Summarizing School Safety Proposals

Bob Kefgen's picture

School safety is a hot topic in Lansing right now. Both the House and Senate have now taken action on legislation designed to improve school safety in Michigan. Previously, a coalition of law enforcement and school groups rolled out the Safer Schools. Safer Students. proposal. The Senate Democrats have their own plan. And there are standalone bills in both chambers that aren't part of any particular plan.

It seems likely that something is going to happen relative to school safety. It even seems likely that whatever happens will involve additional financial support for schools. But the issues of how much and what strings come attached to the money are yet to be determined.

Below, we've broken down the four major proposals and discuss the politics of this issue to help Principals get their heads around the various possible outcomes.

The Proposals

There are 17 total bills with a nexus to school safety, but to simplify things it's easiest to break them into four major categories identified by the group(s) behind each proposal: the Senate GOP, the House/Governor, law enforcement/school groups, and the Senate Dems.

The Senate GOP Proposal
The simplest of the four, but probably not the best for schools, the Senate GOP proposal is simply a budget supplemental (SB 601) that spends $18 million to improve security infrastructure, primarily in the form of grants to local districts. Here's a breakdown:

  • $5 million for individual grants to districts or individual buildings. Districts could apply for up to $250,000. Buildings could apply for up to $10,000 each. No overlap is allowed, so if a building applies for funding, the district could also apply, but could not include that building in its grant application.
  • $10 million for matching grants to districts or individual buildings. There would be no cap on the amount of money a district could apply for, but to qualify for a grant a district would have to provide at least 25% matching funds. As with the non-matching grants, no overlap is allowed between districts and buildings.
  • $3 million to expand the State's current 9-1-1 contract to create a statewide K-12 school panic button app system.

The House/Governor's Proposal
At five bills and $25 million of total spending, the proposal put forward by the House and Governor Snyder has the lowest regulation to funding ratio of the four. Here's how the bills break down:

  • HB 5828 is the heart of the package and creates the School Safety Commission, which would be charged with establishing school safety metrics, inspecting school buildings, and issuing school safety grades for all school buildings. It also creates the fund that the Commission would use to pay for its operations and for grants to districts based on the outcomes of its inspections.
  • HB 5829 would require districts to designate a liaison to the Commission and to submit to inspection by the Commission.
  • HB 5830 would amend the building code to require all new or remodeled school buildings to include additional safety measures such as surveillance technology or remote door locks.
  • HB 5851 would create new reporting requirements for schools related to threats or attempted acts of violence.
  • HB 5852 would require law enforcement to complete active shooter training beginning in 2020.

Safer Students. Safer Schools.
This proposal—put forward jointly by law enforcement and several school groups—proposes the most spending and includes funding for personnel, mental health, and school security infrastructure. Actual legislation is yet to come due to bill drafting delays, but the highlights are easy enough to understand (you can also find a more detailed summary from MASA here):

  • $50 million in grants to schools to hire more school resource officers;
  • $50 million in grants to schools to hire more school mental health professionals, specifically school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists;
  • $20 million in grants to schools to pay for security infrastructure tied to a requirement for schools to work with law enforcement to do a safety review of each school building.
  • Some new reporting, specifically mandatory reporting of threats.

Senate Dems Proposal
Put forward by the Senate Democrats, the final of the four proposals would allocate $100 million in grants and is the only proposal that includes new gun regulations. Here is a breakdown of each of the six bills in the package:

  • SB 933 would allocate $100 from the budget stabilization fund to pay for two separate grant programs: $50 million for the hiring of school counselors, school social workers, and armed school resource officers and $50 million for school security infrastructure grants.
  • SB 934 would expand universal background checks for purchasing firearms.
  • SB 935 would close the open-carry loophole that allows CPL holders to openly carry firearms in gun free zones like schools.
  • SB 936 would create new sentencing guidelines.
  • SB 937-38 would create a legal process (requiring court action) for law enforcement to seize the firearms of persons who could be a danger to themselves or others.

The Politics and Next Steps

It's an election year and school safety is a hot button issue. It seems highly unlikely that the Legislature will pass up the opportunity to take action on an issue that is likely to be very popular…especially going into a general election when so many state-level officials are up for election. Given that the state has resources available to spend, it also seems likely that some funds will be made available (probably in the form of funding for school safety infrastructure, though its possible that there could also be resources for personnel). Beyond that, the details of what finally passes are still very much unclear.

The other big unknown is timeline. This debate could be wrapped up along with the rest of the budget this month, or it could drag into the fall or even lame duck.

Regardless, MASSP will keep members updated as these bill move through the process.