Attorney General Leslie Rutlege said she’d work with the state legislature to set education policy and she confirmed she would not institute a mask mandate or vaccine mandate to fight COVID-19, if she were elected governor. Rutledge also criticized her GOP primary opponent, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for refusing to outline her positions on education in a public town hall.
Rutledge put forth her views on education at a KATV-Talk Business & Politics education town hall held Monday (Aug. 23). A portion of the forum aired on Sunday’s Talk Business & Politics statewide TV and radio programs.
“I think that we need to look at our education plan and the Department of Ed and work with the 135 legislators to set the policy. What are we really asking schools to teach?” Rutledge said, noting that 86% of students graduate high school, but they are less than 30% proficient in math and reading.
“[W]hich tells me, even as an English major, the math doesn’t quite add up. Something’s missing in it, and we need to make sure that kids are leaving high school to get a job. So, it needs to be more of a statewide push instead of a one-off … and we also need to go back to a values-added education,” she said.
Rutledge criticized Sanders for avoiding the town hall on education.
“Governors can make a huge impact on education, and that’s why it’s important for a governor and someone wanting to be governor to be here. Why my friend Sarah is silent on the number-one issue facing Arkansans is beyond me,” she said. “I know that as the parent of a three-year-old, I want to know what the next governor of Arkansas will put as a priority in education. I don’t want to hear a soundbite or read a tweet. I want to be able to talk and ask questions because I am not going to leave my daughter’s future and the future of the state of Arkansas in the hands of somebody who sits around silently.”
Rutledge fielded a variety of questions, including her position defending the state’s mask mandate ban, Act 1002, which a Pulaski County district judge has halted while legal proceedings test its constitutionality. When asked if she was defending the law because it is her duty as Attorney General or if she would adopt a different stance as governor, Rutledge said she thought the right decision was made when the law was passed.
“At the time they were looking at the data and the legislators made that decision… we were seeing across the state and across the country, people were required to wear a mask. I don’t think that people should be required to wear masks. Our numbers have been as high as they have ever been, and they were high last summer. They were high in January when we were requiring masks in businesses and across the state. I’m no scientist, I’m an English major turned lawyer, but I do believe that it’s my responsibility as the attorney general to uphold and defend that law that was passed by our legislature and signed into law by the governor,” she said. “I [also] don’t believe that people should be required to get the vaccination, and that’s one thing that I’ve talked about publicly, that I’ve promoted, is to talk to your doctor.”
You can watch Rutledge’s full town hall answering all questions at this link.