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 DeVosDeVos recovering from broken pelvis, hip socket after bicycle accident Student veterans deserve better than the DeVos agenda Changes to Title IX enforcement are common sense 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 MurraySenate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Bold, bipartisan action on child care will win plenty of friends 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 MurphyDem senators debate whether to retweet Cardi B video criticizing Trump over shutdown Cardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party 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 WarrenOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story 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) HassanNew Hampshire's secretary of state narrowly holds seat New Hampshire Dem icon at risk after work with Trump Dem senators call on DeVos to rescind new campus sexual assault policies 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 AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown 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."