Schools Are Demanding, “Show Me the Money!”
Security is a top priority for school systems. Nonetheless, it is a reality that funding which provides a safe, secure learning environment often must compete with traditional financing that pays for books and buildings. Fortunately, federal, state, private foundation and corporate grants are available to pay for security programs — if you know where to find them.
For K-12 schools, the most popular grant programs are:
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Impact Aid
- Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS)
- Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFS) Grants
- Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): Secure Our Schools Grants
- Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (FP&S)
A Closer Look at Funding Opportunities
Two types of grants are available to most schools: competitive and formula. For competitive grants, the district with the best application wins. Timelines are very long but often worth the wait. With the formula grant, everybody wins. Perhaps the state allocation is based on the county’s percentage of total state enrollment accompanied by a boilerplate-type of application for the project. If the school completes the application, the district gets its share. If the school does not, the district gets nothing.
Before doing anything else, districts must be aware of what formula grants will be funded in the coming year and assure that an application is requested, completed and submitted. Security dealers and integrators would be wise to obtain the same information and pass it on to their local schools. This information is often found on state education department websites. Typically, leading security manufacturers with huge stakes in the education market also are aware of them.
Here is an overview of the most common grants:
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – Formula Grant
These grants guarantee special education and related services for students who meet the criteria for eligibility in a number of distinct categories of disability. Funds can be used for acquiring appropriate equipment, constructing new facilities or altering present buildings. Among the security products that fall under this act are door exits, door openers, door controls or any other security item of an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) nature.
Impact Aid – Formula Grant
The Impact Aid grants provide financial assistance to local school districts where enrollments or the availability of revenue are adversely affected by federal activities, such as where the tax base of a district is reduced through the federal acquisition of real property, where there are a significant number of children who reside on federal (including Indian) lands and/or children whose parents are employed on federal property or in the Uniformed Services, or where there is a sudden increase in school enrollment as the result of federal activities. Most Impact Aid funds are considered general aid so that school districts may use the funds in whatever manner they choose in accordance with state and local requirements.
Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) – Competitive Grant
REMS grants support local school district efforts to improve and strengthen local emergency management plans. They involve programs that coordinate with local government, law enforcement, public safety, public health and mental health agencies. Funds can be used to buy safety and security equipment.
Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFS) Grants – Formula Grant
These grants support programs to prevent violence in and around schools to foster a safe and drug-free learning environment for academic achievement. Local school systems may use up to 20 percent of their allocation for acquiring and installing electronic locks, metal detectors, surveillance cameras or other related technology and equipment.
Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Secure Our School Grants – Competitive Grant
This program encourages partnerships between law enforcement agencies and school districts to improve school security and safety. These grants were created to improve security at schools and on school grounds. Funds can be used for locks, metal detectors, lighting and other crime prevention tools.
Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (FP&S) – Competitive Grant
FP&S grants support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. Funds can be used to purchase equipment, enhance emergency medical services programs and conduct fire prevention and safety programs.
What Schools Can Buy
To determine what types of products can be purchased through the various grants, there is a plan that establishes four levels of security:
- Level One: Functional and compliant mechanical access control
- Level Two: Stand-alone electronic access control and key management
- Level Three: Networked access control, accountability and credential management
- Level Four: Campus integration
With IDEA grants, a district can purchase equipment in Levels One, Two and Three. With SD&S, REMS, COPS, FPS and Impact Aid, districts can select any type of security equipment or systems they need.