updated 5/2/2005 9:32:38 PM ET 2005-05-03T01:32:38

Gov. Jon Huntsman signed a measure Monday defying the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act despite a warning from the federal education secretary that it could cost $76 million in federal aid.

The bill represents the strongest stand against the federal law among 15 states considering anti-No Child Left Behind legislation this year. Utah is an overwhelmingly Republican state that strongly supported President Bush.

The legislation, passed during a special session of the Legislature last month, gives Utah’s education standards priority over federal requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. It lets education officials ignore provisions of federal law that conflict with the state’s program.

Huntsman, a Republican, signed the bill Monday at an elementary school in the legislative district of GOP Rep. Margaret Dayton, who has been leading the fight against what she calls the unfunded mandates of Bush’s signature education law.

Huntsman’s education deputy said he doubted Utah’s stance would cost it any money.

“It empowers decision makers in the state education system, where there is conflict with federal law, to choose to follow the state objective first,” Tim Bridgewater said.

Only schools serving low-income populations — about a third of Utah’s — will have to wrestle over state and federal standards, he said.

Utah plans to obey benchmark No Child requirements, like reporting schools’ annual yearly progress toward a goal of having all students excel in reading and math for their grade level, and informing parents when schools fail to measure up.

When schools fail, parents can demand a tutor or send their children to better schools in the same district.

Utah’s preferred way of measuring student achievement is called U-PASS, or the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students, which compares achievement as students progress from grade to grade.

No Child Left Behind compares the grade-level test scores of students to the students in the same grade level from previous years.

The office of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings didn’t immediately return a call Monday from The Associated Press. In her warning to Huntsman after legislators approved their measure, Spellings said Utah’s bill could trigger the loss of funding if state educators strayed from the federal requirements.

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