Biden’s Rescue Plan Will Fund Major Iowa School Safety Push


Federal money from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan will make it possible for an Iowa school safety program to get off the ground after two years of going unfunded.

The state is investing $100 million from the American Rescue Plan and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to fund the School Safety Bureau, which was created in 2020 and has not been funded by the Iowa Legislature in the years since.

Each school building will also be eligible for $50,000 to improve safety at their buildings. Federal guidelines will permit schools to use their ESSER funding to supplement that.

“By far, almost 90% of the funding, the $100 million, is really going to infrastructure to set it up, to establish the Bureau and the policies, to get the assessments done,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a press conference announcing the launch.

This announcement comes after an 18-year-old shooter killed 26 people at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and a man killed two women outside of a church in Ames.

The goal is to stop most school shootings before they happen through various proactive efforts, as well as prepare schools and other community locations to better respond to such events when they do occur. To do that, the School Safety Bureau will start with vulnerability assessments at Iowa schools.

The School Safety Bureau will also provide more training and resources for schools to improve their safety and to catch and monitor threats before they happen.

This includes:

  • Emergency radios in classrooms that are available on request,
  • Threat monitoring software, which will monitor social media and other platforms where threats are often posted before shootings happen.
  • The ability to report concerns anonymously through an app, a website, and over the phone.
  • And active shooter training for anyone who requests it.

Stephan Bayens, commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said the active shooter training will be available to law enforcement, first responders, schools, houses of worship, and regular citizens.

“I wish we could say this is all unnecessary but we cannot simply rely on the optimistic thought this will never happen here in Iowa,” he said. “Rather, reality mandates that we roll up our sleeves and we tackle this issue head-on.”

Until now, the School Safety Bureau hasn’t been funded, so most of the initial steps will be building the state-wide infrastructure to put these programs and resources in place before school starts.

Here’s how the $100 million from the Rescue Plan and ESSER will be broken down, per a Reynolds press release:

  • $75 million – School Safety Improvement Fund

  • $7.5 million – Vulnerability assessments for all 1,500 K-12 school buildings

  • $6 million – Digital critical incident mapping technology

  • $4.5 million — Radios for schools

  • $1.5 million — Digital applications and software for reporting and intelligence

  • $5.5 million — School Safety Bureau operations funding through 2026

“We didn’t get the funding so we haven’t stood it [the bureau] up in a manner that it needed to be stood up, but now we will be able to,” Reynolds said when asked if the Iowa Legislature had ever funded her initial proposal.

She said she will work with the Legislature in the future to continue funding the bureau after the federal funding ends in 2026—it’s expected to cost $1.5 million a year to operate.

“I anticipate being able to find the funding to support it,” Reynolds said. “It’s important, they know it’s important. And we’ll be able to demonstrate it because in 2026 we’ll have some great data that we can talk to the Legislature about.”

Most of these measures being put in place have been proposed in Iowa before. In 2018, a law was passed to require Iowa schools have a plan for emergencies, including active shooters. That was passed after 17 people were killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.


Nikoel Hytrek

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