OpEd: Navigating School Safety Budgets in a Sea of Overspending
We often find ourselves frustrated to learn about the many ways our governments spend our money. The infamous Festivus Report of 2020 outlined over $54 billion in frivolous government spending on things such as studying if people will eat ground-up bugs and spraying alcoholic rats with bobcat urine (not kidding). Regular government waste is also coupled with about $10 Billion in taxpayer-purchased military equipment left behind in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, which got a lot of folks talking. The fog of war is upon us again, and along with it comes more spending from the Federal Government, this time for someone else's war. As the conflict rages on between Russia and Ukraine, the United States has already committed $1 Billion in aid to help Ukrainians fight off the insurgence of Russian military forces, and that invasion only began a few short weeks ago.
To be clear, this article is not a stance on U.S. involvement in any military conflict now or in the past. There is obviously information that the citizenry isn't privy to. We just want to draw some attention to the spending and to elicit some thinking about how we might utilize these dollars for things that matter closer to home.
More precisely, what if we spent that money on our children's education and safety?
The School Budgetary Process
As a provider of technology that helps to keep children safe in crisis events, like an active shooter, ASR Alert Systems is oftentimes involved in budget planning for schools across the nation. The process is similar nearly everywhere, and the resounding and repetitive theme is also similar.
Most schools in the United States have a very complicated and often limited budget process every year. While there are quite a few grants available annually, even that process can be difficult as grants involve a long process whereby limited funds are distributed across many schools. Grants are not guaranteed and rarely does a grant ever cover the safety needs wholly for any one school, therefore the school must supplement the cost of security and educational upgrades out of their own budgets, implement partial or reduced solutions, or go without entirely.
An Exercise in Mathematics
So, let's do a little mental math here and evaluate some prior government spending and relate it to how far those dollars could go for our schools. We have sourced above, over $65 billion spent on various activities or items since 2020, most of which the general public had no say in or control over. Again, this isn't a judgment of the particulars of any expenditure, it is just a statement of fact.
As of January 2020, there were 130,930 recorded K-12 schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Let us be generous and only consider half of the referenced dollars spent in 2020 through March 14, 2022 ($65 billion / 2 = $32.5 billion). If we distributed that $32.5 billion across the 130,930 K-12 schools in the U.S., we would have over $248,000 to spend PER SCHOOL.
What could nearly a quarter of a million dollars do for your school? Or any school for that matter?
Would it pay for everything that every school needs? Of course not. But it wouldn't be paying ($6,973,057.00) for inventing smart toilets or ($1,557,083.00) putting lizards on treadmills (yes, that spending happened). That money could instead be improving the safety and educational opportunities for our children. We could be paying to mitigate the violence and educational deficiencies in our schools. It is heartbreaking to hear a safety administrator lament that they cannot afford programs for well-being, school resource officers, or technology because there isn't any money for them to spend. It seems reasonable to try to figure out why there isn't any money to spend and how we can affect a shift in priorities with the money we do spend as a nation.
An Opportunity to Make a Change
Much like anything else, when we see an opportunity to improve for the better, it is our responsibility to do just that. While we can't do much to directly control how the government spends our money, we can influence this spending with our voices and our votes. We can drive our representatives to focus on the issues that we want to be resolved and demand accountability when they do not. This is the whole of democracy.
We can persuade our local representatives to push our state and federal representatives to focus on the issues that matter to us. If the federal government has $65 million to spend on things like trying to figure out why stress makes hair turn grey and trying to help people get over their fears of going to the dentist, then we certainly can manage to devote more money to the safety and wellbeing of our children. What else could be more important than that?
School communities face a range of threats and hazards and have unique needs and challenges when it comes to safety and security. What works for one school may be completely unnecessary in another. What universally does NOT work is doing nothing at all.
If you want to connect with your local government representatives, here are some links that might help you.
- Budget of the U.S. Government is here.
- Find your state and federal representatives here.
- Locate your U.S. senators' contact information here.
- Find your U.S. representative's website and contact information here.
- Get in touch with your state governor here.
- Find your mayor here.
- Find your local government websites here.
About ASR Alert Systems
There is a school violence and mass shooting crisis plaguing the United States and the turmoil of the past 24 months has only exasperated this problem. Historically, law enforcement and first responders were tasked to lead the effort to combat the problem. But today, we must all play a role in active shooter response. ASR acts as a key partner to law enforcement, first responders, cities, towns, school districts, hospital networks, places of worship, and a rapidly growing number of private and public companies.
ASR Alert Systems is a patented state-of-the-art critical incident response technology specializing in the field of alert notifications to Law Enforcement and First Responders in the event of an active shooter or other crisis. Our technology can be customized to any industry, building, or event. We deliver customer-specific technology unmatched by anyone.
With the press of a button, officers and dispatch are directly notified of the incident, along with the address and location within the building. They know what is happening, where it is happening, who it is happening to and help is on the way immediately. This significantly reduces response time from Law Enforcement while also notifying all those under attack within the organization/building.
If your school needs help navigating risk assessments and safety solutions, please reach out to us below. We also offer active shooter preparedness training as well. It is our mission to help provide more resilient campuses and safer learning environments for our kids. Saving time saves lives.