WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Tuesday renewed his call to stop the U.S. Department of Education from allowing school districts to use federal funds to arm teachers. During a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with state education officials and reform advocates, Murphy reiterated that ESSA does not allow school districts to use Title IV funding to arm teachers. Murphy also asked the witnesses if there is data that suggests arming teachers will make a school safer. They all answered no.
Last month, Murphy introduced an amendment to the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that would block the U.S. Department of Education from allowing school districts to use Title IV federal funding to purchase firearms for teachers. Senate Republicans did not allow for a vote on Murphy’s amendment.
Excerpts of Murphy’s remarks are below:
“There is in fact in Title IV a specific, permissive use of those funds for violence prevention. In that section of the statute it allows for those funds to be used, under Title IV, for violence prevention so long as they are used to build weapon free schools. That to me would suggest it was the clear intent of those who wrote the bill on this committee to deny the use of those funds to arm our teachers.”
“…there are certainly armed security officers in these schools as has been the practice for a long time, and I frankly wish we had the secretary of Education here or a representative for the secretary of Education, so we can have a conversation on how and why they are interpreting the statute in the way that they are.”
Murphy also expressed concern over the administration’s lack of accountability enforcement with respect to the Every Student Succeeds Act:
“…this administration is failing to enforce many of the accountability metrics [in ESSA]. I know we would not have written four different subgroups in the accountability title in the law if we didn’t actually expect schools to measure and report on all four of those subgroup categories. But we also required that to the extent that whether in the subgroups or in schools at large aren’t meeting the expectations you set that you would provide for evidence based strategies to turn those schools around.”
“One of the other concerns that we have that Secretary DeVos has not required that states show that they are investing in evidence based measures. That was a really important phrase in that law to make sure you’re not just repainting the walls in school and claiming it is an intervention. That you are actually using what works to try to turn around performance for disabled kids, for minority kids, or for English-language learners.”