Pressed By Hayes, DeVos Fails To Commit To Prohibiting Federal Funds From Arming Teachers
WASHINGTON, DC – At a hearing at the House Committee on Education and Labor today, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-5) questioned Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about the Department working behind the scenes to siphon funds away from students and schools in public education by allowing school districts to use federal funds to buy firearms for teachers, or to support firearms training for teachers.
Secretary DeVos has consistently maintained in previous statements to Congress that she lacks the statutory authority to approve or deny requests to purchase firearms for school staff using taxpayer dollars under Title IV, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title IV-A was originally included in ESSA to fund programs like STEM education, drug prevention programs, and mental health services – programs that play a critical role in creating safe and welcoming school environments for students.
In emails received from a Freedom of Information Act request led by Democracy Forward, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Giffords, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), senior staff at the department worked to help at least one superintendent find federal funds to buy firearms and provide firearms training for his teachers.
Further, a deliberative document, or “Decision Memo” from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education was revealed by Congresswoman Hayes today during testimony. This document directly contradicts Secretary DeVos’ claims that she does not have the authority to respond to questions regarding the use of federal funds to arm teachers. The document can be found here.
“Madam Secretary, there is no middle ground here. You have the ability to fix this. Stop saying that you don’t have the authority – either you are explicitly prohibiting the use of funds to arm teachers, or you are signaling to states and local districts that this is an appropriate use of federal funds. Districts are deferring to you for a decision,” said Congresswoman Hayes.
“You have the ability to make a decision. Your silence is a decision. You have the authority to say that we can not use federal funds to arm teachers,” continued Hayes.
Last month, Congresswoman Hayes introduced H.Res. 231, a resolution condemning Secretary DeVos’ School Safety Commission recommendations to allow school districts to use federal funds for the purpose of arming teachers, and expressing that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that guns should be kept out of classrooms. Fifty-seven members – including the majority of Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee – have cosponsored this legislation.
The full video of Hayes’ remarks at today’s hearing is available here.