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Texas mandates officers in schools; large districts struggle to comply

With over 8,900 public school campuses, Texas boasts the second-highest number of schools in the United States.
Texas mandates officers in schools; large districts struggle to comply
Posted at 8:17 AM, Sep 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-01 10:17:14-04

Sept. 1 marks the implementation of several significant laws in Texas, including one that mandates armed security guards on every school campus statewide.

This law was enacted in response to the school shooting in Uvalde, which resulted in the loss of 21 lives. However, Texas is struggling with the reality of not having enough police officers or funding to implement this law.

With over 8,900 public school campuses, Texas boasts the second-highest number of schools in the country, with California being the first. Which means this requirement stands as the largest of its kind in the United States.

But as classes start back up, many of the state’s major school districts, responsible for educating a significant portion of the state's 5.8 million students, are not complying with the new state mandate, House Bill 3, for armed officers on every campus.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the mandate as a safety measure aimed at preventing school shootings, despite appeals from parents who lost loved ones in the Uvalde mass shooting for stricter gun control measures.

SEE MORE: How helpful are police officers in schools?

According to a report by the Associated Press, after gathering data from 60 of Texas’ largest school districts, which combined enrolled more than 2.7 million students, the AP found that at least half of those 60 have been unable to comply with the law’s standards, with the majority of the problem being staffing elementary schools, where officers are less common.

"We all support the idea," Stephanie Elizalde, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, which has more than 140,000 students, told the AP. "The biggest challenge for all superintendents is that this is yet again an unfunded mandate."

In order to comply with the new mandate, Texas lawmakers provided $15,000 per campus plus 28 cents per student, totaling $10 per student. But some local leaders say this falls far short of the needed funds to properly hire and equip an officer.

"I don't think we should be obligating districts to do things without coming with a check to pay for them," Rep. Joe Moody, who is one of the sponsors of HB3, told ABC News. "I think we did increase the pot of money available for these programs, and if it didn't increase by enough, and that's a concern that we get going forward, then we need to remedy that, absolutely."

In Houston, for example, the starting salary for a single officer ranges anywhere from $58,000-$74,000, and in Dallas, the range is $66,000 to $87,000 for each officer.

Scripps News has reached out to the governor’s office for comment on the matter but has yet to hear back.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.


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