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Would Tennessee Really Reject Federal Education Funding?
The proposed funding replacement tells an even more interesting story
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House Speaker Cameron Sexton has floated the idea of Tennessee rejecting federal education spending because he’s not a fan of the strings attached to the nearly $2 billion the state receives each year to help fund public schools.
When asked to clarify, Sexton revealed that he wasn’t suggesting “doing without,” but rather that the state would simply pick up the tab.
WKRN has more:
Tennessee’s House Speaker is mulling rejecting nearly $2 billion in U.S. education funding so the state is no longer obligated to follow federal rules.
Although, he has repeated that state funds will be used to replace the $1.8 billion that would’ve been in place and services and funding levels to local education associations will remain in place.
Here’s the deal: The House Speaker alone can’t just reject federal education money. He’d have to have legislation passed in both the House and the Senate and then get Gov. Bill Lee to agree to this plan.
This means it’s unlikely - though not impossible - that Tennessee would reject federal school funding.
Sexton does control a supermajority in the House, so could in theory push a rejection of federal dollars through that body.
Still, it seems unlikely that all the pieces would come together in order for the state to actually reject this money.
However, Sexton’s claim that the state could simply replace federal dollars is interesting.
It’s interesting because Tennessee actually has billions in surplus dollars - including a projected surplus in excess of $2 billion this year.
In other words, Tennessee could actually afford to replace these federal dollars.
The larger point, though, is that IF this money is available to spend, the state could be doing a lot more for our public schools.
Why not take these surplus dollars and give teachers a 20% raise?
Why not make a downpayment on the billions of dollars of infrastructure needs our schools have?
Tennessee is historically in the bottom ten in the nation when it comes to school funding.
As Sexton points out, though, we do have billions of dollars available to spend.
This begs the question: Why aren’t Tennessee lawmakers proposing new ways to invest in our state’s schools?
Instead of finding ways to support public education, lawmakers are seeking to expand privatization and passing unfunded mandates that could create disaster for families and schools.
Our House Speaker is right - we have billions available for school funding.
Now, it’s time to see that money actually go to our public schools.
In Other News . . .
My sister publication - the blog that started my education writing journey - is 10 years old this year.
That’s right, Tennessee Education Report has been around for ten years now - and is still going strong.
Thank you to everyone who has supported this work over the past decade.