- As Tennessee lawmakers continue to debate the impact of rejecting annual federal education funding, a report released Tuesday said the state has enough revenue to replace the more than $1 billion in recurring federal funds — but that doing so “would come at the expense of other potential investments.”
- Plus, federal requirements could still be imposed on Tennessee even if the state refused the federal education dollars, according to the report from the Tennessee Senate’s Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding. For instance, if schools found more obscure ways of receiving federal funds, like through reimbursements for services provided in schools, they would find themselves subject to federal rules.
- Should Tennessee opt out of the $1 billion in recurring federal funds, the report added, it’s unlikely federal taxpayers would see any savings. Rather, there’s more of a chance that the funding would be redistributed to other states.
Members of the Tennessee House and Senate have yet to agree on recommendations regarding federal education dollars, notes a letter from the task force members attached to the report.
Tennessee lawmakers established the task force last fall to analyze the potential effects if the state were to reject federal education funding. The report pointed out that this would be a first — no state has ever refused annual allocations of federal education dollars.
Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton first brought up the idea of rejecting federal funding in 2023 as a way for schools to avoid federal regulations, according to Chalkbeat. Sexton specifically cited the ability to opt out of testing as the key reason for considering the move.
“I don’t think the TCAP test measures much of anything, and I think teachers would tell you that you’re teaching to a test,” said Sexton, referring to the state’s annual test under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, Chalkbeat reported.
Meanwhile, an Oklahoma state senator is reintroducing a bill that would direct that state's Department of Education to phase out federal education funding and replace it with state dollars over a 10-year period, reports News On 6. The bill was first proposed last year but not acted on during the regular session.
When states have previously considered rejecting federal funds, education policy and financial experts have cautioned that lawmakers should understand the financial, educational and legal impacts — especially regarding school district compliance with civil rights laws.