03.08.18

Alexander on Fox News: Congress Can Take Three Steps This Month to Improve School Safety

Senator Lamar is part of a group of 13 senators who just introduced a new school safety bill -- I want to hear all about that, but before that though, I have to say where are the Democrats on this? I mean this has stalled, and you are undeterred. Why?

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today spoke with Harris Faulkner of Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime about legislation he introduced, along with a group of 12 senators, that will help Tennessee – and states across the country -- use federal dollars to pay for more school counselors, alarm systems, security cameras and crisis intervention training.

Watch the interview HERE. Excerpts below:

Senator Lamar is part of a group of 13 senators who just introduced a new school safety bill -- I want to hear all about that, but before that though, I have to say where are the Democrats on this? I mean this has stalled, and you are undeterred. Why?

Well, I'm undeterred because we can't just sit here and let our children be killed, and we ought to do what we can. We shouldn't wait to do something until we do everything, so we introduced legislation that ought to be able to be passed by the end of the month. What it would do is give schools the authority to take the federal dollars they're using to hire more counselors, make the schools safer with metal detectors and security cameras -- if that's what they decide to do -- and more mental health counseling. That can be done now using dollars that are already in the hands of the states.

Well, that is interesting. What is happening to those dollars right now that isn't already happening? Is it a wording issue, an allocation? 

Well, they aren't allowed to use the money for that purpose now so our legislation says you may take money that is under Title II and IV -- to be specific of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – and instead of using it for this, you may use it for that, and that includes more counselors, for example. The number of counselors per student in the country is about 450 to 1. That's too many students per counselor, and there are many kids in trouble -- they need the counseling, and schools may decide they want to use the money they are now getting for counselors instead of for something else. 

Let's move on to what you think might be able to pass Congress because I'm a little confused about -- this is almost like DACA for the Democrats. They walk up to the plate with the bat, and then they put the bat down. What happened? 

Well, what they're saying is we are not going to let you do these things until you do everything. We shouldn't do that. Senator Hatch has a bill that gives grants to make schools safer. I have a bill with 12 co-sponsors that I just described -- more counselors, more metal detectors, if schools want to do that, more mental health and crisis intervention. We can do those things by the end of the month in connection with the Omnibus spending bill that we know we have to pass by then, and then it will be law and then schools can use that money in that way.  … We could also add [the Fix NICS Act] to the Omnibus spending bill, and we could have that done by the end of the month. So we could do that, we could do our bill of making schools safer with counselors, and we could do the Hatch bill, that's three steps we could take by the end of the month.

That's action -- something that people say they don't see enough of, and you're talking about doing it. Senator Lamar Alexander, from the great state of Tennessee. 

Yesterday, the senator spoke about the legislation --  the School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act -- on the Senate floor.

Below is some background on the bill:

There are 100,000 public schools in the United States and most of the responsibility for making them safer for children lies with the state and local governments that provide about 90 percent of schools’ funding. But in passing this legislation, the federal government can help in the following ways:

  • encouraging more school counselors and other mental health professionals
  • encouraging school safety infrastructure upgrades
  • encouraging the development of mental health programs for crisis intervention training and mental health assessments
  • creating a presidential task force to increase interagency communication

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