Betsy DeVos Eyes Federal Education Grants to Put Guns in Schools

Guidance for grants distributed by the Homeland Security Department that are intended for “school preparedness,” for example, notes that weapons and ammunition are not permitted. And after the Parkland shooting, Congress added a rule prohibiting the use of grants for firearms or firearm training in the Stop School Violence Act, under which the Justice Department will grant funds to school districts.

In weighing the proposal, the Education Department has also taken into account that school shootings were not a consideration when Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, according to people familiar with the discussions. Three of the remaining architects of the law — Representative Robert C. Scott, Democrat of Virginia, and Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington State — have all opposed the idea of arming teachers.

The student support grant was created from funds from other programs that were collapsed in the Every Student Succeeds Act that addressed issues like mental health, violence prevention, bullying and harassment.

The Trump administration has twice moved to eliminate the grant program from its budget. But as Congress drafted a spending bill in the months after the Parkland shooting, advocates pointed to the program as emblematic of a successful approach to school safety. Congress instead increased funding for the grants by $700 million in the bill passed this year.

After the Parkland shooting, the Trump administration convened a federal commission on school safety, led by Ms. DeVos, to examine topics like mental and behavioral health resources, building security and the role of law enforcement in schools.

The commission has held several public hearings where educators and advocates from across the country have asked for expanded support staff and services, including school counselors, and additional security measures. Members of the commission have also visited school districts, like in rural Arkansas, where armed employees can be found at schools in areas not easily reached by law enforcement. The commission plans to issue recommendations by the end of the year.

In June, Ms. DeVos said the commission would not consider the role of guns in school shootings, but she later indicated that the panel would look narrowly at specific issues, including age limits for firearm purchases.