Wisconsin AG wants every school to get some safety grant dollars
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Attorney General Brad Schimel said Wednesday that he’ll work to give a share of new safety grants to every school that applies, but buildings that need basic security upgrades will be a priority.
Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill last month creating $100 million in grants for school safety upgrades after a mass shooting at a Florida high school in February. The measure puts the state Department of Justice in charge of awarding and administering the grants.
The agency said Tuesday that it had opened the application window. Schimel held a news conference Wednesday at St. Dennis School, a private Catholic school in Madison, to explain how the program will work.
He said the DOJ received the first application Tuesday night, but he didn’t know which school filed it. The agency has received letters from about two-thirds of the state’s 422 public school districts indicating they’re interested in grant money, he added.
Schimel acknowledged that $100 million isn’t much money to spread among all of Wisconsin’s public and private schools, saying that if every school got a grant the average award would be $32,000.
The first priority will be schools looking to install basic security measures, such as limiting the number of entrances and installing exterior and classroom door locks and shatter-proof glass, Schimel said.
The rest of the money will go to schools looking to install more advanced upgrades, such as video surveillance, exit door alarms and video intercom systems. Training for teachers to recognize student mental health issues and improving safety and crisis-response plans also would be considered advanced upgrades.
Applicants must agree to train staff in how to deal with traumatized children before the end of the 2018-2019 school year and partner with local police to ensure grant spending will be effective to be eligible to receive any money.
Schimel said he hopes every school will get something. Schools can apply for grants for both baseline and advanced upgrades simultaneously, he said.
DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said after the news conference that a review of the letters of interest indicates many schools won’t need much money for basic security measures and he doesn’t envision schools with no security features competing for grant money with schools seeking advanced upgrades.
The deadline for submitting applications is June 8, Schimel said. The DOJ hopes to award most of the grants by mid-June so schools can use the rest of the summer to install upgrades.
The attorney general also noted that the DOJ is advising applicants that Wisconsin’s open records law doesn’t require them to release what kinds of upgrades they’re seeking to avoid revealing building vulnerabilities.