Federal funding for local school emergency planning grants has been eliminated in President Obama’s FY2012 proposed budget.
Kevin Jennings, Obama’s Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug Free Schools, confirmed the elimination of the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant program via email on Thursday. Jennings has yet to respond to my follow-up email asking for the rationale for the cut.
Local School Emergency Planning Grants Eliminated Following Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grants Elimination
The Administration eliminated an already under-funded $30 million Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant program. 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.
The REMS grants, normally with calls for proposals posted in January or February, have not been made available so far in 2011. It is unclear whether the Education Department’s failure to announce this year’s REMS grants is due to the continuing budget resolution delays by Congress or if the Department is intentionally withholding the current year’s REMS funding to avoid offering the competition this year.
A token $8.3 million is proposed in the FY2012 budget to provide state education agencies (SEAs) approximately 12 grants at $500,000 to assist local schools with emergency planning. This plays out to about $6 million in actual dollars going to SEAs while the rest goes to peer review and “other school safety initiatives,” meaning the near-nothing full $8.3 million will not even make it to help local schools.
This program elimination and the Department of Education’s full proposed budget for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools is online at “Supporting Student Success Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request.”
Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Kevin Jennings already eliminated the state grant component of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program, with the approval of Congress, in one of their initial budget proposals for the Department. This move eliminated formula grants to local school districts which could be used to meet locally identified school safety, security, prevention, and preparedness needs.
Funding Bolstered for Politically-Driven Bullying and LGBT Agenda; Feds Recklessly Neglect School Security and Emergency Planning
The proposed FY2012 budget calls for fully funding Kevin Jennings’ pet project, the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students (SSHS) program at a proposed budget of slightly less than $365 million. The focus of this program is skewed heavily toward bullying, harassment, and “school climate surveys.”
Jennings has been on a nationwide speaking tour where his presentations are almost exclusively focused on bullying, harassment, and Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Sexual and Transgender themes. The Department promotes the presentations as highlighting, “…the Department’s efforts over the past year to prevent bullying and create safe learning environments through its Safe and Supportive School grants program.”
The Safe and Supportive School grants program, funded in a pilot program in Fiscal Year 2010 at $38.8 million for 11 states, is focused on creating “school climate surveys” and “grading” schools on school safety.
Jennings has publicly stated that school safety has for too long been defined based on “violence” and, in turn, has redefined federal school safety policy and funding to define school safety based on “climate” and bullying, harassment, and related themes.
Sorely missing from Jennings’ speeches, and increasingly from Department funding, is anything related to school security, school policing, and now school emergency planning.
Federal Cuts Set the Stage for a Pre-Columbine Mentality and Higher-Risk School Safety Climate
The proposed move by Jennings, Duncan, and Obama to eliminate the already embarrassingly pithy amount of $30 million in Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant awards to local school district is reckless, negligent, and inexcusable.
A number of school safety specialists believe it is just a matter of time before the next Columbine — or worse. We already have a pre-Columbine mentality in the education community in general, in federal school safety policy and funding specifically, and in the blind eyes of those in Congress who as a whole have shown no interest or attention to the Department of Education’s skewed school safety policy and funding proposals.
The past few months have brought a number of high-profile school shootings around the nation. An assistant principal killed and principal shot in Omaha; school shooting incidents in Los Angeles; a shooting at a Florida school board meeting; and more.
When the bullets start flying, these and other schools are not looking for a school climate survey. They are looking for security and emergency preparedness measures. They sure won’t find any support in these areas from Jennings, Duncan, the Obama Administration, or Congress.
But when the next high-profile incident occurs, the politicians, educators, and others will once again scratch their heads and ask, “How did this happen?” I will be standing by with mirrors to hand to them so they can look in the mirror to quickly find the answer to their question.
Meanwhile, educators, safety officials, and parents who, like me, are appalled by the elimination of federal school emergency planning funding should be on the phones calling their Congressman and Senators at their Washington offices now. The education associations should also wake up their lobbyists and have them focus (for a change) on school safety, and not just “education reform” and academic funding interests in Congress.
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