President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan released their education blueprint on Saturday. It will serve as one focal point for discussion as Congress approaches the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The education blueprint has already created a lot of buzz in the education community. The bulk of the conversation has been on academic achievement issues.
Federal School Safety Program
Pages 33 and 34 of the blueprint document present the Administration’s proposed approach for school safety. Their proposed “Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students” program will replace the “Safe and Drug Free Schools Program” eliminated by the Administration and Congress.
The full text describing this program is replicated below for easy access and review. A few key initial observations I have made include:
- There is a strong emphasis on school climate surveys. The initial description of what this would include is listed in paragraph one below.
- The limited grants will be competitively awarded on a national basis. This is different from the federal-to-state pass through of Safe and Drug Free Schools Program grant money previously given to school districts in a non-competitive basis.
- Schools will be required to document need. In short, schools cannot claim there are no problems or issues, but still ask for money.
- Need (at least in the form of the school climate surveys) must be publicly posted.
- Community partnerships with non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, and others will get priority consideration for funding.
This is the initial sketched out approach in the Administration’s blueprint. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Those details will actually be written into the draft bill by Congress.
It is well documented that I was long opposed to elimination of the Safe and Drug Free Schools state grant program. I believed, and still believe, federal and state funds for local schools should not have been eliminated, especially during today’s trying financial times in local school districts. I also believe that contrary to what some claimed about Safe and Drug Free Schools program dollars being spread too thin to be effective, that most dollars were used effectively in local schools and that even a smaller amount goes a long way in districts that otherwise would have no school safety funding at all.
But the political realities prevailed and, as the saying goes, “It is what it is.” The focus now must be encouraging Congress and the Administration to craft well-defined, effective federal school safety policy and funding.
I commend the Administration for proposing in its budget for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools the continuation of the existing stand-alone programs entitled, “Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS), and the “Safe Schools, Healthy Students” grant programs. I strongly believe appropriations funding levels need to be increased for both of these programs. REMS should be increased by no less than $15 million from its current level.
Some specific areas to build upon the Administration’s blueprint for school safety and proposed FY2011 budget for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools must include:
- In additon to expulsion, suspension, and discipline data, as well as school climate surveys, federal data requirements must include incident-based law enforcement data for crimes on K-12 campuses.
- Activities for which the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students funds may be used must reflect a balanced and comprehensive approach to school safety which includes prevention, intervention, security, and preparedness activities.
- Priority attention for grant awards should include, but not be limited to, school districts partnering with non-profit and community-based organizations. Partnerships must also include other community and governmental agency partners including public safety (police, fire, emergency medical services) departments, emergency management agencies, public mental health departments, public health agencies, children and family services agencies, juvenile court systems, juvenile corrections systems, and related organizations.
Your Comments Count
The House Committee on Education and Labor is accepting comments on the ESEA reauthorization. Groups and education stakeholders can submit ESEA comments by emailing the House Committee at email@example.com. Their website that contains information about their process and deadline.
I encourage stakeholders (educators, school safety professionals, parents, etc.) to email the above address with your thoughts, suggestions, and concerns about federal school safety policy and funding levels.
School Safety Section of the Blueprint Document
Below is the full text from pages 33-34 of the blueprint document:
violence issues), and school environment, and publicly report this information. This assessment must include surveys of student, school staff, and family experiences with respect to individual schools, and additional data such as suspensions and disciplinary actions. States will use this data to identify local needs and provide competitive subgrants to school districts and their partners to address the needs of students, schools, and communities.
supportive school environment.
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