The Common Core Report Card: Mike Huckabee Gets a C

In our Common Core report card, we graded Mike Huckabee and all of the GOP candidates based on the three following criteria: fighting the Common Core, protecting state and local decision-making on education, and defending child and family privacy. Then we averaged the three grades together for one final grade.

What does each grade mean?

A … Champions the issue, e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue.
… Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it.
C … Has neither helped nor hurt the cause.
D … Has an overall negative record on the issue.
F … Robustly and consistently works against the issue.

So how did Mike Huckabee do?

Ending the Common Core System: C
Protecting State and Local Decision Making: C
Protecting Child and Family Privacy: B-

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Overall Grade: C

Gov. Mike Huckabee has a checkered past on the issue of the Common Core. Once an ardent supporter of the system, he now claims that the original “governor-controlled states’ initiative” eventually “morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support.” However, as recently as 2013, Mike Huckabee told the Council of Chief State School Officers to “[r]ebrand [Common Core], refocus it, but don’t retreat.”

As the campaign approached, Huckabee began to be more consistent in his opposition (although he was still giving a nod to the supposedly pure origins of the Common Core). In 2013, he opened his Fox News program by saying:

I don’t support what Common Core has become in many states or school districts. Look, I’m dead set against the federal government creating a uniform curriculum for any subject. I oppose the collection of personal data on students that would identify them and then track them, and certainly any effort to give that personal information to the federal government.

During his campaign-announcement speech, Huckabee stated:

There is no constitutional authority to dictate education from the federal government. Why even have a federal Department of Education? It’s flunked and it needs to be expelled. Education policy ought to be set by states, local school boards and, best of all, by the moms and dads of the children.

Regarding education, Huckabee’s website states, among other things:

I believe we must demand results, accountability and success for every child in every classroom. I oppose watering down our education standards or automatically promoting every student.

I also oppose Common Core and believe we should abolish the federal department of education. We must kill Common Core and restore common sense.

At the August 6, 2015 Fox News Debate, Huckabee said:

It’s not too big to shrink. But the problem is we have a Wall Street-to-Washington access of power that has controlled the political climate. The donor class feeds the political class who does the dance that the donor class wants. And the result is federal government keeps getting bigger.

Every person on this stage who has been a governor will tell that you the biggest fight they had was not the other party. Wasn’t even the legislature. It was the federal government, who continually put mandates on the states that we had to suck up and pay for.

And the fact is there are a lot of things happening at the federal level that are absolutely beyond the jurisdiction of the Constitution. This is power that should be shifted back to the states, whether it’s the EPA, there is no role at the federal level for the Department of Education.

Huckabee’s rebrand advice to the Common Core owners and supporters gut-stabbed the national grassroots movement right when it was gaining national traction. In making that statement, he endorsed the strategy of state executive officials to stay in the good graces of USED by making superficial changes to their standards but maintaining the overall focus and alignment to Common Core and thereby ensuring tests and textbooks align to Common Core.

Now, though, Huckabee has made a forceful general argument as to the problem of special interests currying the favor of the federal executive branch, which then “puts mandates on the states.” That is how we got the demonstrably poor Common Core. We hope that he fleshes it out more. We hope that he (and the other candidates) would consider the viewpoint of state legislators, samples of which are in section 6 of our report card. The U.S. Department of Education curries the favor of the state departments of education, state boards of education, and even governors and makes them its supplicant. It turns them away from the legislators, and through them, the people. Furthermore, because USED works through the state executive agencies, it shrouds the people from truly knowing for what it is responsible. There is no effective legislative check, either federal or state, on USED action and, as a result, poor products like Common Core are inflicted on children.

Huckabee has made one of the stronger privacy statements, noted above.

Huckabee would do well to mention the qualitative defects of the Common Core, its nexus to the federal intrusion and special interests, and what, if any, safeguards need to be implemented to protect state decision-making. If it weren’t for his earlier statements, Huckabee’s scores would be much higher. His recent statements have been strong, but this movement is looking for fighters and he would do well to spell out in more detail his objections and what he would do as president. At this stage, Huckabee stands, in our judgment, between Christie (who contends he was right to test-run the Common Core on the children of New Jersey but now doesn’t like the results) and Jindal (who has undertaken a full assault on Common Core including discussing its qualitative problems and the nexus between those problems and the perversion of our constitutional structure).

Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APIA Education.