September 9, 2019

New Round Of Indiana School Safety Grants Vary Widely

Pixabay/public domain

Pixabay/public domain

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Changes made to Indiana's school safety grant program resulted in some school districts seeing funding cut in half as others are receiving double last year's money.

The $19 million in state grants announced this past week are split among 429 entities, mostly public school districts along with several individual charter and private schools. That marked a $5 million increase from 2018 funding with an increase approved by the Legislature, but schools sought $4.8 million more than what was available, The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reported.

Grant decisions varied, with many instances such as the allocation for the Jay County district in eastern Indiana dropping from $50,000 to $25,000 and the Northwest Allen County district near Fort Wayne jumping from $50,000 to the program's maximum of $100,000.

Funding for the safety grants was boosted in the wake of shootings last year at a Noblesville middle school in which a boy wounded a classmate and teacher, and at a Richmond middle school where a boy shot out a door and at officers before killing himself.

Republican legislative leaders touted the funding increase included in the new state budget approved this spring as helping schools improve school security, but state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick in May questioned whether it would go far enough.

Jay County Schools Superintendent Jeremy Gulley questioned whether the money is being distributed equitably. His request for $25,000 toward paying a school resource officer was granted but the district didn't receive its requested $15,000 for training and $10,000 for equipment.

"I don't think it was intentional, but the effect and impact was arbitrary," he said of a new prioritization system imposed on the grants. "Districts never contemplated losing money."

Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Hosick said the Indiana Secured School Safety Grant board this year required districts to prioritize their requests.

Hosick said if the total grant amount available was simply divided equally among schools and districts, some projects might only have received partial funding and be left up in the air.

"Each school's needs are unique so we asked them to prioritize," he said. "Everybody gets something. Every school receives an award. We are trying to be equitable."

Overall, 41 schools or districts received grants this year, with the average award grew from last year's $36,743 to $44,478.

The rough breakdown of the funding is $12.1 million toward school resource officers; $5.5 million for equipment and technology; $1 million to create student and parent support services plans; $144,000 for threat assessments; $90,000 to active event warning systems; and $3,300 toward training.

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