Huckabee on Education


by David Safier

Here it is, your last installment of “Meet Your Candidate in the Classroom.” I’m not going to go into Ron Paul’s educational plans, because with his numbers, he’s not a major player. If you’re interested, you can find his ideas here.

I knew I should expect something a little different from Mike Huckabee when I saw the title of the issue paper: Education and the Arts. THE ARTS? What does art have to do with education anyway? I thought it was all about reading, math and standardized testing, sunup to sundown.

Well, Huckabee thinks art and music have lots to do with education. They are essential “Weapons of Mass Instruction.” (Cute phrase. He’s the best man on the stump with a folksy quip and a goofy grin.) He even talks about the importance of the left and right sides of the brain. “Our future economy depends on a creative generation,” he writes.

These are the moments when I start liking Huckabee. Then I wake up and remember he wants the Constitution to take a back seat to the Bible, after he abolishes the IRS. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

Huckabee’s educational ideas aren’t all soft, fuzzy and creative. He wants intensive, back-to-basics reading and math programs for the younger grades and a demanding high school curriculum, including lots of advanced placement classes.

He wants to be able to fire teachers who aren’t teaching, but he also wants to put money in the classroom, not into administration, and “provide bonuses and forgive student loans for high-performing teachers to work in low-performing schools.” So he’s not a teacher basher by a long shot.

Huckabee loves the idea of charter schools and home schooling. He wants “public school choice,” which doesn’t sound like vouchers for private schools to me, unless I’m missing something. Again, I’m pleasantly surprised. He even brags that his three children attended public schools K-through-12, as did he and his wife.

No Child Left Behind has value, Huckabee says, but it shouldn’t get in the way of states’ abilities to develop their own educational benchmarks.

Huckabee’s a funny guy. Most of his agenda scares the hell out of me, and then I read something like this. If anyone among the major Republican candidates deserves the label “straight shooter,” it may be ol’ Huck.


  1. Clearly that is what Huckabee is trying to do, and in fact already sees himself as such. I just don’t see him swaying his flock to follow his thinking on education and the arts.

  2. azw88, I think Huckabee wants to come out of the campaign as the standard bearer for conservatives. If he does, or even if he holds some sway with those folks, I hope he lets them know there is more to education than dry toast, hard cheese and spinach. While those may make for a reasonably healthy diet, you’re not going to get much enthusiasm at the dinner table.

  3. David, Huckabee has been the ONLY candidate in any major election in a long time to cite learning theory (left brain-right brain) when talking about his policies. I really think that he truly believes and supports a well-rounded education. I caught some hell from people for saying that I actually liked some of what he had to say about education. He talked in some specifics that tells me he does get SOME of what we really need to improve education in this country. Many politicians talk about improving scores, paying teachers more, etc etc etc. but few have talked about the arts in education the way he has.

    There is no way in hell I could ever vote for him as all of his other policies are not good for this country.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, Dwight, but I don’t think I used the term, Fair Tax, or even the word Tax, in my post on Huckabee. I simply said he wants to abolish the IRS, and you agree with the statement. Why should we fight at one of the rare moments we agree about something?

  5. David:

    The FAIR TAX is NOT Huckabee’s idea!

    He endorses the FAIR TAX which iliminates the IRS and replaces it with a tax on things you buy that are included in the price!

    At each year end the “POOR” in country need only submit taxes paid to get a check!

  6. Spartan, you might read a bit about the history of education in the U.S., and the world, for that matter, to find out the state of schooling when the Constitution was written. It was a bit different than it is now. Public schooling, let alone universal public schooling, was still a long way off. I notice the founding fathers didn’t talk much about highway speed limits or air traffic controllers either. And they called themselves visionaries!

  7. Again,
    Where does it say the founding documents that the Feds should be in the education business?

    The COnstitution and the Federalist Papers never mention education once. How could that be? The most educated men in the newly formed United States during the forming of what was to become one of the finest documents in history never once mentioned education?

    That’s because it was NEVER supposed to be done at the Federal level. They should eliminate the department of education and refund that money back to the taxpayers or use it to pay off the debt, then refund it back to the taxpayers.

    If a State wants to spend $5 bucks of $50,000 bucks per student, that’s up to them, their legislatures and their voters.

    On a “lighter note:” As far as cometition goes, we on the right know you guys on the left are afraid of competition, that’s why you guys banned dodgeball from playgrounds the first chance you got. We all took a few high and fast ones to the mellon when we were in grade school, but instead of laughing it off like the rest of us, you guys took it personal and claimed it damaged self esteem.

    Instead of training future titans and spartans to go out into the world, we’re training sheep and sissies to whine, complain and ask the government to come to their rescue.

  8. Francine, we basically agree, but I want to make a clarification and ask a question. First, the correction. Huckabee never talks about private schools. He talks about “public school choice,” which means allowing families to choose any public school for their children. The money stays in the public system. And as for charter schools, that’s a gray area, not quite public, not quite private. I’m starting to look into charter schools more deeply, since Arizona is the charter capital of the U.S. I’ll post on the subject when I know enough to have something to say.

    Now the question. Do home schoolers get any public funds? My understanding is they don’t. Some home schoolers sign up for “cyber charter schools” that are online, but then they’re in charter schools.

    Does anyone know if the garden variety home schooler gets any public funds?

  9. You’re right – he’s the candidate with charm, no question – not to mention that endearing smile and the cute dimple. Any talk of home schooling and choice translates to taking public monies for private schools, home schooling and who knows what else. Our public school system must be protected and strengthened – but I know you share that belief. I, too, am charmed by his support for art and music and his understanding of the value for children of these pursuits. But then I listen to some of his other ideas and I go “Yikes!!!” But on education, except for the fact that I am concerned he would dispense public monies for private schools, which would be a very bad thing.