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Support grows for bill to allow COVID relief funds to be used for school security

FILE - Marshall urges COVID education funds be used for school security.
FILE - Marshall urges COVID education funds be used for school security.(MGN)
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 10:26 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Support is growing for a bill introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall which would allow COVID-19 relief funds to be used for school security instead in the wake of the most recent school shooting in Uvalde.

U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) says on Wednesday, June 22, that support has grown for his and Congressman Mike Garcia’s (R-CA) Safe Schools Act, which would allow COVID-19 relief funds to be allocated to schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

Sen. Marshall noted that the funds could be used by schools to add extra security measures like locks, panic buttons, individual room security systems, video surveillance, and hiring and paying salaries for armed school resource officers.

“I am grateful that support is growing for our Safe Schools Act, which allows the abundance of unused COVID relief dollars to be allocated to secure schools in Kansas and throughout the nation. While we made some progress in previous legislation to make our schools stronger, harder, and safer, certainly there is more that can and must be done immediately to protect kids,” Marshall said. “What happened in Uvalde was a horrific tragedy. While many have been quick to play politics, one thing we can all agree on is that Congress must act to harden schools.”

Marshall said the legislation would exempt expenses for school security improvements from ESSER guidelines which require funds to be related to COVID.

“In Kansas alone, unspent COVID dollars held by schools is roughly $1 billion, but red tape is holding it up. Cutting that red tape is part of our school-safety plan announced this week,” said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. “I appreciate Senator Marshall leading on this at the federal level and look forward to partnering with him and others in our congressional delegation to free up the money for immediate use on Kansas school safety.”

The Senator said the bill now has 18 Senate Cosponsors and has been endorsed by AG Schmidt, ZeroEyes, the Door and Hardware Institute, the Security Industry Association and Kansas Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and Sen. Renee Erickson (R-Wichita).

“One of the easiest ways we could provide additional funding to schools at no additional taxpayer cost is to unlock existing COVID relief funds. U.S. Senator Roger Marshall is leading the national effort to free up the more than $150 billion in unused COVID money that is currently restricted for only a limited number of uses, school safety not being one of them. In Kansas alone, schools have around $1 billion available for our kids. Schmidt, Marshall, and the other members of our federal delegation will work together to cut the red tape so schools can decide for themselves how best to allocate the funds,” said Kansas Rep. Kristey Williams and Kansas Sen. Renee Erickson.

Marshall said the Kansas Department of Education has only spent $261.3 million of the $1.28 billion in funds awarded under the ESSER Fund. Nationally, he said of the $189.5 billion of COVID funds awarded under ESSER, State Education Agencies have yet to spend more than 79% of it - $150.1 billion to be exact.

Additionally, Marshall said there were 67 disrupted plots against K-12 schools from 2006-2018, and of these, 66% of schools had no system to alert officials.

The Senator said he has also supported the following legislation regarding the issue:

  • STOP School Violence Act, which has provided funds for schools to identify threats and invest in security equipment and technology. He noted this legislation has been passed.
  • Fix NICS Act, which strengthened the background check system by offering federal funds for states and federal agencies to improve reporting of criminal records to NICS. He noted this bill has been passed.

To read the full text of the Safe Schools Act, click HERE.

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