Maine Sen. Susan Collins was among 15 Republican U.S. Senators who voted in favor of the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” (BSCA), a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2022 which is now being used by the Department of Education to withhold funds from elementary and secondary schools with hunting or archery programs in their curriculum.
The Department of Education confirmed to Fox News Digital Monday that the agency is prohibiting funds for schools with shooting sports activities nationwide, funds which were earmarked under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.
“This prohibition applies to all ESEA funds,” a Department of Education spokesperson to Fox News Digital. “The prohibition went into effect immediately on June 25, 2022 and applies to all existing and future awards under all ESEA programs, including [21st Century Community Learning Centers]. The Department is administering the bipartisan law as written by Congress.”
The BSCA was passed in both the House and Senate and signed by President Biden in June 2022 following a push for gun control legislation following shootings in Buffalo, New York, and at a school in Uvalde, Texas.
Sen. Collins voted in favor of an amendment to the BSCA which included a provision prohibiting ESEA funds going to providing any person with a dangerous weapon ,or “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.”
Earlier this month, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who both joined Collins in voting for the BSCA, sent a letter Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressing concerns that the Department of Education was misinterpreting the law.
“We were alarmed to learn recently that the Department of Education (the ‘Department’) has misinterpreted the BCSA to require the defunding of certain longstanding educational and enrichment programs—specifically, archery and hunter education classes—for thousands of children, who rely on these programs to develop life skills, learn firearm safety, and build self-esteem,” the Senators wrote.
According to the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), since 2002 more than 21 million students have participated in their archery program—every year, over 1.3 million students across nearly 9,000 schools in 49 states participate in their program.
“NASP appeals to almost every student and is often pursued by students that have experienced physical, developmental, or other challenges. NASP appeals equally to both genders as our male and female students compete side-by-side,” said NASP President Tommy Floyd.
“For two decades now, we have continued to hear a familiar story from parents, grandparents, and guardians as well as urban and rural educators who discover NASP,” Floyd said. “They tell us about the many positive attributes they see developing in their students such as confidence, humility, ability to handle pressure, sportsmanship, dealing with success (and failure), and becoming a part of a team; all these essential life skills are imparted through participation in the shooting sports.”
The International Hunter Association (IHEA) U.S.A. states that hunter education courses train and certify more than 500,000 students annually, and that since 1949, nearly 40 million students have completed courses in firearm safety, bowhunting, wildlife management, field care of game, responsible hunting, landowner relations, wildlife indentification, and more.
The IHEA states that because of the hunter education courses, hunting related injuries have decreased dramatically in the last 50 years.
Several GOP lawmakers came out against the Department of Education’s interpretation of the BSCA.
“The Biden administration is DEFUNDING school hunting and archery programs,” said Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) in a tweet last Friday. “Yes, you read that right – DEFUNDING them. Wisconsin students should not be pawns in Joe Biden’s misguided crusade against America’s sportsmen.”
“Enjoying the outdoors is a wonderful activity and interest in hunting, fishing, camping, and other such activities should be encouraged and cultivated from a young age. Withholding authorized funding is ridiculous,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.).
Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina called the move “shameful, but not at all surprising.”
“The Biden admin will take any opportunity to stomp on your constitutional rights – even down to teaching kids archery and hunting skills,” Rep. Bishop said.
It’s not clear how exactly the DOE’s interpretation of the law will impact Maine schools.
“At this point, we have yet to hear anything specific about this from the Department of Education, and until we do, it is too early to speculate how this may impact Maine students and schools,” a spokesperson from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife told the Maine Wire.
Sen. Collins has not responded to a request for comment on the Department of Education withholding funds from schools with hunting and archery programs due to a bill that she helped pass.