Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Top Democrat Has ‘No Confidence’ in Betsy DeVos’ School Safety Commission

By Alyson Klein — March 13, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., declared Tuesday that she is “extremely disappointed” with how U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is approaching her new gig as the head of a presidential commission on school safety.

Her statement came after Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the panel, met with DeVos to discuss school safety and the commission’s charge to make policy recommendations in the wake of the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead.

“I was extremely disappointed at how the meeting went,” Murray said in a statement. “I was hoping that Secretary DeVos would be able to talk to me about real and meaningful steps she could move quickly on as head of President Trump’s new gun commission, but everything I heard from her in our conversation suggested that this is just the latest effort to delay and shift the conversation away from the gun safety reforms that people across the country are demanding.”

DeVos told Murray she isn’t planning to meet with the National Rifle Association, according to the statement. But the secretary “couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me how the NRA would be allowed to influence the commission’s recommendations, or even that they wouldn’t have veto power,” Murray said.

Murray was also miffed that she was unable to get information on the commission’s timeline for completing its work.

DeVos’ spokeswoman though, said Murray was giving an “inaccurate account” of the meeting and seeking to use it as “political stunt.”

“Secretary DeVos requested to meet with Senator Murray in hopes of having an open and honest dialogue about immediate actions that can be taken to keep our nation’s students safe at school and to seek her input as she works to organize the Federal School Safety Commission,” said Elizabeth Hill, the DeVos spokeswoman. “Unfortunately, Senator Murray was clearly more interested in relaying an inaccurate account of their meeting, squandering the opportunity and using it instead as a political stunt.”

For his part, Alexander, “had a productive first meeting with Secretary DeVos on the important issue of how to help keep students safe at school,” said his spokeswoman, Liz Wolgemuth. “He looks forward to working with the administration and colleagues in Congress on steps that the federal government can take to help our states and local communities improve the safety of our schools.”

The commission, which was announced Sunday, is exploring issues related to school shootings, including restrictions for certain firearm purchases, potential repeal of Obama-era guidance designed to address racial disparities on school discipline, character education, the effects of press coverage of mass shootings, and improved access to mental health treatment.

President Donald Trump and DeVos have said they’d like to help interested states arm school personnel who are experienced with weapons. They have also called for strengthening background checks and passing the STOP Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at allowing communities to use existing federal programs to combat school violence, in part by training school staff and law enforcement.

But the Trump administration has not moved to reinstate a federal ban on military-style weapons that expired in the early 1990s or sought other restrictions that survivors of the Stoneman Douglas massacre and gun control advocates have called for. Murray said that in the meeting DeVos “pushed back and asked for continued delay” on policies such as universal background checks and raising the age for purchasing such weapons.

Murray said she suggested to DeVos that the commission include survivors of gun violence, families of victims, or experts on preventing gun violence. DeVos declined to commit to including those perspectives on the committee, Murray said. Instead DeVos said the commission would be made up federal officials, according to Murray’s statement.

“I am hoping that Secretary DeVos gets a handle on this issue and changes her tune, but based on this meeting today, I have no confidence that this commission will be anything other than a tool for continued distraction and delay,” Murray said.

Hill, though, said that Murray was letting political divisions get in the way of solutions.

“This is just Senator Murray’s latest continuation of the tired, sad politics of division that has become standard for the Senate Democrats while refusing to seek out solutions that will make a meaningful difference for all Americans,” she said.


Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP