Speaker Cameron Sexton: The State Budget is the Top Priority Before Session End

Speaker Cameron Sexton: The State Budget is the Top Priority Before Session End

Live from Music Row, Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton to the newsmaker line to discuss federal education funding, charter schools, choice lanes, the top priority before the session ends, and more.

Leahy: On the newsmaker line now, a very good friend, Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Speaker Cam Sexton.

Good morning, Speaker Sexton.

Sexton: Good morning. How are you?

Leahy: Doing well and we’re delighted to have you on here this morning. And it has been an eventful session so far of the Tennessee General Assembly. You got a lot done. You got the bill that stopped gender mutilation for kids under the age of 18. So congratulations on that. That went through pretty quickly.

Sexton: It did. It did. We were able to do a couple of things early that moved us through the committee. Usually, we take a little bit of time to get committees up and going, but this year we got off with a sprint and we’re still moving along.

Leahy: I’m a big fan of the idea that you suggested that we look at telling the federal government, we don’t want their Department of Education money. There’s a bill that’s gonna set up a task force to look at that.

Commissioner of Education, Penny Schwinn’s set to head that up. Six legislators, two superintendents, and two teachers, but no conservative talk show hosts on that task force. (Laughter) Are you gonna fix that problem?

Sexton: We can. We can always have testimony. I think it’s something important for us to do. My thought is, we talked about state’s rights and the 10th Amendment, but we continue to take federal money that takes away the state, our state’s rights places burdens and restrictions on us to use that money, and when those areas are federal education dollars because they also use Title IX to come through on the backside because we take the money and try to put things in our classroom or requires to do different tests in the classroom.

And I think that those burdens are more than they should be. And so I think fund that money ourselves instead of allowing the Department of Education to fund it for us.

Leahy: So this interesting development last week, of course, the Speaker of the State Senate Randy McNally involved in these embarrassing social media posts. We’ve called for his resignation because he’s passed his prime. I think that’s an example of it.

But interestingly, there’s this weird situation where there’s a state representative in the House, not in the state Senate, but in the House. Representative Todd Warner, he’s been in the doghouse, I think, for any number of reasons. So he puts out a letter and says it’s time for the state Senate leader to resign. Any thoughts on where that’s going to go?

Sexton: No, not yet. We’re, I think from what I hear based on the senators, none of them have come out and expressed that. My understanding is the Lieutenant Governor has called all of them personally and had conversations.

There are a lot of people who have opinions on it and it’s really a decision of the State Senate, whether or not they want to do anything. It doesn’t seem like at this point that they want to, so we’ll just have to wait and see what they decide or if they decide to do anything at all.

Leahy: Did you have any conversations with State Representative Todd Warner before or after he put that letter out? It’s not really a state House representative issue, it’s a state Senate issue.

Sexton: It’s a Senate issue. There were things used in there that you would have to know the person. I don’t think he’s ever sat down and had any conversations with him. That’s his opinion. He can say what he wants to, we live in a free country, and so he’s entitled to that. I don’t know if people agree with how he worded it or what he said.

Some may agree with the conclusion as you do on what needs to happen. But I will say, he’s never been in the doghouse. I think he likes to say he’s been in the doghouse. Leadership didn’t try to stop him or stop any of his bills or anything. I think that’s the way he wants to word it. Sometimes that’s just simply not the case.

Leahy: Tell me what’s on the agenda for the remaining couple weeks of the Tennessee General Assembly session.

Sexton: The biggest thing is the budget. We’re waiting for the governor’s appropriation amendment, which will be probably about two or three weeks. And then that will give us our timeline on when we’ll be able to be out of there. I think if you’re looking at different things that are still in play, I think choice lanes are up this week.

Saving the lives of mothers is up tonight on the House floor. We have some legislation dealing with charter schools. So there’s still a full plate to come. Constitutional carry on the House. True constitutional carry is being passed through the House.

So we’re hopeful that we will get that to the floor. We’re waiting to see what direction the Senate Judicial Committee wants to go. But there are still some big items coming through, at least on the House side.

Leahy: With the charter school legislation, would that expand charter schools? What are the details of the charter school legislation?

Sexton: Yes, the charter school legislation, there are a couple of different pieces. One is looking at residential boarding schools for at-risk kids. You have kids in some parts of our state that are homeless and living out of cars with their families and that’s not the best environment. You also have children whose parents are incarcerated, and one-parent families in high-crime areas.

Then numerous different types of things for at-risk kids. And trying to give them an opportunity their parents an opportunity to allow them to go to a boarding school like a public charter school that would give them a fresh opportunity to be successful and get out of a bad situation that they’re in to allow the family maybe to get back up on their feet as well.

That’s one idea coming. The other is offering a hybrid charter school program for people to go to a charter school for three or four days a week and then do remote learning from home one or two days a week to give parents also a little different alternative to what they’re being offered in their normal K 12.

Leahy: What’s the prospect for the choice lane legislation? We had Butch Eley here in the studio to talk about it. I think there are a lot of people who like it and a lot of people who don’t like these ideas. Where do you think that’s going to go?

Sexton: Right now, I would say it has the votes to pass on the House floor. I don’t know the exact vote count, but based on how it came through different committees it seems like the votes are there to pass it. It’s one alternative to improving our roads. It doesn’t change any road currently that’s being driven on, it’s only for new types of roads that are being built in highly congested areas.

And there are all four big cities in our state that have that issue. But it would also allow us to continue to build out, enroll communities in suburban areas, improve the roads, and build new roads.

And the main reason is that the congestion is gonna cost us about $26 to $29 billion. And so we’re trying to develop new ways to help fund those areas. But at the same time, do not lose focus on the rural areas and suburban areas that need roads as well.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Cameron Sexton” by Speaker Cameron Sexton. Background Photo “Tennessee State Capitol” by Thomas R Machnitzki. CC BY 3.0.


Roger Simon: Speaker Sexton’s Task Force to Look into Rejecting Federal Education Dollars Should Include the Public

Roger Simon: Speaker Sexton’s Task Force to Look into Rejecting Federal Education Dollars Should Include the Public

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Roger Simon in studio to weigh in on Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s efforts to reject funding from Department of Education in the state.

(Zippity Do Dah plays)

Leahy: We brought that just for you, Roger.

Simon: I love that song. Brings tears to my eyes.

Leahy: Zippity Do Dah.

Simon: I think of myself at age seven, sitting in a theater watching that.

Leahy: In New York City.

Simon: And loving it.

Leahy: Yes.

Simon: It’s the decline of Disney personified. It’s so sad because Disney did wonderful things for the world.

Leahy: We’ll make it your theme song here, Roger.

Simon: You got it.

Leahy: We’ll play it.

Simon: This is an upper. But it’s a sad upper because it’s no more.

Leahy: But look, there is hope for the future.

Simon: Yes, there always is.

Leahy: We want to talk about some of that hope here because obviously, we had a warning about the possibilities of every digital currency taking over everything. That’s your column today at The Epoch Times. But I wanna bring some zippity do dah sunshine and light into the program this morning, and it comes in the form of an action taken recently by Tennessee House Speaker Cam Sexton. We talked about it.

And this has been a theme on our program for years to basically tell the federal government, we don’t want any of your Department of Education money because with your money comes strings. And, K-12 public schools are in trouble enough. They don’t need to have some Washington bureaucrat who’s woke telling you what to do.

Simon: Actually, dumbing them down.

Leahy: Totally dumbing them down. And of course, in K-12 public schools here in Tennessee, two-thirds of third graders are not at grade level in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Simon: It’s a national illness.

Leahy: It’s at a national level.

Simon: And the Department of Education is at great fault. And one of the great things about the Republican candidates, at least all of them that I can think of, I don’t know about Haley in this, want to obliterate the Department of Education. It should have gone under Trump one, but it didn’t, but it should go now.

Leahy: And by the way, in his campaign, stop reiterated he would get rid of the Department of Education.

Simon: Oh, absolutely.

Leahy: Asterisk. You had a chance, and you didn’t. (Laughs) I’m just saying.

Simon: But I think he would, the next time. I believe that. I think it would be one of the very first things to go.

Leahy: I was very pleasantly surprised when about a month ago Tennessee Speaker of the House, Cameron Sexton announced that he wanted to start the process of telling the federal government, we don’t want your $1.8 billion from the Department of Education. That was a good sign.

Simon: Very good.

Leahy: Now the question is, how does it happen?

Simon: Yes, of course. The devil is always in the details. He’s started a new group that will study this. (Laughter) See now, this is where these things disappear or become one-tenth of whatever they should have been. But at least they’re doing it.

My hope would be that this process, this study of the procedure, would have a little bit available to the public, so the public can weigh in, and we can see exactly what’s being done and who’s doing it.

Leahy: This is in alignment with my thinking on it as well, Roger. There is legislative activity to start the process. And on Monday, Speaker Sexton filed legislation that would create an 11-member task force to study the process required for the state to forego federal funding. That’s a good start. Asterisk.

Simon: Yes, it is a good start. Have they published yet who the 11 are? Or is it a little early for that?

Leahy: The leader of it would be Penny Schwinn, the commissioner of education.

Simon: Whose brother is connected with CRT and all this stuff?

Leahy: She’s a UC Berkeley grad who is not widely respected here in Tennessee because she’s been promoting a left-wing curriculum and has really done nothing to enforce the anti-CRT law that was passed by the legislature. But having said that, if you’re going do a task force, I would say this.

Simon: I think they should put Glenn Reynolds in that group.

Leahy: I would agree. I think you’ve got to look at the logistics of it. The idea here, it’s interesting. The purpose of this is going to be they are going to begin meeting monthly in August and are going to give a strategic plan to Governor Lee by December 1st. But here’s the key.

In her role as chair, the legislation further requires that Commissioner of Education Schwinn notify the US Department of Education by August 31st and advise them on, wait for it…Tennessee’s intent to explore the possibility. (Laughs) There are three qualifiers right there of Tennessee rejecting federal funding. It’s a slow start, but it’s a start.

Simon: It’s a snail start.

Leahy: Yes. Yes. Snail. Moving slowly.

Simon: I hate to see that. I really hate to see that. One of the things about woke is it’s a money scam. It’s a kind of a weirdly advanced form of capitalism.

Leahy: It’s political crony capitalism.

Simon: Yes, exactly. And communism is capitalism in that way.

Leahy: Yes, exactly. All the money flows to the elite running the show.

Simon: Elite who are already in position and the rest of you can go suck lemons. (Chuckles)

Leahy: So here’s the thing. 11 members of this task force, Penny Schwinn is the chair. (Buzzer sound) Problem there. Then three state senators. They’re selected by, wait for it…the Speaker of the Senate, Randy McNally, who’s got a few problems of his own.

Simon: I hope they’re not transgender.

Leahy: I know.

Simon: Why doesn’t Randy McNally, if anyone’s listening to this right now, recuse himself at this point from anything like that?

Leahy: We’ve made that suggestion to him. On Sunday, we wrote for the first time in the six-year history of The Tennessee Star did an editorial, but we said just time for him to resign. What’s probably gonna happen with him is the session only has six weeks to go.

Simon: They still have to make that reference.

Leahy: Then three members of the State House, selected by Speaker Cameron Sexton. I think Scott Cepicky would be a great person to be on that. He’s been tracking the education thing. Then it gets one district superintendent selected by Speaker McNally.

One district superintendent, selected by Speaker Sexton of the House. Then one teacher, selected by McNally, and one teacher, selected by Speaker Sexton. All I have to say is none of these people have an interest in telling the Feds, we don’t want your money.

Simon: Yes. Or have an interest in actual education. It’s frightening because, you know, Abraham Lincoln was a kind of a genius, really, and a great writer of speeches. He went to a one-room schoolhouse. He didn’t need any of this stuff. I think you could do the inverse-square law on education and the money that is spent on it.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Cameron Sexton” by Cameron Sexton. Background Photo “Department of Education Building” by Farragutful. CC BY-SA 4.0.













Speaker of Tennessee House Sexton: Even Teachers Union Open to His Idea of Telling Federal Government We Don’t Want Your K-12 Education Money with Its Strings

Speaker of Tennessee House Sexton: Even Teachers Union Open to His Idea of Telling Federal Government We Don’t Want Your K-12 Education Money with Its Strings

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton to the newsmaker line to discuss his recent proposal in the Tennessee General Assembly which would reject federal education funding in the state.

Leahy: On the newsmaker line right now is speaker of the House Cam Sexton. Speaker Sexton, heads are blowing up at the Department of Education in Washington, DC, as we speak. You made a bold proposal yesterday. Tell us about it.

Sexton: I think liberals in Tennessee are losing their minds, too. What I said yesterday, and this goes back to when we were campaigning this last year and traveling the state and talking to people, Tennesseans are tired of the federal government reaching down into our state and telling us what to do and how to do it simply because they give us funding.

And so we’ve been thinking about it. We’ve been watching third and fourth-grade reading, retention rates, be abysmal. We’re looking at what the federal government is trying to pass down.

We have the TCAP test, all these standardized tests, not because of the state, but because the federal government tells us that we have to give them because they’re giving us money. And there are all these other things in the classroom that they’re out there telling us that we have to do.

And so the amount of money we’re talking about is about $1.8 billion. And so simply, what I said this week at a luncheon at the Farm Bureau meeting was, I think it’s time in the Department of Education that we tell the federal government to keep their $1.8 billion. We will fund that portion ourselves.

So we’ll continue to fund all the different title ones and twos the school lunch program and the vocational education, IDEAs. But I’ll tell you what, if we are right now in financial shape, which I think we are, to fund that much money and take the strings and the situations and get the federal government out of our classrooms, I think it’s time that we do it. And that’s what I proposed.

Leahy: You can hear the cheers all across middle Tennessee right now.

Simon: And right here, too.

Leahy: Both of us are just absolutely elated. It’s Christmas in February. That’s what I think.

Simon: Do it with all federal money, hospitals, everything.

Leahy: No other state in the union has done this yet. They’ve talked about it in South Carolina and in Oklahoma. When you brought this idea up, and I guess you’ve spoken to the governor about it. I get the indication that he’s open to the idea. Tell us about how that might proceed.

Sexton: Yes, the governor is open; the lieutenant governor is open. Even Commissioner Penny Schwinn is open. I got members in the House who are open. I think one of the things is, you look at states I know Texas has considered, and I’m sure Florida has. But you know how it is. Once you get over a certain level of funding, it’s very hard to cut the strings.

And that’s what the federal government tries to do. And so we’re at a point where $1.8 billion is a lot of money, but we can do it right now, based on how well our economy is doing. I think the next steps are we’re going to continue to have conversations. There needs to be a conversation. You can’t do it this coming year; that’s much too quick.

And so you have to have a conversation if we’re going to move in this, how long do we need to set it up to get everything implemented, to move things to the state to make sure we have it right? When is it feasible that we can cut the strings?

We need to really have a hard conversation about that, but first, we got to get everybody on the same page and say, you know what? This is what we want to do. We’re tired of the federal government telling us what to do. And I think we could be a leader. And I think what you’ll see is the red Republican states that are probably smaller in nature are able to do this quicker than the bigger ones.

But it sends a powerful message that we’re no longer waiting on Congress to tell or a Republican president to come in and eliminate the Department of Education at the federal level. I’m tired of waiting for them for decades to do something that they say they want to do when we can just go ahead and do it ourselves here in the state of Tennessee.

Simon: So how long do you anticipate this is going to take?

Sexton: I don’t know. That’s a question that we need to have about how to process it. I don’t think you could do it this year. I think that’s much too quick. But I think feasibly, you could do it next year. In this year’s budget, we have $3.2 billion of new revenue that’s recurring. And so we have the capability.

The governor wisely did not spend all that $3.2 billion in recurring. He did some non-recurring. So that money will come back next year to us. So it’s not like we’re losing the recurring dollars.

So we have the capability of talking about it this year, getting set up, spending all summer and all fall working towards something, if that’s what we want to do next year, which is what I would propose.

Leahy: The other question that I have for you, Speaker Sexton, is you look at that $1.8 billion that the Feds give the state. There are strings attached, I guess. What is the overall state budget? $8.3 billion for K-12 public school education?

Sexton: Somewhere around there. I think federal money makes up about 22 percent to 24 percent of the budget.

Leahy: Here’s my question for you. What are the administrative costs, of complying with all the rules and regulations of the Feds to get that $1.8 billion?

Sexton: Well, that’s true. And so maybe we can do it more efficiently. So it doesn’t really cost us $1.8 billion because we don’t need the bureaucracy to run it because of how the federal government’s doing and all the reporting mechanisms that you have to report back up.

It’s like insurance. You have a doctor’s office. They don’t employ employees in the doctor’s office to help the patients. Most of it is to deal with billing the insurance companies because it’s so complicated. And so that’s another question.

Are we spending a lot of money in bureaucracy, having to report back to the federal government that we don’t have to spend any more because we’re doing it ourselves and we can be more efficient in it? All those questions are great things to look at. I think in the end; there’s a lot of money tied up in a bureaucracy that we may not have to have anymore.

Leahy: Do you anticipate that a bill to accomplish this will be passed in this 2023 session of the Tennessee General Assembly?

Sexton: I think we’ll pass something, yeah. Now will it say that we’re going to implement it the following year, or do we pass something that says we’re going to put together members and we’re going to look at and work with the department and the governor, and then the goal is to come back in January with an itinerary and this is how we’re doing it.

And then let’s lay the work, and let’s lay the budget dollars budget-wise. It will be the next year’s budget at the earliest that we could probably do. So if that’s the case, let’s go ahead and set aside money out of the budget that will be proposed next year and then let’s work on how to handle the process and how to make this a smooth transition and not make it bumpy.

Leahy: In the House, State Representative Mark White is the chairman of the Education Administration committee. He’s been a teacher of his whole career, K12, and I think now he’s working with Lipscomb University here in Nashville.

He’s an influential and powerful member of the House on the issue of education. And I think I would say he sometimes has been slow to look at changes. Have you talked to him about it? What is his reaction to it?

Sexton: I haven’t talked to Chairman White. I’ve talked to Chair Patsy Hazelwood and members of my leadership team, and I’ve talked to, obviously, lieutenant governor as well as the Governor. I’ve had Senate leadership people after I mentioned it on the Farm Bureau luncheon, I think just yesterday and they’ve come up and said, hey, we’re all for it.

I’d be hard-pressed to think that there’s any Republican that says if we can fund education ourselves without the federal government, they wouldn’t want to move in that direction if it doesn’t mean any loss of services or anything of that nature.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Cam Sexton” by Cam Sexton.