EXCLUSIVE – Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R., says she’s on a mission to protect children from “the radical left woke mob” that parents in Democrat-run states are forced to worry about, signing bills on everything from education reform and transgender bathroom issues to making sure parents know what social media platforms their kids are using.
“I think the best thing that conservatives can do, that are living in blue states, is move to Arkansas. It’s really simple. That’s the best pathway forward, then you don’t have to worry about those things because we’re going to make sure that the kids are protected and that they’re in good learning environments,” Sanders joked during an interview with Fox News Digital before taking a more serious turn.
“I think parents have to pay attention. If anything, we learned during the course of the last couple of years during the COVID pandemic is that parents are now awakened to a lot of things that are taking place in the classroom,” the Arkansas governor said. “Whether that’s curriculum, ideology, a number of other things, parents should be paying attention to how and where their kids are educated and engaging and making sure that their kids are being educated in the way that they believe that reflects their values, and if not, have opportunities to put them in an environment that’s more reflective of that, what they want to see.”
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In March, Sanders signed into law a prohibition on transgender people at Arkansas public schools from using the restroom corresponding with their gender identity. The piece of legislation applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms at public schools and charter schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. The law will be in place before the 2023-24 school year begins.
“The idea that we are going to allow the radical left woke mob to redefine what a woman is, in particular, or what a man is, is absolutely insane and unbelievable,” Sanders said.
“Our goal is always going to be to put forward legislation that we feel like protects kids and keeps them in a safe environment. That’s our job, as our responsibility is to do everything we can to protect children,” she continued. “That’s what this legislation, and a lot of the pieces of legislation that we focused on during this session, were about — protecting kids and giving them a safe environment. That’s exactly what this does.”
Sanders is also an outspoken critic of allowing biological men who identify as women being allowed to compete in sports with biological women, an issue that has sparked debate around the nation. She wants young women in Arkansas, and all over the nation, to be able to compete in athletics with the opportunity to actually win.
“The idea that we are rewriting the rules of science to fit what this small group wants to believe is simply not something that we’re going to sit around and stand for,” Sanders said.
“We’re seeing a lot more people, certainly a lot more women athletes, a lot more parents starting to step up. And we want to be one of the voices in that conversation, pushing back against that ideology,” she said. “I don’t think that’s something we can sit back and not engage in that conversation and push back on the crazy new rules that the left is trying to create and write for all women everywhere.”
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But Sanders’ ongoing crusade to protect children isn’t limited to social issues, and she signed a sweeping educational reform bill in March. Arkansas became the fifth state to pass universal school choice with Senate Bill 294, also known as “Arkansas LEARNS.”
Sanders said it was the most comprehensive education reform package in Arkansas history to “transform the state” and helps put kids on a “pathway to prosperity and success.”
“We don’t want kids to be forever dependent on a very broken system. We are going in Arkansas from being 48th in the country in teacher pay to top five. We are focusing on things that empower parents to make the best decisions about how their kids can be educated and where their kids can be educated. I’m a mom of three kids, and what works for each of my kids is very different. And we cannot have a one size fits all approach,” Sanders said. “We have to give parents the option to decide whether that’s a private school, a public school, a charter school, or homeschool.”
The Arkansas legislation broadened school choice and included a plan for the state to adopt universal choice by the 2025-2026 school year. The bill will gradually provide vouchers through “Education Freedom Accounts,” which equal 90% of funding allocated per student to each public school district in the previous year.
“Our job should not be to teach kids what to think, but instead teach kids how to think,” she said.
“We’ve got to stop with pushing a leftist agenda and help kids understand how to learn, how to have critical thinking so that they know how to think, not necessarily what to think by some kind of leftist idea of what they think they should know,” Sanders continued. “We want to make sure kids are prepared to go into the workforce when they finish with school.”
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Another big component is literacy, and making sure all students meet basic benchmarks.
“We know that if a child is not reading by the time they’re in third grade, we’re setting them up for a lifetime of trouble and failure. We have to do a better job of helping prepare our kids by teaching them to read, building that strong foundation so that they’re going to have long-term success,” Sanders said.
In April, Sanders signed a bill into law that will require social media platforms to get parental permission for new user registration of minors, a bill she says will “protect kids and empower parents.” The law will require any new social media user to verify their age through an independent third-party verification system, and anybody under the age of 18 would need a parent’s permission to use the app.
The governor has said she hopes the law will empower parents to help protect their children from harmful aspects of social media platforms.
“We know that social media, while it can be a great tool, and it’s something a lot of us use on a daily basis and can be a great resource, can also be really dangerous for young kids. Depression, loneliness, suicide rates among teenagers have doubled since social media became so widespread,” Sanders previously told Fox News Digital.
Fox News’ Brianna Herlihy, Joshua Nelson and Elizabeth Pritchett contributed to this report.