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GOP leaders shift $105M to school security, mental health in reaction to Uvalde shooting

AUSTIN — Under stress to act in the wake of the Uvalde school massacre, Gov. Greg Abbott and GOP legislative leaders on Tuesday introduced a $105.5 million finances switch from state school funds towards school safety and mental health initiatives.

The funding comes slightly greater than a month after an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in the worst school shooting in Texas historical past.

In the aftermath, state leaders have convened committees and initiated investigations into the shooting. The focus on the Capitol has been on hardening faculties, mental health outreach and a seemingly botched police response.

The complete contains $5 million for the mental health authority that oversees Uvalde and the encircling space. The remaining $100.5 million will likely be allotted as follows:

  • $50 million for bulletproof shields
  • $17.1 million to purchase silent panic alert know-how for faculties
  • $7 million for Texas State University’s active-shooter coaching program, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT)
  • $7 million for Texas State’s Texas School Safety Center to conduct on-site security audits at faculties
  • $5.8 million for the state’s mental health telemedicine program, Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine
  • $5 million for the Department of Public Safety to develop regional multi-agency police intelligence facilities, referred to as fusion facilities
  • $4.7 million to the Health and Human Services Commission for broad-based remedy and group therapy packages for at-risk youth
  • $3 million to cowl journey bills for Texas law enforcement officials who undergo the coaching
  • $950,000 for Health and Human Services-coordinated specialty care groups that present speedy assist to youth experiencing a primary episode of psychosis

“The state of Texas is acting swiftly to ensure our schools are secure and that children, teachers, and families across Texas have the support and resources they need to be safe as we work to prevent future tragedies like the heinous crime committed in Uvalde,” Abbott mentioned in a information launch.

Where is Abbott getting the cash?

The $105.5 million comes from the Texas Education Agency’s Foundation School Program, the state’s pool of cash for school districts and constitution faculties. The program has a surplus due to skyrocketing property values throughout Texas which have led to sharp increases in property tax bills.

Abbott was in a position to shift the Legislature-approved funds below a course of referred to as “budget execution authority,” which circumvents public enter and a public assembly by circulating letters among the many 10 members of the Legislative Budget Board.

Abbott has invoked the method two different instances this yr, in February and April, to prolong funding for Operation Lone Star, a expensive border enforcement initiative. The governor additionally used it for a a lot smaller finances shift in November to fund ongoing audits of the 2020 election and to fund the Legislature after he vetoed funding in a political spat final yr.

“I applaud the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, House Speaker and budget leaders for taking this important step to protect students and enhance access to mental health services,” mentioned Republican state Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, a member of the finances board. “This funding will allow us to expand our effort to identify students at risk of becoming a danger and direct them into mental health treatment.”

A TEA spokesman mentioned the company estimated in May that it has over $1.1 billion in surplus in the Foundation School Program.

What packages are getting the cash?

The largest expense — $50 million for bulletproof shields — is a political win for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who publicly called for funding the shields in the week after the May 24 Uvalde shooting.

House Speaker Dade Phelan suggested the Legislature take a extra holistic strategy earlier than approving any emergency funding. He later got here round to the thought, and Tuesday’s announcement indicated clear cooperation between the leaders of the Legislature’s higher and decrease chambers.

“A few weeks ago, I said I wanted to ensure we provided bullet-resistant shields to our schools as soon as we could,” Patrick mentioned. “Schools must be equipped with all the tools they need to protect our students.”

The packages granted funding via the finances switch mirror how state lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have centered their response on particular points of the Uvalde shooting. For occasion, $5 million for fusion facilities stems from a perception that extra thorough social media monitoring might need led authorities to the 18-year-old shooter earlier than he carried out the bloodbath.

The shooter, who reportedly made disturbing feedback and is believed to have dedicated cruelty to animals, might need been topic to early intervention from a Health and Human Services’ Coordinated Specialty Care workforce, which is getting $950,000 via the order. The groups are designed to present remedy throughout the first yr of the onset of psychosis.

And a $4.7 million funding in Health and Human Services’ so-called multisystemic remedy initiative offers money to a program that probably might have handled the shooter, who not solely confirmed early indicators of misery but in addition had a troubled family life. It’s designed to deal with kids with a history of violent offenses and serious mental health issues who additionally face intensive household wants.

The infusion of $5.8 million to the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine program, referred to as TCHATT, expands distant remedy to rural and underserved faculties. It was created in the aftermath of the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting that left eight college students and two lecturers useless.

Last week, leaders of the group overseeing TCHATT testified in a Senate listening to that companies have been expanded to about 40% of the state.

The Uvalde group has a dearth of mental health companies, particularly for kids, and the Uvalde school district had yet to gain access to the TCHATT program.

The growth of Texas State University’s active-shooter coaching program, ALERRT, comes as lawmakers have known as on instructors and consultants on the San Marcos coaching middle to give perspective on how police ought to have dealt with the shooting.

Uvalde ISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo stored authorities from confronting the shooter for greater than 70 minutes. One ALERRT teacher final week mentioned Arredondo’s actions value lives.

Victims’ relations have demanded that the school district fireplace Arredondo and that he resign from the Uvalde City Council. The district’s superintendent positioned Arredondo on administrative depart final week.

Staff author Corbett Smith contributed to this report from Dallas.

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