AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Members of a Utah school board pushed the district to consider rejecting $40 million in federal funding on Tuesday over the Obama administration's order for public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
Board members at the Alpine School District, one of the largest in Utah, said they'll weigh the possibility of leaving the money out of their next budget, worth a total of nearly $500 million, the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo reported.
The panel voted down a proposal to immediately draw up a backup budget without federal cash but agreed to continue the discussion.
Rejecting the money could mean that homeowners' taxes increase by an average of $300 a year, and the district would still be about $20 million short of covering the gap, Assistant Superintendent Rob Smith said.
But some board members said they could save money without federal directives like those in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, supported by first lady Michelle Obama.
"I would like us to feel like we are not a slave to federal dollars," said board member Wendy Hart, who proposed creating an alternative budget. Her colleague Brian Halladay said the recent federal mandates mean the board has an obligation to taxpayers to discuss the possibility of turning back federal money.
The three Alpine School board members who supported the idea sent a letter last month to state leaders opposing the federal directive on transgender students.
The letter calls the move morally reprehensible and "an invasion of the rights of a majority," and says the consequences could be disastrous. The state of Utah has joined an 11-state lawsuit opposing the new federal rules.
Some Alpine school board members, though, said they're worried about what losing federal dollars could mean for students.
JoDee Sundberg said residents have paid those taxes and she doesn't like the idea of forgoing the money.
"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,'" Sundberg said.