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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Utah's three gubernatorial candidates all have harsh things to say about President Bush's No Child Left Behind program.
"During the course of implementation, it imposed a lot of burdensome and unnecessary mandates on our schools," Democrat Scott Matheson Jr. said. "The problem with No Child Left Behind is it has built-in assumptions that just don't fit the circumstances."
He said it has allowed the federal government to wrongly label schools as in need of improvement or correction.
No Child Left Behind, the centerpiece of President Bush's education policy, requires all students, regardless of background, to perform well on state reading and math tests.
State education officials told legislators last week that more than three-quarters of Utah's public schools met the program's goals, but only because federal officials made allowances to the law's strict rules.
Matheson also criticized the bill because of the requirements it places upon teachers.
"Certainly, we want teachers to be well-trained and well-qualified and want to support them with the continuing educational opportunities they need, but the types of requirements placed upon them are unrealistic and unnecessary," he said.
Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. said No Child Left Behind should be "jettisoned out of the classroom.
"This is an area where I part company with my own president. We can amend it here and there, but I'm not sure we want to live in a world where they (the federal government) are looking over our shoulders."
He said standards and accountability should be handled at the state level.
People's Choice candidate Ken Larsen, who wants to privatize the whole public education system, said, "How dare the federal government come into Utah and tell us how to educate our children.... I don't believe the federal constitution authorizes the federal government to have anything to say about education."
To improve education in Utah, Matheson wants to beef up the teacher pool, beginning with workshops for high school students to lure them into the profession, and Huntsman wants to better fund education by boosting economic development.
Matheson said he would adopt an education-first budget. 'The budget dedicated to public education as a percentage has been relatively flat or declining slightly over the years," he said. "It's 47.6 percent of state revenues that (go) to public education. I'd like to see us get to 50 percent and get there without raising taxes.'
Huntsman said, "What needs to change in order for education to be better than today is for an economy to be large enough and strong enough to support education as we go forward.
"We can talk about new and inventive academic programs, but at the end of the day, we've got to ask, 'How do we afford increasing costs?' You've got to have an expanding job base, higher-paying jobs expanding the pie," he said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)