Frustration with federal education policy and funding mandates has moved the state of Tennessee to consider a historic move to reject federal K-12 education funds, a step no state has taken before. This initiative, led by a legislative task force, is exploring the feasibility of replacing federal dollars with state funding to get out from underneath federal mandates, according to an article in Education Week.
If the panel determines the state has a path forward to reject the funding without cutting necessary programs, the state’s General Assembly and Senate pass a measure to do so, and the state’s governor signs it, Tennessee would become the first in history to reject money from the Education Department.
The Tennessee exercise is worth watching and indicates state-level frustration with the strings tied to federal funding. Since the establishment of the Department of Education in 1980, the federal government has spent billions of dollars with little improvement in academic achievement and no closure in the achievement gap between children from low-income families compared to those from higher incomes.
In 2020, the Heritage Foundation reported:
High school seniors’ reading and math results are not significantly different than they were in the years leading up to the creation of the department, civic illiteracy is rampant, American students rank in the middle of the pack internationally on math and reading assessments, and an estimated one-third of college students must take remedial coursework. Forty years later, there is scant evidence to suggest that the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Education has benefitted American students—and much to suggest that it has been to their detriment.