Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, has highlighted the potential local impact of passing the School Safety Enhancements Act (House Resolution 1470), her legislation that would help ensure schools have adequate resources to improve student and teacher safety by providing support for safety related capital improvements to school facilities.

These improvements could include reinforced doors, lighting and fencing, as well as providing security assessments and training in coordination with local law enforcement.

An article in Friday’s edition of the Santa Maria Times, “School Safety in the Spotlight,” detailed safety related capital improvements being undertaken by the Santa Maria-Bonita, Orcutt Union, Blochman Union and Guadalupe Union school districts in the wake of the school shooting at Newtown, Conn. These improvements will cost the school districts upwards of $833,000. Capps’ bill could help offset 50 percent of the costs, or approximately $416,000, if signed into law.

“This week’s series from the Santa Maria Times on school safety makes clear the significant costs facing our school districts as they look to make our schools safer and more secure,” Capps said. “My legislation would help relieve some of that burden and give our local schools more flexibility with their budgets. Years of budget cuts have been so tough on our local schools, which is why we should provide them with the opportunity to partner with the federal government to take steps to better secure their campuses and provide a safe learning environment.”

The School Safety Enhancements Act would reauthorize the Secure Our Schools Grant program at $40 million per year for 10 years. Federal grant funding would be matched 50/50 with state or local government funds and would be administered by the Office of Community Oriented Policing in the Department of Justice.

The bill also would establish an interagency task force between the departments of justice and education to develop a set of school safety guidelines in conjunction with parent, teacher and stakeholder input.

The School Safety Enhancements Act has been endorsed by the National PTA, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Fraternal Order of Police.

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.