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Senate Democrats Join House Counterparts in Pushing Betsy DeVos to Back Off on Guns in Schools

Letters from both chambers outline congressional prohibition of using federal funds for firearms

Sen. Patty Murray is leading the Democrats in opposition to arming teachers with public funding. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Patty Murray is leading the Democrats in opposition to arming teachers with public funding. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Almost all of the Senate Democrats are asking the Education Department to abandon any plans to provide public funding to give firearms to schoolteachers.

The letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from 44 members of the Democratic caucus was led by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the both the authorizing committee and the appropriations subcommittee overseeing the department.

“Teachers and other school staff should be focused on providing instruction, engaging families, and providing students with the skills and supports they need to succeed in the workforce and in life, not on managing and potentially responding to threats with deadly force,” the senators wrote. “In fact, a recent poll showed that the overwhelming majority of educators do not want to be armed, and instead many believe social emotional learning, mental health supports, and increased wraparound services and funding are a more effective way to keep students safe.”

The letter follows the drafting of a legislative proposal by Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., designed to block funding for the effort. That amendment to the fiscal 2019 spending bill that includes the Department of Education didn’t get a vote.

“The Administration’s proposal to allow States and school districts to use federal [education] funds to arm teachers and other school staff not only runs counter to Congressional intent and established federal precedent, but would take schools and communities backwards in pursuit of these goals,” the senators wrote in their letter, dated Wednesday.

Most House Democrats, 173 out of 193, also sent a letter spearheaded by Rep. Robert C. Scott, the Virginia Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Education and the Workforce Committee asking DeVos to abandon the gun plan. “Congressional opposition to the implementation of federal funds for guns in schools is not open to interpretation,” the House Democrats wrote on Tuesday. “In authorizing the STOP School Violence Act in the aftermath of the Parkland, FL school shooting, Congress acted to prohibit program funds from being used for the purchase of firearms or firearms training,” their letter added. 

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