HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – School shootings in Columbine, Newtown, and Sandy Hook didn’t push the meter for school safety, but after Parkland lawmakers in Pennsylvania created a multi-million dollar school safety grant program.
The program has devoted $300 million to school safety, but lawmakers want to make sure schools are spending the money appropriately.
“That money should be spent in the most efficient and practical way with an eye from the experts on ‘this is how you should spend your money,'” said State Senator Mike Regan, one of the driving forces behind the program.
“What we got was a half a loaf at the end of the day. You may be separated by county line in your school district but one school may be safer than others.”
Regan says some schools used the money to become safer for students and staff, but others “clearly have not.”
Regan says some schools spent the money on cameras, which he says won’t make the schools safer, but will just document something that happens.
State Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) sits on the State Senate Education and Law & Justice committees. He wants all schools to do an active shooter drill every year with local police, but the current training requirement is, as best as he could find, just three hours every five years.
Brewster says some school leaders are resistant to taking a ‘law and order’ approach to school security.
“They didn’t want to traumatize kids, they don’t want to have officers walking around with weapons on them,” said Brewster.
Both Brewster and Regan want every school to have the baseline requirements, which would include hardened entrances with armed and trained officers.
“The idea would be that the gunfight takes place in the doorway not inside,” said Regan, “because you have armed good guys that will confront anyone before they get in the building.”
Regan and Brewster are working to get more cash in the budget but they want the security experts, not superintendents or school boards, to determine how money is spent.
“Somebody needs to step in and say ‘I’m sure you’re well-meaning but that’s not the right decision the proper utilization of state funding is to do this, this, and this to make your schools safer,'” says Regan.
“It’s nice to be a nice person but it’s even better to be nice, and cautious and prepared,” points Brewster.
The Pennsylvania School Board Association declined for comment for this story.