House alters No Child Left Behind Act

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    By Chris Diggins

    The Utah House of Representatives voted Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004 to pass a modified version of House Bill 43, which would make Utah the first state to drop the portions of the No Child Left Behind Act that the federal government is unwilling to fund.

    Originally, the bill called for Utah to opt out of the federal law all together. The new revisions announced Monday allow for lawmakers to keep the $106 million they would have lost in abandoning the program.

    “If we proceed with the HB43 as rewritten it will buy us time to get more specifics on the costs — financially and otherwise — in implementing NCLB,” said Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, in a written statement. “It will also allow us to proceed in our efforts to fund education without losing $106 million of Title I monies.”

    The way the law is worded has been the key in finding an acceptable way for Utah to implement No Child Left Behind. Dayton, in announcing the revisions to the bill, pointed to a phrase in the No Child Left Behind law that states the federal government cannot mandate a state to incur costs not paid for under the act. This means funding for additional programs brought about by No Child Left Behind would have to come from the federal government and not the state. For Utah”s schools, already facing funding concerns, this provides a more feasible way to implement the federal program.

    “What it”s trying to get schools and districts to do is a good thing, so conceptually we”re in favor of it,” said Randy Ripplinger, director of public communications for the Granite School District. “We find that the No Child Left Behind implementation is very intrusive to a lot of schools and districts. Normally the school districts run themselves very well.”

    The No Child Left Behind program implements a strict accountability system for education. Educators are in favor of schools being accountable for their performance, however, the high cost of implementing the program coupled with government imposed standards to measure performance have earned the program its share of critics.

    Several others states have voiced their displeasure with No Child Left Behind. Virginia has asked the federal government to allow the state to implement its own system of accountability rather then using the government standards used for No Child Left Behind. The program has also come under fire in several other states, although none have chosen to opt out of the measure.

    Now that the bill has passed the house, it moves on to the Senate and needs the governor”s signature before it becomes effective.

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