Senators Williams, Whitmire and Representative Huberty propose "Texas School District Security Act" to help protect students, school personnel
AUSTIN – Sen. Tommy Williams, The Woodlands, Sen. John Whitmire, Houston, and Rep. Dan Huberty, Humble, announced their intention today (Tuesday, Jan. 22) to file legislation to enhance safety for students and school personnel.
The "Texas School District Security Act" would give school boards, parents and taxpayers' local choices and control in hiring licensed peace officers to protect school campuses. The plan is a response to the school-shooting tragedy last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct. The plan would rely on professional police officers to defend our children and schools for local communities that want this option.
The three legislators characterize their plan as "a Texas solution to save lives without sacrificing freedoms" while noting "school communities are smart enough to figure out what works best for them and how much they're willing to commit."
“We can offer a solution that will save lives. We can do so without overreactions and gun control and with the best interests of our students, teachers, faculty and communities. We can also let local school districts decide for themselves,” Sen. Williams said. “A blanket state mandate won’t work. Nor will a one-size-fits-all policy. Our idea emphasizes local choice and local control.”
"I support Senator Williams in proposing a plan to allow school districts an option to develop their individual security plans," stated Senator Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "I trust our school boards and parents to decide what is best for their schools and this will allow them that opportunity."
Representative Huberty served as president of the Humble School Board before his election to the Texas Legislature.
"I understand first-hand the importance of local control and how this law will allow school districts, school boards and their constituents the ability to decide for themselves how to best use their resources to protect our most precious assets --- our children," Rep. Huberty said. "I look forward to working with Senators Williams and Whitmire and my House colleagues during this session to pass this important piece of legislation."
Additional protection of students and schools won’t come without additional cost, noted Sen. Williams, new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I know just how tight state and local budgets are these days. I also know that we need to pay as we go, avoid running up debt, and empower local school districts to decide what the best policy is for them,” the Senate Finance chairman said. “This plan also underscores accountability to voters.”
Many Texas school districts are already stretched to the maximum but should be able to decide for themselves if they want to invest in increased, dedicated safety protections, the officials said while outlining their "Texas School District Security Act."
Modeled after current law, which allows municipalities to vote to adopt Crime Control Districts, the legislation, being drafted, would do the following:
• Allow individual independent school districts to vote on and approve dedicated funding for enhanced school security measures.
• Place trained, licensed and armed peace officers in all schools within a district – or only those in which the school district chooses.
• Provide funding for enhanced screening and security measures at public K through 12 schools.
• Allow for dedicated sales tax (if available under the state cap), or a dedicated property tax specifically for crime control and enhanced security based on local school district votes and desires. The revenue generated from a local option School District Security Fund would be separate from all other district funding.
• Provide transparency and accountability by requiring ISD’s to hold public hearings on what is to be included and provided by the "Texas School District Security Act". Costs will be spelled out and voters will know the estimated amount of the dedicated property or sales tax to cover those costs before holding an election on the issue.
• Require a review and renewal election of the "Texas School District Security Act" every 5 years by voters.
• Repeal of the "Texas School District Security Act" will be allowed with a repeal petition that contains valid signatures from voters in the district equal to at least 50 percent of the number of votes cast in the election creating the special district.
• The elected and accountable local school board would also serve as the board of the "Texas School District Security Act".
• A constitutional amendment may be required to give school districts authority to fund the School District Security Act. The bill is still being drafted and the funding details are part of the process. We are confident that Texas voters will support such an amendment, if necessary, to help make our schools safer.
“Voters in school districts across Texas ought to be able to decide for themselves if they want to dedicate some funds - that are accountable and transparent - to enhance the protection of our school children and our schools,” Sen. Williams said.
“I believe we can offer solutions which don’t infringe on the lawful right to bear arms. I know each of us will sleep better knowing our local communities have options to fund safety measures so our children can learn and grow in safe environments,” Sen. Williams said.