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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education on Friday approved the state's proposed plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act despite objections from some board members about federal overreach.
The 15-member board voted 11-3 to forward the plan to Gov. Gary Herbert for his consideration before sending it to the U.S. Department of Education for review later this month.
The plan is essentially an application for $123 million in federal funding for programs that assist children experiencing homelessness, live in poverty or whose parents are migrant farm workers, among other initiatives. Federal funding also supports professional development for teachers.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson said the plan was developed in a thoughtful, deliberative process that included revisions resulting from extensive public input. The plan was the product of some 25 meetings and participation of some 500 stakeholders.
"We're happy we did that instead of jumping right out of the gate and submitting a plan to the federal government for funding," Dickson said.
While some board members lauded the extensive work that resulted in the 127-page proposal, others balked at federal intervention in Utah's public education system.
Board member Alisa Ellis questioned the need to report "non-cognitive" data such as student suspensions and expulsions as well as school attendance rates.
"The discipline data is something that's required to be collected by both the federal and I think, the state, so the references are just that. It's not necessarily that we would collect more information, it's just referring to this is information we collect," said policy adviser Tiffany Stanley.
Although the State School Board is bound by state statutes, "I don't feel bound by the federal government because we don't have to say yes to their funds," Ellis said.
Board chairman Mark Huntsman asked if there was a means to delineate which portions of the plan are already in statute.
"I think it would help a lot of Utahns and people who have concerns to know how much of this is already in statute because there's this perception that it's all federal overreach and 'shove it down our throats' kind of mentality. Is there a way to mitigate that concern of mine?" he asked.
Dickson said a summary document can be prepared that highlights statutory language in the plan, state board rules as well as federal mandates.
Board member Kathleen Riebe said she supports the proposed plan because it supports title programs.
"Thank you for honoring every title program and every part of those title programs." Riebe said.
Once the proposed plan is submitted to the federal government, the review process could take two to three months to complete, Dickson said. There will be opportunity for Utah education officials to clarify any part of the plan federal reviewers may question, she said.