The New York Times reported on Thursday morning that the Department of Education is considering letting states use federal funding to buy guns for teachers. This would reverse a longstanding government position and go against Congress' efforts to restrict use of federal funding on firearms. In March, legislators passed a school safety bill to fund school security, but prohibited using any portion of it for weapons (although it did not include any gun control measures either).
The Education Department is reportedly considering the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants program, which makes no mention of prohibiting funding for guns. This means Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos could decide to approve this type of funding for states or districts — unless Congress takes action. If the proposal is carried out, this would be the first time a federal agency authorises purchasing weapons without a congressional mandate, according to the Times' sources.
It seems obscene to use money meant to be used for education to buy guns.
Robin Farber, high school teacher
A senior administration official pushed back to clarify the Times' reporting to CNN, saying that the idea did not actually originate with the Education Department. The official said the department had received a letter from the Texas Department of Education asking whether funds from a federal grant program could be used to purchase guns for teachers and administrators. After lawyers and attorneys reviewed the letter, the Education Department chose not to respond.
"The department is constantly considering and evaluating policy issues, particularly issues related to school safety," Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the Education Department, said in a statement. "The secretary nor the department issues opinions on hypothetical scenarios."
DeVos, does, however, think Congress should clarify whether the federal government can grant states funding to buy guns, the official told CNN.
The proposal has been highly controversial ever since Trump floated it in the days after Parkland. Most U.S. teachers, echoed by administrators and education experts, oppose carrying guns in schools. According to a Gallup poll from March — done just a few weeks after the Florida shooting — 73% do not support the idea. And 58% say carrying guns in schools would make schools less safe. Only 18% would be willing to carry a gun at school. Additionally, the National Education Association polled 1,000 of its members and 82% said they oppose being armed.
Refinery29 has spoken with several teachers on the subject, and there are varied concerns: Some bring up that guns could get into the wrong hands. Others don't think teachers being armed would protect students from a potential shooter, but rather make them more vulnerable to getting caught in a crossfire. Still others say states and school districts need to focus on funding education, not firearms.
"As teachers scramble to buy things for their classrooms and schools juggle to prioritise their needs because there is not enough money to get what is needed, it seems obscene to use money meant to be used for education to buy guns," Robin Farber, Latin teacher and student government advisor at a public high school in North Carolina, told Refinery29. "I hope that Congress will close the loopholes that would allow DeVos to manipulate funds like this."
Some states already allow teachers to be armed, while several have introduced legislation to do so. But still, the opposition runs deep. "The overwhelming majority of teachers oppose being armed," Mary Kusler, senior director for the National Education Association's Center for Advocacy, told CNN. "Teachers want to be in their classrooms to teach their children...it is incredibly hard to do that when you're packing heat."