WASHINGTON – In the face of the opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities and gun violence that is endangering the health and wellbeing of America’s youth, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) wrote a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leadership calling for stronger federal investments that enhances student health and safety.
The letter requests the highest possible funding allocation for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant under Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act in order to provide schools with the resources they need to help their students be safe and healthy, as well as cope with the trauma associated with gun violence or the opioid epidemic in their communities.
The Senators wrote, “While we are aware of the numerous priorities you must address, Congress needs to convey a strong message about the importance of funding school health, climate and safety activities. Under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant, schools can utilize funds for activities such as providing school-based health and mental health services and counseling, implementing systems and practices to prevent bullying and harassment, supporting trauma-informed classroom management, and establishing community partnerships. School districts can also use funds to improve school safety, including training school personnel in school-based violence prevention strategies and developing relationship building skills among students to help improve safety and prevent violence.”
The Senators recognize that our nation’s schools are increasingly at the forefront in the response to two crises: the opioid epidemic and gun violence. As of the date of this letter, based on analysis by CNN, there have been twelve shootings in American schools since the beginning of the year. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016, there were 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States, equivalent to 174 individuals dying each day, and 92,000 children were removed from their homes in FY16 because at least one parent had a substance use issue.
As a formula-based program focused on the flexible, locally-determined use of funds, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant is well suited to ensuring that a large number of districts have resources they can direct in a manner that best addresses their particular needs in supporting student health and safety, a well-rounded education and the effective use of educational technology.
Along with Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, the following Senators also signed the letter: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE).
The full letter is available here.