The Arkansas School Safety Commission opened its meeting today with its chairman updating members on the billions of dollars in gun safety measures aimed at Arkansas and other states – including a large part can be used by schools.
Of course, that’s no thanks to any of the six Republican members of Congress from Arkansas, who all voted against the bipartisan gun safety bill. This measure, enacted by President Bidencontains provisions to improve criminal background checks, keep firearms out of dangerous hands, and strengthen mental health care and school safety.
Commission Chair Cheryl Maydirector of the University of Arkansas Institute of Criminal Justice, did not mention the Arkansas delegation’s opposition to the legislation.
“In this new federal legislation, there will be a big increase in funding for school safety, and there will also be an impact on school mental health, which are two very good things,” said May, who leads the commission created by the republican Governor Hutchinson.
May detailed the monetary benefits of the new law:
- $1 billion in additional funding for Title IV, a funding pot that can help pay for school safety measures.
- An additional $50 million for after-school and summer programs.
- $300 million in additional funding for the 21st Century Community-Oriented Policing Services Stop School Violence Grant and the Bureau of Justice Assistance Stop School Violence Grant. These two grants are currently funded at $133 million per year, May said. These programs allow schools to apply for funding for physical security upgrades, anonymous reporting systems, behavioral threat assessments, and school security training measures.
- The bill directs the US Department of Education to coordinate with other federal agencies to help schools bill Medicaid to cover services provided at school clinics and by the schools themselves. The bill also provides an additional $50 million in grants to implement, improve or expand school entity assistance. May said this assistance refers to community service providers and also telehealth treatment.
- $500 million each for the School Mental Health Services Grant Program and the School Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration Grant. Those programs are currently funded at about $10 million each, May said. “So we’re talking about a huge increase and potential for school-based mental health programs, which is obviously a huge step in the right direction,” May said.
- An additional $240 million over four years for Project AWARE, which stands for Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education. May said the state has already received one AWARE grant and she expects a second can be obtained. Project AWARE is currently funded at $107 million nationwide, May said. The new money will include $28 million set aside for school responses to student trauma.
May did not know when the money would be available for grant applications.
Later in the meeting, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder mentioned that many of the upgrades being considered to make schools safer cost money.
“It all comes down to money,” he said.
In fact, reasonable gun restrictions would be less costly than major building security upgrades and additional school resource officers. But it’s not something the committee touches on with a 10-foot pole or an assault rifle.