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Missouri Budget Leaves Security Systems to Local Schools

The state budget allots no money directly for schools to improve safety, leaving local districts to find money in their own budgets for metal detectors, security cameras, radio systems, door locks and other measures.

Missouri capitol
(TNS) — Missouri’s state budget is set to grow to nearly $50 billion, but the sprawling spending plan provides no direct funding to schools to improve safety.

The state is instead poised to provide $1 million to a center that helps train educators and $2 million on an app that will connect schools statewide with emergency services during a crisis.

Several Kansas City-area school districts canceled summer programs on Wednesday in response to the threat of a mass shooting. A 19-year-old Blue Springs resident was arrested, Blue Springs police said. A bomb threat also prompted the clearing of a south Kansas City school.

Coming less than a month after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the incidents underscore the intensifying focus on school security.

They also spotlight Missouri’s lack of direct, dedicated funding to schools to beef up safety.

In recent years, Missouri has provided among the lowest levels of state aid to schools in the country. A report by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway released in 2021 found Missouri ranked 49th among states in the amount of state resources for schools.

Instead, Missouri largely leaves decisions about spending on school safety to individual districts. It’s a choice that maximizes local control but requires district leaders to balance security against other needs.

“What’s important to remember in Missouri is there is not a specific line item in the money the schools receive from the state that is earmarked specifically for school safety,” said Mallory McGowin, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Schools just take all of their funding and they look at how best to prioritize that in their local community, so there’s not something specifically earmarked for school safety.”

Schools rely heavily on local sources of revenue to fund their priorities. Security is no exception, even amid a greater focus on violence in schools.

A bipartisan agreement reached Sunday by 20 U.S. senators, including Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, would provide federal funding for school safety measures, school violence prevention efforts and training for students and personnel. The deal, which is not yet a bill, doesn’t specify an amount.

Throughout this school year, Kansas City area districts have responded to shooting threats, bomb threats and more — echoing a national rising trend in school violence. Some educators have said they’ve witnessed an uptick in student behavioral issues, including threats and fights, during the third school year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In one of the most harrowing cases, 14-year-old Manuel Guzman died this spring after he was stabbed by another student in a bathroom at Northeast Middle School, part of Kansas City Public Schools.


Rather than providing districts with direct aid for safety, Missouri funds the Center for Education Safety, overseen by the Missouri School Boards’ Association. The center, launched in 2010, holds a school safety academy, provides webinars and trains crossing guards, among other services.

The state budget approved by the Missouri General Assembly will boost state funding for the center by $700,000 to $1 million for the 2023 fiscal year, which begins in July.

The budget also includes $1.9 million for the Missouri Department of Public Safety for “a school safety application program for all school districts statewide that speaks directly to 911 services and on/off duty officers through the law enforcement alert system.”

Republican Gov. Mike Parson has yet to sign the budget. A spokeswoman for the governor didn’t answer a question Wednesday about whether the funding available for school safety is sufficient.

Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, said the threat that upended Kansas City-area schools on Wednesday was another example of why the center is critical.

“When you have close to a million students, $1 million — to actually grant it to individual school districts, it’s not sufficient,” Randol said, referring to the number of students statewide. “So we try to look for ways to maximize the benefit to all school districts.”

By contrast, Kansas operates a school safety grant program, with the state setting aside $5 million a year for districts. Still, demand far outstrips supply.

John Calvert, who leads the Safe and Secure Schools unit within the Kansas State Department of Education, or KSDE, told the state Board of Education on Tuesday that 139 districts have applied for funding this year. They have requested more than $10 million.

The Blue Valley district said in 2019 that it began using grant money to fund $840,000 in security enhancements, such as adding new door locks for classrooms.

The Kansas Legislature approved $5 million in funding for Safe and Secure grants in this year’s budget. It is the third time in four years the funding has been allocated.

Last year, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly left the grants out of her proposed budget. The Legislature added them back but asked KSDE to use federal dollars for it. KSDE determined federal funds could not be used for the grants and the program went unfunded.

In a policy proposal last week, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, recommended doubling funding for the grants and seeking approval to spend federal dollars on school safety.

KSDE spokeswoman Ann Bush told The Star that this year, districts are using the grant funds for updating camera systems, security monitoring and installing new or upgrading existing door locks.

“We will be working the rest of this week and next week to make sure we can equitably distribute those funds to our districts and quickly,” Calvert told the board.


With relatively little money coming from state capitals for security, most area districts are improving security through taxpayer dollars, bond issues — and grants when available.

Districts across the region have spent millions to beef up security, by reconstructing school entrances, adding metal detectors and installing more security cameras — including some equipped with facial recognition software. They have purchased new door locks and communication systems and hired more school resource officers.

Kansas City Public Schools spent roughly $7 million on security this past school year, spokeswoman Elle Moxley said. A significant chunk of that goes toward a private security force, where officers receive more than 60 hours of training each year, including training on active shooter incidents and how to de-escalate conflicts.

In recent years, the district also has added a new radio system, cameras and single entryways at all schools, trained teachers and staff on handling intruders and ramped up counseling services for students. Like many other urban districts, KCPS also has metal detectors at its secondary school entrances.

Northeast Middle School, for example, has metal detectors, daily searches and a policy where students are only allowed to have clear backpacks.

“KCPS works closely with law enforcement whenever there is a situation like the one today,” Moxley said of the Blue Springs threat Wednesday. “The safety of our students and staff is our top priority, and we adjust our security plan when needed. Today and this week, we will continue to (communicate) with law enforcement and our neighboring school districts.”

In March, days before a shooting at Olathe East High School left three people injured, Johnson County voters approved a $298.3 million bond initiative, aimed partly at helping improve safety across the district.

Jaylon Elmore, an 18-year-old student, has been charged with attempted capital murder in the March 4 incident. Elmore is accused of exchanging gunfire in an administrative office with a school resource officer, leaving both of them, as well as an administrator, injured. While the officer and assistant principal were released from the hospital that day, Elmore was only dispatched from the hospital last month, when he made his first in-person court appearance.

The shooting rattled the suburban Kansas City community and led to calls for tighter gun laws and stronger security in schools.


Just before the Olathe East shooting, voters passed a bond measure to replace a middle school building and fund several facility, technology and safety improvements in the district. More than $8.2 million is expected to go toward safety, including installing cameras in several buildings and upgrading district radio systems.

The district has security cameras and resource officers in its buildings, as well as entrances that require visitors to be screened before they are allowed to enter. The district uses the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (ALICE) active shooter response protocol, which includes locking down buildings during unsafe situations and requires annual training with students and staff.

Olathe spokeswoman Becky Grubaugh said that this past school year, the district did not receive any state or grant funding specifically dedicated to safety or security.

In January 2020, Blue Valley voters approved a bond initiative that included about $11 million for safety improvements. Like in other districts, bond funds have paid for the majority of new security improvements.

The district has added secured school entrances with buzz-in systems, updated security classrooms, installed more resistant glass and plans to add sensors in high schools that detect open doors.

“Planning around safety enhancements is a conversation that has no end,” Blue Valley spokeswoman Kaci Brutto said. “We are always researching, exploring and considering safety measures to protect what we value most — our students and staff.”

The Star’s Katie Bernard contributed to this report.

©2022 The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.