I watched the video of yesterday’s blogger’s briefing at The Heritage Foundation with former Utah Governor and Presidential Candidate Jon Huntsman.  Rob Bluey of The Heritage Foundation asked Governor Huntsman the first question after he gave his opening remarks about the Obama administration’s run around Congress with national education standards and No Child Left Behind waivers.  His answer surprised me.  I was happy to see the Governor affirm both local control in education and educational choice for students and parents.

I transcribed the money quotes:

It would be very instructive to look at some of the states and what they have done in terms of education reform, and I would point you to Utah as well.  I wasn’t just critical of No Child Left Behind, but I was the first Governor to opt out of  No Child Left Behind because it took a lot of good schools in our state and it made them schools that were not measuring up to adequate yearly progress for facility reasons.  It made a lot of hard working folks who were associated with those schools, families and students feel like they were failures.

I learned some very important lessons through that entire discussion.  Number one being, I’m still trying to find the value added of the Department of Education.  Now I don’t say that as a political bromine.  I say that as a realistic, pragmatic Governor trying to figure out where the value was in the Department of Education foisting these unfunded mandates on us.

I have to tell you the more we can push education policy to the local level the better off we’re going to be because parents and school board leaders and local elected officials do not want their schools to fail.  And I believe if left to the locals they will innovate their way forward in ways that will create better schools.

Number two, I also found raising seven kids, I mean I done what ultimately is the greatest clinical trial one can do and that is watching kids going through the educational system.  You learn a lot.  So we saw public schools, we saw private schools.  My daughter was homeschooled, she was a piano player, and I’ve seen international schools.  I’ve seen every variation on the theme of education one can ever want to see and I walk away from that with certain insights. Number one being we don’t have enough in the way of options and choices for our kids.  I believe that every child walks into the classroom with a different approach, temperament and attitude toward learning.  Every child learns a little bit differently, and that one-size-fits-all approach to education doesn’t serve our interests very well.  So signed as Governor the second voucher bill in the entire country, a special needs voucher bill back in 2005 because I believe we needed a little bit of a lift.  We needed to free up the marketplace in education.

We also launched a very aggressive charter school movement in our state because I was of the deep belief that we needed to find new opportunities for kids walking into the classroom.  I believe every child had a genius within; the challenge is finding that genius and bringing it out and maximizing it in the educational years.  So having a marketplace of options, charter schools that speak to math, science, and engineering and arts and music was a very important step in our state, and I think our country would be similarly a very important step…

…We learned a lot in our journey in education reform, but that opting out of No Child Left Behind left me with a very strong impression about the power ultimately of local decision-making as it relates to education, and the centers of excellence that can be created at the local level that many throughout the nation can learn from…

…So we can do a whole lot with local decision making in education policy.  I saw it first hand as Governor and I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned as we look out at different school systems and prepare our kids for the 21st century by looking a little more closely at what different governors have done.

I don’t agree with Governor Huntsman on much, but on his statements on local control in education and school choice I think he is spot on.  He is correct when he said in his opening remarks that “many of the challenges we face in our nation today can be addressed at the state level.”  Very true, but with education he recognizes the more local, the better.

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  1. Online learning is not the complete solution for everyone, but it can help many of them greatly. You go to education with the tools you’ve got and one the tool is the online High Speed Universities go research yourself

  2. “I don’t agree with Governor Huntsman on much…”

    Shane, I think if you take a closer look at his actual record, you’ll agree with him on a lot more than you thought! Jon Huntsman is a more CONSISTENT conservative than both Mitt and Newt.

    Who’s done more to advance pro-life legislation?  Huntsman signed three strong anti-abortion bills as governor of Utah.  So he didn’t sign a “pledge” from an interest group.  Who cares?  If there’s one thing we learned this cycle, it’s that pledges aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

    Who is more consistent in protecting Second Amendment rights?  Mitt? Newt?  Seriously…

    As you note, Huntsman’s leadership on CHOICE in education has been very strong.  Still looking for any real accomplishments from the others in the area of vouchers and public choice. I’m not one who would eliminate the Dept of Ed — it has important roles in tracking/assessing national progress and state innovations, as well as targeting aid to students with disabilities, high needs, and low-income/high risk students. A dirty little secret most conservatives don’t even realize is that much of its funding is direct Pell Grants, so you don’t “save” much money with a shutdown.  But if you’re looking for a school choice advocate, he’s as strong or stronger than the others.

    Tax simplification and reform that is actually realistic and not pie in the sky?  He has a record.

    Health care market reform successfully implemented in Utah?  Check.

    Eliminating corporate welfare and subsidies that distort free markets?  (Newt and Mitt both love subsidies!) 

    Stopping special interest government giveaways?  

    Cutting spending, EVEN in sacrosanct areas like Defense which we all know can be run more efficiently (and where Mitt and other Republicans have shamelessly pandered to neo-cons)?  

    Support for reforming Social Security and Medicare (the Ryan plan)?  Fighting the deficit/debt?

    It’s hard to find a better advocate for conservative positions on these issues…and you WON’T find a consistent position on all of these issues with the current 2 front-runners, Newt and Mitt!

    My sense is (sadly) a lot of conservatives — and Christians — immediately wrote off Huntsman when they found out he was OK with civil unions.  Never mind that you can make a good case that the “conservative” position is that government should get the heck out of the business of defining what is and always has been a holy, religions ceremony.  One that does not depend on the state’s “approval” or affirmation.  But that is for another post. 🙂  

    MANY conservative purists (but mainly social conservatives — as seen in the difference between IA and NH) wrote off Huntsman prematurely when the comparison candidates were far-right idols like Bachmann and Santorum (pre-Perry, pre-Newt, pre-Cain).  Of course Huntsman is not at the top of Iowa social conservatives’ list compared to those two — but you won’t find anybody in my field (sorry, Shane) that thinks these two have a realistic shot to win the nomination anyway.  So the case I’m making is simple: Huntsman is a more reliable, electable (see Silver’s analysis of election forecasts), experienced, foreign-policy savvy choice than the so-called top contenders. 

    The fact that Huntsman decided for strategic reasons not to play in Iowa actually burnishes his non-pandering cred and should not keep Iowans from giving an honest evaluation to his record.

    1. Good analysis Kedron! But, like many in Iowa, Shane seems to have written off Huntsman for reasons that have nothing to do with conservative or family values. I would like to know exactly what the deal breakers are though. I know for some Iowans Mormonism is a deal breaker but I don’t think that it is for Shane. Consider these questions from Joe Scarborough:

      1) Which candidate is the only GOP presidential contender to come out in full support of the Ryan plan?
      2) Which candidate was ranked by Cato Institute in 2008 one of the most fiscally conservative governors in America?
      3) Which candidate was cited by the Pew Center for running the “best-managed” state, hailed by Forbes magazine as the “most fiscally fit” and ranked first in the country for job creation?
      4) Whose economic plan does The Wall Street Journal consider the most impressive and conservative of the Republican presidential field?
      5) The American Conservative wrote this about which GOP candidate, “For the past two decades a ‘moderate’ Republican was one who didn’t generally side with his party on three issues: taxes, guns and abortion. [This candidate’s] record on those isn’t just to the right of the moderates. It is to the right of most conservatives”?
      6) Which candidate was praised in a Club for Growth report for reforming health care with “no individual mandate, no employer mandate and no provision for a massive expansion of subsidized care unlike Obamacare or Romney’s plan”?

      1. Be cautious about writing candidates off because they trust consensus science on the idea that global warming exists and is influenced by human activities.  I was a skeptic until I looked at the evidence.  And it is overwhelming.  That said, believing global warming exists does NOT mean a person needs to love Al Gore or favor non-market (big govt) solutions to try to mitigate its impacts, but it does mean conservatives must pull their heads out of the sand and look at the data.

        So we’re skeptical of scientific consensus if we don’t see 100% certainty.  But that’s not what science does.  It simply tests theories vs. data and tries to find the best fit.  If you’re not going to trust a 98-99% consensus of those who study the issue, how do you “know” anything that comes from science?  I don’t hear an argument (other than politics or “faith”) by which conservatives disagree with this. 

        Many conservatives’ blanket dismissal of the science on this issue is one of the reasons they are about to lose the younger voting demographic for a generation.  Again, you can even argue (and I would) that the kinds of policies to reverse or significantly slow climate change long term would be devastating to the U.S. economy, and so (on balance) we need to mitigate the regional effects instead.  But this is different than pretending it doesn’t exist…

      2. Sadly, he has, with his recent flip about global warming (now he claims to be little more skeptical).

      3. Bob, I’m offended.  Iowans do not expect candidates to pander.  You are confusing campaigning & retail politicking with pandering.  We want candidates to meet with us, campaign here,  and answer our questions.  We don’t want them to tell us what they think we want to hear, rather what they actually believe.

        Now when Bachmann goes on and on about how she’s from Iowa, yada, yada… that’s pandering and most people I know roll their eyes when she starts to do that.

      4. Did not mean to offend Shane. But think through what you are saying. Should people in every state expect a candidate to spend mega-bucks campaigning in their state and be offended if they do not. That expectation does not wash in other states why should it in Iowa. Why not simply vote for the best person. Why should a candidate’s presence in a state be a factor in how a person votes.

        It reminds me of politicians who believe in ear-marking parts of legislation. It may not be pandering but it just doesn’t seem right because it resembles buying votes from the beneficiaries of those ear marks. How is that different for Iowans who expect candidates to spend mega-bucks campaigning in their state?

        And what about candidates like Buddy Roemer who do not have the money that super-pacs are supplying the front runners? Do you feel that the candidates with the most money spent in Iowa should win there? 

      5. This process works because candidates don’t have to have megabucks… So no every state shouldn’t expect that otherwise we’d have nothing, but a media-driven soundbite campaign. The voters lose when that happens.

      6. I guess that is where we disagree. I think that the primary process is broken. The evidence of the brokenness is the self importance of tiny states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

      7. That there is no climate change is still quite a common meme. That was the first phase of GOP leadership response and many still haven’t progressed beyond that.

        The second phase of denial is to admit the there is climate change but to underplay the significance by suggesting it’s a natural trend and that it ‘happens all the time.’  The problem with that argument is first that the magnitude and rate of change are quite significant and the effects will be very disruptive to economies and geopolitical arrangements. Long-term planning for these changes is simply not on the radar of GOP candidates. But this (Shane’s) argument still falls short. The consensus science is gelling to suggest that human activity is very likely the *main* driver. Periodic and other external forcing mechanisms do not account for heating whereas CO2 and other gases do.The next (third) phase will be admitting that humans have affected climate but denying there is anything that can be done. Huntsman operated at this stage until a few days ago.

        So Shane, I don’t quite understand your scratching Huntsman off the list for this topic. You want someone who will do nothing and it’s pretty clear that this is exactly what he’ll do — Nothing.

      8. Huntsman did not propose an ambitious agenda to deal with climate change, he merely acknowledged its occurrence. And I might argue that a president’s position on civil unions have minuscule affect on his job performance.

        Even so, I suspect that these two issues have very little to do with why Iowans reject Huntsman. The real issue is that he would not pander to Iowans. Sadly Santorum has pandered away in every county and Iowans are still rejecting him in mass for Newt. Go figure.

    2. You are probably right.  His endorsement of civil unions and embrace of global warming are enough for me to give him a pass however.  I don’t make my caucus choice on “electability” I go with the person I feel best matches up to my principles.  Regarding not coming to Iowa… you may not think it is a good reason, but I believe if he wants my vote as an Iowan he needs to come answer my questions, etc.  Be a part of the process – this is how I vet candidates.  You may not like it, but that’s how most of us operate.  That’s the expectation in New Hampshire as well.

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