Iowa invests $100M in ARPA and ESSER funds in school safety

(The Center Square) – Iowa will spend $100 million in school safety funding to support public, non-public and independent schools, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday.

The initial funding is available through American Rescue Plan Act and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, a news release said.

The state will spend $75 million on a School Safety Improvement Fund, $7.5 million on vulnerability assessments for all 1,500 kindergarten through 12th grade school buildings, $6 million on digital critical incident mapping technology, $4.5 million on radios for schools, $1.5 million on digital applications and software for reporting and intelligence, and $5.5 million for School Safety Bureau operations funding through 2026.

The School Safety Improvement Fund will provide up to $50,000 per school building for recommended safety measures. School districts can combine the funds with ESSER funds to pay for safety improvements.

The funding for technology includes proactive social media scanning software, an anonymous reporting tool and specialized training, the release said.

“Every family should be able to confidently send their children to school knowing they’ll be safe,” Reynolds said. “These investments will make a tremendous impact on our ability to prevent violence in schools while also taking steps to ensure schools and communities are in the best position possible to respond to an active event.”

Reynolds’ School Safety Bureau will provide Iowa assistance and tools to identify, report and assess school-based threats while embracing local control, Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens said at a news conference with Reynolds.

“[The bureau] will facilitate training so that teachers, administrators, and first responders are equipped and empowered to keep our kids safe,” Bayens said. “The Bureau will work shoulder to shoulder with all involved for the common good of providing a safe place for our children to learn and grow.”

Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said in the release that the state must continue helping keep students and those who care for them safe from violence and that the funding will help ensure schools remain physically, emotionally and academically safe places of learning.

The bureau’s goal is to become fully operational by the start of the 2022-2023 school year.