Washington, DC – Today, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2020 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. The report includes a section that recognizes that the Committee agrees that there is “no evidence to suggest that arming teachers would make schools safer. Instead, there are serious concerns about the unintended consequences and negative impacts such a policy could have on the well-being and safety of students.” The report also directs Secretary DeVos to issue guidance clarifying that Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant funds are not allowed to be used for the purchase of firearms or for firearms training.
The Committee writes: “there is no evidence to suggest that arming teachers would make schools safer. Instead, there are serious concerns about the unintended consequences and negative impacts such a policy could have on the well-being and safety of students. The Committee is deeply concerned by the Department’s internal July 2018 memo that indicated its Office of the General Counsel believes the Secretary has discretion to interpret the ESEA ‘as to its permissiveness regarding the purchase of firearms and training on the use of firearms.’ However, the memo also indicates that ‘it is reasonable for the Secretary not to allow this use of funds absent specific Congressional authorization, and it is unlikely that this interpretation would be subject to a successful legal challenge.’ Seeing as Congress never intended for SSAE funds to be used to purchase firearms or for firearms training in schools, and given the Department’s Office of the General Counsel view that it would be reasonable, and legally sound, for the Secretary to disallow such expenditures, the Committee directs the Secretary, within 30 days of enactment of this Act, to issue guidance clarifying that SSAE funds are not allowed to be used for the purchase of firearms or for firearms training.”
This report language was included in part because of Congresswoman Hayes’ exchange back in April with Secretary DeVos at a House Committee on Education and Labor Committee hearing. During this hearing, Congresswoman Hayes revealed a deliberative document, or “Decision Memo,” from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education 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. The full video of Hayes’ remarks at last month’s hearing is available here.
“I applaud my colleagues work in this report to direct the Secretary to stop hiding behind tired excuses and make a decision – issue clear guidance that federal funds should never be used to arm teachers. Teachers and students deserve to work and learn in a safe environment, and local school districts deserve to have clarity. Enough is enough,” said Congresswoman Hayes.
“This report language echoes my sentiments during my exchange with Secretary DeVos, that the Department of Education has acted beyond reproach in its robust, behind the scenes deliberations to arm teachers to stop the scourge of school violence. This language is a win for anyone who cares about school safety.”
Congresswoman Hayes’ is also the sponsor of legislation in direct contrast to Secretary DeVos’ School Safety Commission recommendations to allow school districts to use federal funds for the purpose of arming teachers. The Keeping Guns Out of Classrooms resolution (H. Res. 231) currently has 76 cosponsors.
Organizations endorsing the legislation include: National Education Association (NEA), Parent Teacher Association (PTA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Association of School Psychologist (NASP), American Federation of School Administrators, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), American School Counselor Association, SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, National Association of College Admissions Counseling, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Association of School Nurses, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Giffords, Newtown Action Alliance, Everytown, Brady, Futures without Violence, and States United to Prevent Gun Violence.