Republican leaders create group to examine impact of federal education funding

The bipartisan panel will report on unwanted restrictions that accompany the state’s receipt of federal funds.
The bipartisan panel will report on unwanted restrictions that accompany the state’s receipt of federal funds.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:03 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2023 at 5:29 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Two state leaders announced the creation of a bipartisan group that will review all federal education funding coming into Tennessee and determine if the expectations accompanying the money benefit the state.

In a release sent out on Monday, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Governor Randy McNally formed the new Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding. The purpose of the bipartisan panel will be to identify restrictions and their impact on students and if the state can adequately finance schools without federal funding.

Tennessee receives nearly $1.8 billion in federal funding for education, according to the Education Data Initiative.

“Any time the federal government sends money, there are always strings attached to those dollars, and there is always a possibility that it opens the state up to other regulations or restrictions,” said Speaker Sexton. “This working group will help provide a clearer picture of how much autonomy Tennessee truly has in educating our students.”

JC Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, said the money is critical for low-income areas and disabled students.

“Very, very dangerous slippery slope we’re going to be on, it’s a complex issue,” Bowman said. “It’s interwoven with state, federal, and local dollars. And just to say we’re going to pull out this much money is going to be, in my opinion, more difficult than they can imagine.”

The study group will comprise ten members from the state House and Senate: Rep. Ronnie Glynn (D-Clarksville). Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), and Rep. William Slater (R-Gallatin). Senate members include Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Sen. Bill Powers (R-Clarksville), and Sen. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro).

The group’s co-chairs are Rep. Debra Moody (R-Covington) and Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).

“The education of our youth is one of the essential responsibilities of our government,” Lt. Gov. McNally said. “Federal dollars and the various mandates and restrictions that come with those dollars affect the way Tennessee’s children are educated. Due to our state’s excellent financial position, this is a worthy subject of examination and study.”

Not everyone is happy with Monday’s announcement.

Pastors with the Southern Christian Coalition view the move as discriminatory due to the $1.8 billion in federal funds being mostly earmarked for students with disabilities who do not speak English or are from low-income families.

“The proposal from Speaker Cameron Sexton to turn away nearly $2 billion per year of federal funding for our public schools here in Tennessee would remove funding for quality education from students with disabilities, those learning the English language for the first time, and students whose families fall into the low-income category,” Rev. C. Don Jones, Pastor of the Andersonville United Methodist Church, said.

The new bipartisan panel has yet to set a date for its first meeting.