Perspectives; Thoughts; Comments; Opinions; Discussions

 By William J. Bennett | Fox News | Published April 5, 2023 10:00am EDT


The increasing prominence and leadership of Republicans on education has been a great development for American students and parents. This trend has really picked up speed. Take for example, Glenn Youngkin – running for governor at the time in previously blue Virginia – who recognized this unrest. He was elected in November 2021 when he earned the support of frustrated suburban parents whose children had floundered in prolonged COVID classroom lockouts. 

Now comes Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former governor’s daughter and a president’s spokesperson. Elected as Arkansas’ first female governor and with her own young children at home, it was natural for Gov. Sanders to run on an education platform. She fulfilled that promise within her first months after taking office, describing her new education reform law as “the largest overhaul of the state’s education system in Arkansas history.” 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders attends an America First Policy Institute event in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 2022.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders attends an America First Policy Institute event in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 2022. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Her new law has four major components. 


First, the bill is a huge win for teachers. Yes, you read that right. This new Republican governor scored a major win for teachers. 

Arkansas teachers presently have a $36,000 minimum salary with the national average a bit less than $42,000. Gov. Sanders destroyed that low bar; raising the minimum nearly 40% to $50,000. That is huge. As a late night TV advertisement might say, “But there’s more.” It’s not only new teachers or those under $50,000 who will see an increase; any teacher above that amount will see a $2,000 raise and could earn a $10,000 bonus. Ask any teacher and they will tell you: This is real money. 


Still more benefits include 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and a scholarship for prospective teachers valued at up to $6,000. At the same time, the new law also empowers local school districts by ending an antiquated rule that made it harder to fire bad teachers and base pay on experience alone. I expect broad swaths of new applicants will be attracted to scholarship funds, a significant raise, time off for maternity, and eliminating the union rules that protected bad teachers. 

Second, the law codifies Gov. Sanders’ earlier executive order banning classroom indoctrination. Progressive critics are forever up in arms about protecting rights, but this new governor’s law ensures that all educators “are in compliance with Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” 


If you refuse to believe a Republican governor affirms the 1964 Civil Rights Act, then Section 16(c) removes all doubt, noting the law “does not prohibit the discussion of: (1) Ideas and the history of the concepts described in subsection (b) of this section; or (2) Public policy issues of the day and related ideas that individuals may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” Put more simply, go ahead educators and teach REAL history. 

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveils her education bill at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock on Feb. 8, 2023.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveils her education bill at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock on Feb. 8, 2023. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Third, the law provides funding for parents to send their children to private schools under a tiered system that begins with students enrolled in an F- or D-rated public schools. Who wants to argue that kids forced to attend terrible schools have a fair chance? Or that parents who want to see their children thrive shouldn’t have an opportunity to send them elsewhere? Eventually, the law allows for all kids to have the same opportunity. 


Fourth and finally, the new law doubles down on literacy and the proven science of reading approach, with funding for more reading coaches and grants for parents to hire tutors. It also ensures that kids don’t move through the system unprepared for their future. Now children unable to demonstrate second-grade reading skills will be retained so they get the foundation they desperately need. 

Arkansas is one of the smallest states in the country, but with Gov. Huckabee Sanders upending the status quo, it’s about to become a national model. Politicians and education policy wonks, take note. 


William J. Bennett is the former secretary of education and director of the National Office of Drug Control Policy.


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