That Plan to Use Federal Funds to Arm Teachers? Thank Texas.

by | August 23, 2018

By Corbett Smith

The U.S. Department of Education is contemplating allowing states to use federal funds to arm educators in the classroom -- an idea that appears to have been born in Texas.

According to a post by Education Week's Andrew Ujifusa, a senior Trump administration official told EdWeek that the "question of using Title IV money for gun purchases was first raised in a letter from Texas officials who inquired whether the grants could be used in this way."

It's unclear who in Texas government posed the question. A spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency said Thursday morning that they were investigating the matter.

The New York Times' Erica L. Green reported Wednesday that if education secretary Betsy DeVos approved the use of funds in such a way, it would reverse a long-held position by the federal government that forbids the money it sends to schools to be used to purchase firearms.

According to The New York Times, the Department of Education is considering using a grant program in the Every Student Succeeds Act (also known as ESSA), passed by Congress in 2015, as a possible avenue for firearms purchases.

Under ESSA, the federal government distributes $1.1 billion to states in a block grant program known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. States, in turn, reallocate the funds to school districts.

Funds under that program are supposed to be used in three broad areas: 1) Provide students with "a well-rounded education" with supports such as college and career counseling, STEM programs, IB (International Baccalaureate) schools or advanced placement classes; 2) Support safe and healthy students, through mental health program, drug and violence prevention and physical education; and 3) Support the "effective use of technology."

That specific grant program was targeted, according to the Times, because it does not mention prohibiting gun purchases in its language.

As part of a 40-page school safety plan in the wake of the Santa Fe school shooting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pushed for expanding the little-used school marshal program, training and arming more teachers in the state's classrooms.

In the appendix to Abbott's plan, several different sources of federal funding for school safety were mentioned, including the $98.4 million allocated to Texas under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.

"Allowable uses include counseling and mental health programs, addressing ways to integrate health and safety practices into school or athletic programs, and disseminating best practices and evaluating program outcomes relating to any local education agency activities to promote student safety and violence prevention," the appendix explained.

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