Utah snubs federal government's No Child Left Behind requirements

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY -- Snubbing President Bush's education changes, the Utah Legislature on Tuesday passed a measure giving state education standards priority over federal ones imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has said the state bill could cost Utah $76 million in federal funding. But Utah officials bristle at the federal act's requirements, arguing they amount to unfunded mandates.

The bill is seen by many as the strongest objection to the federal law among 15 states considering anti-No Child Left Behind legislation this year.

The bill passed the House during the regular session that ended in February, but Gov. Jon Huntsman persuaded state lawmakers to put off voting on the bill while his administration negotiated a settlement with the Department of Education.

Despite those efforts, the bill passed comfortably in both the House and Senate Tuesday.

Huntsman could sign the bill as early as today, his spokeswoman said.

Utah educators and lawmakers agree with the bottom-line objective of No Child Left Behind -- that all students should be proficient in reading and math. But the state disagrees with the way the law measures student outcomes and wants greater flexibility than the law provides.

Utah's preferred way of measuring student achievement is called U-PASS, or the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students, which compares achievement as students progress from grade to grade. No Child Left Behind compares the grade-level test scores of students to the students in the same grade level from previous years.

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