By Mary Scott Nabers | 5.2.2019
Over the past two decades, schools throughout the country have beefed up campus security – so much so that the school security market has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Market research firm, IHS Markit, estimates school spending on security projects totaled $2.7 billion in 2017 and that total is expected to hover around $2.8 billion through 2021.
Although the probability of being involved in an active assailant situation is extremely low, this year marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado and the more recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 mortally wounded exposes the fears of students, faculty and parents that school violence is real. In spite of the billions that have already been spent, thousands of schools remain vulnerable.
HOW MONEY IS BEING SPENT
Many school districts have deployed video surveillance as the epicenter of their security efforts. Campus Safety magazine surveyed school districts and found that about 96 of survey respondents already have some sort of surveillance in place. And, 66 percent of those surveyed said they plan to purchase or upgrade their current video surveillance technology in the next three years. While surveillance is good, most experts point out that school campuses need surveillance with a combination of other safety measures.
Officials at both the federal and state levels of government have worked to secure funding for security upgrades on public school campuses. Following the Florida school shooting in 2017, more than 25 states released about $960 million for school safety initiatives.
New Jersey’s governor approved a state legislative plan to seek voter approval for up to $500 million for school safety upgrades. Texas’ governor proposed $110 million in new school safety recommendations. Most school districts are consolidating state and local funding with federal grants.
One federal grant program authorized by Congress was funded with $1 billion. The legislation allocated $75 million in school safety grants for FY 2018 and $100 million each year from 2019 through 2028.
The U.S. Department of Justice also provided $70 million in grant funding as part of the STOP School Violence Act. This funding is to be used to support school security, student and faculty training and to aid law enforcement and first responders in the event of violent incidents on campuses.
Voters nationwide have shown their willingness to contribute to school and student safety. Many local bond packages have been approved. In Texas, for example, over the last three years more than 80 percent of bond proposals that include funding for security projects have passed.
More funding is available to secure campuses through state agency safety grants. Six million dollars in new school security equipment grants was awarded late last year to address security needs for the more than 100 divisions of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. The funding will support the purchase of video monitoring systems, classroom locks, visitor ID systems, metal detectors, electronic access controls and other security upgrades in 443 schools.
In February, 95 Colorado schools shared approximately $29 million from the School Security Disbursement grant program. These funds are available for capital construction, hardware and devices or equipment that improve security of a school facility.
Hundreds of school districts are in the planning stages of school security projects:
- In Oklahoma, the Edmond Public School district has approximately $3.7 million to use for enhanced security. Projects under consideration include electronic security and door control devices, shatter-resistant glass film on windows, video surveillance camera systems and student and staff photo ID badges and card reader systems.
- Trustees for the Spring ISD in Texas approved a fourth safety and security package from proceeds of a successful 2016 bond referendum. Nine campuses will receive $2.6 million for safety upgrades.
- Voters in Laurel, Montana, will vote soon on a five-year building reserve levy for security projects totaling $1.25 million. Improvements include a new entry system upgrade and keyless entry system installations. Camera and intercom systems would also be modernized.
- Five capital security projects totaling $10.3 million are planned in the Westfield School District in New Jersey. The first phase of projects is already underway. Approximately $2.6 million is allocated to three schools for automatic lock doors for classroom and stairwells and security gates. Other projects include door replacements at all other elementary schools by summer 2020 as well as other security enhancements.
- School officials in the Katy ISD in Texas are seeking $7 million from a successful 2017 bond package for campus safety projects. The district wants to upgrade all safety systems.
- Morgan Hill Unified School District in Silicon Valley, California, plans to ask voters to support a bond package that includes $7 million for school security projects.
Upgrading safety on school campuses is critical and bipartisan efforts are underway to provide the funding with contracting opportunities immediately available in every state in the nation.
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.