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Should Federal Money Pay for Guns in Schools? Senator Demands Hearing With DeVos


The Senate education committee should hold a hearing to address the use of federal education dollars to pay for arming educators, a Democratic senator has told the committee's leadership.

In a Friday letter, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also said that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos should testify before senators in a hearing about using Title IV dollars under the Every Student Succeeds Act for firearms and firearms training.

"Allowing school districts to use this money to help schools buy guns flies in the face of what Congress clearly stated in federal law—that schools should be free of weapons," Murphy wrote to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member.

Since a recent report in the New York Times that DeVos was contemplating allowing ESSA money earmarked for school safety, student wellness, and other programs, Democrats and others have forcefully objected to the idea. Although Murphy called this a "proposal" from DeVos, she stated in a letter to Congress last week that she would not take a position on the issue, and would ultimately let states and districts decide how to let schools use Title IV money. 

When the Senate passed an appropriations bill funding the U.S. Department of Education last month, Murphy unsuccessfully tried to amend the legislation to prohibit the ESSA funds from being used to purchase firearms. Murphy has been an outspoken advocate for gun control, and has frequently discussed the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, in which a gunman murdered 20 students and six school staff. 

In his letter, Murphy notes that the list of potential uses for Title IV spelled out by Congress does not include purchasing firearms. He also noted that the STOP School Violence Act, which Congress passed earlier this year and which provides $50 million for school security, prohibits its competitive grants from being used for guns. 

The senator also took to social media to make his point on Friday:

We reached out to Alexander's office for a response, and will update this post if we hear back. However, Alexander has already weighed in with his view that the federal government can't prohibit Title IV money from being used to buy guys. Murphy's letter was also signed by every Democrat on the committee other than Murray, who has sent her own letter about the topic that's basically in line with Murphy's position.  

Photo: Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., in July. (Susan Walsh/AP)

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