Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is reportedly considering a proposal that would allow states to use federal funds to buy weapons and conduct training classes in situations where schools vote to allow personnel to carry guns.
The policy would overturn a longstanding rule that prevents states from using federal funds to pay for weapons in schools.
Sec. DeVos could approve grant funding for firearms using a loophole in the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program – a federal education law designed to increase students’ access to education, bolster digital literacy, and improve conditions for learning. The law does not explicitly prohibit weapons purchases.
Congress could block DeVos from approving the plan, but lawmakers would have to clarify the language of the Student Support Program or pass new legislation.
The question of whether to arm America’s educators has been a hot topic since February, when a single gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, FL.
Following the tragedy, Presient Trump expressed his support for arming school personnel and for raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.
“Armed educators…love our students and will protect them,” tweeted Trump. “Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to states.”
DeVos has expressed similar opinions, noting that firearms should only be an option for “capable” teachers and personnel. In March, she unveiled a federal commission to study whether a ban on gun sales to people under 21 would make a difference in terms of school safety.
News of DeVos’s plan, which originated in a New York Times report, prompted backlash from teachers’ associations and gun control advocates who insist that arming teachers would make schools more dangerous.
“Betsy DeVos wants to turn schools into armed fortresses and make kids and educators less safe,” complains Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. And she “wants to turn the US government into an arms dealer for schools. That’s insane.”
Gabrielle Giffords, a former Representative for the state of Arizona who was injured during a school shooting in 2011, agrees that arming teachers would put children in more danger.
“Arming teachers is not a solution,” tweeted Giffords. “We can forge a better path. It’s time for Americans to find the courage to fight for our own safety.”
Department of Education officials have pushed back against the claim that DeVos is considering using the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program to arm teachers.
When asked for comments, a Department spokesperson explained that the agency is “constantly considering and evaluating policy issues – particularly issues related to school safety. The secretary nor the department issues opinions on hypothetical scenarios.”