Report: Betsy DeVos Considering Federal Funds to Arm Teachers

That would be a big win for the NRA.

Oliver Contreras/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering a plan to use federal funds to help purchase firearms for educators or provide them with weapons training, the New York Times reported on Wednesday night. The funds would come from a pot of money intended to improve education in impoverished schools, according to the paper, which cited “multiple people with knowledge of the plan.”

DeVos, who chairs the Federal School Safety Commission, which was created in response to the deadly Parkland school shooting, is reportedly weighing whether to fund weapons purchases using money from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, a flexible grant program established under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The move, seen as unprecedented, would fall in line with a controversial proposal earlier this year by President Donald Trump to leave it up to states to decide whether to allow teachers to carry firearms on school grounds. The National Rifle Association has argued for arming teachers, supposedly as a way to prevent school shootings.

In March, weeks after Parkland, Congress approved the STOP Violence Act, sending $50 million to school districts to develop threat assessment programs, enhance school security, and create anonymous reporting protocols to allow people to contact law enforcement about threats. The legislation specifically barred those funds from being used to arm teachers. That same month, the Justice Department began prioritizing federal funds for schools to hire more resource officers and provide firearms training by law enforcement. 

At a Senate appropriations hearing in June, DeVos told lawmakers the commission would not focus on the role of firearms in school shootings, avoiding the topic of gun control and instead concentrating on school safety, mental health, and the role of video games and media coverage. 

Earlier this year, as Congress considered the STOP Violence Act, DeVos signaled that she would support teachers carrying firearms in schools—just not everywhere. “I don’t have a percentage,” DeVos told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in March when asked how many teachers should be armed in schools. “It should be those who are capable and qualified and only in places where it’s appropriate.”