Legislative Update: Can Schools Use Federal Funds for Guns and Firearms Training?

A huge controversy over whether districts and states can use funds from the new federal education law to purchase guns and pay for firearms training is still ongoing, weeks after the issue first surfaced in an article published in the New York Times.

 Earlier this summer two states asked the Department of Education if it was allowable to use the Every Student Succeeds Act ESSA Title IVA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) grant funds to train and arm school marshals.  The flexible block grant program under Title IVA  Part authorizes activities in three broad areas:

  • Providing students with a well-rounded education (e.g., college and career counseling, STEM, music and arts, civics, IB/AP, computer science)
  • Supporting safe and healthy students (e.g., comprehensive school mental health, drug and violence prevention, training on trauma-informed practices, health and physical education) and
  • Supporting the effective use of technology (e.g., professional development, blended and personalized learning, and devices). More on how Title iVA can be used for STEM education here.

A few weeks ago, Education Secretary DeVos indicated she would not take a position as to whether districts could use federal funding in ESSA for purchasing guns and providing firearms training saying that Congress—not the Administration—had to specify if Title IVA grant funds could be used for these purposes.

A letter from 44 Senate Democrats and a letter from 170 House Democrats have urged the Ed Secretary to expressly prohibit states or school districts from using federal funds to buy guns.  

NSTA joined a number of other education groups on a September 19 letter calling on Secretary DeVos to clarify that Title IV-A funds should be used for their original intent and cites examples that support gun-free campuses in current law that “clearly shows that the Administration’s proposal is counter to congressional intent. “

 A September 17 letter from a coalition of than 100 civil rights groups calls on Secretary DeVos to “immediately publicly clarify that ESSA funds cannot be used for weapons.”

Stay tuned.

FY 2019 Spending Bill Includes Gains for Education

On September 18 the Senate passed the final version of the FY2019 education appropriations bill that rejects the Administration’s request to eliminate key K-12 education programs and instead includes an increase in federal spending for education programs in FY2019.

The Labor, HHS, and Education FY2019 is  part of a “mini-bus” bill that was paired with the Department of Defense spending bill and attached to a short tem continuing resolution (CR) that will fund other federal programs  until December 7 (after the midterm elections).

The House will vote on the bill next week and then send the spending package to President Trump for his signature. 

The Education Department overall would receive an additional $581 million compared to the current fiscal year funding.

The Title IV-A (the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant) under ESSA, which can be used by districts and states to fund STEM programs, will receive $1.17 billion, a $70 million increase over last year. 

Title I funding was increased by $125 million and special education funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was increased by $87 million to $12.4 billion.

Funding for charter schools was increased by $40 million, bringing the overall level to $440 million.

The Perkins Career and Technical Education program, received a $70 million increase up to $1.3 billion, and afterschool programs in Title IVB 21st Century Community Learning Centers received a slight increase of approximately $10 million for FY2019.

Read the bill here and check out the AIP budget tracker for STEM education here.

And finally,

NSTA joined other scientific associations to support University of Oklahoma meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier’s nomination in the Senate to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The letter states “The President faces a wide range of domestic and international challenges, from protecting national and energy security, to ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness, curing diseases, bolstering agriculture and responding to natural disasters. These challenges share one thing in common: the need for scientific knowledge and technological expertise to address them successfully.” Read the letter here and more on the nominee here.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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  1. William Priestley
    Posted September 24, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Do you really think that posting a sign ‘Gun Free Zone’ is going to stop someone from committing these heinous crimes? It’s worked real well with the ‘Drug Free Zone’ program

  2. Jim
    Posted September 25, 2018 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    The only thing a ‘Gun Free Zone’ does is make everyone in that zone an easy target. It’s a liberal fantasy that ‘Gun Free Zones’ stop violence from happening. If teachers want to be armed, let them be trained, qualified and certified.

  3. Jim
    Posted September 25, 2018 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    The only thing a ‘Gun Free Zone’ does is make everyone in that zone an easy target. It’s a liberal fantasy that ‘Gun Free Zones’ stop violence from happening. If teachers want to be armed, let them be trained, qualified and certified. I’m a teacher at a public school and I approve this message.

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