NASHVILLE—A public policy research center today (Tuesday, Nov 7) warned state lawmakers that cutting programs or raising taxes are potential consequences of refusing more than a billion dollars in education funds from the federal government.  The Sycamore Institute today told a joint legislative committee that those are two possible options if they follow through on a Republican proposal to reject federal education dollars and state revenues continue to shrink.

The Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding held its second day of meetings today.  House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally created the task force to examine replacing federal education dollars with state funds because federal dollars come with “strings” attached.

However, the Sycamore Institute told the panel that because no state has ever rejected federal K-12 funding much is unknown. But some of the possible ramifications could include budget cuts or tax increases during a shortfall or recession, extended court battles over federal requirements that may still exist for state schools even if funding is refused and Tennesseans having to pay federal income taxes on money now going to other states.

In the afternoon session, a cross-sexton of county school superintendents told the panel that even with the federal education dollars they still don’t have enough money to repair school roofs and they have to send children to learn in buildings that are more than 100 years old and falling apart. 

Following the meeting, State Representative Ronnie Glynn of Clarksville, who is one of only two Democrats serving on the Task Force, said that after today, he’s not sure why the committee is continuing to meet: “We are telling school superintendents that we can replace the billion dollars the federal government provides with state money when they have buildings crumbling around them. Instead of replacing federal dollars, we could take the matching billion that we say we have and use it to fix their buildings and hire more teachers. We are literally asking them how they could repurpose existing employees who have to fill out federal paperwork, when we could just give them the money to hire more teachers and retain the teachers they have.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense.” The committee meets again tomorrow at 9:00 AM in Senate Hearing Room one.  Officials with the U.S. Department of Education and the National Conference of State Legislatures are scheduled to make presentations.