School archery, shooting sports programs threatened by Biden administration

In this photo, a young archer participates in a youth archery league. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

RALEIGH — An agency interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education is threatening to end funding of long-running school archery and shooting sports programs, members of Congress warn. 

First reported by Fox News Digital, the Biden administration confirmed that it is withholding critical funds for elementary and secondary schools nationwide with hunting or archery programs in their curriculum. 

The Department of Education in a statement said that its funding decisions were based on the plain text interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed last year. The agency’s interpretation means funding for shooting sport activities earmarked under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 will be blocked across the country. 

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which passed in 1965, is the “primary source of federal aid for elementary and secondary education” and is meant “to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools,” according to Congressional reports. 

“This prohibition applies to all ESEA funds,” a Department of Education spokesperson subsequently told Fox News Digital in a statement. “The prohibition went into effect immediately on June 25, 2022 and applies to all existing and future awards under all ESEA programs, including [21st Century Community Learning Centers]. The Department is administering the bipartisan law as written by Congress.” 

“These programs give our future conservationists and sportsmen and women new opportunities and passions, while teaching public safety, self-esteem, teamwork, and interpersonal skills,” Republican Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08) said while criticizing the decision.   

A letter signed by more than 60 House Republicans calls the funding decision “a gross misinterpretation of the law,” and a bill to clarify support for programs was introduced by Hudson and Tennessee Republican Rep. Mark Green. 

The National Rifle Association (NRA) called news of the department’s interpretation a treacherous overreach and the latest victims of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which the group opposed. 

“The episode reinforces two critically important lessons that any pro-gun legislator should remember. One: there is no such thing as harmless gun control. Two: Moderates who join forces with anti-gun extremists will eventually be embarrassed by the partnership,” the group said in a statement. 

The NRA also pointed to a warning they issued before the bill was passed, saying in part, “This bill leaves too much discretion in the hands of government officials and also contains undefined and overbroad provisions — inviting interference with our constitutional freedoms.” 

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) said it is actively working to reverse the direction of the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that these programs remain intact for millions of students across the country.  

“Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education is interpreting the inclusion of ‘dangerous weapon’ at face value by using the strict definition of ‘dangerous weapon’ rather than following the legislative intent of Congress, which is leading to the cancellation of school programs such as hunter education, archery, wilderness courses, school sponsored shooting teams, among many other critically important activities for America’s youth,” the group said in a statement earlier this month. 

Both of North Carolina’s Republican senators at the time, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, voted for the BSCA last year. 

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Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected].