Columnists

Sens. Braun, Marshall Introduce Bill to Allow COVID Relief Funds to Be Used to Harden Schools

Senator Mike Braun
Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.)

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Mike Braun joined Sen. Roger Marshall, M.D. and Representative Mike Garcia (CA-25) in introducing the the Safe Schools Act, legislation to allow COVID relief dollars allocated to schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to be used by schools to harden themselves with physical security measures, such as locks, panic buttons, individual room security systems, video surveillance, and hiring and paying the salaries of armed school resource officers. The legislation will exempt expenses for school security improvements from current ESSER guidelines that require expenses to be related to COVID-19. Senators Tim Scott, Thom Tillis, Steve Daines, Rick Scott, Chuck Grassley, Todd Young and Jerry Moran have cosponsored the legislation.

“Too often our schools are tragically viewed as ‘soft targets.’ The remaining ‘COVID relief funds that have been largely unused or mismanaged would be well spent protecting our children by hardening schools and bolstering school security,” said Senator Braun.

“While we made some progress in previous legislation to make our schools stronger, harder, and safer, certainly there is more that can and must be done immediately to protect kids,” said Senator Marshall. “What happened in Uvalde was a horrific tragedy. While many have been quick to play politics, one thing we can all agree on is that Congress must act to harden schools. For these reasons, I am introducing this legislation that allows the abundance of unused COVID relief dollars to be allocated to secure schools in Kansas and throughout the nation.”

“Now more than ever, we must be proactive in securing our schools. All Constitutional options need to be examined to ensure our children are safe in the classroom. I’m proud to join Senator Marshall in introducing the Safe Schools Act, a common-sense bill that would allow schools to spend leftover COVID relief funds on crucial security improvements to protect students from harm,” said Congressman Garcia.

Background:

  • The Indiana Department of Education spent less than half of the funds awarded under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.
  • Nationwide, of the $189.5 billion of COVID money awarded under ESSER, State Education Agencies have yet to spend $150.1 billion (79.2%).
  • There were 67 disrupted plots against K-12 schools from 2006-2018 – 66% of the schools had no system for alerting officials to concerning or threatening.
  • Recommendations from the Trump Administration’s 2018, “Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety” included:
    • School security strategies should use a layered approach that incorporates multiple, reinforcing echelons of policy, programs, and protective measures.
    • Entry control measures limit the number of access points, allow access only to those who should be on the campus, and provide an opportunity to conduct searches of suspicious items or persons.
    • Schools can implement security measures such as fencing, bollards, planters, curbs, or walls to create a single point of entry to the campus.
    • Video surveillance is a valuable security measure for entry control.
    • Depending on their construction, classroom doors can significantly delay or prevent an attacker from reaching individuals in a classroom.