Governor Tom Wolf has chosen Charles Ramsey, the Chairman of the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, to assume leadership of the newly formed state School Safety and Security Committee, which is tasked to identify ways to help protect teachers and students in the school environment. It will also distribute $60 million in grants to school districts and other school entities which can help fund such things as security equipment, staff training, and facility improvements. The committee will also set standards for assessing the safety and security of school buildings, staff training, and help for students with behavioral health needs. It will also develop and conduct a survey to measure safety and security readiness.
On Friday, June 22nd, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a $32.7 billion budget package for 2018-19, over a week ahead of the June 30th due date. The budget contains no broad-based tax or fee increases, but it increases spending by $700 million, or 2 percent, mainly for schools, pensions, human services, and prisons. $70 million is provided for school safety funding, with $7.5 million being earmarked for community anti-violence efforts. $800 million is included in the budget for Medicaid.
On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, the Wolf administration issued its findings from six regional school safety task force field hearings held since February. The task force included participants such as teachers, school nurses, school administrators, parent-teacher associations, and students. Hundreds of comments were also submitted online.
Through seeking information as to how the state can help handle mass shootings and threats, improve school building safety, and meet the physical and mental health needs of students, it was determined that students need to be taught social and emotional learning strategies early in school and need better access to mental health services. It was also determined that schools need more nurses, social workers, and psychologists. Schools and students also need better connection to the community, its organizations, and law enforcement.
In addition, school officials asked for an increase in state funding for safety purposes, more guidance on the most effective school safety strategies, additional training for staff on how to deal with active shooters, and training regarding how to best address the social and emotional needs of students.
A more complete report is expected at the end of the summer.
On Friday, June 22nd, Governor Tom Wolf signed school safety legislation after it passed the House and Senate as part of a broader 2018-19 budget package.
The bill provides for school safety grants and a program for the anonymous reporting of dangerous activities or threats of violence in schools. Safe to Say, is an anonymous reporting program that is modeled on a Colorado program that was created after the Columbine school shooting. It will be administered by the state attorney general’s office, which would relay reports to law enforcement. Under the bill, the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency will also create a new committee to develop an assessment of school safety and security that will be used to recommend improvements to school districts.
On Friday, June 22nd, the Senate unanimously passed SB 1095, which provides multiple options, beyond Keystone Exams, for students to demonstrate readiness for high school graduation. The bill also eliminates project-based assessments, ensures that disabled students who satisfactorily complete their IEPs will receive diplomas, and addresses other related issues.