At the end of August, more than 160 Democrats wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, demanding that she prevents schools from using federal funding to purchase firearms or provide firearms training for teachers and school faculty.
DeVos penned a response, which was shared via Twitter. And the Democrats are sure to hate what she had to say.
Here's the letter (emphasis mine):
August 31, 2018
Honorable Bobby Scott
Committee on Education and the Workforce
U.S. House of Represenatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Scott,
I write in response to your August 28, 2018 letter concerning recent claims made by the media suggesting that I am pursuing a plan to authorize States and local school districts to use funds appropriated under Title IV-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ("ESEA") to purchase firearms or conduct firearms training for school staff.
Let me be clear: I have no intention of taking any action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms training for school staff under ESEA.
As you know, Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution vests legislative authority in Congress. Congress has authorized and appropriated funding for the Title IV-A program "to improve students' academic achievement by increasing the capacity of States, local educational agencies, schools and local communities to (1) provide all students with access to a well-rounded education; (2) improve school conditions for student learning; and (3) improve the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievements and digital literacy of all students." 20 USC §?7111
In October 2016, under President Obama and Secretary King, the U.S. Department of Education ("Department") issued Title IV-A guidance to States and local educational agencies. That guidance highlights the role of States in determining whether an activity is an allowable use of funds. Further, it reiterates that, while local educational agencies must comply with certain application and fiscal requirements, the ESEA provides "substantial flexibility" in how school districts use these funds to meet the purposes of the program and allows educators to tailor investments based on their own assessments of the needs of their unique student populations. Congress did not authorize me or the Department to make those decisions. As I have stated publicly on numerous occasions since I was nominated for this position, I will not legislate via fiat from the Department. Therefore, I will not take any action that would expand or restrict the responsibilities and flexibilities granted to the States and local educational agencies by Congress.
I appreciate your interest in this matter and am sending an identical response to the cosigners of your letter. In the future, please feel free to contact me directly to discuss policy matters, instead of relying on faulty reporting. You can reach me at (202) 401-3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, Peter Oppenheim, Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs, is available at (202) 401-0020 any time you or your staff have any questions.
DeVos' response comes after a New York Times article was published, saying the Department of Education would be making an unprecedented move:
Such a move appears to be unprecedented, reversing a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weapons. And it would also undermine efforts by Congress to restrict the use of federal funding on guns. 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.
But the department is eyeing a program in federal education law, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, that makes no mention of prohibiting weapons purchases. That omission would allow the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to use her discretion to approve any state or district plans to use grant funding for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress clarifies the law or bans such funding through legislative action.
In the midst of their controversy, Everytown for Gun Safety filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain communications between the Department of Education and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The gun control group requested communications between February 14th, the day that the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School occurred, and now.