Update on School Funding for Archery and Hunting Programs

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has previously shared our concern and frustration regarding the Department of Education’s implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, or BSCA, passed last year, which has prohibited funds for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, from being used for “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.”  

Given the interpretation shared by the Department of Education, some schools have withheld funding for the National Archery in the Schools Program and hunter education programs. This interpretation does not affect all schools, but those that rely heavily on federal funding are being cautious with their response and preemptively withholding the program funding at risk of losing federal funds.  

Republican and Democratic lawmakers who helped to pass the bill say that the intent of the law is being misinterpreted (the intended result was to prohibit these funds from being used to train school resource officers). Many are calling on the Department of Education to reverse course. BHA is urging the department do just that, as this decision is detrimental to millions of American youths who benefit from these programs and educational opportunities. However, congressional intent cannot simply correct what is written in statute, and thus far the department has not interpreted the law differently despite broader guidance from our community. 

The department has since stated, however, that they are interested in developing legislative language to ensure the law is written in a way that it can be implemented without funding being withheld from programs important to future generations of hunters.  

"The Department of Education continues to implement the law as developed by Congress," said a Department of Education spokesperson. “The Department recognizes the limits this language may place on certain enrichment opportunities with [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] 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.” 

BHA continues to work actively with other organizations in the hunting and shooting sports communities to create corrective guidance regarding the interpretation of the law. Pressure from others in the administration, including cabinet secretaries who are more familiar with the interests of sportsmen and women, could also prove helpful in quickly remedying this problem. 

H.Res. 651, a resolution introduced by Rep. Grothman (R-WI) condemns the interpretation by the Department of Education. At the same time, it does not resolve the issue by providing any corrective guidance to address the current situation by amending the law.

However, legislation is currently being developed with a variety of stakeholders to provide a decisive solution.  

Rep. Green (R-TN) has introduced the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110), which aims to clarify the interpretation of the BSCA. BHA supports the bill. At the same time, we would like to see any potential legislative language refined to ensure that not only NASP and hunter education programs remain uncompromised in the implementation of BSCA but also that programs like wilderness survival courses, JROTC and other shooting sports clubs retain funding. Any legislative solution should fully encompass our community’s interests while being both unquestionably clear and decisive. BHA and our partners in the hunting and shooting sports community are working closely with Rep. Green to ensure the best path forward for corrective language. 

As BHA works with our partners to secure a viable legislative remedy, we will keep you updated and provide opportunities for engagement in our action center when it’s time to encourage Congress to act. We remain committed to the situation and providing effective ways to involve our membership in meaningful outcomes. 

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About Kaden McArthur

A western hunter and angler at heart, my passion for wild places and wildlife brought me to Washington, DC to work on conservation policy.

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