PolitiFact: Cruz misses mark in taking on Obama’s school-safety plan

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says to prevent school shootings in the future, the country should look to the past. In 2013, Cruz 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 on CNN. “The Obama administration had cut $300 million from school safety. You know, if that had been in place, that might well have meant that another armed police officer could have been in Parkland and could have stopped that killer before he murdered those teenagers.”

Cruz’s comment about Obama cutting $300 million from school safety caught our attention. We wondered if Cruz was right.

Cruz’s office said they would send us details on that, but we didn’t hear more.

The most likely underpinnings for Cruz’s claim rest in the fiscal 2010 budget. President Barack Obama called for the elimination of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities State Grants program as part of his budget request. The savings by cutting the program: $294 million.

Congress went along and defunded the program.

So that’s about $300 million.

But there’s more to this story than just the dollar figure.

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

However, in the same budget that eliminated the formula program, 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 had a focus on preventing both drug use and violence. It covered “health education, early intervention, pupil services, mentoring, rehabilitation referral, and related activities.” 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 2007 budget proposal. A 2001 study by RAND had said the program’s structure was “profoundly flawed.” University of New Hampshire researcher Todd DeMitchell told us that Obama’s budget reflected a different strategy.

“The emphasis appears to have shifted to a broader perspective of improving the culture and climate of the school with an increased focus on bullying, health, character and possibly less emphasis on hardening the school site,” DeMitchell said.

Cruz’s statement focuses on one budget decision by the Obama White House in 2010, but doing so ignores what happens in the years that followed.

In 2013, after the killings of elementary school children and their teachers in Newtown, Conn., Obama rolled out a plan aimed at preventing such slayings. 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 was $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 was at least $75 million aimed at boosting mental health interventions at schools.

It is worth comparing Cruz’s plan to put $300 million into school safety. He 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.

Our ruling:

Cruz said the Obama administration cut $300 million in school safety money. That fits with the elimination in 2010 of the formula-driven Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities State Grant program. A fuller look at Obama’s proposed 2010 budget puts the cut at around $200 million.

In addition, Cruz ignores that in 2013, Obama called for $385 million to respond directly 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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