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10.27.23 – Arkansas Democrat Gazette –

The Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Thursday approved the transfer of $50 million from the state’s restricted reserve fund to the state Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In the Aug. 9-11 special session, then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislature enacted Act 3 to initially transfer $50 million in state general revenue surplus funds to a school safety set-aside in the state’s restricted reserve fund.

The funding transferred to the Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education will be used to distribute school safety grants to address safety in Arkansas schools, then-state Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key wrote in a letter dated Dec. 15 to state Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Larry Walther.

Department of Education spokeswoman Kimberly Mundell said Thursday in a written statement that “We anticipate releasing the grant application late this week/early next week for districts to submit their assurances for how they will utilize the funds.

“Now that the rules and application have been finalized, we will expedite the application process, as the department acts with urgency when it comes to school safety,” she said.

In December, the Legislative Council’s executive subcommittee approved the state Department of Education’s proposed emergency rules for school safety grants.

According to the department’s emergency rules, it’s the Legislature’s intent that funds set aside for school safety grants be distributed by the Department of Education to public schools, open-enrollment charter schools and other educational entities to assist in implementing the recommendations made by Hutchinson’s Arkansas School Safety Commission in the commission’s 2018 and 2022 final reports to provide a safe school environment.

Under the emergency rules, funding should be available to each public school district, open-enrollment charter school and private school with at least 50 students. The amount of funding available will be based at least in part on student enrollment, taking into consideration the varying sizes of districts and schools under the Department of Education’s emergency rules.

Expenses eligible for reimbursement include the purchase of materials, equipment or services that meet the recommendations of the School Safety Commission or to enhance safety measures that meet the commission recommendations.