Officials touting another $17 million for school safety grants

By MARC KOVAC @ohiocapitalblog mkovac@dixcom.com Published:

COLUMBUS -- State officials are touting another $17 million for grants to schools wanting to improve their building security.

The new funding is included in one of the mid-biennium budget bills moving through the legislature and would be in addition to $12 million earmarked in the last biennial budget for school security systems.

State Superintendent Richard Ross said $10 million of the new funding will be used for public schools, and $7 million will go to private ones.

"If our students aren't safe in schools, the quality of education they're getting in the classroom quickly becomes a moot point," Ross said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. "... This is the No. 1 concern, this overrides everything else.

"We have families of 1.6 million students who come to school every day," Ross continued about the new funding. "And they expect our schools to do everything they possibly can do to protect their children."

State school officials also mentioned that they would begin reviewing school safety plans and providing technical assistance when improvements are needed.

Under state law, districts are required to file building blueprints and safety plans with the attorney general's office, updating the information every few years or as new buildings are constructed.

The information is not public record but is stored electronically and available to law enforcement as needed.

According to Jill Del Greco, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, more than 4,400 schools are required to submit plans to the state.

At the moment, 85 schools have not met the requirement -- 43 have not updated their safety plans in the past three years, while 42 have incomplete submissions.

State education officials also announced Wednesday that they are backing legislation that would require schools to review their safety plans annually and conduct training drills for students and teachers.

Another bill would penalize schools and potentially revoke licenses of superintendents in districts that fail to submit safety plans.

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