Government Withholding Funds for School Archery, Hunting Education Classes

Officials with the U.S. Dept. of Education tell the Florida Phoenix that they want to “address this issue.”

This is a photo of someone holding a bow and arrow.

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At least 19 Republican senators in Congress, including Florida’s Rick Scott, have been urging President Joe Biden to release federal funds for school archery and hunting education classes, saying in a letter that “hunting and archery are strongly connected to the traditions and heritage of America.”

Second Amendment advocacy groups have been critical of the Biden administration, ever since it was revealed last month that the U.S. Department of Education was blocking funds to elementary and secondary schools that feature archery and hunting education courses.

The current situation goes back to the passage of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which was hailed by the president and gun safety advocates as the first major federal gun safety bill passed in Congress since the 1990s.

The 2022 law included a number of provisions that advocates say will save lives, such as improving the background check system by broadening the definition of licensed gun dealers, expanding access to mental health services and expanding community violence intervention programs.

However, the legislation also included an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA) which lists banning such funds going “to any person with a dangerous weapon” or to provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.”

The GOP senators contend that the Biden Administration has intentionally misinterpreted that provision to justify blocking funding for schools with those outdoor recreation programs.

“The Biden Administration’s purposeful misinterpretation of the gun control bill is attempting to take away valuable programs from students across the country,” reads a section of an August 11 letter written by Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso and then signed by 18 other GOP senators, including Scott.

The senators say that in April, the U.S. Department of Education provided guidance prohibiting Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds for hunter education and archery programs. “Since the guidance was issued, there have been reports of schools cancelling plans to include archery or hunting education in their curriculum. We write to urge the administration to immediately reverse this misguided decision and ensure funding for these vital programs is not withheld,” according to the letter.

“These programs provided thousands of students with the opportunity to learn proper instruction for fireman and archery safety. Over 500,000 students participate and are certified through hunter education courses each year.”

It appears that the Biden administration is willing to work on addressing the issue.

An official with the U.S. Department of Education tells the Phoenix that it has implemented the law as developed by Congress, but recognizes that the current language in the bill “limits” specific “enrichment opportunities with ESEA funding.”

“We are happy to provide technical assistance on legislative language to address this issue and restore allowability of ESEA funding for valuable enrichment opportunities for students, such as archery and hunter safety programs,” an official said.

It’s not just Republicans who are unhappy about the decision to block funding for these educational programs.

“Outdoor recreation is foundational to our western way of life and any reduction of federal support for these educational programs is unacceptable,” says Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester in an Aug. 2 letter penned to U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on August 2.

A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) told the Phoenix that they have not received any information from Florida schools with archery programs about being denied any federal funds.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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