With a strong showing tomorrow in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign could gain the spark of life needed to eventually make the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China the last anti-Romney standing. Or the effort could come to a quick end, though polls show Huntsman gaining momentum.
But whatever the political outcome, the Huntsman campaign has been a policy success. Huntsman has offered easily the most sweeping and pro-growth tax reform plan—dropping the top marginal income tax rate to 23 percent, while eliminating all tax breaks and investment taxes. Same goes for his financial reform plan to eliminate the Too Big To Fail problem by reducing the economic centrality and power of the largest banks.
Now Huntsman has hit a grand slam on education reform, which is vital to creating an innovative, fast-growing U.S. economy in the 21st century. Some key points:
Introducing Market Forces into Education System. Governor Huntsman supports an “all of the above” approach to education. The federal role should be acting as a clearinghouse for information and ideas, empowering states and local communities to take ownership of education reform. To this end, the federal government should attempt to minimize its role in trying to deliver outcomes, and instead encourage the growth of a more innovative educational system.
Creating Transparency. The key first step toward deregulation of education is introducing competition and transparency; free markets work best when given access to clear information. Jon Huntsman’s administration will establish meaningful and transparent national standards benchmarked to the world’s highest achieving educational systems and let states compete on how best to get there. Governor Huntsman believes that American students should be setting international standards, not aspiring to meet them. Our current standards are superficial, embarrassingly unambitious, and confusing for teachers.
Real Accountability. The federal government shouldn’t be in the business of running local schools or picking winners. President Huntsman will make sure schools, their administrators, and their boards are held accountable through data-driven measures of processes and achievement. Incentives matter, and communities whose schools fail to meet Common Core benchmarks should not be rewarded. A possible consequence could be restricting access to federal resources. President Huntsman will also use his bully pulpit to encourage adaptation of a parent trigger wherein a significant number of concerned parents could induce state action. On the other hand, principals who demonstrate sustained innovation and success should be rewarded and held up as models for other educators.
Department of Education Reform. The Department of Education has grown too large and powerful, and is restricting the flexibility of states and local communities to implement education reforms. Massively scaling down the department will clear the way for necessary reforms at the local level and free up precious resources.
Acknowledging Hard Truths. Public policy must be driven by reality. We need an education system that is designed to equip all students to be informed citizens and allows all children to maximize their God-given talents. Governor Huntsman believes that every child has a genius within; the challenge lies in empowering it. In preparing our youth to join an able citizenry, our education system should both provide generous opportunity for students to achieve their highest level of performance, while simultaneously acknowledging economic realities and making graduates both “college” and “career” ready. We need to reevaluate our “at all costs” emphasis on higher education for everyone in an environment where that emphasis only disadvantages individuals in the long run.
Great stuff. Better education is critical to increasing U.S. productivity, innovation, and growth. That means we need to a) expect more from students with greater academic ability, b) create meaningful, post-high school education options other than a four-year, BA program, c) get more kids in front of the best teachers. Indeed, poor schools may be costing the U.S. some $500 billion a year in lost GDP growth. Education has gotten zippo attention during this primary election season. If Huntsman sticks around, hopefully that will change.