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Utah Will Not Go Back to No Child Left Behind

The Utah State School Board has voted to extend a waiver that allows the state to forego key parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law. This comes as critics slammed the waiver for tying Utah to a set of college and career-ready education standards known as the Common Core.

School Board members are calling their decision a compromise--- guarding the state against onerous requirements under NCLB while promising to make a firm statement to the federal government that Utah has control of its academic standards, testing and accountability.

Alisa Ellis from Heber, Utah has three kids in the public school system. She’s a vocal critic of the Common Core and the NCLB waiver. But she says she’s feeling somewhat at ease about the board’s decision.

“At least they’re making a statement and taking a stand,” Ellis says. “And it’s a step in the right direction. So I do appreciate that.”

She says she would have rather the state not accepted the waiver and push back on NCLB.

“It is an unconstitutional mandate that they have given us under No Child Left Behind,” Ellis says. “And Congress does not have pressure to act to reauthorize this bad law because they are issuing waivers to the states which makes Congress not feel responsible.”

If the state had foregone the waiver and gone back to NCLB, most of Utah’s schools would have failed to meet the law’s standards and Utah would have also had to shift $26 million in education funding.

State school board member Debra Roberts was chair of the board when it adopted the common core state standards and accepted the first waiver from NCLB back in 2010. She says relations on the board have been rocky as members found themselves split on the issue. 

“There was a group on the board that felt like we needed to make a political statement that we don’t want the federal government involved in what’s happening,” Roberts says. “And the other side of the issue, it’s not that they disagreed with that, but they weren’t willing to sacrifice and go back to a failed law, NCLB to make that statement.”

Dozens Of people crowded into the state office of education on Friday for the standing room only meeting. The vote came after about an hour-long public comment period. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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