At Texas’ request, Betsy DeVos may allow schools to purchase guns with federal funds

August 23, 2018

AUSTIN — The U.S. Department of Education is considering allowing schools to use federal dollars to buy guns for educators, a consideration that began when Texas officials asked if they could use a grant to arm teachers, according to news reports.

The New York Times first reported Wednesday that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering allowing states to use federal funding to purchase guns for educators. The money would come from a program known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program, which was originally intended to give the country’s poorest schools resources for academic enrichment and other services such as counseling.

“The Department is constantly considering and evaluating policy issues, particularly issues related to school safety,” said Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “The Secretary nor the Department issues opinions on hypothetical scenarios.”

The department did not immediately confirm the request from Texas officials. The Texas Education Agency did not immediately return a request for comment.

The program has three goals: provide a well-rounded education, improve technology and improve school conditions. Texas has interpreted that last goal to mean security upgrades at schools.

In May, Gov. Greg Abbott released a 40-point plan to address school safety following the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School earlier that month. He asked TEA to prioritize using $62.1 million in new funding under the student support grant program for the hardening of schools, including adding metal detector or paying for additional law enforcement. Abbott did not list buying guns with grant money as part of that proposal.

The New York Times and Education Week reported that using federal money for gun purchases was first raised in a letter from Texas officials. The state already has two options — the guardian and school marshal programs — for arming teachers. As part of his safety plan, Abbott proposed expanding the school marshal program and offered to pay for all costs of training between June and August.

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