Republican states are beginning to consider rejecting federal funding for K-12 education in order to keep out federal interference in the form of the strings attached to the monies.
In February, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said he had introduced a bill to create a task force to weigh the idea of the state rejecting the roughly $1.8 billion of federal monies it receives for K-12 education.
“Basically, we’ll be able to educate the kids how Tennessee sees fit,” Sexton said, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The speaker added that, by not accepting the federal funds, Tennessee would no longer have “federal government interference.”
Tennessee State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), chairman of the state’s House Education Instruction Committee, worked with Sexton on the bill.
“We’re really the first state that can say no and financially not even miss a beat,” Cepicky stated, according to The74.
“It was pushing the whole [critical race theory] down our throats and the sexual indoctrination of our kids,” he said. “Tennessee is just not going to put up with that because we don’t have to.”
A proposal in January by Oklahoma State Senator David Bullard (R-Durant) seeks to establish a 10-year plan for the state to gradually end acceptance of nearly $800 million in federal funds for K-12 education.
“The U.S. Constitution is very straightforward about education — this is a state power protected by the 10th Amendment and the federal overreach is alive and well in our education system,” Bullard said in an Oklahoma Senate press release. “The federal government does not need to be in Oklahoma education.”
“Schools will not lose any money, and we will be in sole control of our education system and classrooms,” Bullard added.
K-12 Dive noted about the rejection of federal funding for education by states:
While rarely put into practice, states can turn away federal education funding, experts said. However, they caution that policymakers should consider financial, educational and legal impacts — particularly the effects on school systems’ compliance with civil rights laws — when making such decisions.
“[C]onservatives,” The74 observed, “who continue to call for abolishing the education department, say the idea is one that could spread to other red states.”
However, those who support government-run public schools complain that a return to state and local control of education would hurt students from low-income households and those with disabilities.
Gini Pupo-Walker, executive director of Education Trust-Tennessee, which is mired in the equity agenda, referred to the idea of rejecting federal funds as “bonkers.”
“It would require so much work to unravel all the ways we’re connected to federal funds,” she reportedly said.
Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which supported the Common Core Standards, called it “political suicide” for states “to turn down hundreds of millions or billions of dollars for local schools.”
Still, the idea of rejecting federal control of education is being shouted out as the way to go even in Congress.
The Republican-led House celebrated Friday the approval of the Parents Bill of Rights Act, supposedly a “promise kept” to America’s parents in light of the lack of transparency in the nation’s government schools regarding students’ curriculum and their indoctrination in Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender ideology.
While most House Republicans voted in favor of the bill – as Democrats opposed it – three Republican lawmakers did not join their party in approving the measure.
Representatives Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05), Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01), and Ken Buck (R-CO-04) all said they voted against the seemingly promising legislation because of their commitment to keeping the federal government out of education.
“First of all, there’s nothing in the Constitution that permits the federal government to weigh in on education issues,” Biggs observed, adding that, with the Parents Bill of Rights Act, Republicans are actually adding “legitimacy to keeping the Department of Education.”
Biggs reminded his listeners that, prior to the Jimmy Carter administration, the federal government had no control over education dollars.
“When you have a bill like this that first of all, it didn’t do anything, but, basically, you’re operating within this warped system, and the warped system is the Department of Education itself,” he stressed, noting that such legislation “actually makes leaving the path more difficult.”
“In my opinion, we need to leave the path,” Biggs asserted. “That’s why I’ve sponsored and others have co-sponsored bills to get us out of the Department of Education.”
In an op-ed at The Washington Times Thursday, Buck explained similar reasons for his opposition to the Parents Bill of Rights.
Read my full op-ed in the @WashTimes here: https://t.co/t8RcxJVjXi
— Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) March 23, 2023
Parents, he wrote, have been taking action against Critical Race Theory (CRT), forced gender ideology, and sexually-charged books in school libraries at the local level.
“Congressional Republicans have a response for these parents: ‘Let’s allow the federal government to take it from here,’” the Colorado congressman stated.
“More authority for parents in their children’s education is essential and should be the goal of every parent, every conservative and every local government,” Buck asserted. “But expanding the federal government’s authority to usurp local control of education is the wrong way to achieve our goals.”
Gaetz expressed the same perspective when he posted why he voted against the Parents Bill of Rights Act on Twitter.
From Wokeness to funding to bathrooms to Critical Race Theory, the federal government SHOULD NOT be involved in education.
I don't want to strengthen the federal Department of Education. I want to abolish it.
I don't want Congress more involved in decisions that are best made…
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) March 24, 2023
“From Wokeness to funding to bathrooms to Critical Race Theory, the federal government SHOULD NOT be involved in education,” the Florida congressman tweeted Friday. “I don’t want to strengthen the federal Department of Education. I want to abolish it. I don’t want Congress more involved in decisions that are best made in local school districts. I want the Congress less involved. Therefore, I voted against today’s Republican bill to establish a federal ‘Parents Bill of Rights.’”
In Biggs’ podcast titled “What’s the Biggs Idea,” recent guest, The Blaze’s Daniel Horowitz, agreed with the Arizona congressman that Republicans should expend more effort on defunding programs that promote woke education, CRT, and LGBTQ agendas at the federal level, while red states work to figure out how to extricate themselves from the federal department of education.
“What they should be doing is defunding and statutorily barring all of the federal transgender programs, extirpating any mention of that licentious, disgusting grooming agenda,” Horowitz urged.
Sheri Few, founder and president of United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), recently wrote that while the Parents Bill of Rights legislation “sounds promising,” its premise is still “dangerous.”
“[A]ny parental rights legislation is flawed at its inception, suggesting that parents’ rights are determined by government rather than the fundamental, inalienable rights of parents afforded by their Creator,” Few asserted.
USPIE’s goal is “to close the U.S. Department of Education and end all federal education mandates.”
“Federal parental rights legislation creates more federal education mandates,” Few observed. “This is a step in the wrong direction if our goal is to restore parental and local control of education.”
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]