AMERICAN FORK, Utah – A Utah school district is considering whether it can reject about $40 million in federal funding as a means of snubbing President Obama’s recent transgender school decree.
The president threatened schools across the country with the loss of federal funding in May if they do not comply with his interpretation of Title IX sex discrimination laws, and how they apply to transgender students, EAGnews reports.
The directive – delivered by Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon, and Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division – cited Title IX in arguing that “nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns,” according to the Washington Post.
Some members of the Alpine School District Board of Education believe the edict is “morally reprehensible” and “an invasion of the rights of a majority,” The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Board members Wendy Hart, Paula Hill and Brian Halladay wrote in a letter to state leaders last month stating that they would rather lose the $40 million the district receives in federal funding than comply with Obama’s transgender mandate.
The group discussed the idea with fellow board members at a meeting Tuesday. The idea was ultimately shelved with a promise to continue informal conversations about how to cut the 6.3 percent share of the district’s budget that comes from the federal government for free and reduced lunches, technical programs, and special assistance for low-income areas, according to the news site.
“I would like us to not feel like we are slaves to the federal dollars,” Hart told board members. “I’m just looking for us to have a budget in the wings so we know what we’re up against.”
Though the proposal to create a shadow budget failed on a 3-4 vote, other board members seemed to support the notion that the federal government is unnecessarily invading school bathroom and locker room facilities.
Board member JoDee Sundberg voted against a budget devoid of federal dollars, but believes it is a good idea to “have a study session on what that would look like,” according to the Tribune.
“My passion is with what you’re saying,” she told Hart, “but we’re dealing with 75,000 children’s educations.”
Sundberg believes the move could be an irresponsible use of residents’ tax dollars.
“Our dollars go to the federal government for education funding; I do not want to send dollars to the federal government and say, ‘Don’t send them back,’” she said, according to the Daily Herald.
District business administrator Rob Smith pointed out that Alpine schools could make up some of the federal money through local taxes, but board members were already banking on voters to approve a bond in November to address an expected 5,000 new students in the next five years.
“I’d much rather use it as bond money and build the schools we need,” board member Scot Carlson said.
Board members supporting the break with the feds believe the district could leverage local charities to help cover the cost of free and reduced lunch subsidies from the federal government, and could cut some costs through efficiency.
“I would just like to see a budget without federal dollars,” Hill said. “If we did it ourselves, we’d do it for a whole lot less.”
“It’s just sad to me that yet again we’re not able to have local control,” Hart said, alluding to federal school lunch mandates imposed on schools in 2012. “I think our district is in the perfect position to be able to influence the state and have those options available to us.”
“I think with the recent federal mandates that have come down, I think we have an obligation to our taxpayers to engage in those discussions,” Halladay said, according to the Daily Herald.