Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kentucky's school-safety program slashed 60 percent in budget cuts

This from The Courier-Journal:
A statewide school-safety program created after a fatal school shooting in Western Kentucky has had its budget slashed nearly 60 percent in the past five years.
The Safe Schools Program has seen its funding plummet from $10.4 million in 2007-08 to $4.5 million this year, prompting the Kentucky Center for School Safety to drastically reduce its school safety audits and districts to strain to find other money to pay for maintaining safety and order in schools.

But some Kentucky education leaders and legislators are saying those cuts need to be re-examined in the aftermath of the mass murder of students and teachers Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“It’s something we’re going to have to look at in light of what happened at Sandy Hook. But we should wait and see what exactly happened in Connecticut,” said state Rep. Carl Rollins, a Midway Democrat who heads the House Education Committee. “Our schools are still safe places.”
Jon Akers, the Center for School Safety’s executive director, said his agency has reduced its training programs for school officials by about half and canceled its annual safety conference this year.
Akers said the center will perform 57 audits of school safety this year — down from 90 when it was fully funded. In those audits, a team of experts visit a school to assess its safety needs.
“The cuts have limited what I can do and what superintendents can do, but we still try to find ways to make things happen,” Akers said. “We still provide training, technical assistance and safe school assessments in the school districts, but not as much as I would like.”
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said he’s confident the state’s schools are safe, but he said the funding cut needs to be examined. “I worry that we’re not able to do as many school safety audits as we would like.”
Begun in 1998

The General Assembly created the Safe School program in 1998, just months after a shooting at Heath High School in West Paducah killed three students and injured five others.
It funds the Kentucky Center for School Safety, based at Eastern Kentucky University. And it provides a stream of state money to districts dedicated for costs of maintaining order and security.
But the recession hit the program with a sharp funding decline as Gov. Steve Beshear and the General Assembly grappled with falling tax revenues and soaring costs for public pension obligations, Medicaid and state debt payments.

“This is symptomatic of a larger problem we have in Kentucky of bearing our responsibilities to the citizens we’re supposed to serve,” said state Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville. “Until we face up to the financial crisis that we’re in, so many important support services for children and others will continue to erode.”
Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said safety in schools is an administration priority. “As we look toward future budgets, we will look for opportunities to restore many of the needs in education, such as professional development, textbooks, and the Center for School Safety,” Richardson said.
When the program was funded at $10 million, Akers said, his center got about $1 million with the remaining $9 million distributed among school districts under a formula based partly on student population.
Now, he said, his center gets $830,000 with about $3.7 million going to the districts.
Those districts, he said, can use their funds for security equipment and school resource officers — trained and armed law enforcement officers...


Anonymous said...

So Center for school safety got a 17% cut and the schools received a 59% cut? How does a 17% cut in budget result in a reduction of a 1/3 in your audits when you aren't even having a conference this year? I suspect that the current homeland security/school safety climate could very likely have produced grant funds to have made up the difference. Sounds to me like the schools got the short end of the stick.

Not sure why folks act suprised. The same cuts came to all flexible funds. Yesterday it was low test scores and the state doesn't fund textbooks. Today it is concern for security of schools and the state is cutting funding for that. If you don't have the money, you can't pay for it. Part of it is amount of resource and part of it is how it is appropriated.

Anonymous said...

Wow about 10-15 million for the center for school safety over the last decade and a half!?! Do we have any direct data how much safer schools are as a result of this investment? Not just how many reports they have written but a direct correlation between safer schools before and after the Center was opened.

Not trying to give Mr. Akers and his crew a hard time but there is always something difficult about having someone come in from the outside to critque your house. I appreciated their visit and specific insights about the school but I don't think you can get a real feel for a school's culture and operation on a very limited parents survey, a handful of interviews and some walk throughs in one day. Always kind of bothered me because there is this one size fits all perspective. When you get your report, you just have to sit back and take it because if you try to make an opervation you appear argumentative and their counter argument is always, "That's what they said at Paducah/Columbine". Then once they document it, you have the liability of fixing it per their recommendation or risk looking neglegent, even if the recommendation doesn't fit your school's conditions. I do genuinely appreciate their expertise and mission but there is something about folks who come in and tell you that Johnny is trapped in the old mine and then just walk away and leave you to deal with it regardless of your resources or circumstances.