Federal Department of Education Threatens to Ask for Money Back from Tennessee Department of Education

A late-September letter from the Federal Department of Education (DOE) to the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) threatened to pull TDOE’s federal funding over what the federal government describes as failure to comply with federal assessment reporting standards in 2021.

“The assessment and accountability compliance issues are significant because they not only impact the State’s ability to provide clear and transparent information to the public about school performance, but also result in the State using information that is not comparable across schools in TDOE’s statewide accountability system,” said the letter addressed to Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Peggy Schwinn.

“As a result, I am placing a condition on TDOE’s Title I, Part A grant award until such time as these issues are fully resolved. In order to remove this condition, TDOE must address the items as described below,” the letter continues. “If TDOE fails to meet these requirements, the Department may take additional enforcement action.”

The letter was signed by James F. Lane, Senior Advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona.

The federal government alleges that the state may be in violation of Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which says that “each statewide assessment a State administers for Title I purposes must be administered to all students in the State.”

The letter further alleges that in several subjects, including mathematics and reading/language arts, those assessments were incomplete.

“In the Performance Review, TDOE was not able to demonstrate that its approach of basing participation rate calculations on student enrollment in courses aligned to its high school assessments includes all students for each of the end-of-course assessments,” according to the federal government.

The federal DOE also accused the TDOE of using SAT and ACT scores in place of federally mandated assessments in certain subjects.

The federal government also contends that it sent its complaints to TDOE in November of 2021, but that the state did not adequately respond. It gives TDOE a deadline of December of this year to meet its demands for updated reporting that is compliant with its standards.

“I believe in transparency in government,” J.C. Bowman, head of Professional Educators of Tennessee, told Star News Network Editor-in-Chief and CEO Michael Patrick Leahy Thursday on Leahy’s radio show, The Tennessee Star Report. “I believe that we should see what’s going on, we should be made aware of it, and everything else. These things came out last year – I mean in September of 2021 the feds sent a letter – a document, a report – saying ‘you’ve got some problems.'”

“Here’s where we’re at,” said Bowman. “Either you’ve got some real gross incompetence at the Tennessee Department of Education, in which case, if that’s the case, our governor needs to step in and he needs to explain this – not the commissioner [Schwinn], our governor does.”

Bowman said that if the federal government is overreaching, it should be put in its place.

“We should tell the federal government, ‘Listen, we disagree with you. We don’t think that special ed students need to be taking the regular assessment test,'” he said. “That’s one of the things in there.”

Bowman also said that if TDOE does not comply with the federal government’s request, it is possible that the federal government could fine TDOE, and take back the money that was granted to the state.

Read the letter:

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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].



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6 Thoughts to “Federal Department of Education Threatens to Ask for Money Back from Tennessee Department of Education”

  1. ww

    ask Penny Schwinn how far back her connections are with the Dianne Feinstein administration of California

  2. 83ragtop50

    This seems like an excellent time to tell the feds to keep their (actually our) money. The need for 10% or so that the feds provide to Tennessee for public education would not impact the actual schooling process if only a minor purging of the administrative deadwood were performed.

    But I do want to know if the TDOE – headed by Schwinn and Little Billy Lee – are actually failing to do their job overseeing public education.

  3. Kevin Desmond

    As I have told Governor Lee directly in years past, we do a huge disservice to all our children by allowing our Federal government to have great input into how we, the State of Tennessee, educate all our children. I say let them take their money and get out our our education business.
    I am not nearly alone in this sentiment. If we would actually do this the benefits to our state would be profound. People and business would move to Tennessee for no other reason than to escape the Federal stranglehold on education. Our youngsters would certainly benefit and I believe other states would follow suit as well. The problem is that it would force our state government to retool itself, reallocate spending priorities, and be proactive and not reactive. Things like educating our young are the only way citizens are going to be able to take back control of this country from out of control government. It is also one of our most important duties as parents and Americans. Tennessee ought to set the standard and not submit to the powers that be. It’s time to cut the cord on education funding. This is a great opportunity if it were just seen that way.

  4. Sim

    How about we just allow the government to “Tax Capital Gains” as the Constitution only allows and stop “Volunteering” to give them any of our income???

    Unless your income is a Capital Gains you are not required to pay income taxes, just refuse to sign that tax return which is an agreement to abide by “THEIR TAX CODE”, and along about Sept you’ll get a refund check for all the income tax paid in.

    I did this all during the 1980’s until I went into business, and I will be doing it again this year, There’s four (4) Supreme Courts decisions declaring “income tax” illegal.

    The Government sets up these programs like ESEA, then takes money from the people to give back them, “Providing” they abide by the governments rules.

    If we abide by the Constitution and stop funding our own “Enslavement” we would have a lot less to complain about,

    but then we are taking about a population of about 50% who must somehow obtain the intelligence to stop supporting a “Devil Worshiping Party” trying to destroy both “Body and Soul” of the Country.

    To my way of thinking “Equal Rights” ends when it threaten the welfare of this country, and Government has used them to encroach on the rights and freedoms of all people, even the ones they claim to help.

    Our Constitution has become as worthless as “Filthy Rags”, Laws are legislated everyday that violate it, yet no one has the integrity to stand in defense of the Constitution.

    Maybe I should change that 50% to 90-95%, UH????

  5. ww

    Commissioner Penny Schwinn was a senior member of Diane Feinstein”s staff for many years in commiefornia. The TnStar please investigate and get this leftist transplant booted asap.

    What is she hiding ?

  6. John Bumpus

    Maybe our Governor, and our new State Attorney General, should start telling our current ‘crop’ of leftist totalitarian Democrat bureaucrat ‘Feds’ that ‘he/they will see them in court’! If nothing else, it will ‘slow these people down’ and ‘make them work for’ their left-wing demands. And additionally, the State could always just refuse to take the Feds’ money.

    Of course, the danger to all of this was that in the ‘old days,’ our State Attorney General’s Office used to like to enter into CONSENT DECREES with the opposition by which ALL parties involved hoped such would thereby ‘tie the hands of the State’ for years to come and thereby frustrate the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.