The Biden administration has confirmed it is withholding crucial funds for national primary and secondary schools with archery or hunting programs in their curriculum.
The Department of Education stated that its funding decisions were based on the plain text interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which Congress passed. It was signed by President Biden last year after a string of mass shootings.
The interpretation by the agency means funding for shooting sports activities earmarked under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 is set to be blocked across the country.
“This prohibition applies to all ESEA funds,” said a Department of Education spokesperson. “This prohibition went into effect immediately on June 25, 2022, and applies to Century Community Learning Centers]. The Department is administering the bipartisan law as written by Congress.”
The Biden administration’s decision to withhold program funds may impact millions of American students and thousands of schools. Last week reports showed that federal guidance highlighting the Education Department’s interpretation and funding of the BSCA was circulated among hunting education groups earlier this year and sparked concerns about the future of archery and hunting programs in schools. President of the National Archery in the Schools Program, Tommy Floyd, said his organization boasts 1.3 million students from almost 9,000 schools across 49 states enrolled in archery courses.
Due to federal guidance, some schools have already canceled plans to include hunting or archery education courses.
“It’s a negative for children. As a former educator for 30-plus years, I was always trying to find a way to engage students,” said Floyd in an interview last week. “In many communities, it’s a shooting sport, and the skills from shooting sports, that help young people grow to be responsible adults. They also benefit from relationships with role models.”
In June of 2022, the BSCA was passed with significant majorities in the Senate and House before President Biden signed it into law. The push to pass the bill, which according to the Education Department, widely seeks to promote “safer, more inclusive and positive” school environments, followed mass shootings at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and a grocery market in Buffalo, New York.
The legislation includes a subsection listing prohibited uses for federal school funding. The amendment blocks ESEA funds from helping furnish any person with a dangerous weapon or to provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.”
Senators express concern the agency is misinterpreting the provision
In a letter earlier this month to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, GOP Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas expressed concern the agency is misinterpreting the provision they said was included in the BSCA last year to withhold education funds for programs to train school resource officers, and not preclude funding for archery and hunting classes. Training for school resource officers was funded under a separate provision.
Additionally, other Republican lawmakers have since blasted the Biden administration’s interpretation of the BSCA.
“Hunting has been a tradition since the beginning of human history. The Biden admin’s decision to push its elitist values on Tennesseans isn’t going to fly,” said Republican Representative Mark Green of Tennessee, the Homeland Security Committee chair.
“This is shameful, but not at all surprising,” said GOP Representative Dan Bishop of North Carolina. “The Biden admin will take any opportunity to stomp on your constitutional rights — even down to teaching kids archery and hunting skill.”
The ESEA is the primary source of federal aid for elementary and secondary education across the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service. The BSCA earmarked another $1 billion for educational activities under the ESEA.
GOP Representative from Wisconsin, Tom Tiffany, posted on X (formerly Twitter) Friday, “The Biden administration is DEFUNDING school hunting and archery programs. Yes, you read that right — DEFUNDING them. Wisconsin students should not be pawns in Joe Biden’s misguiding crusade against America’s sportsmen.”
“Enjoying the outdoors is a wonderful activity, and interest in hunting, fishing, camping, and other such activities should be encouraged and cultivated from a young age,” said Republican Representative Doug LaMalfa of California. “Withholding authorized funding is ridiculous.”
Pro-Second Amendment and hunting groups like Safari Club International, International Order of T. Roosevelt and National Rifle Association, and National Shooting Sports Foundation also criticized the Department of Education.
“This is a direct attack on our outdoor heritage and America’s ability to educate the next generation of sportsmen,” tweeted the International Order of T. Roosevelt.