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Sarah Sanders campaigns in Little Rock in bid for Arkansas governor

Ronak Patel
Sarah Sanders speaking to supporters Monday outside a Little Rock Dairy Queen.

With about three weeks until Arkansas' primary election, Republican candidate for Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke to an enthusiastic crowd Monday at a Dairy Queen in Little Rock.

The former press secretary for President Donald Trump told supporters she is the best candidate to improve the state’s public schools. Sanders said being the mother of young children is a key reason she entered the race.

“I want to make sure that the state my kids are growing up in and the state every kid is growing up in is the same one I got to grow up in,” Sanders said. “I want them to grow up in a state that stands for something and fights for things that matter.”

One of the concerns Sanders said she has with the public education system is the way history is taught.

“I want to make sure we are actually educating our kids and not indoctrinating them with the left’s agenda. I want to make sure that we are empowering parents and not government bureaucrats,” Sanders said.

Sanders has said if elected, she would expand school choice, a publicly funded program that allows parents to send their children to schools outside of their designated school district.

Sanders faces former radio talk show host Doc Washburn in the Republican primary on May 24.

Heather Yates, Ph.D., an associate professor of American Politics at the University of Central Arkansas, said the discussion about education during this year’s election looks different from in past few years.

“The topic of education has become a dog whistle among the conservative right to mean the following policies: critical race theory and any teaching of racial injustice, public health mask mandates and local control of school policy through enabling conservative takeovers of local school policy making bodies, the conspiratorial narratives of liberal/Democrat 'grooming' of children for underage exploitation. These narratives get rolled into a single coded word of ‘education policy.’” Yates said in an email. “Once, education policy was a priority in terms of increased state funding of pre-kindergarten and K-12 primary/secondary education in order to be competitive for post-secondary workforce or college.”

Another one of Sanders’ key policy proposals is gradually phasing out the state’s personal income tax, which provides a share of funding for schools. In 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in the Lake View School District decision that funding for different school districts was inequitable, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Then Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders' father, responded by raising taxes to comply with the ruling.

Huckabee said Monday in order for the next governor to cut the personal income tax, that person will need a plan to either grow the state’s economy or raise other taxes.

“Whatever you do in cutting a tax, it’s gotta be made up in revenue from somewhere else, maybe it’s a different type of revenue,” Huckabee said in an interview with KUAR News.

Ronak Patel
Former Gov. of Arkansas Mike Huckabee told Sanders' supporters these days he is responsible for babysitting his grandchildren while Sanders campaigns for office.

Mark Cekoric, a retired executive for Behr Corporation attended Monday’s event, saying he was glad to hear Sanders make education a key part of her campaign. He said education is an important issue for him because his grandchild isn’t receiving enough support.

“I think it’s more catering to the special children right now," Cekoric said. "They’re kind of forgotten, at least we’ve seen that in the Little Rock School District.”

Olivia Wales, a spokesperson for the Sanders campaign, said about 162 people came out for Monday's event.

Ronak Patel was a reporter for KUAR News focusing on state and local government.