The state grant component of the decade-old federal Safe and Drug Free Schools Program has been eliminated from the latest federal budget, costing many schools as of July 1st their primary funds marked specifically for school safety. The program was a formula grant drug and violence prevention program which passed money through state education departments to local school districts nationwide.
The elimination of this major federal school safety grant program, combined with local education budget cuts, will add new challenges to school safety efforts in the upcoming school year.
School safety administrators can’t rob Peter to pay Paul because Peter’s budget has already been cut. The drug prevention or school security director can’t easily ask the superintendent to replace thousands of lost school safety dollars from other program budgets because local district budgets are being shaved to the bare bone.
Several smaller school districts in the Cleveland area shared this past week that they watched the program bleed a slow death thanks to the past Administration and Congress. Now thanks to the current Administration and Congress, they eliminated the entire program from the FY 2010 budget. One district reportedly went from $20,000 to $7,500 to now $0, while another lost $16,000 in the cuts.
These were districts with four to six thousand students. Larger districts are losing substantially more dollars with the elimination of these federal dollars marked specifically for school safety. For examploe, Milwaukee reported earlier this year the anticipated loss of over $1 million with the elimination of this program.
At the state level, many Safe and Drug Free Schools coordinators who pull together drug and violence prevention programs were warned earlier in the year their work would be different in the upcoming school year — if they had any job at all. Some were looking at moving into different programs while others were looking at unemployment. The feds reportedly were trying to finagle some small money to allow state Safe and Drug Free Schools coordinators a way to “bridge” their employment over to next year. While these people may be there, the funds for their programs and activities of the past certainly will not be the same.
Schools nationwide are reducing and eliminating student drug and violent prevention programs, reducing behavior intervention specialists, cutting school security and school-based police officers, and not providing staff professional development training on prevention, security, and crisis preparedness best practices. Local school reduced revenue due to the economic recession, the inability to pass local levies (again due to the recession), and now the elimination of this non-competitive formula grant that sent money marked specifically for drug and violence prevention are all adversely impacting the advancement of school safety.
The U.S. Department of Education, the Administration, and the majority in Congress over the past few years justified cutting and eliminating the state grant component of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program by saying that too many school districts receiving funds got less than $10,000 per year. The company line is that this amount is not enough to do much of anything for school safety.
Only inside the D.C. Beltway do some folks believe that $10,000 doesn’t do much for anything. That’s certainly not what I am hearing from those on the front-lines in schools who are still shaking their heads about the loss of the Safe and Drug Free Schools school safety funds. Now instead of “doing more with less,” many of them will be “doing nothing with nothing.”
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