Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers

Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers
© Greg Nash

Democrats at a Senate hearing Tuesday pushed back on any talk of using federal funds to purchase guns for school safety.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), with testimony from state officials on how they are implementing the law.

The 2015 law is the focus of controversy after Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosTrump signs executive order on campus free speech Student loan debt: The government broke it, and must fix it DeVos: DOE to investigate if federal regs were broken in college admissions scandal MORE in August said states could decide whether to use federal funds to buy guns to prevent school violence.

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Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenators ask CBO to review options for preventing surprise medical bills White House proposes limits on student loan borrowing as part of higher education reforms Jury orders Johnson & Johnson to pay M to woman who claimed baby powder gave her cancer MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the committee, called the idea of arming teachers "reckless and irresponsible."

“You only need to hear one story of a teacher accidentally firing a gun in a classroom... to know we need fewer firearms in schools,” she said.

Protestors wearing "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America" t-shirts attended the hearing and lined the halls outside the committee room.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySanders: 'We must follow New Zealand's lead' and ban assault weapons The fear of colorectal cancer as a springboard for change Dems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds MORE (D-Conn.) also pressed witnesses from state education departments on whether they had ever seen data that suggested arming teachers made schools safer. The officials said they had not.

He also criticized DeVos for not appearing before the committee herself.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBannon says an O'Rourke-Harris ticket poses the greatest threat to Trump in 2020 Trump has lost support from male voters since shutdown, analysis shows Rock the Vote President calls for dismantling of electoral college MORE (D-Mass.) also weighed in, saying that allocating funds to firearms when many schools cannot afford basic supplies was “dangerous and dumb.”

Senators also discussed whether states were adequately tracking the performance of low-income students, those learning English and students with disabilities.

Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenators ask CBO to review options for preventing surprise medical bills Overnight Health Care: Survey finds 1 in 10 ration medicines to lower costs | Senate Dems call for hearing on Trump abortion rule | Trump health chief backs needle exchanges | Outgoing FDA chief keeps heat on e-cig maker Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill for 'internet of things' security standards MORE (D-N.H.) criticized the Education Department for approving state plans that did not require such tracking and questioned whether those plans were not in "compliance with the law."

Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump signs executive order on campus free speech Senators ask CBO to review options for preventing surprise medical bills The next step for justice reform: Ending the ban on federal Pell Grants for eligible students behind bars MORE (R-Tenn.), however, rejected the notion that the Department of Education was violating the law when it approved such plans.

He said he met with DeVos and believes "she is exactly following the law."