HARRISBURG – The Senate has unanimously passed House Bill 27 to implement several key provisions to consolidate and streamline Pennsylvania’s school safety programs and ensure greater coordination in keeping children safe, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-39), Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41), Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Scott Martin (R-13) and Senate Education Committee Chair David Argall (R-29).
“As a mother and grandmother, there is nothing more important than ensuring the mental health and safety of our children in our schools. The bipartisan steps taken by the Senate this week will incorporate school safety and mental health funds as a core function of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.”
– Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-39)
“Advancing this school safety legislation today demonstrates what we can do when we work together in a bipartisan manner. By taking these steps, we are protecting our most precious resource – our children. We remain hopeful the House will follow suit and demonstrate they can fulfill this responsibility too.”
– Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41)
“Strengthening and streamlining our approach to school safety builds on the monumental achievements we have made in recent years to keep our kids safe in the classroom. Senate Republicans have fought hard to create the School Safety and Security Grant Program and ensure it is properly funded, and we led the way in creating the Safe2Say Something anonymous threat reporting system that is held up as a national model for other states to follow. This bill takes the next step to ensure all our resources and stakeholders remain on the same page to better protect Pennsylvania’s young people.”
– Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Scott Martin (R-13)
“When I chaired 10 public roundtables all across Pennsylvania on school safety after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, we heard from students, parents, and educators that we needed to do more to protect our public and nonpublic schools. Since then, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars into safer, far more secure schools. Today’s vote further strengthens our state’s response and continues to build on these critical investments.”
– Senate Education Committee Chair David Argall (R-29)
House Bill 27 would consolidate school safety programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), which currently manages the highly successful, bipartisan School Safety and Security Grant Program created by the Senate in 2018.
The legislation transfers several functions of the Office of Safe Schools – including the Safe Schools Targeted Grants for school safety equipment and programs and school police officers/school resource officers – to PCCD. School districts would also be required to share additional information on the number and type of School Police Officers and School Resource Officers, as well as data on powers granted to those entities.
The legislation would create a new Executive Committee under PCCD to review school safety issues and to identify current and emerging trends. The committee will study data on incidents created through the Safe2Say Something program, review information arising from the county safe schools’ collaborative, help identify and prevent threats of targeted violence in school settings and utilize best practices among school entities to boost student safety.
This bill seeks to provide for assistance in developing a safe schools collaborative with technical assistance provided by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Office of Homeland Security, to ensure schools and counties can develop best practices for emergency response.
The school safety improvements are intended to build on years of efforts by the Senate to ensure Pennsylvania students can all learn in safe environments. In addition, Safe2Say Something, an anonymous school threat reporting system, was implemented in Pennsylvania in 2018 and is now held up as a national model for other states to follow. The system has led to more than 100,000 tips of potential student safety concerns.
House Bill 27 would allow for the implementation of $100 million that was included in the 2023-24 state budget for K-12 mental health programs. Bipartisan funding for those programs has been delayed due to the House of Representatives not returning to session to pass budget implementation language over the summer.
The legislation would provide additional flexibility for school districts that are experiencing shortages of substitute teachers. The bill would extend temporary provisions established during the pandemic that waived certain requirements and allowed for temporary certification of substitute teachers.
The legislation has been sent back to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senator Pittman – Floor Remarks
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