Kaul asks Legislature for $2.2M to keep school safety office

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul is asking Gov. Tony Evers and he Republican-controlled Legislature for $2.2 million in the next state budget to keep the state Justice Department’s Office of School Safety going.

Kaul said Friday that federal dollars that support the office’s operations are running out.

Legislators created the office in 2018 following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, to distribute $100 million in federal grants to schools. The money was meant to bolster schools’ safety protocols.

The office has done more than that, offering teachers training on how to address bullying and other incidents before they escalate to violence and establishing a 24-hour staffed tip line for students and teachers. The line received almost 2,000 tips during the 2021-22 school year, according to Justice Department documents.

The office is doing crucial work to protect Wisconsin students and needs more state dollars to continue, the attorney general said.

Evers is set to release his executive budget next month. Lawmakers on the Legislature’s Republican-controlled finance committee will spend the following months revising the document to their liking before pushing it through the Assembly and Senate. Evers can then use his line-item veto powers to rewrite the budget to his liking.

Asked for comment on the prospects of the Justice Department getting the money, Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback responded by saying the governor will introduce his budget Feb. 15.

Katy Prange, chief of staff for state Sen. Howard Marklein, a finance committee co-chair, said in an email that the committee will “consider all proposals for the next state budget and encourage the Attorney General to share his ideas with us.”

Staffers for the committee’s other co-chair, state Rep. Mark Born, did not return a message.

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This story has been updated to correct that federal dollars that have supported the office are running out. The office has received federal money from multiple sources, not just from COVID-19 relief funding.

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