Why a Proposed Federal School Safety Grant Does Not “Replace” the Eliminated Safe and Drug Free Schools Program

Posted by on August 9, 2010

In a local Cleveland news interview last Thursday, I spoke about the elimination of the state grant component of the Safe and Drug Free Schools program.  As the public attention on school budget cuts center around teacher layoffs, reductions in transportation, and elimination of sports programs, cuts to school safety funding are going on behind-the-scenes away from parent view.

One viewer commented on the news station’s web page for the story that the information appeared “a bit alarmist.”  The unidentified individual mistakenly suggested a program proposed in the federal Fiscal Year 2011 budget would “replace” the eliminated Safe and Drug Free Schools program.

I responded to clarify some key points. Afterwards, it dawned on me that others may also benefit from some clarification on where things are currently and where they may go with federal school safety funding. 

Here is my response from to the comment on the news site:

The Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students (SSHS) program has not replaced the Safe and Drug Free Schools (SDFS) Program. SDFS was eliminated as of July 1st. SSHS is proposed for next fiscal year (2011) and has not been approved by Congress.

SDFS was a formula grant: Fed money passed through states to local districts in a non-competitive process. The proposed SSHS is a national competitive grant if Congress approves it 2011. The vast majority of districts that received SDFS will not get SSHS dollars. SSHS grants require districts to write proposals. Most don’t have dedicated grant writers. Thus many rural and suburban districts will never be able to apply and even if they did, districts with professional grant writers would have advantages.There is a big difference between formula and national competitive grants, thus it does not in any way “replace” SDFS.

There is no indication the activities for which SDFS dollars were used could be used under SSHS. It appears U.S.DOE’s focus will be heavily skewed toward “bullying” and “climate”, suggesting a number of activities funded under SDFS would not be authorized. 

REMS and Safe Schools, Healthy Students appear funded this year, but at the same appropriations  level, which is less than both programs were at their highest funding point. They are proposed for 2011, again at the same funding level.

To say “there will be federal money available based on need and competitively awarded” is inaccurate.  It is not approved by Congress but proposed for 2011 budget.  To say it “replaces” SDFS is inaccurate as it is a national competitive, not formula, grant, so it will not “replace” the money for the vast majority of districts that received SDFS. To say it “replaces” SDFS is inaccurate as there is no indication it would, if approved, fund the exact same activities as SDFS. And to say “the information presented in the story is “a bit alarmist” is also inaccurate. It is a fact.  

I’ll discuss more in a separate, but related, blog post to follow.  But for purposes of clarification, it needs to be clear that the proposed Fiscal Year 2011 federal school safety program does not,  in the true sense, “replace” the Safe and Drug Free Schools state grant program — at least as currently proposed.  The new proposed program is a different type of grant (competitive vs. formula), will go to a far fewer number of school districts, and has a skewed focus which will more likely have a limited number of authorized activities for which the program dollars could be used in comparison to Safe and Drug Free Schools.

Meanwhile, for the current school year, Safe and Drug Free Schools’ dollars are gone.  While No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top did not exist when I went to school, I still can figure out when an eliminated program means less money. 

Unfortunately for some, especially those with a political agenda around school safety, I can also cut through smoke when they blow it to sort out the facts.  And so can our educators who, today, unquestionably know very well that Congress and the Administration eliminated a decade-long funding source for school drug and violence prevention.

Ken Trump

Visit School Security Blog at:  http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com

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