Politicians across the country are vowing to do more to prevent school shooting tragedies like the one that unfolded Friday in Newtown, Conn. But over the last few years, the Obama administration and Congress allowed funding for several school safety initiatives to lapse.
Beneath the expressions of grief, sorrow and disbelief over the Connecticut school massacre lies an uneasy truth in Washington: over the last few years the Obama administration and Congress quietly let federal funding for several key school security programs lapse in the name of budget savings.
Government officials told the Washington Guardian on Friday night that two Justice Department programs that had provided more than $200 million to schools for training, security equipment and police resources over the last decade weren't renewed in 2011 and 2012, and that a separate program that provided $800 million to put police officers inside the schools was ended a few years earlier.
Meanwhile, the administration eliminated funding in 2011-12 for a separate Education Department program that gave money to schools to prepare for mass tragedies, the officials said.
A nationally recognized school security expert said those funds had been critical for years in helping schools continue to enhance protections against growing threats of violence. But they simply dried up with little notice as the Columbine and Virginia Tech school shooting tragedies faded from memory and many Americans and political leaders had their attentions diverted to elections, a weak economy and overseas dramas.
“I was baffled to see funds and programs cut in these areas,” said Kenneth Trump, the president of the National School Safety and Security Services firm that helps school districts and policymakers improve protections for teachers and students. “Our political and policy leaders need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk about being concerned about school safety.