Iowa invests $100 million in federal funds toward school security, mental health

Posted at 3:47 PM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 18:51:01-04

Iowa will allocate $100 million in federal funds toward school security and mental health programs, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday.

She proposed the investment, which includes no gun control measures, for prevention of school shootings and other violence, she said at a news conference.

The plan starts with the creation of a School Safety Bureau, which will coordinate violence prevention efforts among schools, law enforcement and parents. The bureau will work as a hub for law enforcement and school staff to train for emergency response situations. It will also create a system to anonymously report threats, by app, phone and website.

The bureau, alongside other mental health investments, will tackle the issues behind shootings, Reynolds said.

“The debate on guns will continue, but until we consider the lethal weapon in these events is the person who picks up the gun and turns it against another, we risk overlooking other solutions that directly address the cause of this violence and work to reverse its course,” Reynolds said.

The investment follows a string of recent mass shootings: A man killed 19 students and two teachers in an Uvalde, Texas school three weeks ago. A 16-year-old died in a shooting outside East High School in Des Moines in early May. A gunman shot and killed two Iowa State students, then himself, outside of Cornerstone Church in Ames two weeks ago.

Reynolds originally proposed creating the safety bureau in 2020, but it was never funded. She said Tuesday that recent events — and the pandemic’s mental health effect on children — spurred the new timeline. Department of Public Safety commissioner Stephen Baynes said they hope to have the new services in place for the 2022-23 school year.

“There’s a sense of urgency just with the increased acts of violence that we see taking place every single day,” Reynolds said.

Among the new safety measures, Iowa schools will now be eligible for a building security assessment and $50,000 per building to address vulnerabilities. Law enforcement will also provide emergency radios to schools for reporting threats and concerns.

The bureau and new services will be initially paid for through the federal American Rescue Plan Act and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, which will expire in 2026. Reynolds said it would cost the state about $1.5 million annually to continue services.

“We’ll revisit it in 2026 when those funds run out,” Reynolds said. “But by far, almost 90% of the funding, the 100 million, is really going to infrastructure, to set up it up, to establish the bureau and the policies.”

These new efforts will build on systems already in place. Schools are already required to have emergency operation plans, and submit reports to the Iowa Department of Education each year to affirm compliance with state and federal requirements. Local law enforcement is already working with state and federal agencies to prepare for mass shootings and identify threats.

Of the $100 million invested, $7.5 million will go toward vulnerability assessments for all Iowa school buildings and $6 million toward incident mapping technology. A School Safety Improvement fund will receive $75 million.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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