HOW MANY public school teachers in the United States end up digging into their own pockets to pay for pencils, notebooks and other classroom supplies? Ninety-four percent of them, according to a survey published in May by the Education Department. Now that same department has a solution: Under the leadership — and we use that term guardedly — of Secretary Betsy DeVos, the department is actually thinking — yes, we use that term guardedly as well — of letting states use federal funds to buy guns for educators.
Under consideration is a plan to allow states to tap into a federal fund for education reform and student improvement to purchase firearms and train school personnel in their use. Such a move, as the New York Times reported in disclosing the department’s internal discussions, would appear to be an unprecedented break with federal policy not to pay to outfit schools with firearms. In fact, the school safety bill passed in March by Congress expressly prohibited using any of its money for weapons, and guidance for “school preparedness” grants awarded by the Department of Homeland Security also disallows spending on arms and ammunition. But the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, the program being eyed by education officials, includes no such prohibitions.
It should go without saying that Congress was not thinking about military materiel when it established a program aimed at boosting academic and enrichment opportunities for the country’s neediest schools. That the administration is even entertaining the idea of taking money intended to enhance learning and improve supports for teachers and students to advance its misguided and dangerous cause of arming teachers is, well:
“Sickening,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
“Perverse,” said JoAnn Bartoletti of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
And Fred Guttenberg, the father of a student killed in the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting, had this message on Twitter for Ms. DeVos: “After my daughter was murdered, you yelled ‘Don’t talk about guns, talk about mental health.’ ”
Who would benefit? Not students still imperiled by gun violence. Not parents still fearful for their children. Not teachers, giving up some of their paychecks at Staples this weekend to outfit their classrooms as the school year begins.
No, the beneficiaries would be the gun manufacturers and the gun lobby. We hope Ms. DeVos recognizes whose interests she should be serving and quickly puts an end to any consideration of letting federal education dollars be used to buy guns. If she persists with this misfire, Congress must act to stop her.