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Rep. Jayapal and House Democrats to Secretary DeVos: Don’t Spend Education Money on Guns

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) and more than 170 House Democrats sent a letter today to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling on the Department to issue formal guidance prohibiting the use of federal education funding to buy guns for teachers and school staff. The letter comes in the wake of a New York Times report revealing the administration’s consideration of a proposal that would allow schools to redirect federal K-12 education funding, for services like mental health counseling, for the purchase of firearms or firearms training.

“Students and school staff deserve a learning environment that is safe, welcoming, and conducive to quality instruction and student learning,” the Members wrote. “Arming teachers would not only jeopardize student and staff health and safety, but also run counter to Congressional intent, precedent, and common sense.”

According to press reports, the proposal under review would allow Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants authorized under Title IV-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to be used to arm teachers and other school staff. Title IV-A is a program with bipartisan support that is intended to improve school climate in high-needs schools through a wide range of approaches. Grants can be used for efforts such as expanding students’ access to mental health services, supporting drug prevention and anti-bullying campaigns, improving access to arts and STEM curriculum, and increasing the availability of cutting edge technology to support student learning.

“Title IV-A affords local leaders the flexibility to tailor investments to meet local needs; however, in writing and enacting ESSA, Congress never contemplated, and thus never intended, that such flexibility would allow for the procurement of firearms,” the Members wrote. “Any use of funds to purchase weapons not only violates intent, but it also clearly contradicts the plain reading of the statute.”

The text of Title IV-A of ESSA, which was signed into law in 2015, specifically promotes activities that support “a school environment free of weapons.”

As recently as this year, Congress reiterated its opposition to spending federal funds to put guns in schools. In authorizing the STOP School Violence Act in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Congress acted to prohibit program funds from being used for the purchase of firearms or firearms training.

The letter makes clear that, even without further action by Congress, Secretary DeVos must adhere to federal law and honor the intent of Congress. The Members are asking Secretary DeVos for written confirmation, by the end of this week, of the Department’s intent to issue formal guidance prohibiting the use of federal education funding for the purchase of guns.

Such guidance would uphold current policy which was recently reaffirmed by the Trump administration, as evidenced through Department of Homeland Security Grant program guidance, to prohibit the purchase of firearms using federal funds.

The full text of the letter is available here.

The letter is signed by:

Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce

Representative Adam B. Schiff

Representative Adam Smith

Representative Adriano Espaillat

Representative Al Green

Representative Al Lawson Jr.

Representative Alan S. Lowenthal

Representative Albio Sires

Representative Alcee L. Hastings

Representative Alma S. Adams Ph.D.

Representative Andre Carson

Representative Anna G. Eshoo

Representative Anthony G. Brown

Representative Barbara Lee

Representative Ben Ray Lujan

Representative Bennie G. Thompson

Representative Betty McCollum

Representative Bill Foster

Representative Bill Pascrell Jr.

Representative Bobby L. Rush

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman

Representative Brad Schneider

Representative Brad Sherman

Representative Brenda L. Lawrence

Representative Brian Higgins

Representative Carol Shea-Porter

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney

Representative Cedric L. Richmond

Representative Charlie Christ

Representative Chellie Pingree

Representative Cheri Bustos

Representative Colleen Hanabusa

Representative Conor Lamb

Representative Daniel T. Kildee

Representative Daniel W. Lipinski

Representative Danny K. Davis

Representative Darren Soto

Representative David E. Price

Representative David Loebsack

Representative David N. Cicilline

Representative David Scott

Representative Debbie Dingell

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Representative Denny Heck

Representative Derek Kilmer

Representative Diana DeGette

Representative Dina Titus

Representative Donald M. Payne Jr.

Representative Donald McEachin

Representative Donald Norcross

Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr.

Representative Doris Matsui

Representative Dutch Ruppersberger

Representative Dwight Evans

Representative Earl Blumenauer

Representative Ed Perlmutter

Representative Eddie Bernice

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representative Elijah E. Cummings

Representative Eliot L. Engel

Representative Elizabeth H. Esty

Representative Emanuel Cleaver II

Representative Eric Swalwell

Representative Frank Pallone, Jr.

Representative Frederica S. Wilson

Representative G.K. Butterfield

Representative Gene Green

Representative Gerald E. Connolly

Representative Grace F. Napolitano

Representative Grace Meng

Representative Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan

Representative Gregory W. Meeks

Representative Gwen S. Moore

Representative Hakeem S. Jeffries

Representative Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.

Representative J. Luis Correa

Representative Jackie Speier

Representative Jacky Rosen

Representative James A. Himes

Representative James P. McGovern

Representative James R. Langevin

Representative Jamie Raskin

Representative Janice D. Schakowsky

Representative Jared Huffman

Representative Jared Polis

Representative Jerrold Nadler

Representative Jerry McNerney

Representative Jim Cooper

Representative Jimmy Gomez

Representative Jimmy Panetta

Representative Joaquin Castro

Representative Joe Courtney

Representative John A. Yarmuth

Representative John B. Larson

Representative John Garamendi

Representative John K. Delaney

Representative John Lewis

Representative John P. Sarbanes

Representative Jose E. Serrano

Representative Joseph Crowley

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy, III

Representative Josh Gottheimer

Representative Joyce Beatty

Representative Judy Chu

Representative Julia Brownley

Representative Karen Bass

Representative Katherine M. Clark

Representative Kathleen M. Rice

Representative Keith Ellison

Representative Kurt Schrader

Representative Lacy Clay

Representative Linda T. Sanchez

Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester

Representative Lloyd Doggett

Representative Lois Frankel

Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard

Representative Luis V. Guitierrez

Representative Marc A. Veasey

Representative Marcia L. Fudge

Representative Marcy Kaptur

Representative Mark DeSaulnier

Representative Mark Pocan

Representative Mark Takano

Representative Maxine Waters

Representative Michael E. Capuano

Representative Michael F. Doyle

Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham

Representative Mike Quigley

Representative Mike Thompson

Representative Nanette Diaz Barragan

Representative Niki Tsongas

Representative Nita M. Lowey

Representative Norma J. Torres

Representative Nydia M. Velazquez

Representative Paul D. Tonko

Representative Pete Aguilar

Representative Peter A. DeFazio

Representative Peter Welch

Representative Pramila Jayapal

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi

Representative Raul M. Grijalva

Representative Richard E. Neal

Representative Richard M. Nolan

Representative Rick Larsen

Representative Ro Khanna

Representative Robin L. Kelly

Representative Rosa L. DeLauro

Representative Ruben J. Kihuen

Representative Salud O. Carbajal

Representative Sander M. Levin

Representative Scott H. Peters

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney

Representative Seth Moulton

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representative Stacey E. Plaskett

Representative Stephanie Murphy

Representative Stephen F. Lynch

Representative Steve Cohen

Representative Susan A. Davis

Representative Suzan K. DelBene

Representative Suzanne Bonamici

Representative Ted W. Lieu

Representative Terri A. Sewell

Representative Theodore E. Deutch

Representative Thomas R. Suozzi

Representative Tim Ryan

Representative Timothy J. Walz

Representative Tony Cardenas

Representative Tulsi Gabbard

Representative Val Butler Demings

Representative William R. Keating

Representative Yvette D. Clarke

Representative Zoe Lofgren