$49 Million Dollars Granted for School Police in 2020

$49 million has been granted to 157 departments for school-based policing, the highest such grant allocation since 2011.

Illustration by Nicole Sroka

A total of $49 million has been granted to 157 departments for school-based policing, the highest such grant allocation since 2011, according to data from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.  

New York City is by far the largest recipient of 2020 grant money. It will receive $11.56 million to hire 100 new officers. Other major recipients include El Paso, Texas ($2 million for 16 officers) and St. Lucie County, Florida, ($1.25 million for 10 officers).

These grants come as a handful of school districts, such as Milwaukee and Minneapolis, have voted to remove officers from schools. 

Data visualization by Brody Ford

But this is only a fraction of schools with police officers, or school resource officers, in the country. In the 2017-2018 school year, 42,100 schools reported the presence of a school-based officer. With these grants, that number will likely grow.

Critics of school policing believe the presence of officers increases the chances for students, particularly students of color, to be disciplined or arrested, while providing no demonstrable safety benefits.

Since 1994, the Department of Justice has issued grants to hire school police. According to documents from the DOJ, $926 million has been allocated through this program. This number is likely higher, as data is not available for some years. 

This spending had been trending down since the early 2010s and halted entirely in 2018 and 2019 due to a lawsuit. In a reversal of this trend, 2020’s grant allocation is the highest since 2011.

Meanwhile, federal grants for school counselors through the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program were cut in 2015. 

Amir Whitaker, policy attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, said funding decisions promoting police are troubling, particularly when school budgets are so tight, and police officers often make more money than teachers.

“In LA last year, teachers were striking because 80% of schools didn’t have a full time nurse,” Whitaker said. “Yet over half of schools have a full time police officer.”

Whitaker is the author of Cops No Counselors, an ACLU report which found that 14 million students were in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker in 2017.

This $49 million grant package for school resource officers is only part of the total money awarded. In total, 2020 COPS Hiring Program grants from the Department of Justice amount to nearly $400 millionfor focus areas like “Criminal Gangs” and “Illegal Immigration”. A total of 596 law enforcement agencies across the country received grants, which will fund the hiring of 2,732 additional officers. 

Additionally, $50 million was awarded through the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP), which subsidizes school security such as metal detectors, security camera systems or law enforcement training. 

Brody Ford is a multimedia journalist and recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he majored in political science and communications. A San Diego native, he specializes in video, collecting data, and accessing public records. While at UIC, he co-founded the school’s independent news outlet, Bonfire. During internships with WBBM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Chicago and KGTV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego, he focused on predatory business practices, local politics, and police misconduct. Ford has produced documentaries and music videos on various topics, including labor disputes.

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