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Wisconsin could use concealed carry fees to help fund school safety office | #schoolsaftey


Bipartisan bills would use funding from concealed carry licenses to keep up staffing within Wisconsin’s Office of School Safety.

Wisconsin created the school safety office in 2018 in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Today, the office oversees regional teams that respond to crises. It also gives out grants and training so districts can improve security, and staffs a 24/7 hotline to field tips about threats, bullying and mental health crises.

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But Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul previously warned the office was in danger of cutbacks once federal funding expires.

Last budget cycle, the GOP-controlled state Legislature allocated about half a million dollars to fund close to four full-time school safety office positions — enough for the office to keep up with its duties established by law. That includes distributing grants and keeping blueprints of school layouts.

Nonetheless, Kaul has warned the office will need to cut more than a dozen employees if temporary federal funding isn’t replaced.

Last summer, DOJ officials announced they would use American Rescue Plan Act funding to extend operations within the school safety office, but that ARPA money is set to run out by the end of 2024.

Recently introduced state legislation would earmark funding for another nine months after that, so the office can maintain its current staffing levels until the fall of 2025.

The proposals, which advanced to public hearings last week, would re-allocate approximately $927,000 from the fees charged to gun owners who get concealed carry licenses to fund 14 positions in the safety office.

Nine of those employees will staff a call center for Wisconsin’s Speak Up Speak Out school, or SUSO, safety tip line.

“In the aftermath of school shootings, people ask, ‘What could have been done? What should have been done to prevent this tragedy?’” Wisconsin Office of School Safety Director Trish Kilpin told state lawmakers. “And we know the answer. The answer is prevention. The answer is the programs like SUSO. The answer is intervention (and) our behavioral threat assessment work, and we want to be able to keep doing these programs.”

State Sen. Romaine Quinn, R-Cameron, an author of the legislation, said lawmakers aim to negotiate a more permanent funding source for the school safety office in Wisconsin’s next budget.

“It’s a stopgap to get us through until we can actually have a budget conversation in the next biennium,” Quinn said during a committee meeting this month.

Along with bipartisan legislative sponsors, the proposal has Kaul’s support.

“It’s critical that work to keep our kids safe at school continues,” Kaul said in a statement. “This bill would allow the important services provided by the Office of School Safety to remain in place through the entirety of the 2024-25 school year and the passage of the next state budget, through which the legislature will have the opportunity to provide the long-term funding needed for the office.”



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