More than 150 House Democrats have urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to tell school districts that they are not permitted to use a flexible block grant to buy guns.
Democrats said that a grant under the Every Student Succeeds Act was passed by Congress to help pay for education technology, improve school climate, and increase access to a wide variety of education programs they deem helpful to students.
“Arming teachers would not only jeopardize student and staff health and safety, but also run counter to Congressional intent, precedent, and common sense,” the Democrats wrote to DeVos on Tuesday in a letter headlined by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the top Democrat on the House education committee.
The Democrats’ demand was spurred by reports last week that DeVos has considered whether to let districts spend Title IV Part A grants on firearms as well as firearms training. The ESSA language that governs the grants does not ban the money from being spent on guns, and districts are allowed to spend the money on school safety programs. Ultimate decisions about how to use the grants are made by district leaders.
In the past, DeVos as well as President Donald Trump have spoken in favor of allowing school staff to carry guns, although DeVos has said that ultimately the decision is best left to local education leaders. Last week’s news provoked an uproar among Democrats on Capitol Hill as well as many in the education community—arming educators is not very popular, particularly among teachers, although some states do allow trained staff to carry guns under certain circumstances.
A department spokeswoman said last week that the reports were blown out of proportion, and the Trump administration indicated that officials had been considering how to respond to questions from Texas districts about whether they could buy guns with Title IV cash. (Texas is one of the states that allows educators to carry guns on school grounds.)
The lawmakers also noted that federal law has historically prohibited federal money from being spent on firearms in the context of school safety.
Read the letter from the Democrats to DeVos about buying guns with federal education aid below:
Photo: A giant television screen projects an image of the proceedings as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies before a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing in May. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
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