News Releases

In Senate education committee hearing, Senator Murray blasts Secretary DeVos’ decision to defy Congress’ intent and allow states to use federal funds to purchase guns and firearm training

Senator Murray: "In the aftermath of these shootings we should be doing everything we can to reduce gun violence and make our schools safer. Unfortunately, Secretary Devos is heading in the opposite direction" 

Senator Murray’s remarks follow her repeated requests to Secretary DeVos to directly address issues related to guns and school safety 

Addressing the Department’s implementation of her K-12 education law, Senator Murray also stressed the negative impacts on students due to Secretary DeVos’ approval of state plans that do not comply with all of the law’s equity guardrails 

KING 5: “Don't use federal grants to arm teachers, Sen. Patty Murray tells education secretary”VIDEO LINK 

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING STATEMENT HERE***

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate education committee, blasted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for her decision to allow states to purchase guns and firearm training using federal funds. Senator Murray has previously criticized Secretary DeVos’ lack of action to address the issue of guns in schools, and has been a vocal champion of efforts to stem the tide of gun violence. During a Senate committee hearing, Senator Murray cited the tragedy of recent school shootings and the strong public consensus against allowing guns in schools, and urged the Department to reverse course in its decision. Additionally, Senator Murray noted that Congress did not authorize states to use federal education dollars for the purpose of purchasing guns or firearm training, and urged Chairman Alexander to invite Secretary DeVos—or another Department of Education official—to testify in front of the committee on this matter.  

“Now—Secretary DeVos is claiming that Congress did not give her the authority to stop this. But Republicans and Democrats in Congress are telling her the opposite—that she absolutely does—and should put an end to this reckless and irresponsible idea. But if Secretary DeVos refuses to uphold her responsibility to keep students safe, Mr. Chairman, I hope you will work with me to make it abundantly clear to Secretary DeVos that this is not what we intended, and direct her to do the right thing. While it is on Secretary DeVos to act, our hands are not tied. We can work together—just as we did to pass ESSA—to stop this,” Senator Murray said in her opening remarks.

During the hearing, Senator Murray also criticized Secretary DeVos for approving state plans that do not comply with provisions in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) law to promote equity—and the negative impacts on our most vulnerable students as a result—and called on Chairman Alexander to work with her to uphold the bipartisan agreement made in ESSA to address these concerns.

Watch video of Senator Murray’s full opening statement HERE.

Partial transcript of Senator Murray’s opening statement below:

“Thank you Chairman Alexander. And thank you to all our witnesses for being here today.

“Before we dig into the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act—I want to touch on an issue that is on the mind of every teacher, parent, and student, and should be a focus on this Committee: the growing number of deadly school shootings around the country.

“In the aftermath of these shootings, we should be doing everything we can to address gun violence and make our schools safer. Unfortunately, Secretary DeVos is heading in the opposite direction. 

“Despite outcry from students, parents, teachers, and members of Congress, she is going to allow schools to use federal funds to purchase guns or firearms training for teachers. This is not what Congress intended when we passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act. 

“And some Republicans—like Congressman Cole—have made that point clear. Congressman Cole said, ‘It's already against the law. I think it's pretty clear, if you read the Every Student Succeeds Act.’

“And even worse, this idea is dangerous—and it could put the lives of all of children and school staff at risk. You only need to hear one story of a teacher accidentally firing a gun in a classroom, or leaving it where a child can get access to it, or threatening a child with a gun, to know we need fewer firearms in schools—not more.

“Now—Secretary DeVos is claiming that Congress did not give her the authority to stop this. But Republicans and Democrats in Congress are telling her the opposite—that she absolutely does—and should put an end to this reckless and irresponsible idea.

“But if Secretary DeVos refuses to uphold her responsibility to keep students safe, Mr. Chairman, I hope you will work with me to make it abundantly clear to Secretary DeVos that this is not what we intended, and direct her to do the right thing.

“While it is on Secretary DeVos to act, our hands are not tied. We can work together—just as we did to pass ESSA—to stop this.

And finally on this point, Mr. Chairman, I want to express my support for Senator Murphy and every other Democrat on this Committee’s request for Secretary DeVos to testify in front of the Committee on ESSA and gun safety.

“Twenty months into this Administration, neither Secretary DeVos—nor anyone from her Department—has testified in front of this Committee. Now I understand that Secretary DeVos may not want come testify, but given the urgency of the issue of school safety—Mr. Chairman—I hope we can remedy this as soon as possible.