The Senate Education Finance Committee on Monday continued its discussion on improving school safety with presentations from the School Safety Center and from Sen. Carla Nelson on her safe schools aid bill SF 2754.
Joel Kelly, director of Homeland Security in Minnesota, and Randy Johnson, director of training at the Department of Public Safety presented to the committee about The School Safety Center and the services the Center provides to schools. They focused on five main areas:
- SRO training
- School threat assessments
- School safety facility assessments
- School crisis response teams
- Emergency operations planning
They share there are individual and unique instances across the state. It was also mentioned that, because they are not a regulatory agency for schools, they get better results in their physical visits because they are truly there just to assess and make recommendations to help schools be safer and help students should a critical event of any kind happen. View presentation.
Sen. Nelson presented SF 2754 for informational purposes only. Her bill will create a new safe school aid allocation. It will be a general fund addition for schools to add to their safe school levy. As introduced, the aid will cover school districts charter schools, intermediate districts.
MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan testified in support of the bill and requested that Greater Minnesota’s 30+ cooperatives, educational districts and service cooperatives be included with the same aid and levy as Intermediate districts. He also asked that the committee look at adding to Long-Term Facility Maintenance and to consider the lease levy as a school safety improvement levy in addition to SF 2754.
On Thursday, Sen. Nelson then presented this school safety bill to the Senate E-12 Finance Committee. While no formal amendment was offered, Sen. Nelson stated that the bill clarifies that the appropriation for safe school aid is only one time money this year and puts a minimum of $25,000 for the grants to schools. This floor will help smaller schools. It gives flexibility in how a school can use the money so they can meet their individual needs. The money can be used for buildings or personnel.
In her comments, Sen. Nelson stressed that we can’t be responsible for everything but we have to make schools safer. She stressed the need for equalization in the aid to keep pressure off local property taxes. The testifiers all thanked Sen. Nelson for the bill.
They did note that since the appropriation was only one-time money, it would most likely be spent on physical upgrades and not personnel. They also thanked her for including equalization and the $25,000 floor.
The Department of Education testified that they look forward to working with both the Senate and the House as the discussion on school safety continues.
Nationally and in Minnesota, school threats have increased dramatically since Parkland. Learn more.