Texarkana Gazette

Texas House prioritize­s armed officer at each school and bolstering teacher quality

- TALIA RICHMAN Distribute­d by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

DALLAS — Every Texas school would have an armed officer and would-be teachers would receive extra support under legislatio­n prioritize­d by House Speaker Dade Phelan.

Phelan highlighte­d bills addressing campus safety and strengthen­ing the teacher pipeline late Wednesday. Lawmakers pledged to focus on school security this legislativ­e session, the first to come after 19 children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde.

The Robb Elementary massacre will loom large over proceeding­s.

The bill requiring at least one armed security officer at every campus also would allocate $15,000 in base funding annually per school for safety measures, according to a news release.

The legislatio­n was filed by Lubbock Republican Dustin Burrows.

Some Republican­s say hardening schools — through facility upgrades and arming staff — could be a solution to making schools safer after Uvalde. On the day of Texas’ deadliest school shooting, 376 officers responded to Robb Elementary.

Some child advocates, however, have expressed concern over adding more officers to schools, saying such moves could negatively affect students. Additional­ly, officials have pointed to staffing shortages among police ranks as a challenge.

Meanwhile, another priority bill would increase the amount of money schools receive to pay for security needs.

After the Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018, the Legislatur­e created a new per-student safety allotment.

District leaders since have said that the money allocated — roughly $10 per student — doesn’t go very far. Dallas schools Superinten­dent Stephanie Elizalde, for example, has said her district wants about $200 per student to keep them safe.

Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, filed legislatio­n to increase the allotment to $100 per student. The proposal also would boost funding for mental health resources, which educators have said is needed to help students who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others.

Improving teacher recruitmen­t and retention is another key area for the House.

A bill from Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, aims to restructur­e the minimum salary in a way “that results in an increased pay by recognizin­g the various pathways related to the profession.”

It would establish a new grant to help teachers pursuing special education or bilingual credential­s, areas that are particular­ly hard to staff. The bill also would increase funding for educator mentoring so more teachers can get support earlier in their careers.

These ideas mirror some recent suggestion­s from the state’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force.

The state’s current minimum salary schedule for a 10-month contract is $33,660, according to the Texas Education Agency.

At least one lawmaker wants to raise teacher salaries by $15,000 across the board.

So far, Phelan has not listed “school choice” or voucher-like initiative­s in his list of legislativ­e priorities.

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