First the Obama Administration proposed eliminating K-12 school emergency planning grants from the 2012 federal budget. Now, it appears the House Appropriations Committee is calling to eliminate the funds from this year’s 2011 budget!
In a Friday press release on $4 billion in spending cuts as a part of a proposed short term government funding Continuing Resolution (CR), the House Appropriations Committee proposed eliminating $32 million for Safe Schools and Citizenship Education. While I am working on confirming the programs under this category, it appears this may include the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) school emergency planning grants for the current 2011 budget year.
The fact remains the Department of Education has not issued a call for proposals for the REMS program as of this writing. Normally these grants are announced in January or February. Buzz in the school safety community is that the REMS grant program will be eliminated this year, which seems to coincide with the House Appropriations Committee recommended cut.
It appears the Republican majority is offering up this cut and others for programs the Obama Administration has already proposed cutting in 2012, all in order to get a compromise Continuing Resolution while Congress debates bigger FY2011 budget cuts.
Although many people (myself included) agree there is massive waste in federal spending, the REMS program is one of only a handful of success stories from the Department of Education’s historically lame management of federal school safety policy and funding. The program, which started in 2003, continues to see hundreds and hundreds more applicants than the Department funds each year, suggesting a significant need exists for expansion, not elimination, of this program. REMS is already under-funded at around $30 million a year (awards to about 100 school districts nationwide).
A 2007 investigation by the federal General Accounting Office found schools woefully prepared for school emergency planning. Testimony at a 2007 House Homeland Security Committee Hearing reinforced the need for more resources and strengthening of school emergency preparedness efforts.
Given REMS is the only dedicated federal funded grant program exclusively for K-12 school emergency planning in the Department of Education, or for that matter the federal government as a whole, its elimination by both the Obama Administration and the House Appropriations Committee is nothing short of inexcusable and negligent.
Cut federal spending? Absolutely. But cut the right things. And eliminating K-12 school emergency planning is not one of the right things!
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