School safety & edu. are top priorities this legislative session

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Education and school safety are hot topics across the nation and with the Texas state legislature starting on Tuesday, East Texas law makers say it's at the top of their agenda this session.

District 57 State Rep, Trent Ashby, says Texas needs to continue to invest in our most important resource, which is our people.

Ashby said, "There are enormous challenges facing our state in terms of providing an educated workforce, a talented workforce, to meet our growing demands in the job arena for the state."

Travis Clardy, representing District 11, says our state needs to make sure quality education is available on every level from K-12 to college and technical schools.

Clardy said, "Make sure we have quality vocational technical training for folks who want to go in and work in the trades and other professions whether it be nursing or law enforcement."

Vice President of University Affairs at Stephen F. Austin, Steve Westbook, says the future of Texas is dependent on an educated population.

"The success of k-12 impacts success of higher education" said Westbrook. "So we look forward to all of these issues that we will be discussing in this session relative to not only higher education but also public education and we know the challenges that are before us."

In light of the tragedy in Newtown, CT school safety is a growing concern across the country and legislative proposals on that subject have already been circulating Austin. Ashby says that something a lot of people don't know is that Texas schools already have the authority to have armed personnel on campus.

Ashby said, "Current state laws essentially allows our school districts the autonomy and ability to make decisions on whether or not their personnel can carry weapons on a campus. So for a lot of people, when they understand that essentially that-that is a local school board decision, they like it."

Ashby says not every community in Texas wants the same type of security apparatus and he thinks it works well the way it is…where the local school districts have the flexibility to determine what works best for them.

"And as someone that believes fervently in local control," said Ashby. "I think that allowing our school districts the flexibility to work with their city police departments and if they're in a county, to work with their sheriff's departments, on what works best for that school district. I think that's a plan that works."

Clardy says we need to be looking at more than just school safety, it's more about public safety.

Clardy said, "This is a human problem. We have very troubled individuals that are making horrible mistakes and causing tragedies that are imposed upon others and we need to take a serious look at what we're doing with mental illness and how we treat that."

The legislative session is set to start on Tuesday, January 8th and adjourns May 27.