Alaska News Source: Lawmakers push back on Department of Education’s interpretation of Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

Alaska lawmakers are pushing back on the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska lawmakers are pushing back on the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, with concerns that its interpretation of the legislation is erroneous.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who initially voted for the act, joined 17 other lawmakers in writing a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, stating that, “Unfortunately, and contrary to Congressional intent, the Department of Education (”the Department”) has misinterpreted the language to exclude certain educational activities from receiving federal resources.”

The letter states how the department’s interpretation is causing concerns about how Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds may no longer be used for activities that use dangerous weapons such as archery and hunter safety education.

“We understand the Department has encouraged local and state education agencies to seek alternative sources of funding for archery and hunting educational enrichment programs. This is concerning because of the important role these enrichment programs can play in students’ lives,” the letter states.

Last week, Murkowski cosponsored two measures in support of archery and hunter safety education within schools. Both bills, according to the senator, would ensure that federal funding is available for schools in Alaska that wish to teach hunting or archery.

“Hunter safety is a critical life skill to pass on to future generations of Alaskans and should be taught at home and in schools,” Murkowski said via press release. “I am working with my colleagues to correct this misinterpretation and preserve schools’ ability to teach students how to safely handle firearms, compete in archery, and use cutting tools in culinary classes. This isn’t a political issue – Senators from both sides of the aisle have introduced legislation to ensure the Department of Education implements the law as intended.”

Unlike Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan initially voted against the legislation. He said despite the legislation containing a lot of good mental health funding, he had other reservations about it.

“I did not trust this administration with regards to the implementation of this bill particularly as it related to issues surrounding the second amendment,” Sullivan said. " You know that’s really important to Alaskans.”

Sullivan added that the Department of Education’s reading of the law was incorrect.

“Kind of a remarkable stretch of reading a law to cut off funding to programs that are very popular and help with safety with weapons, and archery and guns. And we need more of that, not less,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan backs up his claims, saying how important it is for people to understand how to properly handle firearms.

“That’s actually good for us — that’s good for Alaska, that’s good for our young people,” Sullivan said. “To cut off any kind of federal funding for that makes no sense at all. Certainly doesn’t help young people handle these kind of weapons any safer. Doesn’t make communities safer.”

Alaska’s News Source reached out to the Department of Education and is still waiting for a statement.

By:  Georgina Fernandez
Source: Alaska News Source