Mike Huckabee: A Simple Government: Book Review. Chapter 6: If You Don’t Hear The School Bell Ring Class Never Starts. We Need An Education System That Values All Students. ( Huckabee: In education the states should do the dancing and the federal government would supply the music.)
Again in this chapter Huckabee explains how he would fix the American education system in just 14 pages. First he notes that about one third of students never finish high school. High school dropouts have a bleak future. They have the highest rates of drug addiction, the highest rates of involvement with the criminal law system, the highest divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure rates and just about any other social malady you can name.
He notes that the United States spends the highest rate per pupil in the World. However, since approximately 1979 the percentage of all pupils finishing high school is declining. The percentage of students failing to finish high school is worse for Hispanics and still worse for Blacks.
Huckabee blames the education system for this condition. He attributes teacher unions, which have obtained seniority security for its members and pay increases unrelated to student achievement as being at fault. Merit pay is often related to additional courses or degrees the teacher has acquired and not to the academic scores of the pupils for which he or she is responsible. He notes that when there is a cut back in teachers it is not the worst teachers that are laid off but the last hired. This perpetuates a system that only benefits teachers with seniority and not the children they teach. Thus the teachers have no incentive to excel at teaching and the result has been a higher dropout rate and students on average doing more poorly on achievement tests. (Huckabee, like all politicians, fails to mention that between 1900 and 2001 the high school graduation rate in raw numbers went from 95000 to 2,800200 per year in 2001. The highest year for high school graduates was in 1975 with 3,133,000. The rate has been declining since then although the population is increasing. Also Huckabee doesn’t distinguish between native born Americans and those that immigrate to this country after first attending a different educational system in a different language. Also he doesn’t mention that college graduates between 1900 and 2001 increased from 26,410 to 1209000 per year. However much of this is explained by the fact more females received a college education. This rate is not declining but there are bumps in the road. Also he fails to explain why parochial schools have a lower dropout rate especially for Hispanics and Blacks. )
Huckabee would solve the high school dropout problem by eliminating seniority for teachers and basing pay increases on merit primarily based on student achievement scores. (This is an idea worth exploring however there should be seniority and layoff protections for teachers; after all most teachers don’t choose the students they are assigned. Many students come into a new grade unprepared by the preceding grade. Who should take the blame for that? The last teacher or the preceding teachers. Also it is assumed that all students have the same capacity to learn all subjects equally and are interested in learning. Who should take responsibility for low achieving students for lack of ability or interest? Obliviously to lay all fault at the teacher’s door is not fair. However one would think that the board of education and teachers unions would have worked these problems out long ago but they haven’t. They seem to be like General Motors and the United Auto Workers Union fighting to cut up the spoils thinking they had a monopoly while the car buyers went elsewhere. This might be a part of the problem. Thus we have politicians entering the education system.)
Huckabee believes public schools will be the main source of education for Americans as it has been for the last two hundred years or so. Charter schools have been successful in a few places but many have failed to better public schools. He believes the correct thing is to improve public school education mainly by eliminating seniority and awarding merit pay. (He doesn’t say how he would safe guard teacher security if they could be penalized pay wise or by dismissal every time a new principle was hired or a new board of education was elected. Highly educated people have other opportunities and may not wish to be subject to drastic change every time the political winds change or someone comes into power with a new idea he or she wants to try out.)
He would give the student more choice in their courses and preparation for life after school. (Students in high school already have this degree of choice. In grade school one must first be proficient in reading, writing and arithmetic to make these choices in the first place.) Finally he would make courses in the arts and music available as they as they offer a choice for students to follow career paths they may be more adept at. (While all students should be exposed to Art and Music only a small percentage are qualified to follow a career in that direction. Those that do can go to a performing arts high school and those inclined to teach those subjects can major in them in college.)
He is in favor of President Obama’s Race To the Top plan whereby federal funds would be given out to states on a completive basis based on state systems that change and improve student scores according to a federal point system. However he believes public education should be the domain of the states. (I guess he means that the states would do the dancing and the federal government would supply the music.)