“We’re not usually here in December,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told lawmakers and spectators as the Texas Senate gaveled in Dec. 1. Texas lawmakers are currently in their fourth special legislative session of the year, which ends Dec. 6.

Lawmakers have spent about nine months of this year at the Capitol with Texas Republicans fighting over property tax cuts, border security, private school vouchers and public school funding.

After a last-minute committee meeting, state senators unanimously approved Senate Bill 5 on Dec. 1. The bill would set aside $800 million for school safety funding, including a grant program to help school districts hire armed guards.

SB 5’s fate is unclear in the Texas House, which passed its own school safety proposal, House Bill 2, on Nov. 17. The House bill proposes two new school safety grants totaling nearly $1.3 billion per year and asks Texas voters to approve it in a future election.

The Senate has not considered HB 2.

What you need to know

“Senate Bill 5 reaffirms our commitment to make schools safer for students and teachers,” bill author Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said.

The bill would create a new grant program to help public school districts and charter schools meet the requirements of HB 3, a bill from the regular legislative session that requires schools to have at least one armed security officer on campus during regular school hours.

HB 3 became law Sept. 1. Schools across Texas have requested exemptions to the law, arguing they do not have enough money to hire new law enforcement officers.

SB 5 would allocate $400 million to help schools hire armed officers during the 2024-25 biennium. To maintain the grant program, lawmakers would have to reallocate money in future years.

Huffman’s bill would also double the amount of funding schools are required to receive from the state. Each campus would be entitled to a $30,000 allotment and $20 per student, which is expected to cost the state another $400 million.

Huffman called the proposal “an immediate response to the needs of our school districts.”

Stay tuned

Both chambers of the Legislature are scheduled to meet next week, just days before the end of the current special session. Gov. Greg Abbott has not said if he will call a fifth special session to tackle school safety and other education issues.