Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Past Due

I've made fun of former Arkansas Governor and present front runner (or thereabouts) for the Republican Party nomination for president, Mike Huckabee, for his raising his hand, then trying to put it back down and then for being annoyed that he can't.

But it is only fair to acknowledge the other side of him. Andy Guess at Inside Higher Ed has a report on Huckabee's record on education while he was Governor that is not a little impressive:

Huckabee's accomplishments during two and a half terms leading a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature have often placed him at odds with his Republican opponents in the presidential debates, especially when he has been forced to defend increases in spending that sometimes benefited Arkansas' public colleges and universities. ...

For [director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education from 1997 to 2002, Lu] Hardin, two of Huckabee's most significant achievements were boosting funding for higher education and expanding scholarships. Under the governor, the Academic Challenge Scholarship — the target of criticism during the campaign because of the lack of an immigration test — expanded from 2,500 students in 1997 to 5,700 in 2000 thanks mostly to a concerted awareness campaign, he said. While Huckabee supported a measure that would have allowed some children of illegal immigrants to receive the scholarships, the bill never passed the legislature. ...

Huckabee also expanded the Governor's Distinguished Scholarship — which awards $10,000 to students with top ACT and SAT scores — to private institutions, arguing (not without opposition) that it would keep more students in Arkansas. The initiative worked: Eighty-eight percent of students from the state who scored 32 or above on the ACT attended Arkansas colleges in 2002, compared with 38 percent five years earlier. Huckabee added some $15 million of funding to cover that expansion as well as the Academic Challenge Scholarships. ...

[A]ccording to Richard Hudson, the vice chancellor for government and community relations at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, higher education received funding increases for 9 out of the 10 years of Huckabee's administration. Even when it wasn't possible, Huckabee sought increases in his yearly budgets. ...

... Huckabee also believed his state needed to be wired. Once he heard about the National LambdaRail, a high-bandwidth "e-corridor network" connecting research institutions and enabling real-time videoconferencing, he managed to find $6.4 million to connect the state's main public campuses.

"That was something higher ed didn't even go to him and ask for ... he just came back and announced, 'By golly, we need to do this,'" Hudson said.

His support for higher education in the state also extended beyond research to two-year institutions. ...

"We became kind of a force, if you will, in higher education during Huckabee's administration," said Ed Franklin, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges. That meant boosting career education and work training programs by redirecting federal dollars intended to move students off welfare.
It's not enough to overcome the potential damage an anti-science president could inflict on the country but you have to give even the devil his due.

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