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Utah House Scraps Unfunded No Child Mandates

The Republican-dominated House voted Tuesday to make Utah the first state to scrap No Child Left Behind Act (search) education mandates that would cost more than the federal government is willing to pay.

Republicans dropped a threat to abandon the Bush administration program altogether because that would have cost the state half of its annual federal education funding, or nearly $107 million. Instead, state representatives voted 64-8 to comply with only those mandates "where there is adequate federal funding."

It was the strongest position yet taken by lawmakers in 11 states who have introduced legislation or nonbinding resolutions challenging the 2002 education act, which has states facing deadlines to make huge leaps in student testing performance and teacher credentials.

The Utah bill still requires state Senate approval and the governor's signature.

Teachers face a requirement to have a college major for every core subject they cover. Rural Utah schools say they're lucky to attract any teachers at all, let alone ones with multiple degrees.

The act requires virtually all students in every school to test at their grade level for reading, writing and arithmetic. Schools that don't measure up for two years in a row would have to provide more tutoring or bus students to better-performing schools.

Critics, including the National Conference of State Legislatures (search), say the standards are so high few schools will be able to comply, and that the federal government isn't providing nearly enough money for the effort.

It wasn't clear which — if any — of the 45 No Child provisions are fully funded, and the U.S. Education Department has warned Utah that picking and choosing mandates could affect funds for other education programs.

Utah isn't unanimous on opting out. The state school board voted against the idea Friday, and urban school districts don't want to give up any money.