- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday that he supports a proposal to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and he hopes to use his trip to Washington next week to discuss states’ authority and the new Bears Ears National Monument with President Donald Trump’s administration.

Herbert told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he doesn’t know what kind of opportunity he will have to speak with U.S. officials about the Bears Ears National Monument, but it may come up while he’s in Washington for National Governors Association meetings.

The monument, declared in December by President Barack Obama, has been hotly debated in Utah.

The governor and state Legislature recently approved a resolution calling on Trump to rescind the designation, saying the president ignored local concerns and swept too large of an area into the 1.35 million-acre monument.

Proponents say the administration held public meetings in Utah ahead of the monument declaration and that the tribal lands within it needed protection from looting and damage.

Herbert is set to discuss the issue Thursday with outdoor recreation officials upset about Utah’s stance, but the governor said he’s unsure to what extent he will raise it in the nation’s capital next week. Herbert said that if he gets to meet with Trump’s Interior Secretary nominee, Ryan Zinke, he’d like to bring it up and arrange for Zinke to visit the area.

Herbert said he thinks the nation’s governors and Trump will spend their meetings discussing how the states can play a bigger role in setting policy and having more authority.

Among the ideas percolating in Washington is a GOP proposal to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, something Herbert said he supports.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz is one of several members of Congress proposing to eliminate the department, which President Jimmy Carter created as a separate agency nearly four decades ago.

Chaffetz acknowledged to state lawmakers last week that it will be a longshot to get the proposal passed in Congress anytime soon, but said he thinks it’s important to pursue and would give states more control.

About $550 million in federal money funds Utah’s K-12 schools. That makes up about 9 percent of education spending in a state with a high birth rate and a growing number of kids enrolling in schools.

Herbert said Wednesday that local officials, educators and parents are better positioned to address their education needs than the federal government, and it would be best if the states received money coming from the U.S. Department of Education in a lump sum, without restrictions.

“We don’t get a lot of help out of Washington, D.C. with all the strings and the mandates and the one-size-fits-all approach,” Herbert said.

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