The Biden administration’s Department of Education confirmed that, as of June, it is deliberately withholding federal funds from elementary and middle schools that have courses in hunting or archery.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

The ED issued a statement claiming that the decision was due to an interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed last year in response to several shootings. The agency claims that its interpretation determined that funding for any shooting-related activities will be blocked across the country, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

The decision has already led to some schools canceling their archery and hunting safety classes altogether, which can affect millions of students.

Tommy Floyd, president of the National Archery in the Schools Program, said that his group boasts 1.3 million students from 9,000 schools in 49 different states.

The decision drew backlash from the GOP, who say that the agency’s interpretation of the law is incorrect. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said that the provision cited by the ED was meant to prevent education funds from being used for the training of school resource officers, not the banning of hunting and archery classes.

“Hunting has been a tradition since the beginning of human history,” said Congressman Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. “The Biden admin’s decision to push its elitist values on Tennesseans isn’t going to fly.”

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Here in Maine, the ramifications of this federal ruling has just begun to filter down and as public school administrators apply the federal dictum to determine its impact on curriculum choices and school budgets.

In Bucksport, the Bucks Mills Rod & Gun Club, to its credit, has been offering a state certified hunter safety course as part of the high school’s Adult Education Program. Students, as well as adults, have access to this course. Will the federal ruling affect this program? Bruce Ashmore, president of the Bucks Mills Rod & Gun Club, thinks not.

“As an Adult Ed course, our hunter safety course, even though we do have high school students taking the course, is not really a part of the MSAD curriculum, so I don’t see it shutting us down,” says Ashmore.

What this ruling may close down are public school curricula involving any kind of shooting sports, from skeet shooting, gun and hunting safety to rifle marksmanship and perhaps even competitive rifle teams and even junior ROTC programs at the high school level. There are reportedly 2,000 high school rifle programs in the U.S.

At Brewer High School, as well as some other Maine schools, there are competitive rifle teams, which may be affected by the Federal mandate.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act has been on the books since 1965, so why all of this now?

Sad to say, anyone who has been paying attention to the policy agenda of the Biden administration, should not be all that surprised. Say goodbye to yet another freedom and another instance of the feds tromping on local control and states rights.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at vpaulr@tds.net.

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