NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) announced Monday the creation of a new group of lawmakers to look at the possibility of rejecting federal education funds.
“Let’s say, ‘Hey here’s a million dollars to do X,’” Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) said. “Well, suddenly, if the state has to hire 10 people and they have to contract out four people and it costs us a million and five, is that a good deal for Tennessee, economically?”
Lundberg will chair the group along with Rep. Debra Moody (R-Covington).
Tennessee currently accepts just south of $2 billion in federal education funding – close to $1.8 billion.
Democrats say it’d be completely irresponsible to simply throw that money away.
“You know, I just can’t figure out why the Republicans continue wanting to attack our public education system,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).
Clemmons slammed the announcement, saying Tennesseans should reap the benefits of the federal tax dollars they pay. “It’s wasteful spending, and we’re double-billing Tennessee taxpayers.”
Sexton floated the idea back in February of this year and said the state has the money to cover the costs, a notion that confused Democrats.
“If we do have additional state funds that we can use, we definitely should use it for something else,” Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said. “There are so many needs people across Tennessee have.”
Lundberg, on the other hand, said he’s not sure how he feels quite yet about the federal funding but definitely supports at least looking at it.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, you get $2 billion, you can spend it however you want,’” Lundberg said. “That’s not how the federal government works.”
Capitol leadership says the first meeting for the ‘joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding’ has yet to be determined.
Of note, when News 2 called Lundberg to ask him about the new position and task force, it caught him by surprise. Though, as the Senate Education Committee Chairman pointed out, sometimes things slip through the cracks of a busy schedule.
“It’s not unusual for me to be joining a commission,” Lundberg said. “We kind of joke about it in [my office] of, ‘hey congratulations, you’re on another board.’”