Ybarra announces an unfunded $20.8 million school safety plan

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra unveiled a $20.8 million school safety initiative — for 2019.

Ybarra said she will not seek funding for her Keep Idaho Students Safe project in the waning days of the 2018 legislative session. In a news release, Ybarra said she would seek funding at the start of the 2019 session, and provide money for the second half of the 2018-19 school year.

That, of course, assumes that legislators buy in on the initiative — and it assumes Ybarra is still in office in 2019. Ybarra is seeking a second four-year term, and she faces opposition in the May Republican primary and, potentially, the November general election.

Ybarra’s initiative breaks down into three parts:

  • Security grants to allow schools to hire trained security staff. This could take the form of hiring a school resource officer, a military or law enforcement retiree or private security. This is by far the big-ticket item in the plan. The price tag would be nearly $18.7 million — which comes to $25,500 in grants and training money for every school in the state.
  • Developing a three-credit, 45-hour school safety course for teachers and administrators, which would be offered 25 times a year across the state. The goal is to create training to “highlight root causes of risk behaviors and common approaches to inoculate students from dangerous activities that disrupt well-being and interrupt learning.” This course would be an offshoot of suicide prevention training for school staff; a training proposal has passed the House and is awaiting a Senate vote. The cost of developing the school safety course: nearly $2 million.
  • Hiring a statewide “crisis communications counselor.” “This position will serve as a dedicated ‘lifeline’ for threats to schools as a way to quickly leverage resources at the state level,” the State Department of Education says in a three-page fact sheet on Ybarra’s safety initiative. This position would cost nearly $117,000 in salaries, fringe benefits and operational costs.

Ybarra points out that the state has taken several steps to address school safety — from an anti-bullying campaign to the Idaho Office of School Safety and Security, which is conducting onsite inspections of schools across the state. But she said the Feb. 14 mass shootings at a Parkland, Fla., high school make this the right time for a broad-based plan.

“Our No. 1 priority is to keep our students safe,” Ybarra said in a news release. “No single strategy or program is the answer, so KISS will add a toolbox of new measures to existing approaches that are already having an impact.”

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