State Considers Rejecting Federal Education Funds

( – Republicans have always resisted federal involvement in public schools, but Tennessee lawmakers are exploring a first. They’ll refuse government funding to limit Washington’s overreach.

Legislators there have organized a 10-person committee to look into the issue, and some have argued that rejecting the $1.8 billion will only impact the most disadvantaged pupils.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R) said that Tennessee’s public school system is subject to federal regulations and mandates that shape children’s education. Establishing the Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding was worthy of examination because of the state’s strong financial standing.

Republicans like Governor Bill Lee (R) think the measure will promote parental and community involvement in public education.

Lee did not identify which federal regulations he would like to remove, but some lawmakers say it’s a question of principle.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton said it’s a philosophical issue. The states created the federal government, not the other way around. We must strive to be self-sufficient and independent of the federal government, he said.

According to the Sycamore Institute, 11 percent of Tennessee school districts’ income in 2019 was federal, with each district receiving $314 to $2,500 per student.

According to a Department of Education spokesperson, federal education funding for states is prioritized for the most vulnerable students, including those from low-income families, those with disabilities, those in foster care, those who are homeless, those living in rural areas, and those who are Alaska Native or American Indian.

As Jonathan Butcher, a senior research fellow in education policy at the Heritage Foundation, pointed out, a significant portion goes to state departments of education to pay federal employees to do office duties. He argues that the programs are designed so that a disproportionate share of the budget goes to pay for federal personnel and to ensure compliance.

Legislators in Tennessee have claimed they have the resources to make up the $1.8 billion in federal funding they would lose if they withdrew federal involvement in the state’s public schools.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education stated that students need more resources, not fewer, to aid in academic recuperation and tackle the youth mental health epidemic.

According to Michael Brickman, an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the fact that Tennessee is contemplating this change should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government.

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