To the Editor:
I am shocked and dismayed by the proposed elimination of the $345.5 million federal Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities program in President Bush’s 2007 budget (“Drug-Free-Schools Grants Targeted by Bush,” March 1, 2006).
This comes on the heels of Congress’ slashing 20 percent (more than $90 million) of the program’s funding in the 2006 budget. The U.S. Department of Education projects that its already poorly funded school emergency-planning grants will drop from $30 million last fiscal year to $24 million in 2006.
My organization has tracked at least 19 school-associated violent deaths since August of 2005. These deaths totaled 39 last year, following a jump to 49 in the 2003-04 school year. There were 17 and 16, respectively, in the two prior school years.
We have also identified 72 nonfatal school-related shooting incidents already this school year, with months remaining before its end. We tracked 52 nonfatal shootings last year, and 68 the school year before that.
A recently released University of Arkansas study, with surveys of more than 2,100 school superintendents, also found that schools’ disaster-preparedness measures are sorely lacking.
William Modzeleski, a top Education Department official in the office of safe and drug-free schools, is quoted in your article as saying about the funding: “If it’s not being used effectively and wisely, … it doesn’t matter how much it is.” Since his office has overseen the program for more than a decade, perhaps it should be the first point of scrutiny if the funds have not been wisely and effectively monitored and spent.
As Congress pumps more money into protecting bridges, monuments, and its own office buildings, it is inexcusable for it to cut funding to protect students and teachers.
When the next school massacre occurs, or worse, if terrorism comes to the schoolhouse door, Congress and the administration need only look in the mirror when they start asking, “How did this ever happen?”
Kenneth S. Trump
National School Safety and
A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2006 edition of Education Week as Safe-Schools Funding Cut Is Seen as ‘Inexcusable’