Last week, school superintendents and other education and elected officials from across East Texas met in Longview to discuss the impact of this year’s legislative session on public education.
It mostly boiled down to two major areas: Funding and safety.
No institutions in our state have more to gain or lose each time the Legislature meets. Beyond setting the entire state budget, no area other than education is as important.
This year, happily, the Legislature made what in recent years has been an unusual move: increasing funding to public schools. It was absolutely the right thing to do after years of putting school systems into starvation mode.
We are hopeful this philosophy of proper funding signals a new day in the state’s support of education.
Time will tell and it may depend on whether the Republican stranglehold on the Legislature strengthens or weakens. This year, majority Republicans may have gotten a sense that voters weren’t happy with the status quo after losing a number of seats in the state House of Representatives in the last election cycle.
The other big issue at last week’s session was, appropriately, school security. It is one of those rare topics that both sides of the political aisle can largely agree upon. No one wants a school tragedy in Texas — or anywhere else for that matter.
But preventing violence in schools is no easy matter. It’s been shown more than once that simply locking the doors or putting armed guards out front is not enough to prevent tragedy.
The Legislature has allowed for more guns in schoolhouse hallways and classrooms carried in concealment by school employees and the state is requiring and paying for training.
More important — especially for the districts without many local resources — is funding that will purchase surveillance equipment to help ward off thoughts of attacks. Districts also are utilizing funding to replace doors to make them exit-only and developing systems of entry cards for teachers and other officials.
Other measures are being put into place that are not widely known or discussed. To allow all the security details to be made public could defeat the purpose.
By this time we would expect most such systems would be in place, but others may be forthcoming. Parents (or anyone else) who see deficiencies would help promote safety by pointing them out to school and law enforcement officials.
Is it terrible that our children have to go to school under heightened surveillance and behind other security measures? Not if it keeps them safe, and we hope every district makes use of every dollar granted to do just that.
Learning is done best in a safe environment. It might be different than it used to be but schools can still be safe and, for incoming students, all the security measures will seem routine.