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Texas lawmakers look at how to pay for school safety measures

As Texas lawmakers met Tuesday, funding was the key topic when discussing increasing safety measures across Texas schools.

TEXAS — Metal detectors, new door locks and more mental health counselors, those are just some of the solutions school and state leaders are looking at to make Texas students and teachers safer.

Lawmakers said they wanted to do something after eight students and two teachers died in a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, back in May, but those ideas cost money.

"We obviously had a horrific tragedy in Santa Fe on May 18, and we have done a tremendous amount of things to harden our schools, to provide a safer environment, an environment where the students and staff feel safe, and the community feels safe,” said Santa Fe ISD Board President Rusty Norman.

Administrators from Santa Fe ISD told the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday that they spent about $2 million out of their own budget this summer to add metal detectors, more security personnel, and install panic buttons in classrooms.

These are the types of things state leaders are looking at for each school in Texas.

“We've obviously had many demands from the community because we had an event to do this hardening, and then we're also looking at some longer-term things around the mental health aspects, social media monitoring and those type of things," said Norman. "They all come with a cost.”

But each of those things cost money, and it's still not everything folks in Santa Fe think they need to do.

While they got some one-time grant money, administrators worried about sustaining these safety changes.

“While we would never try to place a cost on safety or a child's life, we do have to operate within the funds we've been given, and so we are making some requests now and trying to help through the legislative process with receiving some of those funds, and some things the state will be interested in for all school districts, but then because of the fact that we've had the mass tragedy, some things that will be quite specific to Santa Fe ISD,” said Norman.

The House Appropriations Committee also heard from several state officials on where they think money should go to make students safer.

"It's a high priority of the Legislature to ensure that all of our children are safe in our schools every day,” said Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.

In addition to their normal budget, the Texas Education Agency wants $54 million for things like adding positions within the agency to focus on safety best practices, create better access to health services, and assess safety at each campus.

"While acts of violence are exceedingly rare, we don't want any to happen, and so they're looking for ways to improve the support that we provide,” said Morath.

After the shooting in Santa Fe, the governor's office issued almost $7 million in grant money to help with things like active shooter and behavioral health assessment training.

As for the requests today, the Legislature will take those up when the session starts in January.

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