Does DeVos want to use federal dollars to arm teachers?

(UPDATED, 12:21 p.m., with comment from U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson.)

Depending on what you read, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is looking for a way to use federal dollars to put guns into schools. Or she isn’t.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the Education Department is looking at ways to fund the purchase of school firearms. This would be an unprecedented move, “reversing a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weapons,” Erica L. Green of the Times reported.

Or, not so fast.

On Thursday, a senior administration official pushed back on the Times story, telling CNN that the funding idea did not come from DeVos or the department. “That official said the department received a letter from the Texas state Department of Education asking if the funds from a federal grant program could be used to purchase firearms,” Sara Ganim and Jennifer Hansler of CNN reported.

The idea of using federal grant dollars for school weapons could put the administration at odds with Congress.

“As recently as March, Congress passed a school safety bill that allocated $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of the money for firearms,” Green of the Times reported.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, took a wait-and-see approach to the issue, saying the idea didn’t seem to come from DeVos or her department.

“Should more information on such a proposal come before me in Congress, I will evaluate it at that time,” Simpson said in a statement Thursday.

Idaho state law allows school employees to carry firearms — as long as they have permission of the school board or charter administrators. A handful of schools allow employees to carry weapons.

But the DeVos policy — if there is indeed a DeVos policy — raises a new question. Who pays to provide guns to school employees: the government, or employees themselves?


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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