Society and Culture, Education

Huntsman’s bold policy agenda just got even bolder

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.

10 thoughts on “Huntsman’s bold policy agenda just got even bolder

  1. Sounds like more ‘reform’ BS to me, paid for by vultures hoping to profit from the dismantling of public education. His vague recommendations for ‘accountability’ will lead to more teaching to the test, less actual learning. They speak of ‘innovation’ but the truth is these people are turning American schools into soul-crushing test factories where innovation will be absolutely stifled. And he wants to withhold federal funds from the schools that don’t test well? As if that will do anything other than make struggling schools worse, and rich schools richer? Stupid idea, if you really want to improve education.

    I think Huntsman just lost my vote.

    • Mr. Hurst, I teach every day, and I could not agree with you more. I submitted a comment, but if it doesn’t post, you said what I wanted to say. Thanks.

  2. Let me add: K-12 education is not a ‘business,’ and society will not benefit from running our schools as if they were businesses. Anyone who says otherwise should probably go back to school.

    Huntsman had me with his speech on bank reform; he lost me here.

  3. It baffles me that Huntsman hasn’t gotten more attention in the primary. He quite simply has the best plans of any candidate, is more conservative than most of the candidates and has infinitely more cross party appeal. Huntsman 2012!

    • Cross party appeal is right. 98% of the time I vote Democrat, but this time, Huntsman all the way. He puts his country before party lines, something that is abscent with the majority of politicians today.

  4. Sounds like you are aspiring to the “career” and “college” track some countries follow, like France. However, on one hand you said local communities should take charge of their schools. Then, you mention federal Common Core standards and funds available to schools who meet them. This sounds a little like you’re contradicting yourself. Will local schools be free under your administration like they were in the middle of last century when our public school system was the envy of the world? Or will teachers have some other federal albatross hanging around their neck similar to NCLB?
    Also, the way to get better teachers is simply to pay them more or give them more freedom. What we have now is chasing prospective teachers to other fields. You can’t expect them to be the best and pay them like serfs. Aren’t we a country that teaches “you get what you pay for?”
    Finally, you need to remember that most public school teachers are better than private ones. Why would the best teachers take lower pay working for a private school? Private schools are successful because of their student population; trouble students simply are kicked out. Public schools need a better mechanism to force problem students to conform; strict alternative placements are needed that include hard labor and the possibility of starting the school year over again if they obstruct the learning process. I would love to hear other ideas, but this cannot be ignored if we continue to mandate compulsory education.

    I am not certain I will vote for you based on what I just read, but I will not vote for the other candidates. You are the only one I am considering because I feel you have been brutally honest about your beliefs (example – not pandering to the ethanol welfare kings of Iowa). I would love to hear more about your ideas on education – I will admit most of what I read sounds good even though a little is confusing. Please do not give up after New Hampshire. Continue to fight on – please don’t quit and force me to write in “Bullwinkle” on my ticket!

  5. He still is keeping the federal strong arm in education — it’s the federal government that will set the standards, and apparently, there will still be some federal government “resources” which the federal government can hold over the heads of the schools. How about just simply turning the schools over to the local governments, period! Get the federal government totally out. Drop the federal taxes according to the amount that’s spent on education, and that will leave the state’s the opportunity to raise their taxes without adding to the tax burden of its citizens. If they want super duper schools in a given state, and are willing to pay the taxes for it, go for it. If another state is innovative enough to get the same quality of education for less, go for it. There should be absolutely no role at all for the federal government in education.

  6. Neither Jon, nor anybody else has identified the biggest problem with our education system; the way education is financed, but property taxes in the local areas. This way, high-income areas have the most money available for education, while the low-income have the least. If one admits some pretty sweeping generalities, this is completely backwards, as follows. It has been shown that in many studies that income and IQ are very strongly correlated, and that child IQ is strongly correlated to parental IQ. The net result of our education finance is that we are spending more money to educate high IQ children than we are low IQ children. Ideally, we should be doing the opposite. Our education dollars should be going into low-income areas so that the children there learn how to use their abilities to their best advantage, and so the high IQ children that do happen to live there can be identified and given the chance to progress without being slowed down by efforts to teach their low-IQ peers.

  7. Darn! I was almost on “Team Huntsman” but this information gives me pause. “Data-driven” just means more time-wasting, mind-numbing, creativity-crushing testing. I happen to be a teacher, and this happens to be a testing week. Our entire schedule is changed around. I see only half my students each day. My lessons plans are on hold. What could have been devoted to a week of REAL learning is being spent on practicing for a damn test.

    And here’s a novel idea: Why not ask teachers what the federal government can/can’t do to improve education. I guarantee we have some ideas! Nowhere in the entire piece did I read anything about teachers except, of course, being punitive toward us.

    Finally, Robert Hurst, you are so right. K-12 education as a “business” is a recipe for disaster.

    Too bad, Jon. I hardly knew ya.

  8. I was thrown by this education policy but I do not think it is un-fixable. Whichever president removes federal regulations from schools will be the one who is suddenly blamed for every uneducated child in the country. I think it should be up to each state to say, “We are ready. We can handle our own school system without the federal governments input or funding.” Once the last state pulls out they should dismantle the DOE completely. In this way states could pull out immediately if they choose. There would need to be a time limit so that all states would eventually have to be self supporting;.

    I am just not sure that people should not vote for the man because they are not satisfied with one policy. I had not found a candidate I liked at all until I started reading his website. At least I agree with at least most of what he says. I doubt I will agree with everything that anyone says.

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