Bipartisan Michigan group to push for more than $100 million for school safety and mental health programs

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is expected to push for the state of Michigan to spend more than $100 million on new mental health and safety programs for schools, according to draft recommendations obtained by Local 4.

The draft, divided into presentation slides, was created by the School Safety Task Force, which was formed after the Oxford High School shooting. The group has been working behind the scenes for months, hammering out details and making compromises during one of the most tense election cycles in recent memory.

“I’m a Democrat and there are a few Republicans that I would just push back for them,” said Congresswoman Kelly Breen (D-Novi) in an interview about the project. “There are 10 million people who live in Michigan. We must not make this partisan. So it’s for all of them.”

According to the bill, the state must find between $101 million and $184 million to fund up to eight new mental health and safety services for schools, including $10 million for school case mapping, $10 million for digital mental health screening, 20 $1 million in incentives for mental health workers to work in schools and $52 million for 100 school health centers.

The task force is also proposing more than a dozen changes to state safety laws. Among those proposals are mandatory updates to school safety plans, better active shooter training and improved training for school resource officers. They are also asking for funding for two new positions in each school; safety coordinator and mental health coordinator.

Some of the proposals, such as a capital needs assessment aimed at figuring out how much money schools need to operate and exactly how much they will need, are already in the state budget. But most of the proposals will have to be added in a supplementary budget or in next year’s budget together.

The long list of costs will come as schools struggle for funding and are in the midst of severe staffing shortages, meaning adding work to schools can be difficult, especially for rural or low-income areas. Breen said everything will be funded before it is signed.

“We have made a huge increase in the budget for funding per pupil. So that will be one way to deal with it. But we won’t impose anything that won’t be funded.”

There are still some obstacles on which the task force has not reached agreement. They mostly center around guns, gun control, and guns in school. On the list, whether schools should send home letters promoting safe gun storage or whether the state should even have safe storage laws.

Questions have also been raised about whether gun-free zones should be ended, which would allow concealed weapons to be carried in schools. Programs such as so-called “guardian programs” that allow “highly trained individuals” such as veterans or former law enforcement officers to have access to guns on school grounds, or extreme risk protection orders, known as red flag laws, are all have been discussed but not decided.

Ultimately, the task force is viewed as a bipartisan success, with much work to be done.

“This is not it, look at it now, make a few adjustments and then release it. This is an ongoing issue that we will continue to look at what has been effective and what has not been effective,” Breen said.

Breen also said there is no specific timeline for the release of final recommendations, although the task force hopes to finalize the draft “soon.”

Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Schools Safe in Michigan slides. (WDIV)

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