Members, At yesterday’s meeting Sarah Stewart shared information and has asked that I provide with the listserv. Thanks, Susan
At this time sufficient funding has not yet been appropriated to place cameras each one of the over 2,700 self-contained special education classrooms statewide. The legislature appropriated $3.5 million dollars into the Safe Schools Fund established pursuant to W.Va. Code §18-5-48. The language is specific in how appropriations to this fund are to be distributed, as well as what this money may be spent on:
…the funds appropriated annually to the School Safety Fund shall be distributed to the county boards of education and multi-county vocational centers, with the funding amount per school determined by dividing the total annual appropriation by the total number of public schools throughout the state. All moneys distributed from this fund shall be used to support the purpose and intent of this section [increasing safety and security measures of school facilities] and all moneys must be spent to support the school for which the funding was derived: Provided, however, That moneys distributed from this fund also may be used for the purposes of §18-20-11 of this code, relating to video cameras in certain special education classrooms.
During the legislative session and within the time constraints for submitting fiscal notes, the WVDE put together an estimate of $2,600 for purchasing, installing, and operating a camera system meeting the requirements of §18-20-11. The WVDE is reviewing that estimate in conjunction with the specific statutory requirements of the cameras and associated recordings to determine if this estimate should be updated. Of particular concern is the software necessary to conceal a student’s identity as required by the statute. This type of software is expensive and we are looking for a solution to bring down that cost.
Last year there were 691 school facilities in West Virginia, and thus pursuant to the statutory language and that figure, each school facility would receive approximately $5,065 from the Safe Schools Fund. While the stated statutory purpose of this funding is for increasing the safety and security of school facilities, there is language that allows, but does not necessarily require, these funds to be spent on cameras to be placed in self-contained special education classrooms. Please note that not all school facilities have the same number of self-contained special education classrooms, and those schools will be able to spend the funds for safety and security measures. Other schools may have several self-contained classrooms and the amount of funds received for that school may not be sufficient to cover the full cost of the cameras. The WVDE has encouraged schools with self-contained classrooms to not spend the money that was appropriated on school safety and security measures, but rather to retain such funds until sufficient funding is available for purchase, installation, and operation of the camera systems for all self-contained classrooms within their school facility. Additional guidance will be forthcoming once funding is distributed to districts (further explanation on that below).
It is also important to note that schools must be careful to adhere to the privacy protections and disclosure restrictions outlined in state law, as well as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) when operating and disclosing any recordings from cameras placed in self-contained special education classrooms. Importantly:
The WVDE is presently working on guidance to assist districts and schools in appropriately protecting the privacy of students while simultaneously complying with state law in the operation of cameras in self-contained special education classrooms.
As indicated above, the Legislature appropriated $3.5 million dollars for the Safe Schools Fund during the 2019 regular legislative session. Those funds were appropriated via a supplemental appropriation bill at the very end of FY19 (end of June) and there was originally no re-appropriation language associated with the funds. At that time, WVDE believed we would have to distribute the funds to districts by the end of July 2019 so that the funds did not expire and revert back to the state’s general revenue fund. Fortunately re-appropriation language was added to the supplemental appropriation bill right before its passage, which gave the WVDE more time to accurately distribute the funds to county boards of education. SB632 requires that the funds appropriated for the School Safety Fund be distributed to county boards of education and multi-county vocational centers, “with the funding amount per school determined by dividing the total annual appropriation by the total number of public schools throughout the state.” The bill further requires all of the funds “to be used to support the purpose and intent” of the bill and requires “all moneys must be spent to support the school for which the funding was derived.”
We are aware that some county boards of education have closed schools, reconfigured schools, or opened new schools at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. Once we are certain that all counties have updated their Master List of Schools in WVEIS, we will be able to determine the new count of schools within the State to determine the appropriate amount of funding per school from the amounts appropriated to the Safe Schools Fund. Once we have that information, we will be able to create grant awards to each county board of education for this purpose. We hope to send out the grant awards within the next month if possible, understanding that the need to receive these funds is urgent for some county boards of education.
Government Affairs Counsel
100 Angus Peyton Drive
South Charleston, WV 25303
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