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What do Washington’s leaders think of giving teachers guns?

Earlier this week news broke that the Education Department headed by Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering giving states the ability to use federal funding to purchase guns for teachers.

The department is reportedly looking at the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program to fund firearm purchases as the fund does not specifically prohibit such purchases, unlike the $50 million school safety bill that was approved in March.

The announcement comes in the wake of an earlier call to arm teachers by the Trump administration in February  that was also met with backlash.

Here’s what Washington’s leadership had to say on the Education Department’s potential proposal.


Gov. Jay Inslee

“I cannot believe we’ve reached a point in time where our national leaders’ response to the deadly scourge of gun violence in America is to put more guns in schools and ask our hard-working educators to take on the additional roles of security guard and SWAT officer.

“Education funding should be used for education. Most of our schools are already under-resourced, and pitting the need for new textbooks, classroom supplies and improved STEM programs against the purchase of new pistols is a debate that doesn’t deserve a minute of our time.

“If this administration is serious about improving school safety, I invite them to meet with the teachers and students who say there’s so much more we can do to provide additional mental health supports, provide better social-emotional learning and, as importantly, muster the courage to enact common-sense gun safety regulations that we know save lives. Our teachers should be focused on teaching, our students should be focused on learning, and our elected leaders should be focused on fixing gun violence — not escalating it. I call on Secretary DeVos to abandon this wildly dangerous proposal immediately.”


Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground

“The Department of Education hasn’t shared any formal plan with me or my office, and in the conversations I’ve had with educators and school administrators on preventing violent attacks in schools, no one has expressed support for such a proposal. So this isn’t going to be something I’ll be working to pass in Congress.

“What I’ve worked hard to do is give teachers the resources to quickly identify students in crisis and connect them with mental health support services — before something tragic occurs. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee I’ve advanced a proposal for $71 million for Project AWARE grants that connect students to mental health services, and successfully secured $225.5 million for grants that can be used to hire school resource officers. I’ve also championed the bipartisan Secure Our Schools and STOP School Violence Acts that help schools install panic buttons, train staff and boost emergency notification and response systems.”


Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“This is absurd and appalling. It’s not surprising that Secretary DeVos would have the gall to try to sneak guns into schools through a program intended to support students and provide academic enrichment opportunities, but I’m going to stand with students, teachers, and parents across the country to fight it.

“When Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, we were clear that these grants were intended to help foster safe, healthy, and supportive environments that improve student learning — not prop up the NRA and gun sales. Using these funds to add more firearms into schools is not only the opposite of what Congress intended, it is wrong and will make schools more dangerous and students less safe. It’s well past time Secretary DeVos stops bowing down to the gun lobby and starts following the law and listening to the parents and students she is supposed to be working for.”


Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

“I strongly oppose this proposal. I supported the STOP School Violence Act, which provides $50 million in grants to improve school security without arming teachers.”

 

Katy Sword

I cover the city of Vancouver and federal politics. Reach me at katy.sword@columbian.com.

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