The federal government is moving to eliminate funding for archery and hunter education from schools, according to a letter from the Department of Education.
The letter, which was sent to state education agencies on Monday, says that the Department is interpreting a new law, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, to prohibit federal funding for schools that offer archery or hunter education programs.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed in June 2022 in response to a series of mass shootings in the United States. The law includes a provision that prohibits federal funding from being used to provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.” The Department of Education is interpreting this provision to include archery and hunting education programs.
The decision to eliminate funding for archery and hunting education from schools has been met with criticism, with critics (both Republicans and Democrats) arguing that the programs teach important safety skills, can help to promote responsible gun ownership and also helps many students, who many times would not be, to be engaged in an extracurricular activity. They also say that the programs can help to connect students with nature and the outdoors.
“It’s tragic. Archery is a therapeutic experience for many kids,” said Jared Aaron, an ag teacher at Cordova who is certified to teach archery and hunting education. “It forces you to quiet your mind and focus on this one thing. The process requires concentration and discipline. I think it’s a wonderful program, as well as a ‘fit’ for some students who may not have found another school activity where they feel at home.”
The elimination of funding for archery and hunter education from schools is likely to have a significant impact on students in rural areas, where these programs are often popular. It is also likely to have a negative impact on the hunting and archery industries.
In Walker County, there are at least six schools with archery programs.
Aaron said more than 1 million students in the United States will be deprived of the National Archery in Schools Program if the funding is cut.
“These are two very important programs where we teach responsibility and safety,” he said.
Aaron said there are several archery programs in local schools, and many ag teachers use hunter safety in some of their classes. There are no firearms used in the hunter safety instruction, he said.
The Department of Education is expected to release more guidance on the interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in the coming weeks. It is unclear how many schools will be affected by the decision to eliminate archery and hunter education programs.
There is a petition being circulated to ask the Department of Education to rethink its interpretation. It can be found at https://actionalerts.archerytrade.org.