Legislative leaders move forward with attempt to refuse federal education funding
House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally have appointed a Joint Legislative Task Force to explore the possibility of Tennessee refusing the nearly $2 billion the state receives in federal education funding each year.
More from The Tennessee Journal:
The 10-member panel will also report on the feasibility of the state rejecting federal funds and recommend a strategy to reject certain federal funds or eliminate unwanted restrictions placed on the state due to the receipt of such federal funds if it is feasible to do so.
Sexton has previously suggested using the state’s significant revenue surplus to replace federal dollars for schools.
It’s worth noting here that a bipartisan task force found that the state underfunds schools by around $1.7 billion a year.
This means that rather than use surplus dollars to make up the current funding shortfall, Sexton is suggesting using the surplus to maintain the inadequate status quo.
Not surprisingly, the move was met with resistance by advocates for public education:
Rev. C. Don Jones, Pastor of the Andersonville United Methodist Church, said of the proposal:
“Tennessee public schools are primarily locally funded. Extra funds from the Federal government administered by the State government help schools in our rural areas that are cash strapped. I do not understand why the Speaker, the Governor, or the present Supermajority of the General Assembly chose to harm these communities.
“As a pastor in a rural community, I see the Speaker’s proposal as irresponsible to the citizens of Tennessee.”
Senate Democratic Leader Raumesh Akbari of Memphis said the federal funding is a key tool in leveling the playing field for students in economically disadvantaged areas of the state.
“Federal education funding for states is essential to ensure educational equity and opportunity for all American students. It serves as a vital pillar of our nation’s commitment to providing a quality education regardless of a student’s geographical location or socioeconomic background.”
In a tweet, Rep. Bo Mitchell said:
This could the most idiotic discussion I’ve seen in the Tennessee General Assembly probably since not expanding Medicaid and costing our state over a billion dollars a year. If you have a child with an IEP then this will drastically harm your child!
The task force has not yet announced its first meeting.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport