Can Schools Use Federal Funds To Arm Teachers? Senators from the education committee aired their frustrations about a move to allow school districts to use federal money to pay for the arming of teachers.
NPR logo

Can Schools Use Federal Funds To Arm Teachers?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/651473925/651584136" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Can Schools Use Federal Funds To Arm Teachers?

Can Schools Use Federal Funds To Arm Teachers?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/651473925/651584136" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

At a Senate Education Committee hearing today, the conversation turned again and again to one question. Is it legal for schools to use federal dollars to arm teachers? NPR's Cory Turner reports.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: The federal money in question is officially known as Title IV. Its a billion-dollar pot intended for what the law calls student support and academic enrichment.

SHAVAR JEFFRIES: Well, there's a range of services that Title IV funds, from computer science programs, music, art, STEM, extended learning time.

TURNER: That's Shavar Jeffries, one of four witnesses at today's hearing and head of a group called Education Reform Now. Here's the key with Title IV. It gives school districts a lot of room to decide what they buy with this money. In fact, there's even a line in the law about spending for violence prevention.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was considering allowing districts to use Title IV money to arm teachers. Now, DeVos is not saying everybody do this. Only if that's what districts want to do, she doesn't think she can stop them because she says the law doesn't explicitly prohibit it. In today's hearing, the committee's top Republican, Lamar Alexander, said he's no fan of arming teachers, but he agreed with DeVos.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LAMAR ALEXANDER: As I read the law, Title IV specifically gives states the decision about spending their money to create safe conditions, including drug and violence prevention.

TURNER: Alexander's referring to a section that talks about using the money to promote school safety so that students are free from violent and disruptive acts. But Democrats point to the same section, which also talks about the creation of a school environment that is free of weapons. Today, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pointed out that many schools can barely afford nurses or guidance counselors.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELIZABETH WARREN: Allowing schools to use scarce federal dollars to put guns in classrooms is an idea that is dangerous and dumb. And it clearly wasn't our intent.

TURNER: One big caveat here - it's not clear many states have any interest in doing this, especially if today's panelists are any indication. Matthew Blomstedt is the education commissioner in Nebraska.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATTHEW BLOMSTEDT: I would say in Nebraska's case, we've had no serious conversations at all about trying to use federal funds for that approach, and I wouldn't support that.

TURNER: And Molly Spearman, a former teacher and South Carolina's current school superintendent, says her state's focusing its money...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MOLLY SPEARMAN: On mental health counselors, school resource officers and training of teachers.

TURNER: In recent weeks, lawmakers have been crafting a spending bill for the U.S. Department of Education. And Democrats have tried to add language that makes clear these dollars cannot be used to arm teachers. But the bill currently moving through Congress includes no such ban. Cory Turner, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF POETICAL TYRANT SONG, "INTRO THE DRUMS")

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.