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, such as one 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.
The Trump administration’s call to arm educators has faced overwhelming criticism from educators, lawmakers and law enforcement officials. That opposition only hardened on Thursday.
“It’s one more example of the corruption, greed and misplaced values of this administration,” said Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, the largest teacher’s union in the country. “If we use the funds for what they were intended to be used for, we might start tackling some of the issues that lead to gun violence.”
The measure would also break from decades-old practice in how funding is doled out for the purposes of school security.
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. 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 grants funds to school districts.
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.
A group of more than 20 advocacy organizations has advocated for two years to preserve funding for the school support grants. The group, called the Title IV-A Coalition, said in a statement that it had been virtually ignored by the Education Department.
“Only now, after Congress significantly increased funding, has the department taken notice and is attempting to capitalize on an opportunity to push their baseless agenda to arm teachers, which the majority of the country has spoken out against,” said the group, which includes the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National PTA.