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 DeVosThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates 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 MurrayCruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Ocasio-Cortez shares verse by the 'Congressional Destiny's Child' in promotion of new birth control legislation 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 Murphy It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale 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 WarrenBiden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Biden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Trump steadfast in denials as support for impeachment grows 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) HassanHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams 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 AlexanderTaylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Taylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Senate health panel to move forward on package to lower health costs next week 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."