Texas School Leaders Voice Concerns Over Funding for Required Armed SROs
San Antonio ISD Superintendent Jaime Aquino said the district would receive $1.3 million in funding from the state but that paying for the additional officers needed would cost $2.9 million.
Texas school leaders met with lawmakers over the weekend to share concerns regarding funding for a new law requiring armed security officers in all schools.
In May, the Texas Legislative approved a $330 million bill that in part would require an armed officer at each school in the state. House Bill 3 (HB 3) was established following the Robb Elementary School tragedy and is in addition to $1.1 billion in the approved state budget for district security. More specifically, the bill requires school districts to place an armed school-employed or contracted peace officer or resource officer on every campus during school hours.
Hosted by RootEd and Raise Your Hand Texas, San Antonio-area superintendents met with local lawmakers Saturday at a State of Education Legislative Briefing to discuss challenges with paying for the officers, reports KENS5. Under the new requirements, San Antonio school districts would get an additional $15,000 per campus and a $0.28 allotment per student.
“The 28 cents per student is nowhere near enough,” said Southwest ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Ball, adding safety improvements already made by the district put them in a $6 million budget deficit.
East Central ISD Superintendent Roland Toscano said most districts rely on county or city police but his district has the benefit of having its own police department. Still, he says, the overhead cost for one officer is an average of $55,000 and hiring security for each campus would cost his district $1.7 million.
“For reference, we spend $1.5 million on our total athletic programs,” he said.
San Antonio ISD Superintendent Jaime Aquino, who said his district already invested $20 million in both physical safety initiatives and mental health resources, said finding additional officers will be costly and they don’t have much time to comply.
“It didn’t give us a lot of runway. We have been studying the law and studying to see what is the best option for our community,” he said. “I have school police officers. We have 52 or 53 but not enough for one in every single building.”
Aquino said SAISD would receive $1.3 million in funding from the state but that paying for the additional 41 officers needed would cost $2.9 million.
Other school leaders throughout the state have shared challenges with filling positions. In a 2022 survey, two-thirds of law enforcement professionals said police recruitment and retention is the largest issue currently facing law enforcement.
“There are not enough coming out of the academies to staff our department and everyone else’s department,” Dr. Nate Carman, superintendent at Socorro ISD in El Paso, told ABC 3340.
Manuel Chavira, chief of police services for the El Paso ISD, said the district is close to having officers at all 76 campuses but that it is only possible by using the district’s own police department and off-duty officers with the El Paso Police Department. The district is also working on establishing a partnership with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
San Antonio leaders also voiced frustration Saturday over the lack of funding to improve teacher pay. The Texas House of Representatives attempted to pass a pay increase but Texas Senators tied it together with a school voucher bill that was eventually rejected by the House.
“I’m losing teachers every single day and nobody wants to go into the most noble profession because we cannot pay our teachers what they deserve,” said Aquino. “It is disheartening that we had a historic surplus and the state did not invest in our children and in our community.”
For teachers and support staff who remain, Superintendent Ball said many are having a hard time keeping up with the cost of living.
“In order to make our system function, we need bus drivers, our classroom aids, our custodians. We need all of them,” he said. “Those groups of people are having a very hard time meeting their families’ needs and having a living wage and also having insurance.”
Districts are expected to have armed officers at all schools come September. Those that can’t comply may submit a waiver to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and ask to fulfill the requirement with another employee who would undergo training.
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