School Principals Call for Real Action Plan On Gun Safety After Secretary DeVos’ Budget Testimony

Ernest Logan, AFSA Executive Vice President issued a statement in response to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ budget testimony:

Secretary DeVos’ performance at today’s House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Department of Education’s FY19 budget provided me little comfort that the Administration is taking school safety seriously. The proposed FY19 budget for the Department is itself not a serious document as it calls for eliminating the only program – the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program – that supports school mental health services. This is particularly hard to fathom in the wake of last month’s shootings in Parkland, Florida and today’s tragedy in Maryland. And the “Task Force” that the Administration has concocted to work on school safety solutions is similarly ludicrous: it is only comprised of four Cabinet Secretaries and has no Democrats nor, more importantly, educators or students. To quote, Rep. Catherine Clark (D-MA) from this morning’s hearing: ‘Is that it?’

I believe that it is time not only for a real conversation but also for real action on school gun violence. We need to have the actual experts on school safety involved in making recommendations and sharing best practices, not a bunch of federal bureaucrats who are new to and unversed in the subject. We also need real dollars put behind hiring mental health professionals at schools to help identify and treat troubled youth who are dangers to themselves and others. A real budget that invests in this priority – not the joke budget that House Appropriators debated this morning – is a must. Finally, we need bipartisan courage to address a root cause of school shootings – easy access to guns. If Florida’s Governor, who received a 100% rating from the NRA, can sign into law a bill that makes significant changes to state gun laws, then certainly our nation’s President can do the same.

AFSA, which has far too much experience with school shootings, stands ready to lead a serious conversation about keeping our kids safe at school. We also are rolling up our sleeves to press for federal investments in school mental health personnel. Finally, we are deploying our resources to push for real and meaningful gun regulation. It is a principal’s job to lead and – on this issue – we must and shall most certainly lead.