As public school districts across the state strive to meet new safety and security requirements passed in the 88th Texas Legislature, Katy ISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski said the district has met and exceeded House Bill 3’s requirements.

“Katy ISD includes safety and security items in its annual budget to account for additional personnel, training and the resources needed to ensure the district and its police department are well-equipped to effectively mitigate, surveil and respond to potential safety threats,” Gregorski said in an emailed statement March 23.

HB 3, which went into effect Sept. 1, was penned in response to the May 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, with mandates including panic alert installations, mental health training, drilling with area first responders, alerting parents of campus violence incidents and adding armed personnel to every school campus, according to a state analysis of the bill.

According to bill language on Texas Legislature Online, HB 3 provided...
  • $1.1 billion: total statewide investment through grants
  • $15,000: total allotment per campus
  • $10: allotment per student for security upgrades, up from the previous allotment of $9.72 per student
Diving in deeper

KISD chose to train security personnel to meet the armed personnel requirement, but other local districts hired police officers or developed a “marshall” program, which allows the use of personnel on elementary campuses trained and licensed to perform security duties in lieu of a police or security presence, Gregorski said.

KISD spent $14.57 million in fiscal year 2023-24 on security costs, officials said.
“When House Bill 3 passed, our district was fortunate to already be in the position to create a seamless pathway for district-employed security officers to transition to Level 3 armed security officers,” Gregorski said in an email. ”Officers are thoroughly trained in safety practices, use of firearms, security threats, and other relevant areas pertaining to school safety.”

KISD Police Chief Henry Gaw said meeting HB 3’s mandate without adequate state funding was a challenge, but things have gone smoothly.

“We’re happy with the way it turned out ... and, of course, safety is always No. 1 priority. You can’t put a price tag on safety,” Gaw said.

Although HB 3 requires each campus to have armed personnel, a TEA spokesperson said in an email the agency doesn’t receive copies of waivers from districts using armed personnel other than police officers to comply with the law.

“Not every district has a commissioned police officer on every campus. So ... the law provides the flexibility to file good cause exemptions,” said Kathy Martinez-Prather, director for the Texas School Safety Center, which collects and shares security information for Texas schools.

Local districts have developed different strategies to meet HB 3 requirements.
  • Lamar Consolidated ISD added police officers to its elementary schools’ budgets.
  • Fort Bend ISD uses two vendors to provide 52 armed security guards at a cost of $33,000 per guard, district officials said.
  • Pearland, Clear Creek and Alvin ISDs used the TEA’s good cause exemptions as they couldn’t meet personnel or financial requirements, Community Impact reported.
Zooming out

Prior to HB 3, KISD applied multiple technologies, facility upgrades and protocols to develop a layered approach to securing the district, Gaw said.

Most of the funding has come from KISD bond programs—in 2017, 2021 and November 2023— which allocated over $60 million for safety and security, Gregorski said.
Various security processes have been used by the district, including video surveillance and the 24/7 Safety and Security Analysis Center.

Both are recommended by the Texas School Safety Center, Martinez-Prather said.

“It’s about meeting those standards, and ... understanding from intruder detection audits to district vulnerability assessments, where every district [is with security] today,” she said.

What's next

Nonprofit public education advocates like Bob Popinski, senior director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, have said new school safety requirements, supporting students after COVID-19 as well as inflation have created challenges for public schools.

“HB 3, which requires an armed security officer on each campus, only provided an increase of 28 cents per student and $15,000 per campus,” Popinski said in an emailed statement. “This is well short of the funding needed to meet this new requirement, especially in a time where public schools have not had an overall funding increase since 2019.”

The Texas Legislature sets the overall amount of per student funding in Texas, which is $4,800 behind the national average, according to the 2024 National Education Association report, Popinski said. The 89th legislative session begins in January.

Now that KISD has met mandates, Gaw said the police and other security personnel are turning their focus to further using the technological capabilities of the 24/7 analysis center to more quickly assess security threats.

The center operators can quickly gather information for on-duty officers even before they arrive on-site.

“That’s the type of precision you’re going to need in order to handle those situations safely,” Gaw said.