DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Reaction is pouring in to Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to spend as much as $200 million to improve school safety. The plan announced in Dallas Wednesday followed a series of roundtable discussions last week hurriedly assembled in the wake of the Santa Fe school shooting.
“The loss of life, 10 lives, has weighed heavily on the state of Texas,” said DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa prior to introducing Gov. Abbott during a morning briefing. “Schools should be safe. No parent should ever worry about sending their child to school.”
And yet, they do. Every day. The burning question for communities across the country now is what to do about it.
The governor’s school safety plan, among other things, plans to tap into both federal and state funding streams to increase police presence on school campuses, reduce entries and exits at schools, install active shooter alarm systems and increase mental health screenings for at-risk students.
“You have to fund it,” says Rena Honea, a veteran educator and President of AllianceAFT, a DISD teacher’s union. “You cannot expect our school districts to do more and more with less and less.”
Honea calls the governor’s plan a “good start,” but wants to see the money: adding that time has seen financial support for public schools erode.
“In as late as the ’70s, the legislature funded anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of our public schools, today, we are lucky if we are getting 38% from the state, which is a huge cut.”
While Dallas school leaders appeared encouraged that the plan did not call for any unfunded mandates, they, too, are looking for the funding to turn plans into progress.
“We can generate ideas,” says Hinojosa. “But then when the legislature comes, there needs to be some action, with some resources if this is really a priority for the state.”
Dallas school leaders were also quick to add that the plan allows the flexibility for districts to decide that some proposals would not be good fits for their communities. DISD has already said ‘no’ to arming teachers.
“It may be appropriate for rural areas or West Texas,” says Hinojosa. “It’s not something that we are interested in.”