Security Funding for Public Schools

By Carl Larson, Plant Operations Supervisor, Snoqualmie Valley School District
Posted June 3, 2008

Security in public schools is not an option in today’s environment. Just turn on the nightly news and you’ll hear about an incident involving school violence or vandalism. Public schools are one of the most vulnerable institutions, providing an excellent target for those seeking false notoriety. Previously, the main concern regarding school security was protecting property from vandals, but Columbine changed that. We can no longer sit on old ideas about how we provide security for our students, staff, and property.

The bright side of the security challenge is the amount of options available today compared to just a few years ago. Technology has changed the way we contemplate security. Long gone are the days when the requirement was to know when a breach occurred in a school; the need today is to guarantee real time eyes and ears with an instant connection to our local law enforcement.

The down side of the technological advances today is that so many options can cause the cost of the system to get out of hand. However, some will argue a price cannot be put on safety. Depending on the type of security system a district chooses, the expense is capable of stretching budgets to the limit. Budget constraints often drive the type of security system districts install.

Attaining proper funding can be challenging and requires a collaborative effort between facilities, school unit budgets, and community groups. Acquiring capital funds to purchase security systems is a proficient way to secure the financial support needed to establish a system that meets all requirements. Unfortunately, capital funds have restrictions and can only be used on new facilities and capital improvements. When planning an upcoming bond one may want to include security upgrades as capital improvements. Grants are another source of funding. Several different grants are available including Home Land Security. Investigating available grants could ensure large savings.

When in the planning stages, be sure to consider security and make sure all the departments and parties are fully involved. It is important the appropriate requirements are met and the chosen system provides protection of students, staff and property. Always include your Risk Management department to assure consideration of liabilities.

Sadly, sometimes it takes a regrettable incident to provoke community demands to install or upgrade security systems. When that happens price does not seem to be an issue and time is of the essence, often leading to misplaced priorities and over extending real security needs. Being proactive and having the proper system in place is always best. There never seems to be enough security in today’s world to ensure the safety of our students, staff and property, but being proactive and looking ahead to see what the needs will be is one way to help provide that security and safety.