This week’s e-mail grant newsletter included this long-winded program title: “Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE): School Climate Transformation Grant Program: Local Educational Agency Grants.” The program’s purpose is to offer yet more school counseling, although the RFP uses 50 words where five will due; it says the purpose is to “develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for, and technical assistance to, schools implementing an evidence-based multi-tiered behavioral framework for improving behavioral outcomes and learning conditions for all students.” I became exhausted reading this sentence several times—it’s a nice example of bureaucratic word salad.
Sound familiar? It should. We’ve seen a spate of nearly identical program RFPs recently, including:
- “Now is the Time” Project AWARE Local Educational Agency Grants from SAMHSA.
- Elementary and Secondary School Counseling from the Department of Education.
- Project Prevent from the Department of Education.
- Youth Empowerment Program II: (YEP II) from the Office of Minority Health, which offers funds to “focus” “on the risk behaviors of at-risk minority male youth at critical stages in their lives, and improving long-term outcomes to increase the quality of their lives.”
All five programs have subtly different project descriptions but are all intended to engage in the same basic set of activities: getting “trained” adults to do something—on a one-on-one or small group basis—with students who have been reported by teachers or other “trained” adults in the kids’ lives. You could submit a proposal for any one of these programs, change the name on the header of the next proposal, and do more or less the same thing. The only exception is the last one, YEP II, which is less a Columbine-Newtown-response-style program and more of a traditional urban youth program of the sort that have been around for forty years.
In 2012 Isaac wrote “Sandy Hook School Shootings Tragedy Likely to Lead to New Grant Opportunities for School Security, After School and Mental Health Project Concepts.” The programs we’re seeing the Federal government issue are the ones Isaac predicted.
At their most basic level,* these programs are really mental health early warning systems: they’re trying to figure out which ninth grader is likely to bring a gun or knife to school this week. They’re like Foucault’s famous panopticon, or the Stasi, though better intentioned. We’re not convinced the effort will be successful, but it’s happening right now, and no one in the Federal government asked for our opinion. Smart LEAs and nonprofits are going to ride this grant wave.
* Free proposal phrase.