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Utah Rep. Jim Matheson received the endorsement Wednesday of the 18,000-member Utah Education Association, which praised the Democratic congressman as a "true friend to education."

"From standing up against private-school vouchers to helping save teachers' jobs during the recession, to opposing inflexible No Child Left Behind rules, he has been a champion for Utah teachers, parents and schoolchildren," said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh.

Matheson, a six-term incumbent, faces a Republican challenge from Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love in Utah's new 4th District.

"I am proud to stand with Utah teachers as they work tirelessly every day to raise the academic-achievement level of Utah students," Matheson said in a statement. "They are preparing Utah school kids today to be the employees Utah companies need tomorrow as Utah continues to compete successfully in the global economy."

Gallagher-Fishbaugh said Matheson has recognized that No Child Left Behind requirements are too rigid and proposed changes to the definitions for "highly qualified teachers," multiple ways to assess student progress and appropriate testing for special-education students.

While not specifically addressing the UEA endorsement, Love said she will fight to guarantee local control of education.

"I am committed to ensuring that the power to make decisions about the education of Utah's children remains in the hands of Utah parents and educators, not in the hands of unelected bureaucrats in Washington," she said in a statement. "Education is a local concern, and I will work in Congress to return control over education back to the state."

Kory Holdaway, director of government relations for UEA, said that as a result of the endorsement UEA will make a recommendation of support to the National Education Association, which will contribute to the Matheson campaign. So far, UEA has endorsed President Barack Obama, Democratic 2nd District candidate Jay Seegmiller, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Scott Howell and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert. Other endorsements are pending.

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