Tennessee GOP is keen to reject hundreds of thousands in funding, if it avoids complying with federal strings


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Republican leaders are escalating their calls to reject hundreds of thousands of federal {dollars} somewhat than adjust to necessities over LGBTQ+ rights, abortion entry and different hot-button points.

Already this yr, the Volunteer State has rebuffed federal funding designed to forestall and deal with HIV and cash that might assist clinics serving low-income ladies. Now, GOP lawmakers are speaking about slicing off almost $1.8 billion in federal training {dollars} — a lot of it focused to serve low-income college students, English learners and college students with disabilities.

“I feel this pattern in declining federal funds actually is alarming,” mentioned state Sen. , a Democrat from Memphis. “An enormous portion of our authorities and our price range… depend on federal funds. They’re there to degree the taking part in subject with different states.”

States declining to just accept federal funding isn’t new. Tennessee is presently amongst 10 states which have lengthy refused to increase Medicaid to 1000’s of low-income residents, a lot of whom can’t afford well being protection. And several other years in the past, many Republican-led states declined to maintain accepting federal cash for additional unemployment insurance coverage payouts later within the COVID-19 pandemic.

However the brand new willingness from GOP state leaders to stroll away from federal {dollars} over disagreements on LGBTQ+ rights, abortion and different hot-button points must be trigger for concern, mentioned Thomas Kahn, a professor at American College.

“Sometimes, there’s a struggle for federal funding and states are greater than keen to just accept cash,” Kahn mentioned. “Now, you’re seeing a way more conservative pattern on this nation the place there’s extra hostility towards the federal funding on something it proposes. It’s a pattern that’s getting worse.”

A latest instance contains the dozen state or county businesses which have parted methods with tens of 1000’s of {dollars} in federal grants that assist monitor youngsters’ sexual behaviors and attempt to decrease charges of stripling being pregnant and sexually transmitted ailments. The withdrawals come as many Republican-led states have seemed to take away LGBTQ+ content material from school rooms and college libraries, typically touting that the trouble is required to fortify parental rights.

In Tennessee, the place a GOP supermajority permits state legislators to even override the Republican governor, supporters of slicing off federal {dollars} argue that the state is in a robust monetary place. The state’s revenues have are available increased than projected through the years, largely due to the cash collected by way of gross sales taxes.

That assurance could possibly be examined, nevertheless, in changing federal training funds, which presently make up about 20% of Tennessee’s $8.3 billion training price range.

Home Speaker Cameron Sexton has pointed to the state approving $3.2 billion in new spending on this yr’s newest price range as proof the state may make up the federal authorities’s spending portion. To this point, he has not advocated slicing providers to cowl the distinction.

“We should always do every little thing that we will to be complete and autonomous and impartial from the federal authorities,” Sexton, a Republican, advised reporters final week. “While you take federal authorities cash, their philosophies and what they need you to do is completely different than in all probability what the state desires to do.”

It’s unclear how and if Tennessee would truly rebuff federal training funding. Whereas a legislative committee has been fashioned to review the problem, so far no state has efficiently rejected federal training funds. Even states that threaten to reject federal cash typically cease quick relating to training, as a result of such funding is restricted and many colleges depend on that cash for particular training, college students with disabilities and English learners.

The U.S. Division of Training criticized the concept earlier this yr as “political posturing” as Tennessee has emerged as a frontrunner in enacting probably the most anti-LGBTQ legal guidelines in the US. Lots of these legal guidelines have focused faculties and positioned limits on what can’t be taught inside school rooms.

“I feel the actual situation has to do with restrictions round sexual orientation and gender,” Akbari mentioned. “That is one thing they don’t need to must adjust to.”

In the meantime, public faculty advocates word that Tennessee lawmakers have beforehand handed insurance policies that carry a threat of funding loss ought to faculties violate numerous restrictions. Presently, the state can withhold funding if faculties don’t correctly lock doorways, train sure prohibited ideas on race and racism, implement COVID-19 masks mandates, and permit transgender athletes to take part at school athletics.

“The consideration of some lawmakers to reject important federal funding at a time when Tennessee wants extra nice leaps in funding as shortly as potential is irresponsible,” mentioned Tanya Coats, president of the Tennessee Training Affiliation. “You don’t must look laborious to see the place Tennessee elected officers have arrange their very own system of threatening districts with a lack of state funding by way of a sequence of arbitrary and infrequently dangerous laws.”

Tennessee presently ranks among the many lowest per-pupil spending in the US and among the many high 10 highest states in teen delivery charges.

Outdoors of training funding, public well being advocates say they had been surprised when the state introduced again in January that it was rebuffing roughly $9 million in federal funding designed to forestall and deal with HIV.

As an alternative, well being officers selected to fund the HIV-prevention program with state {dollars}. Doing so allowed Tennessee to bypass federal necessities and refuse to fund Deliberate Parenthood, lengthy lambasted by Republicans for providing abortion and LGBTQ+ providers.

A number of months later, the state as soon as once more raised eyebrows when Tennessee was disqualified from receiving greater than $7 million in federal funds below a household planning program often known as Title X. The state misplaced the cash after refusing to again down from a coverage requiring that Title X clinics may solely present sufferers info on choices which are “authorized” in Tennessee, which means they may not focus on abortion referrals as a result of abortion has been banned in Tennessee ever because the U.S. Supreme Courtroom overturned Roe v. Wade final yr.

Much like the HIV-prevent funds, Tennessee officers had been fast to backfill this system with state funds — inflicting the identical dangers that it may withhold the sources from sure suppliers.

In each instances, the federal authorities finally agreed to avoid the state and selected to award federal funds on to organizations like Deliberate Parenthood.

However for lawmakers like Akbari, the lingering concern of what funding supply may subsequent be on chopping block stays.

“We should not settle for federal {dollars} as a result of we do not agree with sure insurance policies? That is taking issues a bit too far, it isn’t fiscally accountable,” she mentioned.


Related Press author Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.

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