"I believe that every child should have the opportunity for a quality education that teaches the fundamental skills needed to compete in a global economy. As I traveled the country and the world over the last decade bringing jobs to Arkansas, the business leaders I met weren't worried about creating jobs, they were worried about finding skilled and professional workers to fill those jobs.
In addition, I want to provide our children what I call the "Weapons of Mass Instruction" - art and music - the secret, effective weapons that will help us to be competitive and creative. It is crucial that children flex both the left and right sides of the brain. We all know the cliché of thinking outside the box: I want our children to be so creative that they think outside the cardboard factory. Art and music are as important as math and science because the dreamers and visionaries among us take the rough straw of an idea and spin it into the gold of new businesses and jobs. It is as important to identify and encourage children with artistic talent as it is those with athletic ability. Our future economy depends on a creative generation.
Music has always been an important part of my life. I still play bass guitar in my band, Capitol Offense.
As Governor of Arkansas, I undertook several initiatives to encourage arts in education. I passed landmark legislation to provide music and art instruction by certified teachers for all Arkansas children in grades one through six, forty minutes a week. As Chairman of the Education and Arts Commission of the States, I created a two-year initiative called "The Arts - A Lifetime of Learning," which promotes the benefits of arts education to all fifty states.
Students with strong art and music programs have higher academic achievement overall, are far more likely to read for pleasure and participate in community service, and are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior. These programs have a powerful effect in leveling the academic playing field for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The study of music improves math scores, spatial reasoning and abstract thinking.
The success of our schools has to be judged by the results we obtain, not the revenues we spend. A focus on true quality rather than mere quantity requires us to set high standards for our students and teachers, measure their performance diligently, and hold educators and administrators accountable for the results in an atmosphere of transparency and efficiency.
As Governor of Arkansas, I created intensive reading and math programs that went back to basics. I started with elementary students and, as those children thrived, I expanded the program to middle and then high schools. Our test scores rose dramatically. I then created one of the most demanding high school curricula in the country, and the number of students taking advanced placement classes grew by leaps and bounds.
I opposed the teachers' union and got the Fair Dismissal Law passed, which allowed us to terminate poorly performing teachers. To attract top talent, I raised teachers' salaries from among the lowest in the nation to among the most competitive. I created systems to make our schools accountable to both parents and taxpayers by insisting on transparency in how money is spent, efficiency in putting money into classroom programs rather than administrative costs, and clear responsibility of all employees for the tasks assigned to them.
As Governor, I fought hard for more charter schools, with their strong parental involvement and their unique ability to serve as laboratories for education reform, and for the rights of parents to home school their children. I am a strong supporter of public school choice. I am proud that my three children attended public schools from K through twelve, as did my wife and I.
In addition to my gubernatorial experience, I have significant national experience in education policy. I was Chairman of the National Governors Association from 2005-2006 and also Chairman of the Education Committee of the States from 2004-2006, working with governors, legislators, and education chiefs from all fifty states to advance education policy and conduct research on effective trends in education.
We need to test teachers as well as students, replace teachers who aren't competent, and impose reasonable waiting periods for teachers to gain tenure. We should provide bonuses and forgive student loans for high-performing teachers to work in low-performing schools. Just as there are executives in the corporate world who specialize in turning around failing companies, we need teachers who are "turn-around specialists" for failing schools.
Typical employment procedures provide a disincentive for teachers and often discourage potentially good teachers from entering what I consider to be a noble profession. Educators and teachers should be involved in the design of compensation initiatives that encourage training and promote performance based on merit, so that our children can have the best education in the world.
As President, my education agenda will include working towards a clear distinction between the federal role in assisting and empowering states and in usurping the right of states to carry out the education programs for their students. While there is value in the "No Child Left Behind" law's effort to set high national standards, states must be allowed to develop their own benchmarks.
As President, I will use my broad and deep expertise in education policy to lift up our children and America's economic future."
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Huckabee on the Arts
In my opinion, every word of this is worth reading: