Throwing it All Away

Tennessee leaders throw public schools to the wolves

Andy Spears


Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

A pair of education news stories out of Tennessee highlight the plight of public schools in an era of privatization.

First, the leaders of the Tennessee House and Senate appointed a joint task force to explore the idea of refusing all federal education funding. That’s nearly $2 billion of foregone revenue for schools across the state.

The policymakers say the state wants the money, just not all the strings attached.

Strings like providing an equal education to all kids regardless of factors like disability or income level.

Fortunately, Tennessee has a budget surplus and the lawmakers are suggesting shifting some of those surplus dollars to make up for the programs the feds fund.

Unfortunately, Tennessee also underfunds schools to the tune of $1.7 billion a year, according to a bipartisan commission of government officials.

So, the plan is to take a public school system that is severely underfunded and then deny that system $2 billion with a vague promise of making up the difference.

This may begin to make more sense with the added context of the next story. This one’s about how the state plans to hand the task of education over to a Christian Nationalist charter school network.

An analysis of the fiscal impact of charter schools found that the Hillsdale charters, as envisioned in their applications, would drain roughly $7 million from each district where they operate.

If Gov. Lee’s dream of 50 Hillsdale charters is realized, more than $300 million could be transferred from state and local taxpayers to the charter network.

In short, it’s a full-court press for school privatization in the Volunteer State.

I write regularly on education policy:


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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .