Activity in the State Capitol around the issue of improving school safety intensified this week. The WASB has been meeting with the governor’s office as well as legislative leadership offices regarding how to best address the issue.
Based on our member-approved resolutions and informed by an effort from 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the WASB has asked for resources to be provided with as much local flexibility as possible on how they can be used in recognition of the differences between the 422 school districts in Wisconsin. There must be the ability for school districts to utilize school safety-related resources in ways that make the most sense based on local circumstances (facilities, local law enforcement presence, etc.) and identified needs.
We have also stressed that unfunded mandates should be avoided and instead schools should be provided with up-to-date resources, sample materials (safety and security plans, best practices, etc.), approved lists of recommended vendors, etc., to help school boards implement school safety initiatives at the local level.
State Superintendent Tony Evers has also put forward a $50 million, state-funded package of school safety-related proposals that would also allow additional resources to be raised locally. The plan put forward by Evers calls for, among other things:
- restoring a revenue limit adjustment for school safety expenditures that had been put into state law in 2009, but never took effect;
- expanding categorical aid funding for school mental health staff and increasing grant funding for school-based mental health services, and expanding training for school staff and community partners around mental health screenings and interventions; and
- creating a grant program aimed at improving school climate and culture.
Meanwhile, Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) has called for scrapping the sales tax holiday proposed by the governor and Assembly GOP and instead committing $100 million in state resources for school safety or double what the DPI has asked for. Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) also authored a proposal to create a grant program for schools to hire current or former law enforcement as school safety officers. Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb) has also called for reinstating a school safety revenue limit exemption.
This is an important conversation, and we applaud Gov. Walker, Supt. Evers, and state legislators for being willing to address this issue in a meaningful way.
Stay tuned here for further updates. We anticipate a plan to be unveiled in the next several weeks.