Authorities in Tennessee formed a panel of lawmakers this week to examine how the state could free its education system from federal funding and, more importantly, the federal control over public schools that comes with those tax dollars. The move could potentially serve as a role model as states and school districts across the nation seek to protect children from the Biden administration.
Unsurprisingly, the effort to explore restoring state and local control over education sparked outrage from far-left Democrats, many of whom represent areas where most children are not even proficient in basis subjects such as reading and math. However, the plan was met with enthusiasm by conservatives and others who see federal influence and control over classrooms as unconstitutional and dangerous.
The 10-member panel, appointed earlier this week, will examine how government schools in the state would fare without the almost $2 billion received each year from U.S. taxpayers, about 10 percent of the total spent on education there. Numerous lawmakers and experts suggested that severing ties with the feds might save the state money, as it would no longer have to comply with expensive federal rules.
One of the lawmakers on the panel, Senator Joey Hensley, said he supported ending federal ties on education if the feds were mandating policies that lawmakers did not think were needed. “If they’re causing us to spend more money than we are receiving from the federal government and we are not receiving benefits that we couldn’t provide for ourselves, then I think we should reject it,” he said.
By January of next year, the Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding, as the panel is known, is supposed to provide recommendations and a strategy for lawmakers on how the state can stop taking taxpayer money from the Biden administration. The working group is chaired by the chairs of the House and Senate education committees.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, a Republican who helped set up the panel, said it was important to consider the idea. “Federal dollars and the various mandates and restrictions that come with those dollars affect the way Tennessee’s children are educated,” he was quoted as saying. “Due to our state’s excellent financial position, this is a worthy subject of examination and study.”
A spokesman for Gov. Lee also sounded supportive of the panel’s work. “Gov. Lee looks forward to reviewing the legislative working group’s findings and remains committed to working with the General Assembly to ensure all Tennessee students have access to a high-quality education, while pushing back on federal overreach,” the spokesman said in an email to The Tennessean.
By contrast, Democrat leaders in the legislature were furious. Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat representing one of the most violent and uneducated districts in the nation who will also serve on the panel, claimed the “harsh consequences of rejecting this $1.8 billion in funding cannot be overstated.” How it could be worse than the current situation in his district was not explained.
The Newman Repot first reported on the plan in Tennessee in March as legislators considered a measure to create the panel. With support from Gov. Bill Lee and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, the plan has gained traction. Lawmakers in other states including Oklahoma and South Carolina have considered similar proposals in recent years.
Because the states and the people did not delegate any powers related to education to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution that created it, all such powers are reserved to the states or the people. In other words, federal involvement in education is unconstitutional. Tennessee should lead the way in getting out-of-control federal bureaucrats out of classrooms. Other states will follow.