Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Senate joint committee members file report on federal K-12 education funding, disagreeing with House members

By Jon Styf | The Center Square, Jan. 19, 2024 – Senate members of a joint committee on federal funding for K-12 education in Tennessee filed a separate report stating they could not agree with House members of the joint committee on the recommendations.

The Senate report highlighted the limited number of federal requirements surrounding that funding, the benefits of the funding and the uncertainties that would come from rejecting that funding while citing the work on the Sycamore Institute and the Tennessee Office of Research and Education Accountability.

“These are more questions than definitive answers about what rejecting federal K-12 dollars could mean for Tennessee's obligations because no state has ever done so,” the report said, words that first appeared in Sycamore Institute’s October report on the matter.

“If the legislature, for example, chooses to reject select federal education programs in the ESEA, there are a number of questions that would need to be resolved with the U.S. Department of Education. In particular, there are a number of uncertainties about the consequences of non-participation in Title I-A, where many of the most significant requirements of federal education law are contained.”

Chalkbeat reported that House Speaker Cameron Sexton said a House report was also coming on the topic while committee co-chair Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, told the website he refused to make changes to the report that were requested by Sexton’s office.

“Frankly there are fewer federal strings than I anticipated,” Lundberg told Chalkbeat, something that school superintendents had highlighted for the committee.

The Senate report said that, on average, nearly 20% of funding that local K-12 districts receive come from federal funds. It estimated that rejecting federal funds would lead to a $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion increase in education funding costs to Tennessee.

“$1.1B is also more than any of the recurring increases to TDOE over the last decade and more than the budgets of all but about 4-5 state agencies (IDOE, TennCare, TOOT, THEC, and TDOC),” the report says.

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