Mike Huckabee is a master communicator and retail politician. In fact, among prominent political figures alive today, he is second only to fellow Hope, Arkansas native Bill Clinton in those categories.
Huckabee is now running for president once again and his record is coming under scrutiny. Actually, the process of vetting Huckabee began awhile ago when it became clear he was interested in a do-over.
Much of the focus has been on a particular policy area: education. And the focus is largely (but not entirely) about his position on the Common Core standards.
Let’s follow the progression of Huckabee’s statements about Common Core.
As of June 2013, he enthusiastically supported the program:
“It’s disturbing to me there have been criticisms of these standards directed by other conservatives,” he said. “I’ve heard the argument these standards ‘threaten local control’ of what’s being taught in Oklahoma classrooms. Speaking from one conservative to another, let me assure you this simply is not true … They’re not something to be afraid of; indeed they are something to embrace.”
When standards are being created from a central location to be applied uniformly across the country, of course local control is threatened.
While localities and states may voluntarily agree to Common Core, that is beside the point. They are still giving up their autonomy. And thus, outrage against Common Core proceeded to ensue.
In December of 2014, Huckabee took to his program to defend himself. He stated the following:
“I believe education is a local or state function, not a federal one. Sadly, the very label, Common Core, has come to be associated with things that I detest, like agenda-driven curriculum that indoctrinates instead of educates. I’m convinced that the term “Common Core” needs to disappear from the lexicon of education policy. It’s a toxic term because it’s come to mean things that most of us can’t stomach, like top-down federal intrusion into the local schools where you live.”
This is all well and good. However, Huckabee is wrong about the basic facts.
Common Core has never been a federal program. The federal government does provide grants, but that is the extent of the involvement. The Common Core of today is essentially the same as the one of yesterday: it was developed by education groups and passed on the state level. Just because it is not a federal program does mean it cannot be a bad policy. Just because it is a bad policy does not make it a federal program.
The very purpose of national (not federal) standards is for uniform indoctrination or education, whichever term one is inclined to label it. And curriculum necessarily corresponds with standards.
During a meeting with the Council of Chief State School Officers (which helped create Common Core) in February of 2014, he urged them to “rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat” in response to public backlash.
Today, on Huckabee’s official website, he states that “I also oppose Common Core and believe we should abolish the federal department of education. We must kill Common Core and restore common sense.”
Let’s review. In the last two years of Common Core, Huckabee has:
- Outright supported it
- Urged it to be rebranded
- Called for it to be repealed
And he has also mislead about the nature of Common Core by pretending it was hijacked by the federal government, when no such thing took place. He is also seemingly dismayed at the notion that curriculum would be developed in response to standards.
There are also some other education contradictions of Huckabee’s that I want to address. On his current website, he claims:
- Washington bureaucrats and big-government central planners are out-of-control.
- Education is a family function — not a federal function.
- Education decisions are best made by the most local government — Moms and Dads.
I agree. But this doesn’t jive with what Huckabee has said in the past.
In his exploratory committee website in 2007, the following was written under the education section:
- “The Department of Education has a role in providing states with tools to enhance educational opportunities for all students”
- “Mike Huckabee believes the federal No Child Left Behind Act is often misunderstood and unfairly maligned as a total federal intrusion”
So which is it, Mike?
Just as he flip flops on Common Core, Huckabee has also flip flopped on the Department of Education and No Child Left Behind.
It is also worth mentioning that in regards to education, Huckabee:
If it isn’t clear at this point, here is what you need to take away from this: Mike Huckabee cannot be trusted when it comes to education policy.
If you want true local control over education, if you want expanded school choice, and if you want America to be smart again, you should look for someone other than Huckabee to champion that cause.