KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton said he plans to introduce legislation that would do away with federal funding for the state’s education system.
“We propose not taking federal money,” Speaker Sexton said. “We have the capability of funding education wholly ourselves and replacing the federal money with state money which will allow us freedom and autonomy.”
The state receives $1.8 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Speaker Sexton said that Tennessee would replace those funds with state tax dollars, citing $3.2 billion in new spending outlined in Gov. Lee’s recent budget proposal as evidence that the state could cover the difference.
“This year in the governors budget we had six billion dollars of new recurring money. The governor spent $3.2 on recurring and 2.8 billion on non-recurring,” Sexton said. “All of that $2.8 billion will come back next year on top of any other growth that we have, so there should be ample amount of money if we prioritize this to cover the cost of the idea that we have.”
Some East Tennessee school systems have already expressed concern over the proposal.
Tanya T. Coats, President of the Tennessee Education Association, believes the Volunteer State need these federal dollars. “We need every cent that comes to the state of Tennessee to ensure that our future for our students, that they are going to get the adequate education that they need,” she said.
The federal money covers many programs within the school systems. “This helps those who are most in need, the low socio-economic students, our students that need it for special ed,” Coats said. “We need these funds just as well as anyone else. It can also be an overage to use in the classroom for extracurricular activities.”
The House Speaker has previously said his plan would not bring an end to standardized testing. Instead, it would allow the state to work with the teacher associations, administrators and parents to come up with a test that would work for Tennessee.
Sexton said the bill still has some steps to complete throughout the year.
“We are going to have legislation this year that will layout what that process is and have a working group with stakeholders throughout the rest of the year that will comeback with a plan in December with how we should start making this happen in our state,” he said.