SCHUMER: FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ANTI-VIOLENCE EFFORTS IN WESTERN NEW YORK 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 HELP KEEP WNY STUDENTS SAFE
brFederal Funding For School Safety Programs Training, Technology and Security Has Declined By Over $100M Over Last 5 Years, Preventing Schools That Are Already Stretched Thin From Making Investments in Safety SecuritybrbrbrWith Less Federal Funding Available, Schools Like Cheektowaga Central West Seneca Central Are Forced to Dip Into Education Funding If They Want To Pay For Safety Programs That Can Better Prevent A TragedybrbrbrSchumer: Increased Federal Funding for School Safety Means Les
Today, at Cheektowaga Central 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 Western New York 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. 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.
"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 Senator 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 so we have the tools at our disposal to better prevent the next Sandy Hook."
Schumer was joined by Cheektowaga Central Schools Superintendent Dennis Kane, Cheektowaga Central Schools Board of Education Chair Brian Gould, West Seneca School Superintendent Dr. Mark Crawford, Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Mary Holtz, and representatives from other area schools and school boards.
"Cheektowaga Central Schools knows firsthand the importance of federal grants for School Safety. In 2009, we received a federal Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools grant that helped us pay for critically needed staff training. However, in the years that have followed federal funding for these kinds of programs has been increasingly difficult to secure. Senator Schumer's efforts to increase funding for these grant programs will mean that Cheektowaga Schools, and other schools across the region, can once again gain access to important safety funding," said Cheektowaga Central School Superintendent Dennis Kane.
"West Seneca Central Schools places a high priority on safety. We have four School Resource Officers in our district at a total cost of approximately $250,000 per year. Federal grants and funding, like the kinds Senator Schumer is pushing for, could help us offset some of those costs and allow us to use the savings to help support other important school services," said West Seneca Schools Superintendent Mark Crawford, Ed.D.
"The safety of our students is a top priority at Lancaster Central Schools. Keeping students safe in the classroom takes planning, training, coordination, and sometimes even equipment. Like schools across the state, our budget in Lancaster is stretched thin and so additional federal grants and support to help cover the costs associated with keeping students safe is a tremendous help," said Lancaster Central Schools Superintendent Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
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. 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.
Schools like Cheektowaga Central School have received federal grants in the past. In fact in 2009, Cheektowaga Central received $200,000 from the DOEd's Readiness and Emergency Management Program to help fund training on how to deal with emergency situations for teachers and staff. Cheektowaga Central School Superintendent Denis Kane said that the federal grant was money well spent, and that funds were helpful in preparing the school in case of an emergency. However, Schumer highlighted that in the years that have followed, federal funding for similar programs, and other safety measures has been increasingly difficult for local schools to receive.
Similarly, schools districts like West Seneca Central, who have School Resource Officers (SROs) in some of their district's schools, have to pay for those officers out of their own budget. Federal grants for resource officers used to be commonplace, but as federal funding has been reduced, there has been increasingly less money available to cover the cost of these programs. West Seneca Schools would pursue the opportunity to apply for federal funds for their resource officers if the federal programs were adequately funded. A federal grant of this type would mean that West Seneca could use the funds currently supporting the resource officers for other educational or extracircular activities at the school.
In Lancaster, school officials highlighted that with so few federal funds available for school safety initiatives at schools like theirs, they seldom, if ever, apply for federal grants of this type anymore. Schumer highlighted that if more money was available in these programs, schools like Lancaster could apply for funds with a greater level of confidence that their application would actually be funded.
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
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