Senate Republicans and Democrats fired off two letters late Tuesday in opposition of the Biden administration’s crackdown on school hunting education and archery programs nationwide.
The letters, led by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, stated that the Department of Education misinterpreted legislation regarding funding for such programs and called on Senate Appropriations Committee leaders to restore funding. The first letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was signed by nine Republicans and nine Democrats while the second to Appropriations leadership was signed by six Republicans and 11 Democrats.
“Unfortunately, and contrary to Congressional intent, the Department of Education has misinterpreted the language to exclude certain educational activities from receiving federal resources,” Cornyn and 17 other lawmakers wrote to Cardona.
“This is concerning because of the important role these enrichment programs can play in students’ lives,” they continued. “Archery is an inclusive extracurricular activity that empowers students from all backgrounds to learn a sport and compete. Hunter safety classes and programs play an important role in teaching safety, wildlife management, landowner relations, and personal responsibility to students.”
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Fox News Digital reported in July that the Education Department shared federal guidance to hunting education groups highlighting that hunting and archery programs in schools would be stripped of funding. The guidance explained that the administration interpreted the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to mean such programs can no longer receive taxpayer funds.
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In the guidance, obtained first by Fox News Digital, senior agency official Sarah Martinez wrote that archery, hunter education and wilderness safety courses use weapons that are “technically dangerous weapons” and therefore “may not be funded under” the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is the primary source of federal aid for elementary and secondary education across the country.
According to advocates, many schools that offer such courses have already nixed them from curriculums due to the federal guidance.
“We ask that the Department interpret the language as Congress intended and no longer ask educational entities to seek other funding sources for educational enrichment programs that align with the intent of ESEA — supporting student achievement and student well-being,” the letter to Cardona continued.
Cornyn and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., were the two Republican sponsors of the BSCA, and Sens. Chris Murphy and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., were the Democratic sponsors. Tillis and Sinema signed the letter to Cardona on Tuesday alongside Cornyn.
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The BSCA — a bill that was criticized as a “gun control” bill but touted by proponents as an effort to promote “safer, more inclusive and positive” schools — was passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in June 2022 after mass shootings at a grocery market in Buffalo, New York, and a school in Uvalde, Texas.
The law included an amendment to a subsection in the ESEA listing prohibited uses for federal school funding. That amendment prohibits ESEA funds from helping provide any person with a dangerous weapon or to provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon,” but, according to Cornyn, was included to prevent ESEA funding for school resource officer training.
“These courses can play an important role in teaching firearm safety, wildlife conservation, and personal responsibility,” Cornyn and 16 of his colleagues wrote in the second letter Tuesday addressed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The intent of BSCA was not to preclude students from participating in these kinds of opportunities.”
They noted, in addition to archery and hunting programs, the Education Department’s interpretation of the BSCA may “be used to prohibit schools from providing kitchen knives that are larger than 2 ½ inches long in culinary classes.”
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The lawmakers called on the Appropriations Committee to include language in the upcoming FY24 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill to reject the Education Department’s interpretation of BSCA.
The second letter was signed by Cornyn, Tillis, Sinema and Murphy in addition to several other Republicans and Democrats.
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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