AUSTIN (Nexstar) — School districts across Texas largely support the sweeping new security requirements under consideration in the legislature, but some witnesses at this week’s hearing on school safety stressed one thing: they need the money to implement them.
“There are a significant number of mandates that are placed on school districts that have a tremendous amount of cost,” former state representative Paul Colbert testified.
West Sabine ISD, for example, said the costs to implement just physical improvements would be prohibitive under current levels of state funding.
“Currently, my district has a school safety allotment of about $4,700,” West Sabine Superintendent Carnelius Gilder said. “The average cost of just fencing alone is about $204,000.”
House Bill 3, the legislature’s primary school safety bill, would fund these safety improvements by giving districts at least $10 per student in average daily attendance and $15,000 per campus. The Legislative Budget Board estimates this could cost the state about $293 million over the next two years.
“In far too many instances parents of school children have been lulled into a false sense of security,” HB 3 author Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) testified at Monday’s hearing. “It is an important, critical piece to make school security and safety better for all students across our state members.”
HB 3 would also require school districts to staff at least one armed security officer at every campus.
“They have to have the ability so that every school district can actually afford an officer, and without funding, they’re not going to be able to do that,” said Chief Charles Ramirez of the Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD Police Department.
House Bill 13 by State Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) would implement new requirements for “mental health first aid” training and authorize districts to designate “school guardians,” which would be school employees trained to carry a firearm on campus.
That bill would fund districts to the tune of $100 per student in average daily attendance and cost the state more than $1.6 billion over the next two years.
In total, just those two bills carry a nearly $2 billion price tag through this biennium.
HB 3 and HB 13 were left pending in the Texas House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety Monday. Both have broad bipartisan support.