NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A joint working group of Tennessee state senators and representatives are having hearings to discuss how federal funding for education is used and the possibility of rejecting almost $2 billion dollars in federal funding.

Legislators invited school leaders from various districts to talk about how they spend federal funding. Hawkins County Director of Schools, Matt Hixson, was among those invited to speak.

During the hearing, Hixson said Hawkins County Schools receive $70 million dollars in funding and that 10% comes from federal funding.

“Roughly $7 million goes to our schools out of those federal funds for specific purposes to assist students that need additional help beyond what our local dollars and state dollars can provide,” Hixson said.

Senator Jon Lundberg said legislators are not trying to take away educational funding but they’re instead trying to find other ways to fund it without having federal guidelines.

“Have greater freedom to do what you want without the federal government that frankly, we’re trying to figure out ‘what are the strings that the federal government is putting on those dollars?’,” Lundberg said. “We’re not talking about taking away the dollars. We’re talking about taking away, frankly, those strings. And what can the state potentially do more effectively.”

The Sycamore Institute, a self-proclaimed non-partisan think tank group, also presented and said if federal funding is denied, many of the ‘strings’ attached would still apply. Although that may end up in a potential court battle.

Hixson said Hawkins County Schools uses a needs-based survey to see how to use the federal funding at each specific school.

“..which is roughly 500 square miles, different demographic groups, different needs, and making sure that those need surveys dictate how we get those funds directly to the school sites,” Hixson said.

Hixson said he speaks for many rural school districts.

“Would we ever consider being able to truly close the gap between those that are poor and don’t have the means unless they get federal money or additional resources because they have a lack of ability to raise local revenues compared to those around them,” Hixson said.

State Representative Timothy Hill is also in the working legislative group.

The Sycamore Institute also reported that if Tennessee does reject the education federal funding, tax dollars will go to other states.

Other hearings are scheduled to take place. You can find this specific meeting and future hearings on the state legislature website.