04.14.14

SCHUMER: FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ANTI-VIOLENCE EFFORTS IN SYRACUSE-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 FAYETTEVILLE-MANLIUS HIGH SCHOOL HELP KEEP CNY STUDENTS SAFE

brFederal Funding For School Safety Programs Training, Technology and Security Has Declined By Over $100 Million Over Last 5 Years, Preventing Onondaga County Schools Like Fayetteville-Manlius From Making Investments in Safety Security FM High School Has Already Been Breached By Intruders Twice In Past YearbrbrbrWith Less Federal Funding Available, Schools Like Fayetteville-Manlius High School Are Forced to Dip Into Education Funding If They Want To Pay For Safety Programs That Can Better Pr

Today, at FayettevilleManlius 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 Syracuse 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, FayettevilleManlius High School, which has already been breached twice in the past year by intruders, one of which is still atlarge, wants to institute a onepoint entry system for large events - like concerts or sporting events - so security personnel can better safeguard large gatherings of students and faculty. 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 FayettevilleManlius 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 the Superintendent of the Syracuse City School District, Sharon Contreras, FayettevilleManlius (FM) Superintendent Corliss Kaiser, FM School Board members and other area school superintendents.

For FM High School, the ability to prevent large crowds from gaining access to the building after hours requires the funding of a new point of entry plan. Already, the school has installed one of these entries at the Main Entrance but lacks the capital to address the need at another end of the high school campus. At present, large sporting events, as well as those that require use of the auditorium, leave the school vulnerable in the eyes of FM Superintendent Kaiser. Moreover, in the past year it has been reported that the FM high school was breached twice. The first breach involved recent graduates of the school who gained entry after school hours and committed thefts inside of a female locker room. The second breach, also occurred after hours and resulted in an unidentified man gaining access to the school, walking the halls carrying an object and taking pictures inside of the school. Immediately, the school publicized this breach in hopes of learning who the intruder was,  and why he was inside the school, but the answer still remains elusive to district staff and school security personnel. Thus, in addition to a new point of entry project, FM is looking to install more security cameras, should federal funding allow them to apply.   

 

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, the City of Syracuse School District received a  $250,000award from the  Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Discretionary Grant Program in 2008. 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.

 

For example, 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 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.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

 

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