GOP chairman: Government funding bill will likely boost school safety

The Hill 6 months ago

Lawmakers will likely boost money for school safety in an upcoming government funding package, a key GOP subcommittee chairman said Tuesday night.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who heads the House Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services and education, said appropriators want to increase funding for an existing grant program that is designed to prevent violence in and around schools.

“Stay tuned. It’s going to be a nice number,” Cole told reporters. “We are looking at putting additional funding well beyond what was in either the House or Senate [spending proposals.]”

“We’re looking at a variety of ways that we can make more money available to make schools safer,” he added.

Lawmakers are wrapping up work on a massive omnibus spending bill that will fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Text of the legislation could land this week, with current government funding set to run out next Friday.

In the wake of a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last month, some lawmakers have been pushing to increase Title IV funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which they say will help provide money for schools to train faculty members on violence prevention strategies, provide mental health counseling services and implement anti-bullying initiatives.

The grant program currently receives $400 million in federal funding every year. President Trump has proposed entirely eliminating funding for the program in his annual budget request.

"While funding for school safety cannot replace meaningful, strong gun safety reforms, as our nation faces these crises, we must answer the call of parents, educators, and students to provide schools and educators with the resources they need to meet these challenges and keep their students safe and healthy," a group of Senate Democrats wrote in a letter to appropriators last week.

GOP leaders have brushed aside calls for new gun control laws after the deadly mass shooting, instead focusing their response on school safety.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has introduced legislation that would, among other things, allow schools to use Title IV funding for upgrading school infrastructure to make it safer, including installing new alarm systems, security cameras and better entrances and exits.

The House is also scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bipartisan bill that would create a brand new grant program designed to help educate students and teachers about how to spot and report signs of gun violence.  The bill would develop anonymous telephone and online systems where people could report threats of violence.

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