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School Safety

(Part 2 of "Public Education (K-12)")

Almost a year after Texas' deadliest school shooting in Uvalde, state lawmakers passed sweeping legislation on school safety during the 2023 regular legislative session. Among its most significant changes, House Bill 3 (HB3) ordered school districts to secure schools with armed police officers and to train more staff to identify students who may need mental health support. It also granted the Texas Education Agency (TEA) more authority to ensure school districts have robust safety plans to respond to an active shooter and only slightly raised the amount of funding districts receive for school safety expenses.

Even before HB3 went into effect in September, 2023, school safety experts warned that placing an armed officer at every campus would be costly and hard to implement amid a law enforcement shortage. And despite subsequent proposals for more school safety funding, school leaders' hopes were dashed after the fourth special session ended amid a stalemate on school voucher legislation.

Who's Going To Protect Our Children?

HB3 allows school districts facing financial or staffing constraints to secure schools with alternative plans, including by hiring security guards or training school staff to be armed, and does not punish districts for failing to meet the armed officer requirement. But even with these alternatives, school leaders working to follow the new school safety requirements have said that they may be forced to make budget cuts without additional funding.

But let's look at the issue from a different perspective: that of the teachers.

The average starting salary for a teacher in Texas is (as of Feb 2024) $36 per hour, or $73,000 per year. For that, we ask them, in addition to their normal classroom teaching duties, to supervise extra-curricular activities, and oversee state-mandated standardized testing that enables the school to receive state and federal funding. They coach, teach fire drills, safety procedures, and healthy eating habits. Many are certified in first aid, food sanitation, and CPR (which requires annual retesting - often at their own expense - to maintain that certification). They spend an additional ten to twenty hours per month meeting (or in some cases, not meeting) with parents who, in many cases, are so remarkably unconcerned with their child's actual progress than they are about WHAT is being taught in schools that they feel justified in berating the teacher for the school's supposed shortcomings.

Now, in addition to all of this, let's also include both armed policing and psychological evaluations. How many of us know or can do half of these tasks, and yet we make more than the mere pittance - dare I say "slave wages" - that our teachers make? Is it any wonder that half of our nation's teachers are quitting the profession within five years?

Never mind "who's going to protect our children?" Who's going to teach them?

Committee to Elect Darren Hamilton
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