US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday said she would not stand in the way if schools want to use funds originally intended to increase student access to art and music, mental health, and technology programs at the nation’s most impoverished schools, to buy guns.
.@BetsyDeVosED "Let me be clear: I have no intention of taking any action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms training for school staff under the ESEA…Congress did not authorize me or the Department to make those decisions." pic.twitter.com/xbH8UTtZLZ
— ED Press Secretary (@EDPressSec) August 31, 2018
Last week, the New York Times noted that a request for clarification from the state of Texas about how those Title IV funds could be used resulted in a response from the US Education Department that pushed the agenda of guns.
Statements from the Education Department that funds from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants could be used for arming teachers drew immediate criticism and proposed legislation to block the department’s action.
“Redirecting that money to arm teachers and school staff will recklessly endanger the safety of both students and educators, while robbing underserved students of the support and opportunity they deserve,” the paper quoted Rep Robert Scott, a Democrat from Virginia and the ranking member of the House education committee, as saying.
But Ms DeVos said the decision as to how to use those federal funds was a local concern. “I have no intention of taking any action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms training for school staff under the [Elementary and Secondary Education Act],” Politico quoted her as saying in Friday’s letter to Mr Scott.
“Congress did not authorize me or the Department to make those decisions” about how schools use the money, she said, adding that she would “not legislate via fiat from the Department” and would “not take any action that would expand or restrict the responsibilities and flexibilities granted to State and local educational agencies by Congress.”
The original letter from Texas didn’t specifically ask to use the funds to buy guns but instead simply sought clarification as to what uses were allowed for the federal funds. Several states have sought similar clarification, especially in light of several high-profile school shootings earlier this year and the protest drives, many of them led by students, that followed those shootings.
Whether federal funds intended for one purpose can be used to purchase guns for teachers is apparently an open debate.
The Detroit Free Press quoted Sen Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, as saying on the Senate floor last week that “DeVos allowing federal funds to be used to arm teachers is in direct contravention of federal law.”