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Huckabee Not the Best for Homeschoolers (January 4, 2008)

This is something new for me. For the last 22 years, my family has served the homeschooling movement without ever uttering a single word (in print OR behind the scenes) regarding national or state politics.

But now that one particular candidate-former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee-is experiencing a surge in popularity that the mainstream press attributes to the homeschool movement, I feel the need to say a few words.

Acccording to a December 17 Washington Post story, "It was the endorsement by prominent national home-school advocate Michael Farris that helped propel Huckabee to a surprising second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll in August. And it was the twin sons of a home-school advocate in Oregon who helped put Huckabee in touch with television tough guy Chuck Norris, who appeared alongside him in an attention-getting TV spot and on the campaign trail." With other media heavy hitters agreeing that homeschoolers as a group are making the difference for Huckabee, such as the December 17 New York Times piece, "Huckabee Draws Support of Home-School Families," we need to ask ourselves:

Do we want to yoke the homeschool movement's future to the political trustworthiness of this man?

Think of it. If Huckabee is elected, and then (like George W. Bush) takes actions that are deservedly unpopular (e.g., Bush's refusing to close our borders to illegal invasion), people might start saying, "It's the homeschoolers' fault!" They might say this even if we, personally, don't agree with Huckabee's post-election actions.

Here are some questions we should ask ourselves before we begin... or continue... to use our homeschool contacts to campaign for this man.

1. Is Huckabee the only candidate who supports homeschooling? No. While the Democratic candidates, and Republican John McCain, seem to sidestep the issue of homeschooling completely, among the Republicans Mitt Rommey supports homeschooling to the extent of proposing a federal tax credit for us. Fred Thompson claims he supports parents having "the ability to choose the best setting situation to meet the needs of their children-whether in a public, private, religious, home or charter school setting." Duncan Hunter supports more access to school facilities and more bucks for homeschoolers. And Ron Paul makes homeschooling one of the top issues listed on his official site, showing a knowledge of homeschool issues that dwarfs that of the other candidates.

2. Is Huckabee the one who supports homeschooling most fervently? No, that would be Ron Paul, who says on the Issues page of his site:

Returning control of education to parents is the centerpiece of my education agenda. As President I will advance tax credits through the Family Education Freedom Act, which reduces taxes to make it easier for parents to home school by allowing them to devote more of their own funds to their children's education.

I am committed to guaranteeing parity for home school diplomas and advancing equal scholarship consideration for students entering college from a home school environment.

We must have permanency in the Department of Defense Home School Tier 1 Pilot Program, providing recruitment status parity for home school graduates. I will use my authority to prevent the Department of Education from regulating home school activities.

I will veto any legislation that creates national standards or national testing for home school parents or students. I also believe that, as long as No Child Left Behind remains law, it must include the protections for home schoolers included in sec. 9506 (enshrining home schoolers' rights) and 9527 (guaranteeing no national curriculum).

Federal monies must never be used to undermine the rights of homeschooling parents. I will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to encourage a culture of educational freedom throughout the nation.

Huckabee, on the other hand, presided in 1999 over the enactment of Arkansas House Bill 1724, which the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) opposed at the time. (That's the same HSLDA which now is endorsing Huckabee.) The HSLDA Court Report story on this event led with the headline "Home Schoolers Lose Ground with New Law." The Court Report story says that it "gives Arkansas the unique distinction of becoming the first state in the nation to add restrictions to its existing home school law." As HSLDA's website continues the story:

Arkansas is now one of only 12 states to impose a deadline for beginning home schooling or requiring parents to provide advance notice to public school officials of their decision to do so. Because of this restriction, parents who encounter intolerable conditions at the public school, such as imminent danger to the safety or welfare of their child, will have to wait at least 14 days before withdrawing the child to begin home schooling or else face truancy charges for unexcused absences during the 14-day waiting period. No such restriction exists for parents who decide to immediately remove their children to attend a private or parochial school in Arkansas. This raises serious issues regarding the right of parents to direct the education of their children and equal protection of the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In addition, Arkansas is now the only state in the nation with a law prohibiting a student from beginning home schooling if the student is in the midst of disciplinary proceedings at the public school...

Another discriminatory provision in H.B. 1724 states that any home schooling student who refuses to participate in the state testing program shall be subject to prosecution for truancy. Public school students refusing to participate in state testing would not be subject to truancy prosecution.

Prior law required parents moving into the state mid-school year to provide a written notice of intent to the local superintendent within 30 days. The new law requires parents to provide a written notice upon moving into a different school district during the school year, even though notice was given in their former district.

Huckabee is also the proud Republican holder of the New Hampshire National Education Association (NEA)'s endorsement. (Hillary Clinton won their endorsement for the Democratic nomination.) He was the only Republican candidate to seek the NEA's endorsement. This is disturbing on many levels. First, the NEA has consistently passed resolutions at its national meetings that call for homeschooling to be limited to children whose parents are licensed teachers, using state-department-approved curriculum. They also oppose the rights of homeschoolers to engage in ANY extracurricular activities in the public schools. Plus, their overall agenda is ultraleftist and anti-parental-rights to the core.

This is pretty slick. First, you oppose HSLDA when implementing a new Arkansas homeschool laws. Then, you get HSLDA's founder, Mike Farris, to endorse you years later. Finally, you cap it all by getting the most powerful organization opposed to homeschool freedom to endorse you. We should be long past the time when we trust someone just because he's a Baptist minister and because he says he likes to (to our faces) while he soaks up the help of our opposition as well. Speaking of trustworthiness, according to the Arkansas Times of January 25, 2007,

It was learned that before leaving office, Huckabee had used up the governor's emergency fund, in part to destroy computer hard drives in the governor's office. [A follow-up story of September 27 pointed out it cost $335,000 to replace the ruined computer equipment.] That left the new governor, Mike Beebe, with no emergency money for the last six months of the fiscal year. It left everyone else with questions about the destruction of state property, and whatever was on those hard drives that Huckabee was so desperate to conceal.

Also speaking of trustworthiness, according to an NBC news story, over his 10 years in office,

Huckabee and his wife took hundreds of gifts, large and small-more than $112,000 in one year alone. Guitars, gold jewelry, and diamonds. Vacations. Gift certificates. Free dental care and dry cleaning. $23,000 for Mrs. Huckabee's inaugural wardrobe. And 50 percent off hamburgers at Wendy's. 'He doesn't think that there's anything anyone offers him that he should have to say No to," says Gwen Moritz, editor of the Arkansas Business Journal.

In support of this, a 1998 story in the Arkansas Times spells out how Huckabee and his family were using the $60,000-a-year Governor's Mansion fund as their personal piggy bank. As revealed in documents provided to the Times by a former governor's office employee, the Huckabee family had used the mansion fund-which was supposed to be used only for purchases related to official state business-to buy everything from pantyhose and dog houses to meals out and loaves of Velveeta cheese.

Anyone who's so slippery he can get the endorsements of the most influential homeschool group and of the New Hampshire NEA, its polar opposite... who sees no problem with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars of "gifts"... who uses money meant for official purchases for personal use... and who trashes all records of his activities upon leaving office... is someone I don't trust in any capacity. And especially not as President.

We're not at the stage yet where people start telling us to vote for the lesser of two evils. So let's vote for someone with integrity who truly upholds homeschoolers' (and everyone's) Constitutional rights. For me, that would be Ron Paul.

To find out how the candidates line up, go to this comparison chart: http://www.rp-supporters.com/compare.html

Don't forget to click on the individual candidates' names on that page. Each brings up a fascinating and informative video about the candidate and how well he has (or hasn't) stood by his positions.

Mary Pride is the publisher of Practical Homeschooling.

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