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House bill targets state’s unfunded school mandates

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 8:49 am

Billy Spivey

Billy Spivey


state representative


January is over and the third week of session is complete. Time really flies! This week’s been even busier than the first two, and all of that action has made it more than a little interesting in Nashville.

There have been several encouraging bills proposed, and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to see that the best of them cross the finish line and help to make Tennessee an even better place. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to shape things in a positive way for the folks living in Tennessee, but that opportunity equates to power, and with power comes responsibility. I want you to know that I don’t take that lightly and that I am very humbled to have this opportunity to serve the people of the 92nd District.

The main item on my agenda for the week has been the introduction of HB2290, which I’ve proposed in order to deal with what could be some massive unfunded mandates related to Common Core. The purpose of this bill is to prevent local schools from having their already strained finances further burdened — and in some cases, crushed — by a giant unfunded mandate from the State of Tennessee.

An “unfunded mandate” occurs when an authority (in this case, the State of Tennessee) requires someone under its authority (in this case, local schools) to do something that it costs money (sometimes a lot) to do without providing the money to do it.

My position on this is simple: if the state of Tennessee is going to require local school districts to take on this potentially expensive program, then the state needs to fully fund its implementation. If the state’s going to require local schools to write a check, then the state needs to cover that check. That’s the whole point of the bill.

Since it focuses so plainly on the financial impact of Common Core and its related PARCC testing program, folks from all across the political spectrum are getting behind it. People who are pro-Common Core and people who are against Common Core generally share a concern for this bottom line impact on their local school districts.

If you are one of those concerned with the financial situation in your school district and you want to prevent the state from dropping what could be a huge financial liability right onto your schools, then please contact other representatives, friends, and family and spread the word on HB2290.

Local schools are already struggling financially. Whatever one’s views on Common Core, it would be irresponsible to implement it in a way that heaps mountains of debt and tax hikes onto already struggling local communities. If we’re going to go the Common Core route, we have to do it in a manner that makes financial sense.

Our children are watching us. They’re learning from what we do. If we handle this irresponsibly through unfunded state mandates, what sort of lesson will we be teaching them? Not a very good one, I think. We’d be teaching bad math, bad economics, and bad government all at the same time.

Common Core has become a hot button issue. As such, it’s inspired a lot of passion from good folks on both sides of the issue. That said HB2290 is not about evaluating the quality of Common Core. It is about dealing responsibly with the cost of implementing Common Core. Many local schools across the state are barely able to keep their doors open now. The last thing they need is a giant unfunded mandate from Nashville.

Another piece of legislation I’ve introduced that is gathering momentum is HB1850, which would modify the tax penalties for seniors under the Hall Tax so that only the amount of income over the taxable threshold would be taxed. As I mentioned in an earlier article, at present, once that threshold is crossed by even just one dollar, then all income is taxed at the same rate triggered by the threshold.

Next week I should have many updates to provide on these and other helpful bills, but for now I feel that it is very important to remain focused on HB2290 and encouraging you all to contact anyone with a stake in the financial situation of their local schools.

Please feel free to stop by my office, give me a call, or send me an email if you have any thoughts or ideas to share. My office is in suite 110 of the War Memorial Building in Nashville, my number is (615) 741-4170, and my email address is rep.billy.spivey@capitol.tn.gov. You can also connect and let me know what you think on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RepSpivey.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and thoughtfully consider these things. I look forward to sharing more with you here next week!