Home > Uncategorized > Tennessee’s Safety Assessments SOUND Like a Good Idea, But Fall Woefully Short in Funding

Tennessee’s Safety Assessments SOUND Like a Good Idea, But Fall Woefully Short in Funding

August 16, 2018

In response to the Florida shootings last spring, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam formed a task force to address ways to prevent school shootings from happening in his state and recommended legislation to fund measures to improve safety in the schools. One of the first recommendations of the task force was to perform “safety assessments” on the 1,796 schools in the state, and yesterday’s Tennessean article by Jason Gonzales reports that the assessments are “99% complete”. With the balance to be completed by the end of this month. In a press release Governor Haslam issued yesterday he said:

“All children in Tennessee deserve to learn in a safe and secure environment. I am confident the significant work undertaken by our state and local officials as well as the funding to implement identified areas for improvement will serve to enhance the safety of our schools, educators and students.”

The Tennessean reported that the press release also noted that the state had approved $25 million in one-time, non-recurring funds and an additional $10 million that could be used “…for a variety of school safety enhancements, such as securing the entry and exit from schools, staff training and the hiring of school resource officers“… and and it “…can also be used for in-school mental health resources for students.”

I have frequently noted that politicians will often use statistics to obfuscate the true costs of achieving their ultimate goals, taking advantage of the innumeracy of voters and reporters. The Governor of Tennessee’s proclamation that $25 million in one-time, non-recurring funds and an additional $10 million per year is anywhere NEAR sufficient funding is a classic example. Anyone with a hand calculator can divide $25,000,000 by 1796 (the number of schools) and see that each school will receive less than $14,000 in “one time funds” and roughly $5,600 in continuing funds. $14,000 would not begin to provide the kind of “hardening” enhancements the Task Force is likely to recommend and $5,600 per year will note begin to cover the cost of either an SRO or “in-school mental health resources”.

So… what will happen when the Task Force issues its recommendations and school districts across the state calculate the costs to implement the recommendations? My hunch: after lengthy public deliberations each district will be compelled to dig into it’s pockets to come up with the additional funding needed to fully implement the new safety standards and something will be cut in the local budget to offset those costs. One result of this safety initiative is certain: when Governor Haslam and his GOP colleagues run for re-election why will tout “the significant work undertaken by our state” to address the safety concerns and the “millions of dollars” the state provided to ensure that safety measures were taken in schools. The multimillions raised by local funding required will be glossed over as will the cuts made to classrooms.

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