Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Schimel school safety plan seems like a flawed, slapped-together sham

I wanted to discuss a bit about our Attorney General Brad Schimel's new “School Safety” plan. To start, it appears that the plan is for schools to write up a proposal, send it to Schimel, with an emphasis on connecting schools with law enforcement, and in improving school buildings to upgrade security.
“A primary goal of this grant program is to forge long-lasting partnerships between our schools and the law enforcement community,” said Attorney General Schimel. “I am excited to announce that the entire Wisconsin law enforcement community is behind this program, and ready to partner with all local schools, both public and private, to ensure that this grant program is a success.”

“The School Safety Grant Initiative will supplement the great work already being done by law enforcement and educators across our state to keep students safe in their schools,” said Marquette County Sheriff Kim Gaffney, President of the Badger State Sheriff’s Association. “DOJ has always been a reliable partner, and I look forward to continuing the successful relationship on this exciting new project.”

For schools that meet DOJ’s grant requirements, grants will be awarded in two general categories. DOJ’s Primary School Safety Grants will be focus on baseline improvements to schools, including door locks and hardening school entryways. The other category, Advanced School Safety Grants, will be prioritized to award grants on a competitive basis to schools that have met minimum security thresholds. The two grant categories will be awarded concurrently.

“Not all schools have made necessary security upgrades, which is why it is important that all schools are brought up to an essential school-safety baseline,” said Attorney General Schimel. “But at the same time, we should not penalize schools that have already made critical investments. My team will award these two grant categories concurrently.
It strikes me as an adversarial, authoritarian approach, where schools are intended to become more like lockdown facilities in order to keep the "bad elements" out. And the emphasis on upgrading facilities and law enforcement over school services underscores who Schimel and other WisGOPs find to be the people worth supporting. Let's face it- having schools be in charge of school safety funding? That's crazy talk!

I wasn't the only one who found that interesting. State Rep. Chris Taylor pointed out that schools don't get to use the funds as they seem fit, and that the program doesn't do anything with the core problem - BAD PEOPLE WITH GUNS THAT SHOOT PLACES UP.

There also were some notable follow-ups from the State Journal article that Rep. Taylor references. In particular, Schimel didn't seem to have a clue about specific criteria for awarding or disqualifying grant applications, and that the amount available could be insufficient, depending on how many districts apply.
Schimel said he expects one-third of the money would go toward schools that need basic security measures. But it’s unclear how DOJ will determine which schools get what amount of money.

If the $100 million were divided equally among the 2,261 public schools and 818 private schools in Wisconsin, each school would get $32,478.

Schimel acknowledged that, if all schools were awarded some funding, the average grant would be quite small. But he said he hopes to give some money to every school that applies.
So we have a program that has few criteria over what is the type of improvement that’s wanted outside of “improving school safety”, no limits on how little or how much can be handed out to a district, and full discretion being left up to Brad Schimel’s Department of “Justice” right before an election where Schimel and his fellow Republicans are at best a toss-up to stay in office.

Naw, there won’t be any self-interested sketchiness and inefficient grant handouts made in this "school safety" program, I’m sure.

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