$25 million in Safety Grants Awarded to Minnesota Schools
Funding will be used to make security and violence-prevention improvements to school districts and charter schools across the state
ROSEVILLE – Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Education announced that 90 Minnesota public schools districts or charter schools were awarded school safety grants to be used for security and violence prevention improvements at 123 building sites across the state. The funds may be used to predesign, design, construct, furnish and equip school facilities, including renovating and expanding existing buildings. The Minnesota Department of Education received a total of 1,187 complete applications, requesting $255.5 million—more than 10 times the available amount of funding.
“Students and teachers clearly need more support to ensure our kids are safe,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “When we have more than 1,000 schools asking for over $250 million in funding to secure their buildings, we must respond with urgency. The school safety grants announced today only scratch the surface. A more comprehensive approach, including efforts to improve school climate, expand mental health services, and enact common-sense gun safety measures is needed.”
Governor Dayton and the 2018 Legislature passed school safety grants last spring. Governor Dayton proposed a more comprehensive Safe and Secure Schools Act package, including intervention and support for expelled students and improving student access to mental health support. Governor Dayton also supported legislation to reduce gun violence by passing criminal background checks, age restrictions on assault rifles, and a red flag law.
Districts were able to submit separate grant applications for each building. Due to the large number of applications received, high-priority projects submitted on the first day were assigned random numbers to determine the order of funding up to the available $25 million. The final grant award values will be determined after recipients get complete bids from contractors. Schools were able to apply with qualifying projects for up to $500,000 per building. The Minnesota Department of Education, in consultation with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Minnesota School Safety Center, determined grant eligibility based on project priority, with half of the grant funds available to schools outside of the 11-county metropolitan area. High-priority projects included improvements to exterior entry security, such as access controls, keyless entry systems, door locking and glass integrity, door alarm systems, and structure changes to main entrances. Additions or improvements to communication systems, such as electronic emergency notification systems for staff and first responders, were also considered high-priority projects.
School Climate Improvements since 2011
Under Governor Mark Dayton’s leadership, Minnesota has expanded resources, support and programs to improve school climate in every corner of the state.
In 2014, Governor Dayton signed into law the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, creating the School Safety Technical Assistance Center at the Minnesota Department of Education to help schools with training for teachers and staff, gather data on bullying in Minnesota schools, review best practices, and help school districts develop and implement anti-bullying policies at the local level. Since its establishment, the School Safety Technical Assistance Center has provided thousands of hours of technical assistance to students, families and school staff on a range of topics, including: social and emotional learning; restorative practices; identifying, investigating and addressing bullying; school climate improvement; rethinking discipline policies and practices; trauma-informed approaches to supporting students; using student data to inform school improvement planning; and practices to ensure that LGBTQ students feel safe, supported and welcome at school.
In 2016, Governor Dayton worked with the Minnesota Legislature to secure $2.75 million for schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). The statewide program provides districts and individual schools throughout Minnesota with training and technical support to improve student behavior, especially for students with challenging social behaviors.
To date, more than 300,000 Minnesota students at 645 schools have benefited from this training. Once implemented, PBIS utilizes an evidence-based framework for preventing problem behavior, providing instruction and support for positive behaviors, and supporting social, emotional and behavioral needs for all students.