Tennessee legislators are looking to possibly reject federal funding for public education and replace it with state funding, making it the first state to do so.
The state's Republican leadership announced the creation of a panel to look at impacts of federal education funding in Tennessee and any conditions that may come along with it.
"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. This working group will help provide a clearer picture of how much autonomy Tennessee truly has in educating our students," said Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton.
In the last few years, Tennessee has established itself as one of the more conservative states. For example, the state has moved to protect children from sexually explicit shows, to ban sex changes for minors, and rejected red flag laws.
Sexton announced Monday the formation of a 10-member Joint Working Group consisting of members from both the state House and Senate, which will look at whether the state can fund education without federal funding. The panel will be comprised of eight Republicans and two Democrats.
Sexton had previously discussed the idea of rejecting $1.8 billion in federal education funding during the prior regular legislative session, however, the proposal didn't end up advancing.
"We, as a state, can lead the nation once again in telling the federal government that they can keep their money, and we'll just do things the Tennessee way. And that should start, first and foremost, with the Department of Education," Sexton said at the time.
"The education of our youth is one of the essential responsibilities of our government. 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," said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally.
However, Democrats oppose the idea. State Senator Raumesh Akbari claimed that there would be "harsh consequences" should the state reject federal funding, saying that "federal funds are crucial in supporting students with special needs, English language learners, and those from low-income families. Through this committee, I will advocate that Tennessee keep accepting these necessary funds."
Jeremy Frankel is a Newsmax writer reporting on news and politics.
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