May 24, 2023 - Politics

A year after Uvalde, Arkansas schools can proceed with security

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

A year after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, more than $43 million in state grants have been approved for Arkansas public school districts to use for campus security.

Yes, but: Because the process took so long, none of the money former Gov. Asa Hutchinson earmarked for school safety last August has been paid to reimburse districts.

  • This means it's unlikely much changed throughout the year to boost safety at the state's public schools.

Threat level: As mass shootings continue to rise dramatically — there've been over 1,000 incidents involving firearms in U.S. schools since 2018 — lawmakers have done more to expand gun access than control it.

  • So the "hardening" of schools by increasing security is seen as the best way to keep kids safe in the classroom.

Driving the news: Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of the Robb Elementary School shooting, where 19 children and two adults were killed — one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

Flashback: Hutchinson appointed a school safety commission as a direct response to the Texas massacre to revise Arkansas' strategy for public school security. He then called for funds to be set aside so schools could afford some of the recommendations.

State of play: Shastady Wagner, an attorney for the Arkansas Department of Education, said via email that more than 300 applications were submitted, and all had been approved.

By the numbers: Public schools that responded to our inquiry about the grant were awarded:

  • Pea Ridge — $183,025
  • Farmington — $215,075
  • Fort Smith — $596,000
  • Bentonville — $713,000
  • Springdale — $844,000

A spokesperson for Rogers said the district also got a grant but didn't have a figure to share before Axios' deadline.

The Siloam Springs district has not applied, but may in the next couple of weeks, Superintendent Jody Wiggins told us.

  • It's unclear how the Department of Education will handle late applications.

What they're saying: "Secure entry projects will be completed before school opens in the fall," a Bentonville School District spokesperson told us.

  • Including the grant, the district will spend more than $3.2 million on upgrades.

The bottom line: An Axios analysis of 10 Northwest Arkansas school districts showed most have a passing grade when it comes to safety measures.

  • The analysis doesn't mean one school is safer than another, but was meant to demonstrate how NWA's districts have proactively implemented security measures.

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