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Ex.-Gov. Huntsman, Once Defiant on NCLB, Joins Presidential Race

By Michele McNeil — June 21, 2011 1 min read

The GOP presidential-contender bench just got deeper with the addition of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.—who once famously tried to defy the George W. Bush administration over the No Child Left Behind Act.

Huntsman, a high school dropout who went on to get his GED and a college degree, joins a crowded field, which includes: Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich.

In 2005, as Utah’s governor, Hunstman went toe-to-toe with President George W. Bush’s administration by happily signing a bill that required the state’s accountability system to trump the federal NCLB law. It marked the strongest act of defiance from a state at that time, EdWeek reporters wrote then. With millions of dollars of federal aid at risk, the state eventually backed down.

Two years later, Gov. Huntsman made national news again when he signed legislation creating (for only a short time) the nation’s first universal voucher program. But he was by no means the law’s biggest champion. When opponents launched a bid to overturn the law via referendum, he annoyed the bill’s supporters by staying on the sidelines, offering only tepid support. The law was, indeed, overturned.

Also in 2007, he sought to deal with the teaching shortage by offering raises and one-time bonuses. Notably, this was before states got caught in the grip of the Great Recession, and before GOP governors started taking on the teachers’ unions. That same year, he also wanted to limit class sizes and invest in prekindergarten. (Ideas like this could win him support of teachers, and maybe even their unions!)

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