Utah Leading Resistance Against 'No Child Left Behind'

Utah Leading Resistance Against 'No Child Left Behind'

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Richard Piatt ReportingGovernor Huntsman is meeting with top federal education officials in Washington tomorrow. His goal is to address a growing resistance to the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" education initiative, resistance that started in Utah.

It started here, but it's not ending here. In fact, Utah is widely considered a 'test case' because people here are leading the fight to keep local control of education. State Legislator Margaret Dayton writes an op-ed piece for USA Today, her arguments for fighting No Child Left Behind. She calls her challenge to the Federal Government 'the biggest education battle since statehood'.

Rep. Margaret Dayton, (R) Orem: "Our state education plan was adjusted when we became a state. And the bottom line now is, who's in charge of Utah's education?"

Dayton has sponsored bills that both challenge and reject the Federal control mandated in No Child Left Behind. Her latest bill, to put state standards in front of Federal standards, is on hold while Governor Huntsman tries to make a deal with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Both Dayton and Utah's superintendent of public instruction have already met with Spellings staff, but with only limited results.

Patti Harrington, State Superintendent of Public Instruction: "They do not seem too willing yet to recognize what I see as an automatic: state control of public schools. They do not believe No Child Left Behind has usurped that. And I believe it strongly."

Harrington says the act dictates not only minimum test scores and teacher qualifications, but what textbooks to use. She says it labels schools as either a 'success' or 'failure'.

Patti Harrington: "I really dislike the law from an esprit decorps and morale issue, and the labeling of schools and an inaccurate description of what our schools are doing."

If other states feel the same way the Feds can expect a 'pummeling' over the standards soon. Seven states are already debating bills identical to Daytons'--at least 25 are just watching to see how the Utah test turns out.

If Huntsman can't get an agreement on No Child Left Behind, the Legislature will likely pass Dayton's bill in a special session in April. In the meantime, Dayton says she's planning a public hearing as an outlet for people both for and against No Child Left Behind.

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