Alexander: Fed. Gov’t is “Giving Tennessee Half a Billion for Education with One Hand and Taking Twice as Much For Health Care with the Other”

Credits TN Governor, Legislature, Educators for Winning Race to the Top Funding

Posted on April 14, 2010

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, of which he is a member, that while Tennessee is “grateful” for the half a billion dollars in education funding for Race to the Top, he is “concerned that more than twice that much will have to go back out to pay for health care.” 

Alexander told U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “Tennessee was glad to be one of the two winners of Race to the Top – and our governor, legislature and educators deserve all the credit for it. But the federal government is really giving with one hand and taking away with the other because the new health care law is going to add $1.1 billion – but could reach as much as $1.5 billion – in cost to Tennessee between 2014 and 2019, and most of that will have to come out of education.” 

Alexander, a former U.S. Education Secretary and president of the University of Tennessee, also encouraged Secretary Duncan to support other important initiatives: “One is the proposal Senator Byrd, the late Senator Kennedy and I introduced to consolidate federal programs on history and civics and make them an appropriate part of what the federal government does to help children learn what it means to be an American.  Two, the Teacher Incentive Fund has been the most useful tool to help find effective and fair ways to pay teachers more for teaching well.  And finally, I strongly support Teach for America and I’m concerned that the Education Department’s blueprint doesn’t emphasize these important programs.” 

Alexander said he appreciated Secretary Duncan’s leadership, “the way you go about your job, the bipartisan way you do it. I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan working group to try to fix ‘No Child Left Behind,’ and I appreciate the struggle of trying to emphasize excellence at the same time you’re trying to support schools. I remember as a governor when I tried to encourage master teachers and centers of excellence and chairs of excellence, people would say, ‘Why would you do that when we need money for what we’re already doing?’ And the answer was that I don’t think taxpayers really want to support much more funding for more of the same – but they will support a lot more funding for excellence and there are many different ways to do it. I am going to support your request for funding for excellence wherever I have the opportunity to do it.” 

Last month, the Education Department announced that Tennessee was a winner in the first phase of the Race to the Top grant competition which will provide the state with $500 million to implement comprehensive school reforms.  About the announcement, Alexander said, “I am opposed to increased funding for more-of-the-same in our schools, but strongly support ideas such as ‘Race to the Top’ that encourage excellence. I voted against the trillion-dollar stimulus package because it spent too much and there was no way to separate a good program such as ‘Race to the Top’ from a bad bill.”

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