A top Republican on Thursday dismissed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ reported consideration of allowing individual states to use federal funds to arm teachers as a way to prevent school shootings.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve never been a fan of arming teachers,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, told The Daily Beast.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that DeVos was considering allowing states to use federal school-safety funds to purchase firearms. Earlier this year, Congress sent $50 million to school districts nationwide to beef up their security, but the legislation included a specific provision stating that the money could not be used for firearms. The Times reported the department was looking for a work-around to the congressional ban.
Just hours after the Times story was published, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced an amendment to a spending bill the Senate is considering this week that would block the Department of Education from making such a move. Murphy said DeVos, if she follows through with the reported proposal, could trigger a backlash among members of the president’s own party given Congress’ overwhelming opposition to the policy.
“Republicans and Democrats are on the record saying this is a bad idea,” Murphy said. “It will get more kids killed. But it’s also terrible politics for Republicans to have to continually go on record supporting arming teachers, something that a very small slice of the electorate actually wants.”
In the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, President Donald Trump embraced the idea of arming teachers, but has been inconsistent on which gun-control policies he supports or opposes. The Trump administration established a school-safety commission after the Parkland shooting with the goal of considering ideas to prevent similar tragedies.
“We’ve authorized Title IV dollars with the assumption that a crazy idea like this would never be authorized by the secretary,” Murphy said. “We’re in a different world now where DeVos is trying to play to Trump’s base as a means of saving him politically.”