Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Huckabee and Homeschoolers (Part 3)

In the last Iowa debate, Huckabee said that he believes education is a state issue not a federal issue.

“First of all, the whole role of education is a state issue. It's not really a federal issue. And the worst thing that we can do is to shift more burden, more responsibility, more authority to the federal government when more of it needs to go to the states. But I think the federal government can play a pivotal role in -- primarily in helping to make sure that the best practices that are working in the states are shared with states who are struggling.”

One, personalize the learning for the student. We have 6,000 kids every day drop out in this country. They don't drop out because they're dumb; they drop out because they're bored to death. They're in a 19th-century education system in a 21st-century world. If we really are serious, then first of all we make sure that we build a curriculum around their interests rather than just push them into something they don't care.

Second thing, unleash weapons of mass instruction. I'm a passionate, ardent supporter of having music and art in every school for every student at every grade level

In his answer, Huckabee attempts to have it both ways; stating that education is a state issue but that it's a federal issue as well. Huckabee’s duplicitous answer was not lost on candidate Tom Tancredo who responded,
"Governor, with all due respect, you can't say on one hand, you're against having government intervention and on the other hand, tell us that you want music and art and everything else in the school. That's not the job of a president. It is the job of a governor. That's what you should run for if you want to dictate curriculum."
I agree with Tancredo. But to be fair, a sixty-second sound bite in a debate is insufficient to know exactly what Huckabee believes. Let’s take a look at his campaigns website to see if we can draw a more definitive conclusion.

On Mike Huckabee's campaign website he said,
"We need a clear distinction between federal and state roles in education. While there is value in the "No Child Left Behind" law's effort to set high standards, states must be allowed to develop their own benchmarks.
Currently, NCLB allows states to set their own benchmarks, but they typically comply with federal mandates to get the much needed funding. This effectively shifts responsibility and control from the state to the federal government. Mike Huckabee has praised NCLB and a national effort to set high standards. In Iowa recently Huckabee said, "Throwing the whole thing out would be a tragic mistake." It appears Huckabee favors some measure of federal accountability if he were elected President.

Huckabee also stated that we need a clear distinction between the federal and state role in education. Does he believe the tenth amendment applies to education? According to the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) we don’t need a clear distinction because our Constitution already provides for one in the Tenth Amendment.
"The federal role in education is a violation of the 10th amendment of the United States Constitution which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government delegated the power to regulate or fund elementary or secondary education. "
Does Huckabee want to create a new distinction which allows a federal role in education policy or does he plan on disregarding the Constitution like previous Presidents?

Huckabee not only believes there is a role for the federal government in education, but also supports INCREASING that role.

As Huckabee mentioned in his debate answer, he wants to unleash “Weapons of Mass Instruction” and supports art and music in every students’ curriculum. Such an initiative would likely come in the form of increasing federal money to states that implement music or arts education in their schools. Huckabee told an audience in Iowa that he would like to make arts and music part of the tested curriculum and would provide the federal funds to make it happen.

HSLDA states their belief on such federal spending very plainly,
"It is HSLDA's firm belief that federal government spending on education is unconstitutional and must be eliminated. While we support the position that the federal government should not be involved in education at any level, we also support measures that incrementally reduce the control of the federal government over education."
When President Clinton proposed increased spending for education in 1999, HSLDA was very critical,
"For decades there has been a gradual erosion of the principle of local control of schools. Federal control has gradually increased through strings attached to various funding programs. Even though an average school receives about 6% of its funds from the federal government, nearly 50% of the regulations imposed on the school come from Washington. If Mr. Clinton’s proposals are adopted, federal strings become chains of hardened steel.."
But it's not just funding art and music education that Huckabee envisions a role for the federal government. Huckabee also favors teacher testing.
"We need to test teachers as well as students, replace teachers who aren't competent, and impose reasonable waiting periods for teachers to gain tenure."
HSLDA also opposed teacher standards when Clinton proposed them in 1999.

"Mr. Clinton’s third prong— mandatory teacher standards — should send a strong chill down the back of every homeschooler as well as those in private schools and even those in public schools."

But yet, HSLDA has been strangely silent on Huckabee’s call for increased funding and teacher testing. If they were bad ideas when Clinton proposed them, wouldn’t they still be a problem today?

Huckabee not only supports testing teachers, but students as well. When asked by a high school student in New Hampshire if he supports federally mandated testing, Huckabee used the Red Sox to make his case,
He asked the students how many had watched the previous night's [Red Sox] game. Hands shot up. Then he asked if they would have minded if nobody kept score. "You wouldn't go to the football game or the basketball game or the baseball game and say, 'Just turn the scoreboard off,' " Huckabee said. "And neither could we realistically say we're really interested in improving the quality of education, but we're not going to keep score. So do we need tests? Yes."
Clearly, Mike Huckabee sees an increasing role for the federal government in education, despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits any such a role. In the long run, such meddling will hurt homeschooling and our freedom to direct the education of our children.

Michael Farris of HSLDA wrote in 1995,
"The existence of the U.S. Department of Education is the only reason there are federal attacks on our rights as home schoolers. If we help to eliminate the federal role in education, we close down a substantial threat to our rights…. We need to show people that there really are a lot of us who believe in Constitutional government. The Constitution gives no role to the federal government in education and it is time to put a stop to this unconstitutional activity. You can help ignite a political wildfire.”
Farris wrote his call to action over a decade ago, but it is still true today. There are a lot of us who still believe in the Constitution which limits the powers of the federal government.

The next decade will be the deciding decade for education in this country. Will we increase the scope of the federal government in education and move toward the socialist policies of Europe or back to the Constitution which as HSLDA right points out, provides for no federal role in education?

The vote you cast in the next election will help decide which way we’re going to go as homeschoolers and as a nation. Help ignite a political wildfire and demand that any candidate who gets a homeschooler's vote will adhere to the constitutional principle of limited government and not expand the federal role in education and that the tenth amendment is still in force in the United States.

My previous posts on Huckabee and homeschooling
Part One. The Huckabee Homeschool Hustle
Part Two. Huckabee and state reform
Part Three. Huckabee and federal policy
Part Four. Huckabee and global citizenship
Huckabee responds
Ned Ryun's statement on homeschooling.
Ned Ryun's statement on HSLDA.

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