Update: The White House confirmed to Fox News that President Joe Biden plans to sign this legislation to protect federal funding for school hunter's ed and archery programs.
"The President supports a legislative solution to ensure ESEA funding can be used for valuable school enrichment programs, such as hunter safety and archery," a spokesperson said this week.
In two votes in less than 24 hours, the U.S. Congress passed the “The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act." This bill will allow federal funds to be used by elementary and secondary schools for educational purposes like hunter’s ed, archery classes, and culinary arts, even if those courses involve “dangerous weapons."
House sponsor Rep. Mark Green argued that the legislation was necessary to protect funding for these courses in the wake of the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA).
“The Biden administration’s reckless misinterpretation of the Safer Communities Act unfairly targeted archery and shooting sports in K-12 schools,” he said in a speech on the House floor. “Democrats and Republicans agree, the Biden administration missed the target—by a long shot. Under the Department of Education’s current interpretation of the law, other school activities like fencing and the culinary arts would also be at risk. This is unacceptable.”
Passed last year, the BSCA amended existing federal law to prohibit some federal education funds from being used for training someone “in the use of a dangerous weapon.” An official with the the Department of Education (DOE) told state educators that this prohibition would apply to extracurricular courses at elementary and secondary schools.
While it’s unclear how many schools and programs would have been impacted by this interpretation, U.S. legislators from both sides of the aisle condemned the DOE and called on the agency to change its interpretation.
When that didn’t happen, they introduced H.R. 5110, which passed unanimously in the Senate and by a 424-1 vote in the House. The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to clarify that the prohibition on the use of Federal education funds for certain weapons does not apply to the use of such weapons for training in archery, hunting, other shooting sports, or culinary arts. (Culinary arts were included because federal law defines dangerous weapons to include knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches.)
The legislation secured both Democrat and Republican sponsors in the House and Senate, and the only legislator to vote against it was Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas.
The legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Independent Senator Krysten Sinema along with Republican Senators Tom Tillis and Shelley Capito. What’s more, 15 additional senators signed a letter earlier this month urging Senate appropriators to reverse the DOE’s interpretation. These included Republicans like Senators John Cornyn and Joni Enst as well as Democrats like Senators Chris Murphy and Amy Klobuchar.
“We will allow students in Arizona and all across the country to enjoy school-based hunting and archery programs just as the law intended,” Sinema said as she requested unanimous approval for her bill.
President Joe Biden has not indicated whether he will sign the legislation. We will post updates here as the bill progresses.