National investment, leadership needed for school preparedness

Recently the GAO released a report examining the state of emergency preparedness in k-12 schools. The conclusions in this report are alarming, as it uncovers a lack of strategic coordination among federal agencies for preparing schools for emergencies. It also finds a lack of clear leadership at the federal level for coordinating these activities, and schools are left having to choose between preparedness and core educational activities. These findings are similar to recent research we conducted at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. As part of a project funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we conducted a review of national programs available to assist schools in preparing for acts of terrorism and mass violence. We also looked at the kinds of programs that provide funding or other assistance to schools to improve preparedness. We similarly found significant gaps in our national preparedness programs for schools, with decreasing funding and lack of clear leadership for preparing our schools nationally.

Op-ed co-authored with Jeff Schlegelmilch and Erin Sehnert.