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 DeVosMajor student loan company may have pushed borrowers toward higher-cost plans: report ACLU slams DeVos's Title IX plan: Changes will make it 'less safe' for sex assault survivors Department of Education unveils new rules to protect those accused of sexual harassment MORE in August said states could decide whether to use federal funds to buy guns to prevent school violence.


Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigs | Proposes ban on menthol in tobacco | Left wants vote on single-payer bill in new Congress | More than 12k lost Medicaid in Arkansas Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle 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 MurphySenators return to Washington intent on action against Saudis Howard Dean: Democratic Party getting younger as GOP gets ‘older and whiter’ We need a bipartisan issue to unite us. Saudi Arabia is that issue 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: Senate banking panel showcases 2020 Dems | Koch groups urge Congress not to renew tax breaks | Dow down nearly 400 | Cuomo defends Amazon HQ2 deal Election Countdown: Florida fight ends with Scott, DeSantis wins | Dems see Sunbelt in play for 2020 | Trump to campaign in Mississippi ahead of runoff | GOP wipeout in Orange County | Ortiz Jones concedes in Texas House race Sanders on 2020 White House bid: 'We're looking at it' 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) HassanICE nominee refuses to rule out future family separations Congress should broaden legislation to curb medical price gouging Democrat Chris Pappas wins New Hampshire House seat 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 AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing plan | Pfizer to raise prices on 41 drugs next year | Grassley opts for Finance gavel GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal Congress needs to wake up to nuclear security threat 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."