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Alexander: Who pays for arming teachers?

Alexander: Who pays for arming teachers?


Arming teachers would ultimately fall on the backs of taxpayers. And the idea becomes an even bigger farce in a state such as Iowa, where the Legislature considers a paltry 1 percent increase in school funding a big win.

Now, look, I don't think President Donald Trump is serious about creating a new paramilitary force manned by chemistry teachers and administrative assistants. It's just another dodge, a way for a president under pressure to discuss gun violence and school shootings without, you know, blaming the very tools designed explicitly to inflict maximum damage.

But thanks to Trump's not-so-bold leadership after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, the conservatives that now run the country are throwing around two ideas — both centering on more guns in schools, not less.

One would essentially transform schools into quasi-prisons, a hugely expensive endeavor. Armed guards. Security checks. Metal detectors. And no one should be shocked by how that would play out, as, 99.999 percent of the time, these security forces would have little to do but harass, detain and probably arrest students for minor infractions.

The other is, of course, shaping your friendly band instructor into some kind of action movie hero equipped to gun down a better-armed shooter without concern for her own life — who just also happens to be an expert on Chopin.

It's an absurd idea, and a costly one, too.

Almost 35,000 full-time teachers were employed in Iowa in school year 2016-17, says the state Department of Education. Now, Trump doesn't think every teacher should pack heat. In his standard way, he's haphazardly throwing around numbers, though. And they provide a basis for a little napkin analysis.

Let's say Iowa sets a goal of training up and arming 20 percent of its teachers, a number Trump has recently used. That's 6,962 people, not counting support staff. A standard Iowa Conceal and Carry class costs $125 if weapon training is included. It runs about $60 for the four-hour class without shooting. That works out to just shy of $900,000 to send 20 percent of teachers to a full CCW class. 

But is a basic CCW enough? I mean, the goal here is to transform teachers into something out of Die Hard. I have CCWs from New York and Idaho and have attended those classes. Trust me, Hans Gruber's henchman would have me cornered before I could say "yippie ki-yay."

So, clearly, something more robust than the bare minimum would be necessary. Advanced weapons classes can run $1,000 or more. Suddenly, just the training component spikes to north of $9 million in a state that's loath to fund basic educational programs.

Teachers would need a firearm, too. A Glock 23 runs about $550. Let's say Glock gives schools a $100 discount. That's another $3.1 million hit to state and local taxpayers.

Just in Iowa, this nonsensical endeavor would carry a $12 million price tag on its face.

Add in incidentals and that price is bound to jump considerably. Long ago, insurance industry actuaries determined that the presence of guns increases risk of a shooting, regardless of what the gun lobby says. Corporate America isn't acting out of social responsibility when it bans guns from places of business. It's all dollars and cents. And in schools, spiking insurance costs would continually divert district resources away from legitimate educational programs.

Arming teachers is a bad idea. It would result in students getting shot for acting up. It would lead to accidental shootings. It would sap money from already cash-strapped districts struggling to maintain art and music departments. And there's no scientific evidence that it would act as a deterrent for would-be mass shooters.  

But it would sell more guns. And that, after all, is the entire point. 

Jon Alexander is editorial page editor at the Quad-City Times. He can be reached at


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Editorial Page Editor

Editorial Page Editor, Quad-City Times

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