Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Schimel shift on "school safety" funding shows it to be a cynical sham

After spending $55 million of a $100 million program intended for safety-related upgrades in school infrastructure, apparently Attorney General Brad Schimel wants to change direction for the last $45 million.
The second round of grant funding, utilizing the remaining $45 million, will advance baseline mental health and physical security improvements made in the first round of grant funding through advanced training for teachers on mental health; the creation of local teams of educators, counselors, and law enforcement to develop School Safety Intervention Teams that will assess threats and identify students in need of support; and additional physical security upgrades. Schools interested in applying for the second round of grant funding must submit a mandatory “intent to apply” to the OSS by August 13, 2018.

Schools applying for the second round of grant funding must agree to send 10 percent of full-time teachers and counselors to DOJ-approved 12-hour Adolescent Mental Health training by August 31, 2020, and schools may use grant funds to pay expenses incurred (tuition, travel, lodging, meals, substitute teacher pay, etc.). Schools applying must also establish a School Safety Intervention Team (SSIT), based on a model set by the U.S. Secret Service, which will engage in behavior monitoring, threat assessments, and intervention. Funding will also be available for more physical security improvements….

Under the second round of grant funding, grant funding will be awarded on a perstudent formula, according to student enrollment as reported to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). No awardee will receive less than $10,000 nor receive more than $2.5 million, in order to ensure all applicants receive sufficient funding to make meaningful physical security improvements. The final award amount will depend on the number and size of schools that apply. Interested schools can find more information on the DOJ Office of School Safety website.
That announcement comes one day after the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction said it would ask for an additional $60 million in the next state budget to improve mental health services in school, and this sudden change for Brad (Politics and Donations Over Anything Else) Schimel doesn’t seem to be a coincidence.

That being said, I have to wonder if Schimel’s shift of $45 million into mental health services keeps with the spirit of this new program. Let’s see what the Wisconsin Legislative Council said about the School Safety grants when it was signed into law in late March.
Act 143 creates an Office of School Safety within the Department of Justice (DOJ), and creates a 1.0 FTE director position appointed by the Attorney General. The Act tasks the Office of School Safety with: (1) creating model practices for school safety, in conjunction with DPI and after consultation with the Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association and the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools Training and Technical Assistance Center; (2) compiling school blueprints and geographic information system (GIS) maps, in coordination with schools and the Department of Administration; and (3) offering training to school staff on school safety, which may be provided by either DOJ or by a contracted party.

The school safety training offered by DOJ may include information regarding trauma informed care and how adverse childhood experiences impact a child’s development and increase needs for counseling and support. DOJ may charge a school for the safety training, if the school receives school safety grant funds for the training….

The Act specifies certain eligible expenditures, but does not otherwise limit DOJ authority to determine how grants are awarded or what expenditures are eligible. Eligible expenditures explicitly include: (1) expenditures for compliance with DOJ model practices for school safety; (2) expenditures for DOJ school safety training; (3) expenditures for safety-related upgrades to school buildings, equipment, and facilities; and (4) expenditures necessary to comply with requirements to submit school blueprints to law enforcement and the Office of School Safety.
So I suppose the repurposed $45 million falls into that part I bolded in the 2nd paragraph, but it sure seems sketchy to create a second round of grant applications and change the focus of what those grant dollars would be used for. If you go back to the first grant application, it was supposed to spend all $100 million on “security”.

One of the problems with the original grants for security is that districts were expected to put together their plans and proposals in a matter of a few weeks under criteria that Schimel’s Department of Justice drew up by themselves. This was one of the flaws I and many others identified with the original bill back in March. Why weren't these decisions on school safety being made by DPI, who funds and oversees most other items involving K-12 schools and knows how any changes might affect current services? That was a "tell' to me.

This tweet is another reason that I have strong suspicions that the biggest goal of the program isn’t school safety, but to serve as a thinly-disguised campaign ad for an unpopular AG.

And the fact that Schimel plans to hand out this $45 million in mental health funding to happen in the month before the 2018 elections shows the “school safety” to be an even bigger SHAM that uses taxpayer dollars to promote the campaign of GOP politicans. But again, when you have an incompetent crook in charge, why would we expect any type of strategy or plan with this program other than “get Schimel’s face in the newspaper and on TV?”

Get this bum out of the AG’s office, and get Josh Kaul in to restore integrity. I prefer to have my Wisconsin Department of "Justice" to use tax dollars for reasons that go beyond “make me look good” and “use my position to do the dirty work for my donors.”

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