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Updated Mar 7, 2013 - 4:48 pm

Arizona House passes anti-federal education bill

PHOENIX — Dozens of public schools would be able to throw out federal
education policy regulating academic standards, teacher evaluation requirements
and student tracking systems under a measure approved by the Arizona House on
Thursday.

The Republican-led House voted 36-23 along party lines to advance the measure
to the Senate after heated debate over the value of federal education dollars.

The proposed law would allow roughly 130 district and charter schools that
don’t receive federal money to ignore federal mandates. The exempted schools
would still need to follow any health, safety, civil rights and insurance
mandates.

Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said his bill promotes school sovereignty.

“It simply says, `Yes, we as a state have a right to decide what we are going
to do on education,”’ he said.

Critics fretted that if the measure becomes law, it would result in a
significant hit to Arizona’s education budget. Federal education funding is
generally linked to compliance.

“When we exempt these few schools from complying with federal regulations, all
of our schools in the state are at risk for losing federal funding,” said
Democratic Rep. Eric Meyer.

Farnsworth countered that Arizona lawmakers need to support good policy over
federal threats. He said federal education funding and regulations are
unconstitutional.

“When you talk about the federal government, I have no idea what they are
going to do. … Anytime I try to do anything, that’s what I hear: `We are going
to lose federal funding, we are going to lose federal funding,”’ Farnsworth
said. “There’s really not a lot of risk, but if it does happen then at some
point, we have to say, `This is the best policy for our state, and we will
defend it if we need to.”’

Republican Rep. Justin Pierce also urged lawmakers to ignore the Democrats’
fiscal warnings.

“It’s a bit of a red herring when we ask people whether something is possible
or not,” he said. “Anything that is not impossible is possible.”

___

Cristina Silva can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/cristymsilva

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