Magazine article The New American

Utah Bucks "No Child Left Behind": Utah Has Passed Legislation to Maintain Its Constitutional Primacy over the Federal Government in the Education of That State's Children

Magazine article The New American

Utah Bucks "No Child Left Behind": Utah Has Passed Legislation to Maintain Its Constitutional Primacy over the Federal Government in the Education of That State's Children

Article excerpt

For more than 50 years, the federal government's control over education in this country has grown by leaps and bounds, virtually unchecked. The passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2001 was the most sweeping federal encroachment on education ever. But recent events in Utah, Connecticut, Texas, and several other states may spell the beginning of the end for the unbridled fed-ed push.

In May, Utah's governor, Jon Huntsman, signed a landmark piece of legislation (H.B. 1001) that leaves no doubt where Utah legislators think the responsibility for educating their state's children lies--in Utah. In summary, the bill allows Utah school districts to prioritize efforts and resources to meet Utah education goals first, then address federal education goals. If there is a conflict between the NCLB Act and Utah's education plan, the law allows school districts to ignore the NCLB Act.

For example, the NCLB Act requires states to assess a student group's progress by comparing that group's score to scores for that grade from previous years. In contrast, Utah thinks a more reasonable measurement of progress is gained by comparing a group of student's scores to their own scores from last year--comparing apples to apples, so to speak.

Another example of how Utah's education plan conflicts with the NCLB Act is in the teaching of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. government. The NCLB Act requires schools to use the Center for Civic Education's "We the People ... The Citizen and the Constitution" program in sections teaching civics. The We the People textbook (the only textbook directly sanctioned and funded by federal law) mentions the Second Amendment exactly zero times. The 9th and 10th Amendments ("The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people" and "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people") get the same silent treatment in the federal curriculum.

In contrast to the "We the People" program, says H.B. 1001's sponsor, Margaret Dayton (Republican, District 61), Utah teachers prefer to teach "the whole Bill of Rights." So, by teaching that Americans have the right to bear arms, and that the power of the federal government is limited, Utah is already in conflict with the NCLB Act.

It is these types of conflicts that enabled H.B. 1001 to pass with wide margins in both the Utah House of Representatives and Senate--winning 94 of 104 total votes. According to Dayton, H.B. 1001 emphatically answers two important questions: "Does the U.S. Constitution matter?" and "Who is in charge of our children?"

Dayton highlights several legal violations inherent in the NCLB Act. First and foremost, she said, the U.S. Constitution does not enumerate education as a federal power; therefore, education is left explicitly to the states. That alone should be the death knell for laws such as the NCLB Act.

If even more proof that the NCLB Act is a bad law is needed, says Dayton, consider the fact that it is also in conflict with Utah's State Constitution, which states that local school districts are controlled by the local communities and not by the state. Complying with the NCLB Act would require Utah to rewrite its own constitution.

Dayton also points out that the NCLB Act is in conflict with several other federal laws already on the books:

* The 1894 "Enabling Act," in Section 11, clearly states that "schools ... provided for in this act shall forever remain under the exclusive control of said State." (Emphasis added.) This act enabled the people of Utah to form a Constitution and State Government, and to be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States.

* Public Law 96-88, which created the federal Department of Education in the 1980s, states that the "establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the authority of the federal government over education or diminish the responsibility for education, which is reserved to the states. …

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