In the face of widespread criticism, the Biden administration is signaling a potential change in its recent measures aimed at restricting hunting education and archery programs in schools. The Department of Education acknowledged that it had withdrawn funding from traditional school sportsmen activities based on a recent interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) of 2022. This decision resulted in the removal of funding for hunting and archery programs in schools, categorizing them as enrichment opportunities.
Recognizing the concerns raised, the Education Department is now committed to working with Congress to address the issue. A spokesperson for the department stated, “We are willing to offer technical assistance in drafting legislative language to resolve this matter and restore the eligibility of ESEA funding for valuable enrichment opportunities for students, such as archery and hunter safety programs.”
Initially, the Biden administration’s interpretation of the BSCA led to the defunding of archery, hunter education, and wilderness safety programs in schools. These programs were deemed ineligible for federal funding based on the provisions of the act.
The response to this decision has been swift and bipartisan. Advocates have emphasized the educational and responsible aspects of hunting and archery programs, highlighting their role in teaching students about responsible gun ownership and archery skills.
Numerous lawmakers, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, have expressed concerns about the administration’s interpretation of the BSCA. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Jon Tester (D-Montana), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) have all voiced their objections. Even Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), the Republican sponsors of the BSCA, have expressed dissatisfaction with how the legislation is being interpreted.
Furthermore, a group of 66 House Republicans, led by Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), condemned the decision to defund these programs. Representative Stefanik referred to it as a “Far Left push” and criticized the administration’s perceived departure from a bipartisan approach.
In response, Representatives Mark Green (R-Tenn.) and Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) have introduced the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act, which aims to prevent the Education Department from withdrawing funding for hunting and archery classes.
The BSCA, initially focused on school safety following mass shootings, has sparked controversy with its interpretation affecting hunting and archery programs. This reconsideration of funding aligns with the broader debate surrounding how legislation is interpreted and its consequences within the education system.