NASHVILLE—State agencies laid out today how Tennessee could refuse more than a billion dollars for public schools…and how the hardest hit would be in rural Tennessee counties…if Republicans follow through on their proposal to reject over $1.8 billion of federal education funds.

At the first meeting of a joint legislative task force examining whether the state should refuse to accept federal education grants, officials with the Comptroller’s Office said Tennessee is allocated $1.9 billion dollars from the Federal Government this year.  The bulk of that money is passed along to each county’s Local Education Agencies.  Last year, the largest percentage of those funds went to rural counties to supplement their education budgets. The top three were Hancock (31%), Campbell (30.58%), and Benton (29.87) Counties.  The Comptroller’s office said the money is primarily used for poor and disadvantaged students, children with disabilities, school nutrition programs and career and technical education. 

Following the meeting, State Representative Ronnie Glynn, who serves on the Task Force, questioned how Tennessee would be able to replace those dollars, particularly more than $280 million from the USDA helps feed disadvantaged students: “We all know we have to provide our children with the tools needed to receive a quality education and that includes making sure our students are fed so they have the capacity to learn. When I asked how will our kids eat if these funds go away, I was asking for my Montgomery County children, as well as those in Hancock, Campbell, Benton and my home county of Lauderdale. Those counties are depending on those nutrition dollars to help feed their children.”

In addition to the possible loss of more than a billion dollars in federal education funding, the Task Force today also heard from the Fiscal Review Committee on how rejecting the education dollars could jeopardize other federal funds like TANF money and possibly lead to potential federal fines for non-compliance under the Social Security Act. The Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding continues five days of meetings tomorrow at 9:00 AM in Senate Hearing Room one.