Sep 12, 2022 - Politics

Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls education a top priority

A photo of Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a campaign stop in Bella Vista, Arkansas.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a campaign stop in Bella Vista on Friday. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Education will be a major policy focus for Sarah Huckabee Sanders if she's elected as Arkansas' next governor, she said.

What happened: The Republican candidate for governor made remarks at a campaign event Friday in Bella Vista to a crowd of about 400, then fielded a few questions from reporters.

Why it matters: Arkansas received a "C" ranking as No. 22 in the U.S. in terms of overall education, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

  • Yes, and: The state is 25th in terms of teacher pay, an influencing factor in recruitment and retention of quality educators.

What they're saying: "I think [education is] the single best place that we can impact and change Arkansas for the better," Sanders told news media. "One of the reasons I'm running is because I think education in Arkansas hasn't been made a top priority in the way it needs to be."

  • Only about 31% of the state's third graders are reading at or above their grade level, she said.
  • "We know that if a kid's not reading by the time they're in third grade, there's a 70% chance that they're going to have a lifetime in poverty," she said.
  • Arkansas is below the national average in childhood literacy, she noted.

Details: Tactics Sanders believes will help provide better schooling for children include: using reading coaches in struggling school districts, providing teachers with resources and training to teach the science of reading, and expanding access to pre-K.

  • Sanders didn't offer any ideas on how the state will pay for these expanded services.

The intrigue: Asked about her often-used line of education and not indoctrination, she said: "I want to make sure it never sees the light of day — things like [critical race theory]."

  • "I don't want that to be part of our curriculum, and as long as I'm governor it won't be," she added.

Of note: There's no indication that critical race theory has been taught in Arkansas' public schools or that anyone intends to introduce it into the curriculum.

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