Image Credit: Speaker Cameron Sexton / Facebook
The Tennessee Conservative [By Kelly M. Jackson] –
This week Speaker of The House for the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, Cameron Sexton, and Lt. Governor Randy McNally, announced the creation of a “task force” or “joint working group” to study what kind of impact the rejection of federal dollars might have on education in the state.
The task force aims to determine if the rejection of the federal funds will have a negative impact and if the state can afford to reject the 1.8 billion potential federal dollars it would otherwise accept.
The reason for rejecting the funds, according to Speaker Cameron Sexton, is that the federal dollars offered up for Tennessee’s education system comes with contingencies that many Tennesseans may find unacceptable.
As an example, when the state was given money for and during the COVID pandemic, there were expectations that the state would impose COVID restrictions on students like mandatory masking and school shutdowns, all without the consent of Tennessee parents.
This past session, House Bill 1249, sponsored by Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville-District 25) and Senate Bill 1507, sponsored by Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge-District 5) were both filed to create an 11-person panel that would be chaired by the state’s education commissioner, a role then filled by Penny Schwinn.
The task force would also include six legislators, two school superintendents, and two teachers, all appointed by Sexton and Lt. Governor Randy McNally.
McNally said, “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.”
According to reports, the new task force would include the following individuals:
• Rep. Debra Moody (R-Covington) and Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) will serve as co-chairs.
• House members include Rep. Ronnie Glynn (D-Clarksville), Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), and Rep. William Slater (R-Gallatin).
• Senate members include Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Sen. Bill Powers (R-Clarksville), and Sen. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro).
According to the legislation, “the task force shall develop a strategic action plan to guide the administration and general assembly on whether it is feasible for this state and the political subdivisions of this state to reject federal funding for educational programs or purposes.”
Critics of this plan convey a concern that this is a way for it to appear that Tennessee is taking an initiative to action on what would likely be a very popular move with most of the conservative constituency in Tennessee, without actually doing anything proactive that will sever the ties between the state and the federal government with regard to how Tennessee’s kids are educated.
The question that many Tennesseans might be asking themselves is that with nearly 30% of our state budget reliant on federal money, (about 18.2 billion dollars according to Governor Lee’s budget) and the contingencies that are likely attached to all of those dollars, will the rejection of just 1.8 billion make any difference substantively?
The first meeting for the new task force has yet to be announced. The Tennessee Conservative will continue to follow this story as it develops.
About the Author: Kelly Jackson is a recent escapee from corporate America, and a California refugee to Tennessee. Christ follower, Wife and Mom of three amazing teenagers. She has a BA in Comm from Point Loma Nazarene University, and has a background in law enforcement and human resources. Since the summer of 2020, she has spent any and all free time in the trenches with local grassroots orgs, including Mom’s for Liberty Williamson County and Tennessee Stands as a core member. Outspoken advocate for parents rights, medical freedom, and individual liberty. Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.