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.”

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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