In the wake of the shooting that left 26 dead at a Connecticut elementary school in December,state legislators authorized $8.5 million in this year’s budget for school safety measures designed to curb school violence and enhance student safety.
Applications are now being accepted for both grants for school resource officers and general school safety.
“No educational expense is more critical than those dedicated to protecting the health, safety and welfare of our children,” said state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, who as chairwoman of the state Senate’s Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee helped spearhead the movement that led to increased funding.
“The Senate’s school safety hearings highlighted many strategies that work, and with these grants, we hope to enable school districts to replicate many of these outstanding safety efforts, which include school resource officers, an involved community, and a highly trained and aware faculty and administration,” Baker added
The application window for school resource officer grants closes on Nov. 22, and for general school safety grants, on Dec. 6.
The maximum individual grant will be $60,000 for a school resource officer and $40,000 for a school police officer. Municipalities that use officers with additional specialized training in children and adolescents will be given priority.
Other competitive grants are also available for a range of safe school initiatives, with a minimum individual grant of $25,000. This money can be used for security technology upgrades, visitor identification systems and other safety measures.
“School districts that hope to hire school resource officers and school police officers as an additional layer of security and to make other upgrades to their buildings and emergency plans are strongly encouraged to apply,” Baker said.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, also played a role in crafting the legislation and guiding it through the senate. The grant programs were among his ideas.
According to Baker, all 500 school districts across Pennsylvania are eligible to apply for the school safety grants. Municipalities also are able to apply for grants for School Resource Officers on behalf of public and private schools within their jurisdiction.
“Ensuring the greatest level of safety possible at our schools is a core responsibility of government,” Scarnati said. “Teachers cannot teach and children cannot learn in an environment where they don’t feel safe. Through this grant program each school district across our commonwealth will be able to apply for the funding they need to make sure our schools are safe and secure.”