Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who resisted efforts to bring vouchers to his home state when he was governor, is now trying to say he’s a school-voucher champion. Except his record, and others, say differently.
First of all, the New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association thinks he’s against vouchers, and used that rationale to explain why it endorsed him as the Republican choice in this early-voting state. Incidentally, Huckabee has not been out on the campaign trail, jumping up and down asserting that the NEA got it wrong.
Here are just a few examples to illustrate this point:
“Huckabee questions value of vouchers in Arkansas”. (Associated Press, Aug. 15, 2002). And from the story: “I’m not sure how practical they [vouchers] are. My primary focus is still on public education.”
“Gov. Mike Huckabee says improving public schools is a better plan than issuing vouchers so parents can choose among schools.” (AP, Oct. 1, 1998). That was in response to a recommendation (to enact vouchers in Arkansas) from a commission Huckabee established to study changes in education and other parts of state government.
And in this example, Huckabee actually corrects his opponent in the 1998 governors’ race who overstated his support of vouchers. “Huckabee said his opponent incorrectly stated his position on vouchers. He said he had said in one campaign that he would be willing to test a voucher system on a limited basis, but he has concluded that vouchers are impractical for Arkansas.” (AP, July 26, 1998).
This isn’t the only issue on which Huckabee has found himself in hot water with conservatives. The Washington Post gave him three Pinocchios, their guidepost for measuring candidates’ claims, for trying to backtrack on his support of in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants who otherwise meet residency requirements.
Huckabee’s moderate views on such issues as school vouchers and immigration don’t play well with conservatives or other Republican candidates, who maintain school choice is the answer and who think illegal immigrants shouldn’t get any “special deals”. But perhaps it’s these moderate views and his plain-spoken, tell-it-like-it-is campaign style that are at least partially responsible for vaulting him to near the top in recent candidate polls.