High profile lawmakers on the House Education and the Workforce Committee—including Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the panel—are pressing the administration for way more detail on its school safety proposals, which were rolled out in record time earlier this month and are aimed at preventing another massacre like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month. You can check out the proposals here.
Kline and his colleagues sent letters today to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Attorney General Eric Holder asking big questions about the executive actions the administration has already taken to curb school violence, its congressional proposals to boost mental health and improve school safety, and how effective existing school safety programs have been. The letters are signed by Kline, plus
Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., the chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees K-12 policy, and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who oversees the higher education policy subcommittee.
The lawmakers want Duncan to tell them:
- The purpose, schedule and end game for a “mental health listening tour” that Duncan and Sebelius are planning to kick off soon.
- How the department plans to determine “best practices” in school safety that will be laid out in model plans, scheduled to be released in May.
- Exactly where in the U.S. Department of Education all these new school safety programs would be housed. (Remember the department recently demoted the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.)
- How would these proposals differ significantly from school safety and counseling programs already on the books, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Counseling program. (That’s something Politics K-12 has been wondering too. The administration slated the counseling school program for consolidation in its last budget request. And it has previously done the same thing with school safety programs, including Safe and Drug-Free Schools State grants.)
- How these new proposals would avoid the pitfalls of Safe and Drug-Free Schools Grant program, which was scrapped because the Obama administration and Congress decided that the funds were spread too thinly to make a real difference.
- Which districts have gotten school safety grants, and what the program evaluations have looked like.
Questions for Sebelius and Holder are along similar lines. For instance, the lawmakers asked Sebelius how the new mental health programs proposed by the administration will be able to meet the diverse needs of school districts. And they asked Holder to explain how these new programs would avoid duplication with others already being administered.
The lawmakers want a briefing from the administration on all these questions by Feb. 7—which gives the administration a week to get its response together.