Non-Compliance Could Cost Utah Schools $100 Million

Non-Compliance Could Cost Utah Schools $100 Million

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah could lose $100 million a year in federal funds if it does not comply with President Bush's No Child Left Behind education reform law, the state Office of Education estimates.

Legislators asked the state office to evaluate the cost of rejecting the sweeping 2002 mandates, which critics say may not be feasible during such tough financial times.

"I understand when you're the lowest-funded public-education system in the nation, every dollar you can scratch, beg or borrow is important," said Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, co-chairman of Public Education Legislative Task Force.

"At the same time, if this No Child Left Behind legislation is going to create more bureaucracy and more difficulty, then do we as a state want to line up behind it?" he said.

The state Office of Education also is calculating the cost of meeting the federal mandates.

State schools Superintendent Steven Laing anticipates a need for additional teacher training, more frequent assessments of student learning, and, perhaps most importantly, additional services for struggling students.

"There's no question our (2005) budget request will include funds to help us do what No Child Left Behind is requiring," Laing said.

At least 15 states are initiating similar analyses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"The driving force behind this is the financial aspect," said conference spokesman Scott Young. "Everyone's behind the intent of the law, but I think most state legislatures would say there is going to be a fiscal impact, that states are going to have to spend more than what the federal government is providing."

The federal law requires states to bring students in every racial and demographic group up to grade level in reading and math by 2013-14.

In the meantime, states must demonstrate progress toward that goal through annual improvement on standardized tests for students in grades three through eight and one grade in high school. Failure to show sufficient gains results in sanctions, such as allowing parents to take students to another school or teacher reassignments.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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