J.R. “Rusty” Norman, president of Santa Fe’s public school district, told a Senate panel Tuesday that Texas schools need more money to pay for the security enhancements made after the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School.
“We’re dealing with parents and students that have a very heightened fear because of the fact that we had an incident in Santa Fe,” Norman said during testimony to the Senate Committee on Education. “We’re having to do things to try to instill that trust that we’re actively working to provide the safest educational experience for our students and staff.
“Obviously, this requires money.”
Santa Fe ISD spent more than $2 million on security at its school buildings and to hire security staff and counselors after the shooting. Most of those new hires were paid for with grant money and the school district needs help paying for investments it made, however, Norman said.
He pointed specifically to the security personnel that man the metal detectors that were donated to the district after the shooting that left 10 dead and 14 injured.
“All the security folks that we have hired are to work those metal detectors,” Norman said. “If we cannot continue to fund those type things, we’ll be forced to make some decisions on priorities that could be up to and including removing those metal detectors.”
Norman testified a day after state Sen. Larry Taylor, of Friendswood, filed Senate Bill 11, which proposes a raft of changes to school safety measures in Texas.
The wide-ranging bill would increase access to mental health resources in Texas schools, would require that substitute teachers be trained for emergency situations and would make school districts create “threat assessment teams” that would identify young people who might pose a threat.
It also includes an unspecified amount of money out of the state’s rainy day fund to help pay schools for safety improvements.
Taylor’s bill incorporates much of the language in two bills state Rep. Greg Bonnen filed last month. Taylor’s bill has already been introduced and had a hearing, which might mean it’s the one that moves through the remainder of the legislative session.
Norman told senators they shouldn’t make a “one-size-fits-all bill” that tries to get all school districts to act the same way when it comes to school safety.
“We’re going to have to have some flexibility,” he said.
Texas City ISD Superintendent Rodney Cavness and Executive Director of Security and School Safety Michael Matranga also spoke on the panel.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a group of Texas senators introduced a trio of high-priority bills related to Hurricane Harvey. The bills propose ways to improve disaster recovery in the future, and ways to pay for the ongoing recovery from the August 2017 storm.
Among other things, the bills would create a state disaster relief fund and would make state money available for cities to use to pay for the local costs of federal recovery projects.
The bills would take some $3 billion from the state’s rainy day fund to refund state agencies for money they spent during the storm, and to compensate school districts whose property tax revenues fell because of the hurricane.
The bills are the first major proposals to come out of the legislature to address disaster recovery after the storm.
The authors of the bills, who came from Harvey-devastated districts, say the proposals reflect lessons learned in the 18 months of the storm.
“We heard you,” said state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, of Brenham. “We’re with you and we’re not going to leave you.”
The Texas Senate on Wednesday confirmed Friendswood attorney Jared Robinson as judge of Galveston County’s 405th District Court. Gov. Greg Abbott nominated Robinson last month. ... A bill filed in the Texas Legislature on Wednesday would make walking quorums by elected officials illegal. The bill comes after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals struck down part of the Texas Open Meetings Act involving walking quorums last week. ... There are 83 days left in the Texas Legislative session. ... There are 58 days until the May 4 local Election Day.