Assembly recap: new grant program for schools to hire armed school safety officers

The state Assembly approved a measure authored by Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc, pictured) that would provide state grants to school districts to hire current and former law enforcement officers as armed school safety officers.  The state Department of Justice (DOJ) would administer the grants and only schools that contain students in grades 5 through 12 would be eligible to apply.

Under the measure, a school district may receive a grant for 3 consecutive years without having to submit a new application each year. In the first year, the grant shall cover 75% of the costs associated with employing armed school safety officers; in the 2nd year, the grant shall cover 50%; and in the 3rd year, 25%.  DOJ shall protect against liability a school district receiving grant moneys and an armed school safety officer employed using the grant moneys for any actions taken in good faith. 

The proposal does specify how DOJ is to administer the grants or even require DOJ to provide grants.  It doesn’t say how much would be allocated for these grants or how much can be awarded either in total grants or the maximum that can be awarded to any single school district.  The bill doesn’t say whether these are competitive grants and, if so, what criteria would be used in awarding the grants, or whether the grants are strictly first-come, first-served or whether they would be pro-rated if the applications approved exceed the amount of funding allocated.

It is also not clear why the author chose to only include schools that contain students in grades 5 through 12. In school districts with K-4 or K-3 elementary schools, these schools would be ineligible.

This proposal came about as an amendment to another bill and what the WI State Journal called a “dizzying series of procedural motions”.  There was also language included on mandatory minimum sentences for people who commit multiple gun-related crimes and strengthening the ban on “straw purchases” of firearms (buying a firearm on behalf of someone who cannot legally purchase one). Ultimately, the amended bill passed with bipartisan support.

The following bills were also passed. See our previous post for more information on these proposals: