Keeping Utah schools shackled via the back door


Photo credit: Lee Honeycutt

As Congress continues to delay reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), many states, including Utah, are requesting waivers from parts of the federal law, and some states are being openly defiant about it. With all this waiver action, due to congressional inaction, prognostications for the future of NCLB are bleak.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called NCLB a “slow-motion train wreck,” and as Utah Superintendent Larry Shumway observed, “Pretty soon all the schools will be failing in America, and at that point the law becomes meaningless.” Shumway predicts: “States are going to sit and watch federal accountability implode. We’re seeing the end of an era.”

Is the era of federal accountability in public education really over? Read more

Budget deal: Utah still addicted to the federal trough


A year and a half ago I wrote an article for the Standard-Examiner about how Utah is addicted to federal dollars. Since then, nothing has changed. The federal budget deal has again brought this issue to our attention.

A Deseret News article yesterday highlighted how Utah Transit Authority officials, “advocates for Utah’s poor and disabled,” leaders of the Utah Public Employees Association, Hill Air Force Base officials, and State Superintendent Larry Shumway are concerned that the newly signed budget deal could decrease federal funds available for the programs they support. In a related article, Mayor Ralph Becker expressed concerns that the budget stalemate could jeopardize $26 million promised for Salt Lake City’s two-mile streetcar extension. Read more

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. Read more

Ogden rally raw footage, empowering parents, NCLB


Today in Ogden, an estimated 400 people protested the Ogden School District’s decision to forgo collective bargaining in favor of a contract made on its own terms. You can see footage of the protest here, taken by Alexis Young, Sutherland’s multimedia reporter:


Notice the signs that read “Teachers Are Not The Problem.” We agree. The problem in Ogden is not the teachers. The problem, at least one of them, is that the teachers union as an organization has not been able to reach an agreement with the district for several years running and is now concerned about losing more power. Read more

NCLB: Waivers are good; repeal is better

According to a report by Education Week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Photo credit: Raul654

gave states 315 waivers under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2009, nine times more than his predecessor Margaret Spellings approved in 2008.

This trend is good for states, including Utah, that have been begging for flexibility since NCLB became federal law in 2002. But the number of waivers requested and granted demonstrates just how rigid and inflexible NCLB is. In the end, no number of waivers for Utah will suffice, other than granting the state a waiver from the entire law.

Issuing waivers might help states cope with the one-size-fits-all federal education law for now, but such action is akin to the feigned magnanimity a bank robber offers his hostages by slightly loosening the cord around their wrists in order to avoid cutting off all circulation.

Utah public schools do not need waivers; they need complete autonomy to address the unique needs of Utah students. As Congress continues to debate the renewal of NCLB, it should do the right thing: give federal education dollars back to states with no strings attached.

And if Congress chooses another course, then Utah should do the right thing: opt out of NCLB for good.