Congress, Obama, and School Safety

Posted by on January 18, 2010

Will the Obama Administration and Congress continue the decade-long cuts to school safety funding in 2011, or will they reverse the downward decline?

Federal School Safety Funding:  Past and Present

Last Friday, an American Association of School Administrators (AASA) bulletin section entitled, “Obama Budget to Shrink Number of Education Programs,” advised members:

“According to our sources, the President’s 2011 budget (money districts will receive for 2011-2012) is expected to propose a major elimination of small programs and a shift of others toward competitive grants, as opposed to formula grants that distribute directly to districts based on student demographic data.   We also are concerned about the fate of larger programs, given this year’s elimination of the Safe and Drug-Free schools program and 63 percent slash in the Education Technology program.”

Congress, the Bush Administration, and most recently the Obama Administration have leveled repeated cuts to federal school safety funding programs. 

School safety House joint subcommittee hearing (July 8, 2009)

Ken Trump and expert panelists testify at House hearing on school safety (July 8, 2009)

Most notably, the state grant component of the Safe and Drug Free Schools (SDFS) Program bled toward a slow death during the Bush terms.  The program was finally put to rest in the recent Fiscal Year 2010 budget process at the request of the Obama Administration and subsequent actions of both branches of Congress.

Ironically, the House eliminated the program from the FY2010 budget two days after myself and seven others testified to a House joint subcommittee hearing on strengthening federal school safety policy. The Senate subsequently made the same cut in their FY2010 budget and, as it stands now, the SDFS state grant program is “history.”

Other federal school safety programs have been sliced and diced over the past decade, including the COPS in Schools grant program in the U.S. Department of Justice.  Even in today’s world of “homeland security,” the level of funding for the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) school emergency planning grant is less today than it was in its first year of awards in 2003.

What Will the FY2011 Budget Bring for School Safety?

This brings us to the FY2011 budget to soon be unveiled by the Obama Administration.  Will it bring federal school safety funding back to life and back to the levels of years past?  Or will school safety get lost (until the next major school shooting or other national headline story) in a Congress focused on health care, terrorism, and of course, the upcoming 2010 Congressional election campaigns?

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, has been a strong leader and advocate for improving school safety, security, crime reporting, and emergency planning.  She and her staff have consistently demonstrated leadership in working to keep school safety on the agenda on Capitol Hill.  I have encouraged Congresswoman McCarthy, her staff, and Congress as a whole (in my July 2009 testimony) to replace cut programs with new ones and to restore (and expand) federal school safety funding. 

The FY2011 budget, along with the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), provides great opportunities to undo the decade of damage Congress and two administrations have done to federal school safety funding.  Will they step up?

Education Community and Parents Need to Step Up, Too

In fairness, the full blame cannot be placed upon Congress and the Presidents alone.  The education professional community as a whole failed miserably to be  strong, proactive vocal advocates for protecting federal school safety funding.   Instead, the primary focus of their lobbying over the past decade has zeroed in on the academic angle of the federal “No Child Left Behind” education program.

Parents (aka: voters) have not done any better when it comes to voicing their concerns about school safety funding cuts.  They understandably get vocal after a school crisis in their local communities.  But where is their collective voice on protecting the already limited federal school safety funding?

If school safety funding trends are not reversed in the FY2011 budget and ESEA reauthorization, chances are good we will not see any significant federal attention (or improvements) for a number of years barring another high-profile national school safety tragedy.

Will you step up to actively, vocally, and forcefully let your Congresspersons and Senators know you expect better federal school safety policy and funding?

Ken Trump

Photo credit:  U.S. House of Representatives


2 thoughts on “Congress, Obama, and School Safety

  1. Ken,
    My concern about these cuts and restructuring is it appears more decisions will be made in Washington, D.C. about school safety rather than by the LEA or even the state. Frankly, there are too many folks making school safety decisions in the U.S. Dept. of Education who have little or no real school experience or it has been so long ago they have lost touch or understanding of the issues building level staff face today.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      A lot of our true local school safety leaders do not have a voice in many state and federal school safety policy and funding decisions. This is one reason I’ll be featuring “School Safety Leaders” as a part of this blog. We need to let people know what those on the front lines who are making a difference are doing in their districts. Ken

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