Utah Votes for No Child Left Behind Waiver

The State Board of Education in Utah quickly voted to request a federal waiver for the No Child Left Behind Act last week.

The vote created a rash of protest from critics who had packed into the meeting room and overflowed into the hallways, wearing green shirts that read “No More Common Core”.  They claim the waiver will allow for federal control over education within the state, as the waiver will only be granted if Utah agrees to the national Common Core standards in place of its own state standards.

Education officials such as the Utah Education Association as well as groups like the Parent Teacher Association support the vote.  Without the waiver, the state would lose $27 million in funding that directly supports low-income schools.

According to the latest Utah Policy/KSL Insider Survey, which annually polls state lawmakers, lobbyists and policymakers, 88% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans are in favor of keeping the Common Core Standards.

“I was surprised that the support for Common Core among our Republican insiders was so high,” Utah Policy managing editor Bryan Schott said. “I was expecting maybe one-third but not almost one-half.”

Schott was surprised at the high volume of readers who voted against the Common Core.  He believes that the majority of the 6,500 votes were from people who are not regular visitors to the site.

Cherilyn Eagar, president of the American Leadership Fund, admitted to using social media to encourage others to vote in the survey.  She believes that lawmakers do not fully understand the Common Core; if they did, they would have voted against it.

“I just encourage more people to learn more about it and can very well assure people that if they do, we have both Democrats and Republicans who are concerned when they learn more,” she said.

Eagar said the majority of the concern for the standards comes from over-testing students which takes away from their learning time.

“The bipartisan concerns from both parents and teachers are really about the testing and testing and more testing,” she said.  “Evidence is showing that this is creating far too much stress in young children.”

The debate does not stop there.  The Libertas Institute, a public policy organization in Utah, has funded a lawsuit against the state school board in response to the adoption of the Common Core standards.  According to the lawsuit, citizens of the state were not consulted before the board voted in 2010, therefore not being allowed to express their opinions beforehand.

“Consulting with specific groups requires actual proactive consulting,” Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack said. “It doesn’t require a poorly noticed standard meeting at which a random citizen might find out and have an opportunity to communicate their interest.”

The lawsuit would put a stop to the use of the standards in Utah schools.

School board members feel enough notice was given.  A public notice was posted prior to the initial vote in June 2010, which happened at a public meeting.  The final approval was gained at a public meeting two months later.

They say it’s time to stop the political arguments and focus on what is truly important.

“We have wasted two years on listening to people who are not even looking at the standards themselves,” school board member Debra Roberts said. “We are hurting children over political nonsense.”