Thursday, August 23, 2018
DeVos Effort to Use Federal Education Dollars for Guns Shows Just How Insignificant Her Administration Is
So Betsy DeVos wants to spend federal education dollars on guns. Hats off to Erica Green at the New York Times for a detailed explanation of how federal education dollars can and can’t be spent and the focus of a relatively obscure piece of the federal education funding pie. She interestingly points out something I did not know—that most federal education grants specifically prohibit schools from spending them on guns.
But there is a larger point to be made here and it is not about federal funding restrictions on gun purchases or the wisdom of guns in school itself. The larger point is about how small this administration has become.
Think about the big issues of the past year: education protests, long term trends in school funding and teacher salaries, state accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, school segregation, affirmative action, declarations that state school systems are constitutionally inadequate, and DeVos’s favorite—school choice. School safety, of course, was among these issues. That debate, however, was about what strategies could make schools safer. More counselors? More school resource officers? Armed teachers?
There was talk of more funding to cover the substantial expenses of additional counselors and school resource officers, and more services for students. But I don’t recall schools saying “we really want to arm our teachers but just can’t afford it.”
That is what makes DeVos’s musings so remarkable. Regardless of the wisdom of arming teachers, this particular policy item is an enormous overreach of power on an insignificant matter. She could be working on finding solutions to things that students in poor schools really need, but instead she is devising strategies to get around Congressional restrictions so she can reallocate federal dollars in ways that no serious and substantial constituency cares about. Why? For a headline. To please constituents who only care about headlines and narrative. To be able to say she did something, when really she did nothing.
I would venture to guess that even if DeVos manages to sneak this through, it won’t amount to a hill of beans. From what I know of the poor schools that receive these federal dollars that she would free up, they need new books, more teachers, better qualified teachers, more well-maintained facilities, and technology. It is hard for me to imagine that more than an insignificant spattering of them will say, “you know, we were going to hire a part-time reading specialist this year or our first new computers in eight years, but now that Betsy DeVos has freed us, let’s buy guns instead.”
And the fact that this is what DeVos is spending her time on shows just how small and insignificant this administration is to the quality of educational opportunity in the country.
--image by Gage Skidmore