Relief from federal education mandates may be in sight


We have some good news out of Washington. Utah’s own Rep. Rob Bishop, an educator in Utah’s public schools for 28 years, has introduced a bill in Congress that could exempt Utah and other states from burdensome federal education programs.

The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act (A-PLUS) would allow states to continue to receive federal education funding as block grants while not being subject to onerous federal regulations like those in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – a program that Utah teachers do not like. States would be able to use this funding to address the unique needs and priorities of their students in the best way they see fit.

To qualify for block grant funding, states would have to enter into a five-year “performance agreement” with the U.S. secretary of education by which states would be responsible and held accountable for improving student achievement. Here are the key requirements for entering into an agreement:

  • At least two out of three state entities (governor, legislature, state education agency) must approve the agreement
  • States must provide “an assurance that [they] will continue to pursue the goal of improving educational opportunities for the disadvantaged”
  • States must use the adequate yearly progress (AYP) measure from NCLB or they can use their own achievement measure with certain conditions
  • States must maintain, at a minimum, the same level of student achievement standards and academic assessments throughout the five-year agreement
  • States must report annually disaggregated achievement data as NCLB currently requires
  • States must spend at least 90 percent of what they spend on public education the year A-PLUS is enacted, unless they have “exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances” and receive a waiver from the secretary of education

Amazingly, the A-PLUS Act contains just 13 pages in contrast with NCLB’s 669 pages. You can read about why NCLB is burdensome and ineffective for Utah schools here and here and why A-PLUS is far better than NCLB here.

Finally, as Rep. Bishop said:

The A-Plus Act would return accountability back to states, school districts, educators and parents. This local control will allow each community to assess and address their unique educational requirements, ensuring that the needs of all students are met. Maintaining the status quo is failing our children. This legislation would give educators and parents the flexibility necessary to make the changes this country needs.