The Department of Education (DOE) recently decided to decrease funding to schools that offer hunting and archery programs. The decision was based upon an interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which was passed in 2022. The funding had already been reserved under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which is the main source of federal aid to elementary and secondary education within the U.S. Passage of the BSCA reserved another $1 billion for educational activities under the ESEA, according to Fox News.
Obviously, the decision has come under fire by those who feel the programs are unfairly targeted, arguing that archery and hunting programs fall within the types of activities aimed at supporting safe and healthy students, which is exactly what ESEA funds are allocated for.
“It’s a negative for children. As a former educator of 30-plus years, I was always trying to find a way to engage students,” said Tommy Floyd, the president of the National Archery in the Schools Program. “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.”
There are currently 1.3 million students from about 9,000 schools within 49 states enrolled in archery courses, according to Floyd. As a result of the recent DOE decision, some schools have already pulled archery and/or hunting education courses from their curriculum.
U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Thom Tillis have also vocalized their disapproval. In a letter written to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, they wrote that they “were alarmed” at the recent misinterpretation of the BCSA “to require the defunding of certain longstanding educational and enrichment programs—specifically, archery and hunter education classes—for thousands of children, who rely on these programs to develop life skills, learn firearm safety, and build self-esteem.”
Other groups like the Sportsmen’s Alliance, Safari Club International (SCI) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) have also spoken out against the decision.
“It is ironic that the U.S. Department of Education is actively denying young Americans the chance to educate themselves on basic firearm and hunting safety so that they can go afield knowing how to keep themselves, their friends, and family safe,” said Ben Cassidy, executive vice president for international government and public affairs SCI.
“At best, the department’s policy appears to be singularly geared to ensure hunters are less safe when handling firearms or bows and, at worst, are leveling a direct attack on hunters’ ability to pass down hunting to the newest generations,” said Cassidy. “SCI and our membership will be eagerly awaiting the Education Department’s response to the letter from Senators Cornyn and Tillis, and we won’t hesitate to take further action to protect hunters’ rights.”
NSSF remained neutral during the passage of the BSCA, but couldn’t stay silent on this issue.
“Stopping hunter education courses that teach safe and responsible firearm handling makes our communities less, not more, safe and diminishes our ability to pass our nation’s cherished hunting and recreational shooting sports traditions on to the next generation,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president.
The DOE has not responded to additional inquiries regarding this decision.
Stay tuned to GOHUNT for further updates.