained schools so that they may plan for emergencies, best equip their school environment and address instances of violence when they occur. The Department has a great deal of discretion on how SDFSC funds are spent, and as the main federal funding source dedicated to ensuring the safety of our schools and students, it is imperative that these funds be allowed the flexibility to provide for each district's needs.
As you know, the former REMS program supported districts to create and improve emergency management plans. The contents of these plans included training school personnel on emergency management procedures, communicating with parents about emergency plans and coordinating with local law enforcement and government. These are needed today more than ever. Several districts in New York were recipients of REMS grants which were vital to creating these necessary plans to better prepare and protect their students and employees. School districts should not have to compromise safety or education programming due to a lack of resources. This is why we need to work together to provide districts with these valuable additional resources.
In order to ensure the safety of students, school districts need sufficient resources to prevent violence and prepare for emergency situations. I ask that you work with Congress to implement programs and provide funding to make sure these goals are achieved. Violence prevention and emergency preparedness are vital for keeping our children safe at school.
Charles E. Schumer