Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) urged Arizona and Superintendent Kathy Hoffman to swiftly draw down the $20,826,927 in federal funds awarded under the Stronger Connections grant program as passed in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). The BSCA is the bipartisan proposal to protect America's children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country following the events of the mass schooling shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Through the BSCA, Congress authorized $1 billion in funding to State educational agencies (SEAs) through the Department of Education (DOE). The DOE stated that SEAs must award these funds competitively to high-need local educational agencies (LEAs). Criteria for high-need LEAs are left to the states and DOE encouraged States to focus on LEAs with high rates of poverty. Arizona is one of six states in the country that does not include poverty as a measure of funding allocation for public schools and the funding formula has not been substantially updated since 1985.
“In the wake of the tragedy of Uvalde, I helped pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to provide a positive step toward meaningful gun safety and to keep our children and teachers safe in schools. As this federal funding is distributed, it’s important that the Arizona schools receiving federal funding are a safe, inclusive and supportive learning and teaching environment free of fear for both students and staff,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Arizona should implement a comprehensive plan that adheres to the pillars laid out by the Department of Education and is consistent with Congressional intent. Updates to Arizona’s funding formulas are critical if this grant funding is to be distributed and utilized equitably and fairly. I look forward to working with local and school leaders to ensure the allocation of this funding is transparent, equitable and successful in keeping our students safe and healthy.”
The Department of Education laid out guidelines for States to maximize the positive and lasting impacts of the Stronger Connections grant program, including:
- Implementing comprehensive, evidence-based strategies that meet each student’s social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being needs; create positive, inclusive, and supportive school environments; and increase access to place-based interventions and services.
- Engaging students, families, educators, staff, and community organizations in the selection and implementation of strategies and interventions to create safe, inclusive and supportive learning environments.
- Designing and implementing policies and practices that advance equity and are responsive to underserved students, protect student rights, and demonstrate respect for student dignity and potential.
More on the guidelines for schools and the Stronger Connections grant program can be found here. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed to begin to address gun violence in American schools.