States Rolling Out ‘Stronger Connections’ Grants to Bolster School Safety
The Stronger Connections Grant programs will use nearly $1 billion in federal funds to bolster community safety and improve student outcomes.
Last fall Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which includes the Stronger Connections grant program. This program provides funding for schools to take a comprehensive approach to violence prevention, including safety measures, and support students’ physical, social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs.
In response, many states have already rolled out their programs or have just done so.
Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin announced on Thursday a $16.4 million competitive grant program to improve security infrastructure in high-need school divisions. The Stronger Connections grant program prioritizes divisions where students are at increased risk of violence and chronic absenteeism and with high student-to-staff ratios for counselors, psychologists, and social workers. The criteria for awarding the grants also prioritize rural schools and schools with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
Stronger Connections grants will improve school safety through the purchase of advanced security equipment and systems that reduce vulnerability to attacks in K-12 schools, provide threat detection technology, and improve communication during emergencies, according to an announcement from Younkin’s office. Grant funds may also be used for the analysis of threat assessment data and funding for school resource officers and school security officers in schools where none are currently assigned.
The Virginia Department of Education will make the Stronger Connections grant application available to school divisions on June 1 on the VDOE website. School divisions will have until August 1 to apply, and VDOE will announce the awards in the fall. More information on the Stronger Connections grant program is available on the VDOE website.
Meanwhile in Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced the timelines for its Stronger Connections grant program. The agency was awarded $93,985,252 in federal K-12 funding from the U.S. Department of Education under the BSCA Stronger Connections grant program within Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) for state educational agencies (SEAs) to provide students with safer and healthier learning environments. These funds will be awarded through non-competitive and competitive grants to high-need local educational agencies (LEAs) that ensure transparency and successful implementation of activities allowable under section 4108 of the ESEA to support the ongoing needs of students, educators, families, and communities.
The Texas Stronger Connections grants will provide funding for selected Texas LEAs to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive approach that prioritizes physical and emotional safety for their unique school community. According to a TEA announcement about the funding, funded activities and practices should prioritize safety, create a sense of belonging, implement trauma-responsive approaches and teach positive behaviors in order to provide safe and supportive learning environments that improve academic achievement and the well-being of students.
The grant will provide:
- Professional development and funding for training for Safe and Supportive Schools Programs
- Technical assistance to support development, implementation, and sustainable practices.
- Development of family and community engagement partnerships.
- External coaching to support safe and healthy development and implementation.
- Trauma-Informed practices, emergency plan development, and site assessments.
- Development of personnel for Student Support Team framework and implement school-related related Initiatives.
Non-Competitive: Stronger Connections Grant Pilot- Uvalde CISD is a non-competitive direct grant to support recovery efforts.
- 5/19/2023: Application posted for Stronger Connections Grant Pilot-Uvalde CISD
- 7/18/2023: Application due to TEA with grant period to be determined upon receipt of application
Competitive: 2024-2025 Stronger Connections Competitive Grant will be awarded to high-need LEAs
- 5/19/2023: RFA Posted and open to all high-need LEAs
- 7/18/2023: Application due to TEA
- 11/15/2023: Beginning of grant period
In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the legislature provided $1.7 million for school districts to purchase silent panic alert technology. In October, an additional $400 million was provided to assist school districts in replacing or upgrading doors, windows, fences, communications and other safety measures.
Here are the links to some of the other states’ Stronger Connections Grant programs. Many of the grant awards have already been announced or the application deadline has already passed:
If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!
Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century
This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!