DOE Memo: Betsy DeVos Has Authority to Help Schools Arm Teachers

April 11, 2019 AT 7:25 AM

By Lauren Camera

An internal memo, between high-ranking officials within the Department of Education says Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has the authority to tell states and school districts whether or not they can use federal funds to arm teachers – an authority she has repeatedly denied having.

The memo, presented Wednesday during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing, where the secretary was testifying on the administration's education agenda, outlines allowable uses of federal funding for school safety measures and specifically assesses the potential use of funds for firearms and firearms training.

"The Department's Office of the General Counsel has advised that the Secretary has discretion to interpret the broad language of the statute as to its permissiveness regarding the purchase of firearms and training on the use of firearms," the memo reads.

The memo concludes in part: "It is therefore reasonable for the secretary to disallow this particular use of funds absent specific congressional authorization and it is unlikely that this interpretation would be subject to a successful legal challenge."

Last year DeVos momentarily considered whether to allow states to use a program in the federal K-12 law to pay for firearms and training for school staff – a move prompted by an inquiry from education officials in Texas who wanted to use funding from the program to purchase firearms. DeVos later said she was not actively looking for ways to allow states to use federal dollars to arm teachers and has maintained since then that Congress did not authorize her or the Education Department to make those decisions.

Democrats, national teachers unions and gun safety advocates have blasted her for not taking a position on the issue, and were incensed when the policy of arming school personnel was one of nearly 100 recommendations she included in a federal school safety report issued in December.

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