SALT LAKE CITY – Hoping a compromise might end Utah's rebellion against President Bush's education centerpiece, Gov. Jon Huntsman (search) asked lawmakers Tuesday to wait before voting on a bill giving priority to state education goals over the federal No Child Left Behind Act (search).
The House-passed bill could be addressed by the state Senate in a special session. In the meantime, Huntsman hopes state officials can work toward a compromise over what state critics say is an unfunded federal mandate.
The state legislation and a companion resolution represent one of the sharpest denunciations among 35 states considering measures on No Child mandates.
"There are still a number of senators who want to debate the bill, and I have more than enough votes to pass it in its present form," Republican Senate President John Valentine said. "But we're willing to give our governor a chance to go back one more time and speak with officials and see if we can come to a compromise."
The legislative session ends Wednesday.
The announcement came late Tuesday, a day after Huntsman returned from Washington, where he met with White House and Department of Education officials about Utah's dislike of the federal education law.
The state disagrees with the way the law measures education successes. Legislators moved last year to opt out of the federal law, but backed down after federal officials threatened to cut education funding to the state.
Under this year's bill, Utah would comply with the mandate, but would put more emphasis on a state assessment of student performance.
Huntsman has scheduled a meeting with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings (search) in two weeks.
Last year, Bush administration officials came to Utah and threatened to pull federal education funding from the state. No such visits or threats have come in 2005, but lawmakers are still feeling the heat, Valentine said.
"We feel threatened in the sense that if we can't comply, there's an automatic withdrawal of funds," he said.