Lankford, Marshall Push to Allow COVID Money to be Used to Secure Schools

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Congressman Mike Garcia (R-CA), and their colleagues to introduce the Safe Schools Act, which would allow schools to use unspent COVID relief dollars allocated through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund for security measures, including locks, panic buttons, individual room security systems, video surveillance, and hiring and paying the salaries of armed school resource officers. The legislation would exempt expenses for school security improvements from current ESSER guidelines that require expenses to be related to COVID-19. There were 67 disrupted plots against K-12 schools from 2006-2018—66 percent of the schools had no system for alerting officials to concerning or threatening.

Lankford, Marshall, and Garcia were joined in introducing the bill by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rick Scott (R-FL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Todd Young (R-IN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Kennedy (R-LA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

“As we grieve the tragedy in Uvalde, TX and look for ways to protect our children while they are at school, my colleagues and I want to immediately allow schools to have the flexibility with their unused COVID funds to strengthen school safety. Currently, our schools nationwide have over $100 billion in unspent COVID relief funds they cannot use for school security. We should give schools the option to use their existing grant money for security if they choose so schools can prepare their facilities for returning students this fall,” said Lankford.

“While we made some progress in previous legislation to make our schools stronger, harder, and safer, certainly there is more that can and must be done immediately to protect kids,” said Marshall. “What happened in Uvalde was a horrific tragedy. While many have been quick to play politics, one thing we can all agree on is that Congress must act to harden schools. For these reasons, I am introducing this legislation that allows the abundance of unused COVID relief dollars to be allocated to secure schools in Kansas and throughout the nation.”

“Now more than ever, we must be proactive in securing our schools. All Constitutional options need to be examined to ensure our children are safe in the classroom. I’m proud to join Senator Marshall in introducing the Safe Schools Act, a common-sense bill that would allow schools to spend leftover COVID relief funds on crucial security improvements to protect students from harm,” said Garcia.

“As the nation continues to mourn the innocent lives taken in Uvalde, leaders have a responsibility to turn our collective grief into real action,” said Tim Scott. “This commonsense bill takes an important step in that direction by using unspent COVID money to make schools safer — an absolute no-brainer. I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill to protect students and teachers.”

“Every child deserves to feel safe and secure at school and should never fear for their lives. The tragedy in Uvalde should never happen again and should be a wake-up call to everyone that our schools should implement the best security measures possible. During the COVID pandemic, school systems across the country received more than $180 billion in COVID relief dollars, and $150 billion of that has yet to be used, so this legislation will allocate unused funds for these necessary security measures. I am proud to introduce this commonsense legislation and I hope to see this bill gain bipartisan support,” said Tillis.

“We must secure our schools to help keep kids safe, and we should do so by using unspent COVID relief funds designated for schools to get it done,” said Daines.

“In Florida, after the tragic shooting that claimed 17 innocent lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we took meaningful action and signed sweeping legislation into law to improve school safety and keep our students and educators safe. Every state should be looking at what we did and what action they can take to make sure students feel safe and parents are comfortable sending their kids to school every morning. I’m proud to support this legislation to allow states to use excess, unspent COVID funding to invest in school safety measures,” said Rick Scott.

“Schools ought to be able to utilize existing funds for bolstering security efforts. As broader discussions continue, the Safe Schools Act is a step we can immediately take to improve school security and help keep our students safe,” said Grassley.

“Many schools have unspent funds remaining from various COVID relief measures that could be used for school security measures. The Safe Schools Act is a commonsense step that will make it easier for schools to use these funds to better protect Hoosier students and teachers across Indiana,” said Young.

“Too often our schools are tragically viewed as ‘soft targets.’ The remaining ‘COVID relief funds that have been largely unused or mismanaged would be well spent protecting our children by hardening schools and bolstering school security,” said Braun.