Funding for Teachers vs. Funding for Guns
What would you want to be armed with? In the midst of all these horrid mass shootings, President Trump has stated that, as a solution, he wants to arm teachers with concealed carry guns. Is this a good idea? Some people agree others say definitely not. With #ArmMeWith, teachers have given their thoughts on the deeply controversial subject.
While sitting in on a session with some survivors of the horrific Parkland Shooting, the leader of the free world stated that school educators should carry concealed guns in the classroom as a preemptive measure against future mass shootings (Meixler, 2018). Arming school teachers with weapons that have the ability to hurt others is that really a good idea? Many educators are against this reckless concept, but some teachers think it’s a satisfying solution to frequent mass shootings like Utah-based teacher Kasey Hansen (Pirani, 2018). On the other hand, people like the President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten thinks it’s not the answer; he believes that the handguns that Trump is planning to distribute to teachers would not provide adequate protection against assault weapons like the AR-15 (Pirani, 2018). I think everyone can agree, the most important voice to be heard on this topic is by the educators all over the country who are teaching our impressionable students. Brittany Wheaton, an English teacher from Utah and teacher Olivia Bertels from Kansas met through Instagram (Pirani, 2018). After the Parkland shooting, Brittany felt like she had to do something to showcase that “it was time for teachers to demand their voices be heard”, so she decided to contact Olivia (Pirani, 2018). Thus, the social media movement called #ArmMeWith, pushing teachers to state what their classrooms should be supplied with other than guns (Pirani, 2018). Teachers all around the country were posting everywhere on social media what they would like to be armed with instead of guns. What else can this money be used for other than arming our educators with weapons in the classroom? This is what teachers are striving to answer with this movement.
Payal Vaghani, is a soon-to-be teacher. She is in her last semester at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. Payal has a lot of thoughts about Trump’s idea to have armed teachers as she is in the Elementary Education program with a specialization in Middle School Math Education. I asked her what her thoughts were on Trump’s controversial solution mass school shootings. She replied, “ It’s a horrible idea, especially if I teach in an elementary school. What if it’s possible that these young kids will have access to those guns because they weren’t stored correctly. They don't have a background in understanding what they are. They could end up hurting someone or themselves” (Interview, 2018). It’s true, What if these weapons aren’t stored properly? There are multiple news stories of young kids accidentally hurting, or worse, killing themselves by getting into their parent’s safe that includes a registered gun. For example, in 2016 a seven-year-old boy unintentionally shot himself in the forehead after finding the key for his grandfather’s locked gun safe (ABC13 Houston, 2016). What happens if a student finds the key to the gun safe in an elementary school classroom? Or worse, what if the school was one in a heavily gang-influenced area? These gangs influence young kids. What if they influence students to try to find and sneak out the gun that they know is in school classrooms? These scenarios are actual possibilities. It would make anyone anxious about these potential new policies. Ms. Vaghani definitely agrees. I asked her if she would feel comfortable working in a classroom where there is a concealed weapon or even at the school in general. Immediately she answered, “Heck no. I would be anxious. What if it’s not stored properly. What if a student can get into it?”(Interview, 2018). Would these anxieties translate into fewer teachers teaching at public schools? As a soon-to-be teacher, Ms. Vaghani definitely feels that way. If she got offered a job at a school where they allow teachers to be armed with guns in the classroom, she wouldn’t take it because “...I’m not trained to shoot anyone. I would be scared anyone can get access to the gun that I would be provided with. All these kids will now have access” (Interview, 2018)).
She makes a good point; safety is a big concern here. What would she rather be armed with instead? “Gifted programs and definitely school supplies”, she replied (What do you want to be armed with?). This is an answer that a lot of teachers have expressed on social media with the hashtag #ArmMeWith. These responses are quite valid. A lot of teachers pay out of pocket for classroom resources. In a survey of 700 teachers, 90% of the teachers pay for school supplies in poverty ridden areas (White, 2016). For example, Teresa Danks, a third-grade teacher, panhandled on the side of a highway in Oklahoma to show how low education budgets give teachers a serious lack of resources for the classroom (King, 2018). While she makes under $35,000 a year, before taxes, she spends almost two thousand dollars on supplies for her students and resources for the classroom (King, 2018). Teachers are notoriously underpaid for the work they do, and then on top of it, they provide most of their classroom resources.
Trump and his administration have been pushing to cut 5.3% of the Dept. of Education’s funding (Zillman, 2018). This is money that could’ve been used towards resources. Because of budget cuts, many teachers invest in their classrooms with their own money. According to the Education Market Association, an average of $500 to $1,000 out of a teacher’s bank account, was used towards buying school supplies for their classrooms (Zillman, 2018). All of this information is quite interesting as it is predicted to cost almost 1 billion dollars to provide teachers with concealed weapons (Zillman, 2018). What else can that money be used for?
In conclusion, there are many other solutions to these horrid mass shootings other than arming unequipped teachers with guns. We should start by first arming them with an abundance of resources in order to properly teach the next generation of leaders. These are more practical ideas that don’t question safety alternatives in the schools. It’s a start to a different type of conversation that our president should be having.
"Boy, 7, unlocks gun cabinet, accidentally shoots himself." ABC13 Houston. July 28, 2016. Accessed March 1, 2018. http://abc13.com/news/boy-7-unlocks-gun-cabinet-accidentally-shoots-himself/1446991/.
King, Noel. "Nationwide, Teachers Supplement School Supplies With Their Salaries." NPR. July 30, 2017. Accessed February 28, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2017/07/30/540448101/nationwide-teachers-supplement-school-supplies-with-their-salaries.
Leachman, Michael, Kathleen Masterson, and Eric Figueroa. "A Punishing Decade for School Funding." Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. February 28, 2018. Accessed March 6, 2018. https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding.
Meixler, Eli. "#ArmMeWith: Teachers Demand School Resources, Not Guns." Time. February 23, 2018. Accessed February 27, 2018. http://time.com/5172245/armmewith-teachers-gun-control/.
Pirani, Fiza. "Teachers to Trump: #ArmMeWith funding, supplies and resources - not guns." AJC.com. February 23, 2018. Accessed February 27, 2018. https://www.ajc.com/news/national/teachers-trump-armmewith-funding-supplies-and-resources-not-guns/a7ecxX230PLMZA33aLZukM/.
"Summary: Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. October 24, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm.
Vaghani, Payal. Interview by author. What do you want to be armed with? New Jersey. March 8, 2018.
White, Martha C. “Teachers Spend Hundreds to Supply Classrooms | Money.” Time, Time, 3 Aug. 2016, time.com/money/4392319/teachers-buying-school-supplies/.
Zillman, Claire. "'#ArmMeWith Books, Not Guns:' Teachers Use Hashtag to Reject Trump's Plan to Arm Educators." Fortune. February 23, 2018. Accessed February 28, 2018. http://fortune.com/2018/02/23/trump-arming-teachers-armmewith-response/.