House panel approves bill affirming state sovereignty in education

Published: Thursday, March 6 2014 6:30 p.m. MST

Utah State Capitol.

Matt Gade, Deseret News Archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — Local school officials who go behind the State School Board's back to partner with the federal government could face financial consequences if a bill that received committee approval Thursday becomes law.

HB425, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, would impede local schools from receiving more than $50,000 from the federal government without approval from the Utah Board of Education.

If a school violates that provision, the board would be empowered to reduce the amount of state funding appropriated to the local school district.

Eliason said the bill is in response to recent actions by the U.S. Department of Education in which arrangements were made with local officials after a state's governing board declined to enter into federal programs.

"It hasn’t happened in Utah, but it has happened in other states," Eliason said.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said she prefers not to base state law on hypothetical speculation of what may happen. Arent said she trusts the State School Board to work with schools in the state.

"I hate to pass legislation for all the 'what-ifs,'" she said.

Eliason said the bill puts the State School Board in a position to act if the U.S. Department of Eduction attempts to bypass its authority in the future.

"I have faith in our school board, too," he said. "It’s the feds that make me nervous."

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, said the bill would apply independent of what political party occupies the White House and reaffirms the governmental powers established in the state constitution.

"They've got to play by the rules," Powell said of local school officials.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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