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

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

Every Texas school would have an armed officer and prospective teachers would receive additional support under legislation prioritized by House Dade Phelan.

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

The Robb Elementary massacre will loom large during proceedings.

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

Related: Texas lawmakers oppose security during first public education committee hearing

The legislation was introduced by Lubbock Republican Dustin Burrows.

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

Related: How Texas senators want to make schools safer after Uvalde

However, some child advocates have expressed concern about adding more officers to schools, saying such moves could negatively impact students. In addition, officials have pointed to the lack of personnel in the ranks of the police as a challenge.

Related: Some Texans want cops at every school after Uvalde Is this the answer?

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 student safety division. District leaders have since said the money allocated — roughly $10 per student — doesn’t go very far. For example, Dallas Superintendent of Schools Stephanie Elizalde has said her district requires about $200 per student to keep them safe.

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

Related: Dallas ISD seeks big money to bolster school safety, not vouchers Texas teacher pipeline fix

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

A bill by Rep. Harold Dutton aims to restructure the minimum wage in a way that “results in an increase in pay recognizing the different pathways associated with the profession”.

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

These ideas reflect some recent suggestions from the state Task Force on Teacher Vacancies.

Related: Texas should pay teachers more, train them as doctors, task force finds

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

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

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

Related: From Abilene to Victoria, what Texas teacher pay looks like

The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation about pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from Bobby and Lottye Lyle, The Texas Communities Foundation, The Dallas Foundation, The Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab’s journalism.

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