Sexton: Tennessee should do what it can to be independent from federal government
Federal funding for education in Tennessee is under scrutiny by state lawmakers. Speakers of both the state House and Senate have announced that they’re putting together a working group to study the impact of federal education funding in and out of the classroom.
The working group will be figuring out what exactly happens if they reject $1.8 billion in federal funds for education.
The move by both chamber leaders follows a plan mentioned during the regular session by House Speaker Cameron Sexton. In February, he floated getting rid of federal funding for education.
At the time, Democrats said it wouldn’t be fiscally smart to reject that money. That would be on top of nearly $9 million in federal funding that the state lost earlier this year, when Gov. Bill Lee decided not to accept federal dollars for the state’s HIV prevention and monitoring.
Republican leaders say they don’t want to be forced to comply with certain federal requirements they may not agree with.
Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, gave an example of being forced to spend a certain amount of money on a project that wasn’t economically sound. He will be heading up the working group.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton pointed out that there are several areas where he believes the federal government has too much influence on state policies.
“If the federal government truly wanted the states to be successful, then they should unrelease the restrictions and regulations to the states, return Tennessee taxpayers’ money back to the state and get back to the basics of the border, military and other things, and allow the states to take what they need to do,” said Sexton.
Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, says it would be irresponsible to reject the federal funds. In the last fiscal year, the federal government contributed nearly twice as much as the state did to Davidson County’s K-12 education programs. (If you want to see the federal and state contribution to K-12 programs in your area, click here.)
More than 1,100 Tennessee schools have Title I designations, which are used to help schools that serve students from low-income homes. It’s not clear if the state would continue supporting Title I schools if they aren’t required to by the federal government.