Counties Raise Concerns Over Diversion of Safe Schools Act Funding

MACo Policy Associate Drew Jabin yesterday submitted testimony in opposition of HB 496 – Primary and Secondary Education – Mental Health Services – Expansion (Counselors Not Cops Act) to the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill would would divert the state funding currently supporting the costly mandate of providing adequate local law enforcement coverage in schools to an additional school-based program focusing on mental health and behavioral services.

From the MACo Testimony:

This re-direction of funds – but increase in deliverables – would leave school budgets or local law enforcement to contemplate reductions in other education and public safety offerings to do so. This upends a fair system created only a few years ago.

Currently, $10 million from the Safe Schools Fund is distributed annually in grants to local school systems and local law enforcement agencies to assist their compliance with a mandate to provide school resource officers or adequate law enforcement coverage. HB 496 would, beginning in Fiscal Year 2023, direct that $10 million to a new program − expanding the availability of school-based mental health services and behavioral supports for students. This puts counties in the costly position of retaining the original mandated responsibility of providing school security, without the appropriate funding originally provided to coincide with that mandate. MACo does not raise concerns with the intent of expanding school-based mental health services for students, merely the diversion of the funds available for the existing safety measures.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.