Sutherland Opposes State’s…

SALT LAKE CITY – November 2, 2009 – In an effort to prevent further federal intrusion in Utah public education, Sutherland Institute, a conservative state-based public policy organization in Salt Lake City, urges the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) not to apply for federal Race to the Top (RT3) grants.  The Institute believes that accepting RT3 funds would deepen Utah’s dependence on federal funding and would inhibit state and local educators from doing what is best for Utah’s students.

A new Sutherland report, Federal Intervention in Public Education: Is it Good for Utah?, reveals that $186 million in stimulus funds (fiscal stabilization) already budgeted for Utah public education increased Utah’s dependence on federal funds by 46 percent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.  The state has budgeted an additional $113 million in stimulus funds for FY 2010 and intends to seek $400 million more in federal RT3 funds.  Accepting all these funds would make Utah 123 percent more dependent on federal funds for education than it was before the Recovery Act.  In other words, although just one-in-12 Utah public education dollars came from federal sources in FY 2008, one-in-five would come from federal sources in FY 2010.  Furthermore, additional federal intervention in Utah education would only perpetuate and compound the unnecessary regulatory burden placed on Utah educators.

According to the report’s author, Policy Analyst Matthew Piccolo, Utahns have learned from experience with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that federal education programs burden administrative offices and schools with regulations and paperwork, lead to micro-managing of their work, and often conflict with state and local priorities.  They have forced the state, districts, and schools to reprioritize funding, modify curriculum, restructure programs, and alter the teacher-hiring process in ways that often are not good for schools, teachers, and students.  Even if officials claim that RT3 regulations might be less onerous than those of NCLB, Piccolo says, Utahns have no reason to believe that repeated injuries of the past will not recur.

The federal government has said that the purpose of Race to the Top is to “lay the foundation for education reform.”  According to Piccolo, “RT3 is President Obama’s deliberate attempt to foist his soon-to-be-released version of NCLB onto the states.  Utah should avoid participating in any program that builds on the flawed policies of NCLB.”

State Superintendent Larry Shumway recently said, “We don’t want to apply for significant federal money if the program doesn’t make sense for us – just for the money.”  Sutherland Institute agrees.  Piccolo says, “RT3 money might help boost funding for public education, but the program itself doesn’t make sense for Utah.  Utahns have plenty of ingenuity, resources, and commitment to help provide their children a world-class education.  They don’t need the federal government to tell them what to do.”

Read the executive summary and full report