ESA says school security spending needs to be about equipment

ESA government relations director: ‘Not one dime’ spent on equipment
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WASHINGTON—The U.S. government has devoted more than $300 million over the past two years to enhancing school security. While that money has gone toward the production of reports, research, assessments and position papers, among other things, it has not gone toward the actual installation of electronic security systems, John Chwat, director of government relations at the Electronic Security Association, told Security Systems News.

Through the past two fiscal cycles, $90 million and $75 million have been allocated, respectively, to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice to enhance school security.
“Not one dime of that money has been spent on security technology, for surveillance or other security equipment,” Chwat told SSN. He added: “We believe enough is enough. It’s patently ridiculous; $300 million without any money for systems.”

The news was a “complete shock” to ESA leadership when he and others met with the Department of Education during the association’s annual Day on Capitol Hill event. The fiscal cycle for 2015 begins in October. Between now and that time, ESA will begin an educational campaign, in collaboration with the Security Industry Association and other security company representatives, to increase congressional awareness of the problem.

“We have to first call attention to the issue,” Chwat said. “Because I believe most congressmen, if you were to confront them about this, would be shocked that with over $300 million allocated to school security, none of the money was for equipment.”

With its industry partners, the ESA plans to first alert the Senate Appropriations Committee and advance the message that, while assessments and guidance have a place in the grand scheme of bolstering school security, there needs to be “some hardening and acquiring of equipment.”

Another priority is to engage groups such as the National Parent Teacher Association and law enforcement groups whose main priority is to protect elementary and secondary schools. The plan, Chwat says, is to “acquaint them with the need to pursue a funding requirement in the appropriations process” before the 2016 fiscal process begins in January.

The ESA’s education campaign will also focus on ensuring that the formula grants given to states will set aside resources intended specifically for schools to purchase security equipment. In Indiana, through the Indiana Secured School Fund, which is administered by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, $9 million of grant money was given to the state, with $5 million earmarked for school technology.

Chwat says that can be a model for other states to follow. “That’s a good thing, and that’s what we want to do for all 50 states,” he said. “That’s what we’ll be focused on for the next six months.”