APPLETON (WLUK) — A state office tasked with keeping schools safe could lose significant funding under the new budget proposal.
Leaders say that would lead to cuts in the Office of School Safety’s services.
When a gun and ammunition were brought to Neenah High School back in February, Mike Altekruse knew exactly what to do.
“I know how to do a threat assessment, I know how to wrap around those kids who are struggling and have crisis,” said Altekruse, Neenah School District’s Mental Health Coordinator.
He says that is all because of the state’s Office of School Safety.
But that office is about to lose federal pandemic relief money — about $1.8 million is expected to run out by the end of this year, and the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which does most of the detailed work to write the budget, is not setting aside state money to make up for the lost federal money.
“I’ve actually done some digging, and this is actually in the budget,” said State Sen. Rachael Cabral-Guevara, R-Appleton. “Now what is different is it hasn’t been increased, it will continue over at the same funding that it has been in the last budget.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is urging the Legislature to include more in the final budget. Attorney General, Josh Kaul has asked for $2.2 million, which would allow to keep up staffing at 16 positions.
In a statement, Kaul says:
The Office of School Safety has become a critical part of the work being done in Wisconsin to keep our schools safe. Dismantling that office and cutting key services it provides would be a major step backwards for school safety in Wisconsin.
“I just don’t want people thinking that this was cut out and we’re not thinking about kids safety because that’s not the case at all, we are,” said Cabral-Guevara.
On Tuesday, law enforcement officers from all over the state gathered in downtown Appleton for the School Resource Officer Conference.
Trish Kilpin, director of the office, says it was great way to showcase what the OSS does to help officers who work in schools.
“We provide critical information to schools about drills, about safety,” said Kilpin.
The office was created in 2018, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The duties of the Office of School Safety include distributing safety grants, providing training, creating recommendations and collecting blueprints of school layouts. The office also established the Speak Up, Speak Out Resource Center, which includes a 24-hour tipline.
“It has received over 7,400 tips, over 137 of them about concerns of planned school attacks, allowing us to intervene early and prevent violence from occurring,” said Kilpin.
Governor Tony Evers asked for almost $1 million dollars for the OSS, but the Committee rejected that proposal as well.
“Without this funding, schools will not have access to the programs that we know work to prevent school violence,” said Kilpin.
“Although not specifically put in this office that you speak of, we’re doing other mechanisms to make sure it’s addressed,” said Cabral-Guevara.
For more stories about the Wisconsin budget, click here.