Bill on NCLB Law Dominates Session
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Much of the education focus of the Utah legislature this year was on a bill that aims to give state education laws priority over the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
As state lawmakers and educators nationwide watched closely, the Utah Senate and House passed the bill April 19. The measure, which Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was expected to sign into law May 2, could put the Beehive State at risk of losing $76 million in annual federal education aid. ("Union, States Wage Frontal Attack on NCLB," April 27, 2005.)
But that legislation was tangled in a web of politics that stretched from Washington to Salt Lake City. As the regular legislative session wound down in January, Gov. Huntsman, a Republican, persuaded senators to delay a vote in order to buy time to broker a compromise with federal officials. But a deal was not reached. During a special session last month, the bill passed handily.
During their regular session, Utah lawmakers passed the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarships, the country’s second state voucher program for students with disabilities; the other is in Florida. Though a broader tuition-tax-credit bill died, the Carson Smith scholarships are slated to provide $1.4 million in voucher money to help parents of students with disabilities to send their children to private schools with specialized programs to serve them. The scholarships could pay out nearly $5,500 annually to each student who qualifies.
Lawmakers also upped the state K-12 budget in fiscal 2006 to $2.2 billion, an increase of 5 percent from the current year.
Vol. 24, Issue 34, Page 31