Lack of Gun Language in Federal Education Budget Package Concerning

School principals are united in their concern that the Department of Education funding bill under consideration in Congress does not include language prohibiting the use of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funds for school districts to purchase firearms and firearms training in schools.

The American Federation of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals have urged Congress to include bipartisan language in the FY 2019 funding bill that would clarify that no funds under ESSA can be used to purchase firearms or for firearms training.

In a letter to all members, the three leading school principals’ groups said, “the intended purpose of this (ESSA) funding is to help schools provide students with important educational resources and ongoing direct services—such as comprehensive mental health programs—as well as drug, violence and bullying prevention programs, not the one-time purchase of firearms.”

The issue of using federal education funds for gun purchases recently became an issue in August when U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced she was considering using federal funds to outfit schools with weapons.

“While we understand the need for the appropriations process to go smoothly and for the bill to remain free of poison pills and riders,” the groups stated in their letter, “we believe that student safety is at issue here, and Congress must make clear that federal funds cannot be used to arm educators.”

The organizations noted their support of evidence-based policies that foster safe schools—and cited the lack of evidence that arming educators makes schools safer.

“Given that the bipartisan Stop School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program, enacted by the FY 2018 omnibus, included language that ensures ‘no amounts provided as a grant under this part may be used for provision to any person of a firearm or training in the use of a firearm,’” the letter notes, “Congress has made clear that federal funds should not be used for this purpose.”

The educational leaders instead called for funds to promote a safe and healthy learning environment for children, and to support the educators and school leaders who work tirelessly every day to ensure kids are learning and succeeding at school.

The principal groups also lauded lawmakers for agreeing to a spending package that level funds the Title II-A program at $2.05 billion, which provides ongoing professional development for educators and school leaders and increases Title IV-A flexible block grant program funds by $70 million, to $1.17 billion. These programs are essential to ensuring school leaders are supported in their work and schools receive the necessary funding for programs that promote safe and healthy students, a well-rounded curriculum and the effective use of technology to support instruction.