Sen. Marshall Bill Allows COVID Money to be Used to Harden Schools
$150.1 billion of available COVID funds has yet to be spent by schools
(Washington, D.C., June 9, 2022) – Today, U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. and U.S. Congressman Mike Garcia (CA-25) introduced the Safe Schools Act, legislation to allow COVID relief dollars allocated to schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to be used by schools to harden themselves with physical security measures, such as locks, panic buttons, individual room security systems, video surveillance, and hiring and paying the salaries of armed school resource officers. The legislation will exempt expenses for school security improvements from current ESSER guidelines that require expenses to be related to COVID-19.
“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,” said Senator Marshall. “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. For these reasons, I am introducing this legislation that allows the abundance of unused COVID relief dollars to be allocated to secure schools in Kansas and throughout the nation.”
“Now more than ever, we must be proactive in securing our schools. All Constitutional options need to be examined to ensure our children are safe in the classroom. I’m proud to join Senator Marshall in introducing the Safe Schools Act, a common-sense bill that would allow schools to spend leftover COVID relief funds on crucial security improvements to protect students from harm,” said Congressman Garcia.
Text of Senator Marshall’s Safe School’s Act is available HERE. Senators Tim Scott (SC), Thom Tillis (NC), Steve Daines (MT), Rick Scott (FL), Chuck Grassley (IA), Todd Young (IN), Mike Braun (IN), Jerry Moran (KS), John Barrasso (WY), John Kennedy (LA), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Ron Johnson (WI), and Roger Wicker (MS) have cosponsored the legislation.
“As the nation continues to mourn the innocent lives taken in Uvalde, leaders have a responsibility to turn our collective grief into real action,” said Senator Tim Scott. “This commonsense bill takes an important step in that direction by using unspent COVID money to make schools safer — an absolute no-brainer. I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill to protect students and teachers.”
“Every child deserves to feel safe and secure at school and should never fear for their lives. The tragedy in Uvalde should never happen again and should be a wake-up call to everyone that our schools should implement the best security measures possible. During the COVID pandemic, school systems across the country received more than $180 billion in COVID relief dollars, and $150 billion of that has yet to be used, so this legislation will allocate unused funds for these necessary security measures. I am proud to introduce this commonsense legislation and I hope to see this bill gain bipartisan support,” said Senator Tillis.
“We must secure our schools to help keep kids safe, and we should do so by using unspent COVID relief funds designated for schools to get it done,” said Senator Daines.
“In Florida, after the tragic shooting that claimed 17 innocent lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we took meaningful action and signed sweeping legislation into law to improve school safety and keep our students and educators safe. Every state should be looking at what we did and what action they can take to make sure students feel safe and parents are comfortable sending their kids to school every morning. I’m proud to support this legislation to allow states to use excess, unspent COVID funding to invest in school safety measures,” said Senator Rick Scott.
“Schools ought to be able to utilize existing funds for bolstering security efforts. As broader discussions continue, the Safe Schools Act is a step we can immediately take to improve school security and help keep our students safe,” said Senator Grassley.
“Many schools have unspent funds remaining from various COVID relief measures that could be used for school security measures. The Safe Schools Act is a commonsense step that will make it easier for schools to use these funds to better protect Hoosier students and teachers across Indiana,” said Senator Young.
“Too often our schools are tragically viewed as ‘soft targets.’ The remaining ‘COVID relief funds that have been largely unused or mismanaged would be well spent protecting our children by hardening schools and bolstering school security,” said Senator Braun.
- The Kansas Department of Education has only spent $261.3 million of the $1.28 billion funds awarded under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.
- Nationwide, of the $189.5 billion of COVID money awarded under ESSER, State Education Agencies have yet to spend $150.1 billion (79.2%).
- There were 67 disrupted plots against K-12 schools from 2006-2018 – 66% of the schools had no system for alerting officials to concerning or threatening.
- Recommendations from the Trump Administration’s 2018, “Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety” included:
- School security strategies should use a layered approach that incorporates multiple, reinforcing echelons of policy, programs, and protective measures.
- Entry control measures limit the number of access points, allow access only to those who should be on the campus, and provide an opportunity to conduct searches of suspicious items or persons.
- Schools can implement security measures such as fencing, bollards, planters, curbs, or walls to create a single point of entry to the campus.
- Video surveillance is a valuable security measure for entry control.
- Depending on their construction, classroom doors can significantly delay or prevent an attacker from reaching individuals in a classroom.
- Senator Marshall supported the STOP School Violence Act, which provides funding for schools to identify threats and invest in security equipment and technology. This was signed into law during his time in Congress and has resulted in many schools being hardened.
- Senator Marshall supported the 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. This bill was signed into law during his time in Congress.
- Additionally, Senator Marshall introduced legislation that would encourage responsible gun ownership by offering tax incentives to Americans who take firearm safety courses and invest in securing their firearms.