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Newtown teachers' union president says federal funding for schools was slow

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The president of the local teachers union in Newtown, Connecticut says his town didn’t receive federal funding for new locks and other school safety improvements until this June – more than a year and a half after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He appeared Friday at the twenty-first meeting of the governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission.

Tom Kuroski  of the Newtown Federation of Teachers says the town made a request for federal funding for school security improvements in April of 2013. Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy had made funding available to cities and towns for that purpose, and Kuroski told the panel he saw other towns getting that state money. But he said Newtown didn’t apply for it.

“Because we figured we’d be getting the money from the federal government through the justice grant, so we wouldn’t have to," Kuroski said. "We didn’t want to double-dip and keep other schools from not being able to harden their schools, if we’re getting money from the federal government. Yet they’re all moving forward past us in terms of getting their schools ready and prepared. That’s unacceptable.”

Kuroski said the school system’s interim superintendent paid to install locks by redirecting money intended for repaving the middle school parking lot. Although that federal money has now come in, Kuroski said the funding is declining over time, and he’s worried about losing the ability to pay for guidance counselors in the town’s elementary schools.

Kuroski also told the commission that teachers felt rushed back into the classroom after the shooting, without what he felt was adequate training and time off.

“And if you look at what other school systems have done that have endured similar tragedies, they’ve definitely given their teachers some time to get some training – the thorough training that they’re going to need in order to do the best job they can when they return," said Kuroski. "A one-day workshop, where our input wasn't even listened to, was not something that we thought was moving us in the right direction."

The chair of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission says he expects to release the commission’s report of safety recommendations in the coming weeks.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.
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