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Utah will continue its quest to join the federal Goals 2000 education project, despite a legislative vote this week that appeared to put the state's participation in question.

State School Board Chairman C. Grant Hurst said that because the vote taken during a joint meeting of the board with the Legislature's Education Interim Committee Wednesday had confused the issue, the board will revert to an earlier position taken by the committee. That position, taken two months ago, endorsed the state's pursuit of approval by the U.S. Department of Education to obtain Goals 2000 funds.Wednesday, Hurst told the legislative committee the State Office of Education would not continue the application process until the support of the Legislature is clarified. But by Thursday, after discussion of the matter, state board members had decided the earlier letter of support took precedence over the latest vote.

The confusion resulted from a vote Wednesday in which two senators voted against a proposal supporting Utah's participation. Since only three senators were present, the two votes constituted a majority, although more than 30 other people involved in the meeting voted in favor of the motion.

The federal program is expected to disburse millions of dollars among the states over the next few years to promote national education goals that were originally set by the Bush Administration and then expanded on by the Clinton Administration. Utah education officials hope to get the first installment of federal funds - about $700,000 - to begin implementing the goals this year. They are asking the federal agency to accept a strategic plan for education adopted by the Legislature in 1992 as fulfillment of the planning requirement to take part in the program.

James Wilson, legal counsel to the committee, said Thursday that the board is correct in accepting the first letter of support from the education committee as a basis for proceeding with the state's application.

But he acknowledged that the roles of the Legislature and the board during joint meetings need to be clarified. The two bodies hold combined meetings every summer to discuss current issues as a prelude to the winter legislative session. The members of both groups are divided among subcommittees, with equal weight being given to the motions and votes of each member. The strange turn of events Wednesday when the groups got together to vote on the conclusions of the subcommittees was a fluke that indicates there is a need for defining the relationships, he said.