Mar 11, 2024 - News

Schools not meeting guard mandate

Illustration of a police uniform standing with no person inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Many Texas school districts haven't hired armed security officers at every campus, as required by a new state law, because of a lack of funding, writes Axios' Fiza Kuzhiyil.

Why it matters: After 19 students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, the Republican-led Legislature passed new mental health and school safety standards last year.

  • A key provision was posting an armed officer at every public school.

Catch up quick: House Bill 3, which went into effect in September, expanded and reinforced existing school safety efforts, such as required mental health training.

  • The law allocated $15,000 per campus and $10 for each student, but lawmakers did not approve an additional $800 million to help districts comply with the standards.
  • That left many districts without enough money to hire additional officers, who can cost $80,000 to $100,000 per year, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.

Between the lines: Gov. Greg Abbott blocked efforts to boost school funding, saying he wanted lawmakers to first pass a bill to provide taxpayer money for private school tuition.

  • Repeated attempts to pass voucher legislation ran aground as Democrats and rural Republicans opposed it.

Zoom in: The Austin Independent School District, which currently has more than 80 officers, is hiring more "to comply with the law," district spokesperson Cristina Nguyen tells Axios.

  • "This includes Austin ISD Police Officers who will be assigned to all campuses across the district where students are present, along with the additional sworn and non-sworn staff needed to support them," she added.
  • Meanwhile, Leander and Round Rock, among some other districts statewide, have opted for an exception to the mandate after approving alternative safety plans like ​​employing school marshals.

By the numbers: Two decades ago, 108 school districts in Texas had their own police departments.

  • Now, 400 districts, or about a third of districts in Texas, employ officers.

What they're saying: "School district policing is not [like] policing on the streets," Texas School District Police Chiefs Association president Bill Avera said. "The school becomes the community, and you have to have relationship building."


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