Texas lawmakers are considering a new bill that would pay educators up to $25,000 to carry firearms and serve as “sentinels” in schools in addition to their role as teachers to help prevent shootings on campuses.
House Bill 13 was drafted in response to the mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde in May 2022, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.
According to the measure, the appointed sentinels would be required to obtain firearms certifications, undergo firearms and mental health training, and learn first aid to be eligible for the bonus.
Sentinels would also be tasked with identifying any students who may pose a risk to their peers.
“What I want to pay them for is hopefully getting the training needed to spot the children before we have a problem,” bill sponsor Representative Ken King stated.
The bill successfully passed the House, but faces opposition in the Senate, with critics arguing that educators should not have to carry weapons to supplement their salaries.
“Even teachers who don’t want to carry guns may feel like they are financially pressured to do so just so they can provide for their families,” Representative James Talarico, a Democrat and former teacher, said.
Texas already has a program in place that allows teachers to voluntarily carry firearms after undergoing a psychological exam and receiving 80 hours of training. However, since the program’s inception 11 years ago, fewer than 400 teachers have chosen to participate.
Lawmakers have until May 29, when the biannual legislative session ends, to pass school safety measures. A separate bill, HB 3, requiring school classrooms to install panic buttons and hire at least one armed security officer at every campus during school hours, is already on its way for approval by Governor Greg Abbott.
HB 3 would also provide monetary incentives to school employees to become certified to carry a weapon, and would provide over a billion dollars to distribute to schools across the state to upgrade their security in the wake of the Uvalde shooting.
“Access to mental health services is as important as any effort to harden campuses,” executive director of the Texas School Alliance HD Chambers said. “Ultimately, each school district is unique and needs the resources and flexibility to enact solutions that work for its community.”
Despite pleas from parents to pass gun control measures, including raising the minimum age to purchase assault rifles, little action has been taken on that front since the Uvalde shooting.