Thursday, February 12, 2004

Utah Leads the Way

But will it be a stampede? Consider Utah taking this big step:
    In a rebuke to the Bush administration, the Utah House voted yesterday to prohibit the state's education authorities from using any local money to comply with the president's signature education law, No Child Left Behind.

    The vote, by a Republican-dominated chamber, comes after weeks of criticism by lawmakers arguing that the federal education measure impinges on the state's right to set its own education agenda and that the cost of compliance would be too high.

    Utah's defiance is the most politically embarrassing challenge by any state so far to the wide-ranging federal law, which penalizes schools that fail to meet rising targets on standardized tests.
Actually, it might have been worse because Utah was well on its way to be the first state to completely opt out of Bush's education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But after a visit from concerned White House and DOE representatives, Utah backed off from this public relations disaster, voting instead to spend only the amount of federal money allotted to them, $103 million, but not a penny more. I will be very interested in finding out how Utah will do this and still comply with NCLB mandates.

A big gorilla, it turns out, may be the feds, the Department of Education, with this threat:

    It wasn't clear which -- if any -- of the 45 No Child provisions are fully funded, and the U.S. Education Department has warned Utah that picking and choosing mandates could affect funds for other education programs.
It would be important to track any punishment to Utah but to other states who may follow Utah's steps.

It's not surprising this red state has come this far. Utah has long been complaining about this intrusion by the federal government. While providing only about 7% of total educational funds, the federal government now has an unprecedented amount of control over public education due to NCLB mandates.

As for that stampede, it looks like it might be starting and it looks awfully bipartisan.

More at the american street...