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TN House Speaker Considers Rejecting Federal Education Funding

Tennessee flag waving in the wind against a blue sky
Tennessee flag waving in the wind against a blue sky

One of Tennessee’s most influential lawmakers, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, proposed the idea that Tennessee should stop accepting the nearly $1.8 billion in federal K-12 funding for education that provides support to low-income students, those who are learning English, and students that have disabilities.

The proposal has already made its way to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and other highly influential Tennessee lawmakers. “Basically, we’ll be able to educate kids how Tennessee sees fit,” Sexton said, pointing out that if Tennessee rejects federal funding, the Tennessee education system will no longer be influenced by the federal government.

According to Sexton, Tennessee is currently in the financial position to replace federal education funding with tax dollars. Referencing the $3.2 billion in new spending outlined by Governor Lee during his recent budget proposal for the fiscal year, Sexton claims that Tennessee could easily accomplish this, assuming the proposal is passed.

Despite federal funding of schools being only a small slice of Tennessee’s education budget of $8.3 billion, some see this funding as a critical tool to support schools in low-income areas. One could also argue that this funding is also crucial to develop students with special needs.

“We as a state can lead the nation once again in telling the government that they can keep their money and we’ll do things the Tennessee way,” Sexton declared. “And that should start first and foremost with the Department of Education.” Though, Sexton acknowledges that this has never been accomplished by a state before.

Overall, a lack of federal funding for minorities, students with disabilities, and low-income backgrounds would halt learning for thousands of Tennessee students. Some argue that eliminating $1.8 billion in funding for Tennessee public schools would certainly alter the delivery of education, as well as the content of such.

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