The state’s top lawmakers announced $400 million in grants to upgrade safety at Texas schools, but that money is unlikely to make its way to school districts before January.
The school safety grants, announced at the end of October, were part of a bigger $894 million transfer of funds by the Legislative Budget Board that also included $15 million for a new elementary in Uvalde and an extra $360 million for Operation Lone Star at the border.
Commissioner Mike Morath mentioned the funds at the November meeting of the State Board of Education last Friday, linking the money directly to a proposed rule for minimum school safety standards that was posted for comment on Nov. 3.
“There’s a level of funding available to schools to help them improve their safety posture at the school level,” Morath told the SBOE in commissioner comments. “This is based upon something the governor had asked us to do over the summer: a new proposed rule related to minimum facility standards and minimum operational standards.”
Those proposed standards — which include fencing requirements, primary entrance standards and exterior door mechanisms for closure — are considered the minimum necessary to keep children and staff safe on a school campus.
“This is whether you are leasing the facility, whether it is 100 years old or whether it’s brand spanking new,” Morath said. “This has to be applied universally to all instructional facilities.”
This is not the first time Texas has funded safety upgrades on school campuses. State leaders set aside an additional $105 million for school and public safety measures in June, including silent panic alert technology.
The state also set aside $100 million in grants for school districts to harden campuses after the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School that killed 10 and wounded 13. That funding was contained in Senate Bill 500.
In both the Santa Fe and Uvalde mass shootings, the suspected killers were disgruntled students.
The Texas Education Agency is currently standing up the webpage for the new funding, which will be known as the School Safety Standards Formula Grants. Grants will go out to school districts on a per-pupil funding basis, with every school district getting at least $200,000.
“It will take some time for some of our facilities to get up to speed,” Morath said. “We expect districts to move on this during this school year.”
School districts were expected to assess campus safety over the summer and provide updated safety plans to the Texas School Safety Center, based at Texas State University.
The Texas School Safety Center also is conducting random audits of school district campuses this school year, checking access points and accessibility issues.