Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in November. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Photo: Carolyn Kaster
Photo: Carolyn Kaster

PolitiFact: Cruz omits some information on school-safety funds

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says to prevent school shootings in the future, the country should look to the past. In 2013, he and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, proposed legislation that Cruz said could have prevented the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., shooting.

“One of the things Grassley-Cruz did was increase funding for school safety by $300 million,” Cruz said, but he said the Obama administration nullified that with a budget cut.

That year President Barack Obama called for the eliminating the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities State Grants program as part of his budget request, saving $294 million. Congress went along.

So that’s about $300 million. But there’s more to this story than just the dollar figure.

The particular state grant program Obama and Congress cut was formula-driven, essentially providing guaranteed money to states and school districts.

However, in the same budget, Obama requested an additional $100 million for a companion program that handed out grants on a case-by-case basis. Congress ultimately only added $51 million to that, but in any event, the cut Obama sought was closer to $200 million, not $300 million.

It is also important to note how that money was spent.

The Safe and Drug-Free Schools program focused on preventing drug use and violence. It covered “health education, early intervention, pupil services, mentoring, rehabilitation referral, and related activities.”

William Modzeleski, who headed the program through 2011, told us, “We were involved in a wide range of activities, ranging from working with the Secret Service on how to identify students on the pathway to violence to one where we spent millions to ensure schools had emergency management plans.”

The program also funded mental health and responses to the H1N1 flu.

Obama wasn’t the first president who wanted to end the program. President George W. Bush tried the same thing in his FY 2007 budget proposal. A 2001 study by RAND had said the program’s structure was “profoundly flawed.”

In 2013, after the killings of elementary schoolers and their teachers in Newtown, Conn., Obama rolled out a plan to prevent such slayings from happening again. The package was expansive, including an assault weapon ban and changes to the background check system.

But specific to schools, it included $385 million in new spending. It offered “$150 million to school districts and law enforcement agencies to hire school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors.” There were $30 million for schools to design emergency management plans, and $40 million “to help districts work with law enforcement and other local agencies to coordinate services for students who demonstrate need.” There were at least $75 million aimed at boosting mental health interventions at schools.

Like the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, the proposal covered a lot of ground, but it had more big-ticket line items aimed at violence alone.

Cruz’s plan to put $300 million into school safety sought $30 million a year for a decade to pay for more police to protect schools. Obama’s plan called for $4 billion to pay for 15,000 more police officers.

Of course, neither plan — Obama’s nor Cruz’s — became law. Cruz and Grassley have re-introduced their bill.

As a final budget note, Obama ultimately ended the Safe and Drug-Free School program entirely, and folded it into a new program called Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students.

Our ruling

Cruz said the Obama administration cut $300 million in school safety money. A fuller look at Obama’s proposed 2010 budget puts the cut around $200 million. In addition, Cruz ignores that in 2013, Obama called for $385 million to respond to mass shootings in schools, and $4 billion to hire an additional 15,000 police officers.

Cruz’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

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