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Education Secretary Postpones Utah Visit on No Child Left Behind

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has put off her Utah visit set for Friday as legislators appear determined to pass a bill challenging the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Schedule conflicts were cited by the governor's office and Sen. Orrin Hatch for the trip being postponed.

"It's clear that the bill is going to pass at this point, so timing (of Spellings' visit) is not an issue in that regard," Hatch, R-Utah, said in a prepared statement.

"It's also clear, though, that Secretary Spellings is very eager to come to our state and listen to the concerns we Utahns have about the federal role in our education system. We had hoped to arrange that visit for this week, but for scheduling reasons, we just couldn't work it out," he said.

"We're working on a schedule that works ... (possibly) in early May to continue our discussions," the governor's education deputy, Tim Bridgewater, said.

The special legislation session is April 19.

Lawmakers say Spellings' absence will have not make a difference when they vote on the bill that would put state education priorities over requirements of the federal law.

"At this point, we just pass what we were going to pass during the (general) session, which means we should have passed it back in February or March," said House Majority Whip Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George.

The House passed the measure unanimously during the general session, but Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. asked the Senate not to take a final vote because he wanted more time to negotiate with Washington.

Spellings announced new flexibility last week, but backers of the bill say the concessions were inadequate.

There also have been complaints Bridgewater, has left bill sponsor Rep. Margaret Dayton and other legislators out of the discussions with the federal officials.

Dayton said she hasn't really been included, only participating in a conference call.

Huntsman spokeswoman Tammy Kikuchi said Dayton and state schools Superintendent Patti Harrington have been "very involved in every step of the discussion."

Harrington has been coordinating with Dayton and was just in Washington, D.C., with her colleagues to discuss the special education provisions in NCLB, Kikuchi said.

No Child Left Behind requires all students, regardless of race, income or disability, to read and do math well by 2014.

Utah wants to give immigrants more time to learn English before they're counted. It also wants to use its own accountability system, U-PASS, to meet NCLB requirements.

Some flexibility on testing special education kids was granted nationwide last week.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

— Associated Press


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