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Texas’ Ambition for Armed Security at Every School Faces Economic and Manpower Challenges

by Lucas Garcia
10 comments
Texas school security mandate

The aspiration to station armed officers at each educational institution in Texas is confronted by the twin barriers of insufficient funding and inadequate police presence, as a new legislative directive takes effect. This development illustrates the impracticality of a safety measure increasingly adopted by various states as a response to the disturbing trend of mass shootings in America.

Multiple major school districts in Texas, responsible for educating a significant portion of the state’s 5 million student populace, have resumed in-person classes without satisfying the new state edict mandating the presence of armed officers on every campus. The requirement is a cornerstone of a public safety bill endorsed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who has dismissed public appeals for tighter gun control measures, even in the wake of impassioned requests from parents who lost their children in the Uvalde school shooting.

With approximately 9,000 public school campuses, Texas stands as the second-largest state in this regard, surpassed only by California, making this mandate the most extensive of its kind in the United States.

Stephanie Elizalde, the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District—which serves more than 140,000 students—commented, “We are all in agreement with the objective. Yet the primary obstacle for superintendents is the recurring issue of unfunded mandates.”

The situation exposes the limitations of calls for stationing armed security personnel at all educational establishments. This concept was initially promoted over a decade ago by the National Rifle Association, particularly following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. While the Texas legislation does permit exceptions, it falls short of mandating districts to disclose their compliance, rendering it unclear how many institutions are adhering to the new standards.

In an investigation, Big Big News reached out to 60 of the largest school districts in Texas. These districts, which collectively enroll over 2.7 million students and span diverse regions of the state, showed that at least half are unable to meet the law’s highest criteria.

One of the significant challenges is the staffing of elementary schools, which historically have fewer officers. This shortage became a focal point following a devastating incident at Robb Elementary School last year, where 19 students and two teachers were killed. Surprisingly, the failure was not the absence of police—who arrived within minutes—but rather the lack of prompt action by the officers at the scene.

Official spokespeople for both Governor Abbott and the Texas Education Agency did not provide responses to questions concerning the legislation’s implementation. Local educational leaders, however, point out that the additional funding allocated per campus under the new law—approximately $15,000—is glaringly insufficient.

As school districts scramble to meet the new legislative requirements, previously unconsidered alternatives such as hiring private security firms or arming additional staff and educators are now gaining traction.

The impediment of inadequate funding and insufficient manpower is not restricted to Texas alone but is reflective of a nationwide struggle. Just last month, a small town in Minnesota lost its entire police force as officers resigned over underpayment and sought better opportunities.

Similar initiatives in other states like Florida and Tennessee have also been hindered by a lack of officers. Nashville, Tennessee’s largest city, turned down most of the additional funding offered by the state to staff schools.

Education legal expert Joy Baskin, of the Texas Association of School Boards, opined that all mandates inevitably come at a financial cost, but labeled this as the most substantial burden she has seen in her 25-plus years of engagement with school districts.

In contrast, San Antonio’s Southside Independent School District has managed to meet the officer staffing requirements, albeit with wages ranging from $23 to $30 an hour. The district’s police chief, Don Tijerina, warned that it wouldn’t be challenging for these officers to find alternative employment.

“The bottom line is the current demand far outstrips supply,” he stated.

Reported by LaFleur in Dallas, with contributions from Big Big News writer Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Texas school security mandate

What is the new law in Texas regarding school security?

The new law in Texas mandates that armed officers be stationed at every public school campus. This legislation was signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott and aims to improve school safety in response to the ongoing issue of mass shootings in the United States.

Who is affected by this new Texas law?

The law impacts all public school districts in Texas, which collectively educate a significant portion of the state’s 5 million students. The mandate is most burdensome for large school districts that have multiple campuses and a high number of students.

What challenges are school districts facing in implementing this law?

School districts are primarily grappling with insufficient funding and a lack of available police officers to fulfill the mandate. Some districts have cited the need for additional funding far beyond the $15,000 allocated per campus by the new law.

Are there any exceptions to the mandate?

Yes, the law allows for exceptions, although it does not require school districts to report on their compliance. This makes it unclear how many schools are actually meeting the standards set by the new law.

What alternatives are being considered by school districts?

Some school districts are exploring previously unconsidered options such as hiring private security firms or arming additional staff and teachers to meet the legislative requirements.

How are other states faring with similar mandates?

Other states like Florida and Tennessee have also struggled with implementing similar mandates. Issues include a shortage of police officers and insufficient funding, similar to the challenges faced by Texas.

What are experts saying about the mandate?

Experts like Joy Baskin of the Texas Association of School Boards have stated that mandates like this come with financial costs, and this particular mandate is one of the most financially burdensome she has seen in over 25 years.

Is the issue of inadequate police staffing unique to Texas?

No, the issue of inadequate police staffing is a national challenge. For example, a small town in Minnesota lost its entire police department last month as officers resigned over low pay and sought better opportunities elsewhere.

What has been the public response to the law’s rollout?

The public response has been mixed. While some see the law as a necessary step for enhancing school safety, others criticize it as an unfunded mandate that places an unfair burden on school districts.

Has there been any official statement from Governor Abbott or the Texas Education Agency regarding the law’s challenges?

As of now, neither Governor Abbott nor the Texas Education Agency has provided an official response to questions concerning the challenges in implementing the new school security mandate.

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10 comments

Bill Turner September 1, 2023 - 7:21 am

if states like Florida and Tennessee are also failing, this is clearly not just a Texas problem. Time for some federal action, maybe?

Reply
John Smith September 1, 2023 - 11:16 am

Wow, this is eye-opening. Can’t believe we’re still struggling with the basics like school safety. Makes you wonder where all our taxes are going?

Reply
Sara Lewis September 1, 2023 - 11:57 am

So are we saying that we can’t afford to keep our kids safe? Thats the real question. How did it come to this?

Reply
Tom Clarke September 1, 2023 - 12:20 pm

What’s the point of laws that can’t be enforced? Abbott shoulda known better. Its all for show if you ask me.

Reply
Lisa Gray September 1, 2023 - 1:11 pm

We gotta think out of the box. Maybe technology can help, maybe community volunteers. Something’s gotta give.

Reply
Emily Johnson September 1, 2023 - 3:21 pm

Well, it’s easier said than done, isn’t it? You cant just place a cop in every school and think its gonna fix everything. Money, training, long term impact. All these need to be considered.

Reply
Alan Williams September 1, 2023 - 4:42 pm

The problem is bigger than Texas, but they’re a case study for the nation now. If they can’t pull it off with their size and budget, what hope do other states have?

Reply
Donna White September 1, 2023 - 5:08 pm

The way I see it, it’s not just about armed officers. Its about a comprehensive approach to safety and well-being. Until we get that, these problems ain’t going away.

Reply
Mike Roberts September 1, 2023 - 8:23 pm

$15,000 per campus? That’s a joke. Any1 who thinks that’s enough has never had to balance a budget.

Reply
Rebecca Allen September 2, 2023 - 3:35 am

Its all a complex issue. You got politics, finance, public opinion and the reality of life and death. No easy answers, sadly.

Reply

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