Special Legislative Session Underway

Special Legislative Session Underway

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Richard Piatt ReportingThe Utah Legislature has overwhelmingly approved a bill challenging the Bush administration priority, No Child Left Behind. It is one of 15 issues lawmakers are taking on during this week's special session.

It's all about putting Utah education standards first. But that could come at a price, the 76-million dollars a year that's tied to No Child Left Behind.

Rep. Margaret Dayton/(R) Orem: "I don't know anyone in the education community who doesn't think our schools should be accountable. The question is to whom should they be accountable?"

For Representative Margaret Dayton it's always been about state education control, putting Utah's education priorities first. Yet, before her bill passed the House, other lawmakers raised concerns about some good in No Child Left Behind--the way it takes on lagging test scores for minority students.

Rep. Duane Bourdeaux/(D) Salt Lake City: “There’s that achievement gap. We haven’t addressed it, it’s a major problem in our state. We need to pay attention to that.”

And there is something else, the risk that 76-million federal education dollars a year might be lost in this Federalism fight. The state's public education superintendent isn't worried.

Patti Harrington, Utah Superintendent of Public Instruction: “For example, when parents get a report on their children and their schools, the U-pass report will be first, down in the corner will be a box for no child left behind. We'll remain compliant, therefore we won't lose the money."

In this special session both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill that takes on Federal Government authority. Governor Huntsman has said he would sign it, after attempting a compromise with Federal officials.

Here's an update on other Special Session Items. The House unanimously approved a funding plan for a Veterans Nursing Home north of Ogden. The Senate confirmed Huntsman nominee Yvette Diaz as the Director of Community and Culture. The Senate said yes to a drug offender treatment pilot program.

But a state funding plan for the Salt Palace expansion is still incomplete. That does not have unanimous support, and the plan to put state money into the project will probably be challenged tomorrow.

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