In a move that has ignited controversy, the Biden administration has determined that schools offering hunting and archery programs are ineligible to receive federal funding earmarked under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The decision, based on the interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) passed last year, has potential implications for millions of American children currently enrolled in these programs.
According to federal guidance circulated among hunting education groups and reported by Fox News Digital, the Department of Education contends that the BSCA precludes federal funding for school hunting and archery classes. This has raised concerns among educators, hunting education advocates, and conservationists, who argue that such programs play a crucial role in engaging students and teaching them valuable life skills.
Tommy Floyd, president of the National Archery in the Schools Program, expressed his dismay, stating that shooting sports foster responsibility and relationships with role models. The National Archery in the Schools Program, boasting 1.3 million students from nearly 9,000 schools across 49 states, is among the organizations affected. Some schools have already scrapped plans to include archery or hunting education courses in their curriculum due to the Education Department’s guidance.
However, Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) contend that the Education Department has misinterpreted the BSCA. They argue that the provision in question was meant to withhold funding for training school resource officers, not for hunting and archery classes. The senators have voiced their concern in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, urging him to reconsider the agency’s interpretation.
Critics of the administration’s stance, including Ben Cassidy of Safari Club International (SCI) and Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), see the decision as an attack on the Second Amendment. They emphasize that firearm and hunting safety education is crucial in ensuring responsible gun handling and preserving hunting traditions for future generations.
The Biden administration has faced opposition from hunting advocacy groups regarding other recent actions as well. Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed new restrictions on equipment used by hunters on federal refuges, further fueling tensions.
This is shameful, but not at all surprising.
The Biden admin will take any opportunity to stomp on your constitutional rights – even down to teaching kids archery and hunting skills. https://t.co/vKwcrZBtqP
— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) July 28, 2023
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is a significant source of federal aid for elementary and secondary education in the United States, and the BSCA added an additional $1 billion for educational activities under the ESEA. With the implementation of the BSCA, the Education Department’s interpretation has become a matter of contention, as critics argue that it hinders the ability of schools to offer valuable programs that promote safety, inclusivity, and positive environments for students.