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Education Commissioner Elia: Using federal funds to arm teachers is 'ludicrous'

New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia called the proposal to allow states to purchase guns for teachers using federal funding set aside for learning "atrocious and ill-conceived."

"I think it's absolutely ludicrous that we would ever consider using those funds, that are tight enough in our state for all of the needs of our students, to provide guns and then, even beyond that, to expect that our teachers are going to be ready to pick up a gun and in some way protect their children," Elia said.

She made the comments in Buffalo on Friday when she attended the summer school graduation of 85 students at McKinley High School.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is reportedly considering allowing states and school districts to use federal education grant funding for firearms and firearms training.

Elia said the funds are supposed to provide teaching and learning resources for students who are at risk.

"This is not what we need to do in education. Our teachers have so many other responsibilities," she said. "That is just beyond the pale to think that that’s something that’s reasonable. It’s atrocious, I think, and really ill-conceived."

Elia also commented on some of NYSED’s “big agendas,” her thoughts on new security technology at Lockport schools and some advice to parents for the upcoming academic season.

• On a new law requiring mental health education in all schools in New York State:

“We recently put out guidance related to mental health and supports to students in schools. We’re pleased that is going out. So we’ll be doing a lot of individual supports across the state for districts that request help and support.”

Mental health education now required in New York schools

• On implementation of the federally approved New York’s Every Student Succeeds Act, a plan for using federal money to support public schools:

“The new federal accountability system is being rolled out across the state, so it’s important for us to take the time for everyone to understand that and to see the opportunities it provides in making various pathways available for students.”

• On new facial recognition technology at Lockport schools:

“That was a local decision that Lockport made. We are working with them to make sure that all of the privacy rights are kept as a very important focus for them. But we know that these are new technologies that will be tried in various places and we’re waiting to see how that implementation goes.”

Lockport schools turn to state-of-the-art technology to beef up security

• On advice to parents for the new school year:

“They need to be focused on being strong partners with schools and making sure that their children are thinking about the opportunities that an education provides for them as they continue their pathway through our schools. Here in Buffalo, we’re seeing some good growth in graduation rates. We anticipate that’s going to be moving up. Parents ... must take a very active role in supporting their children as scholars in our schools.”

News staff reporter Barbara O'Brien contributed to this story.

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