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Uvalde Schools Get $442,000 from John Cornyn’s Federal Gun Safety Law

The gun safety law allocates $100 million for a Department of Justice grant program for school districts to invest in safety programs and technology

A Texas Department of Public Safety police vehicle sits outside of Dalton Elementary School as students wait outside their classroom on the first day of school in Uvalde. (Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune)

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Texas school districts are set to receive nearly $8 million from the Justice Department to improve campus security this year through funding from the bipartisan gun safety law passed this summer. That includes nearly half a million for Uvalde.

The gun safety law allocates $100 million for a DOJ grant program for school districts to invest in safety programs and technology. Twenty-eight Texas school districts were awarded grants through the program, totaling $7,923,719. The grants are distributed via the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services based on districts’ fiscal needs and security proposals.

More school districts were awarded grants in Texas than in any other state. Still, with over 1,000 public school districts in the state, the grants touched only a sliver of Texas’ schools.

But for some of the recipients, the grants are a major boost in security funding. Uvalde received $442,400 from the grant program — more than the $435,270 the school district allocated for security and monitoring in its 2021-22 budget. In addition to Uvalde, the recipients include some of the biggest urban school districts in the state, such as Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth. Houston-area school districts received a total of over $1 million, as did North Texas districts.

Uvalde received $69,000 in 2020 to “harden” its schools from a Texas Education Agency grant program as part of a state effort to amp up school security in 2019 after the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School. Those efforts failed to stop the May shooting at Robb Elementary, but Republicans in both Congress and Texas are digging their heels into school-hardening efforts to prevent future tragedies.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath told state senators over the summer that the agency planned to review the entry points of every school in the state — which amounts to over 3,000 campuses and as many as 80,000 buildings. U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Los Indios, introduced legislation just before the October recess to redirect $11 billion from the Internal Revenue Service toward state grants for school mental health programs, security and other violence-prevention measures. That includes an additional $300 million for the COPS grants program.

Democrats, on the other hand, have criticized school hardening as secondary to gun control reform. Bridging the two priorities was a central pillar in the bipartisan gun safety legislation, spearheaded by Sen. John Cornyn. It was the first major gun control legislation to pass since 1994 and goes far beyond the scope of school safety, including a provision to tighten access to guns for those convicted of domestic abuse. Still, it fell short on several Democratic priorities, including universal background checks, raising the legal age to purchase firearms and the a ban on assault weapons. The bill passed in the Senate on a wide bipartisan basis.

Other Texas Republicans, however, were less supportive of the legislation. Sen. Ted Cruz did not vote for the bill, nor did any Texas Republicans in the House except for Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio. Gonzales’ district includes Uvalde.

The gun safety law also allocates a further $200 million to help schools with student and faculty training and other violence-prevention efforts.

“No parent should fear for the safety of their student when they drop them off at school, and no student should be afraid when they walk into the classroom,” Cornyn said in a statement. “In the aftermath of the tragedy in Uvalde, I’m grateful that meaningful solutions are starting to be delivered through this funding to prevent violence, provide training to school personnel and students, and apply evidence-based threat assessments in Texas schools.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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