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Election Results with Implications for Education Reform

This election roundup is courtesy of a special edition of the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network newsletter, “Special Election Issue: Results with implications for education reform .”

Early observations about election results that could have an impact on issues of interest to education reformers:

States with network member groups
ALABAMA: Proposition 4 – Defeated
Prop 4 would have removed antiquated language from the state’s constitution that allowed schools to be segregated. The state’s teachers union opposed the amendment, saying that it didn’t go far enough. 

ARIZONA: Proposition 204Defeated.
The Quality Education and Jobs Act would have provided at least an additional $625 million to K-12 education in the first year through a one-cent sales tax increase and also prevented state lawmakers from cutting school funding.
Proposition 118still too close to call 
The ballot measure meant to stabilize trust land payouts to K-12 education in Arizona remained too close to call at press time. Unofficial returns showed Proposition 118 trailing by about 1 percentage point.

CALIFORNIA: Proposition 30Passed
Prop 30 increases personal income taxes on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years. Governor Brown said rejection would cause huge midyear cuts to K-12 education.
Proposition 32Defeated
This “paycheck protection” measure would have eliminated unions’ primary fundraising tool and deductions from members’ paychecks for political campaigns. It would also have curtailed union and corporate contributions to political candidates.

COLORADO: Denver Ballot Measures 3A & 3B  – Passed
These two measures fund art, music, and physical education classes; more room in early childhood education programs and full-day kindergarten for all students; safer, improved school buildings and learning environments; and 21st century technology in classrooms.

FLORIDA: Amendment 8Defeated
The “Religious Freedom” amendment, if passed, would have removed language from the state’s constitution banning religious institutions (including schools) from receiving taxpayer money.

GEORGIA: Resolution 1162Passed
The constitutional amendment will allow the state to re-establish

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The Center for Education Reform Congratulates President Obama on His Reelection Encourages President to Refocus Education Efforts

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
November 7, 2012

The leadership of The Center for Education Reform, the nation’s leading voice for structural and substantive change in education, today congratulated President Obama on his reelection. We praised the President in his first term for reminding the nation of our serious problems with K-12 education, and for working energetically to spread the word and seek change. We were concerned the Administration was too beholden to the national teachers unions, and that this support was an impediment to meaningful reforms that could lead to better schools and more educational choices.

We offer the following suggestions for the President in his second term:

1) Work Across All Education Sectors: We hope in a second term that the Obama Administration will listen to a range of voices and ideas from cities and communities, and not just the voices of national special interest groups. It is important to stop conflating “teachers unions” with “teachers.” In his first term, the Obama Administration talked a lot about “collaborating” and “getting along” with unions. We hope President Obama will follow the lead of many leading Democrats. For example, when Eva Moskowitz of Success Charter Network was a New York City Councilwoman, she pressed unions to explain why their contracts were protecting mediocrity instead of boosting high performing teachers.

2 ) Encourage Choice and Charters: In a second term, we urge the President and his Administration to do whatever they can to encourage more education choices, so that children in failing schools have quality alternatives. President Obama’s administration should direct federal incentives to encourage the formation of more charter schools. And since laws at the state level often stymie new charters, we urge him to provide leadership, encouraging states to draft laws that lead to more robust growth of

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Races Reformers Are Watching

If you’re wondering what Tuesday’s results might mean for education reform, here is a quick overview of races to look out for (you can access the FULL Election Night Guide here):

The White House — The top ticket is worth watching for education reformers, as candidates have different views on whether federal dollars should follow success or be awarded based on promises to pursue various initiatives.

Senate — These elections could bring about FOUR extremely pro-education reform candidates to the U.S Senate.

Governors — There are several gubernatorial candidates in the race this year who if elected would further enhance the pro-reform landscape. Perhaps most importantly, all these gubernatorial candidates are likely to stand up to teachers unions. READ MORE

Election Night Guide for Education Reform Watchers

by Jeanne Allen
Huffington Post
November 5, 2012

Of the many surprises this election season, one surely was the number of times the issue of “education” came up in President Obama and Governor Romney’s third debate – a debate ostensibly about foreign policy.

It shouldn’t be such a shocker, though. Education issues are vital to our nation’s future and competitiveness. And when it comes to education, lot could hinge on Tuesday’s election outcome. It’s not just in the race for the White House, though there are differences between the candidates on K-12 education issues. The outcome of a number of Senate and gubernatorial races could also mean a sea change in education policy in the coming years.

So, education policy-watchers, if you’re wondering what Tuesday’s results might mean for education reform, here are some races to look out for:

The White House: The Obama Administration and its Education Secretary Arne Duncan deserve significant credit for reminding the nation of our serious problems with K-12 education, and for working energetically to spread the word and seek change. They have not stuck their heads in the sand, by any stretch of the imagination. But states and districts have learned they can earn federal dollars just by promising to pursue various initiatives. Results? Not so important. We believe we would see more results in a Romney Administration. Governor Romney has promised, in essence, to let a thousand flowers bloom. Rather than Washington dictating how money is spent, federal dollars will follow success. For ed reformers, therefore, the top of the ticket is worth watching.

Senate: We could see four extremely pro-education reform candidates elected to the U.S Senate. They are:

  • Former Governor Tommy Thompson (R-Wisc.) the very first Governor to sign a voucher program into existence;
  • U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the author of Arizona’s pioneering charter

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Once, I Went to a Foreign Policy Debate … and an Education Fight Broke Out

by Jeanne Allen
October 23, 2012

Some were confused that the presidential candidates in last night’s debate, ostensibly about foreign policy, pivoted so often to the education and the economy. I was surprised, too, but I didn’t share the view that these subjects were “off topic.” Both candidates recognize that for the U.S. to remain competitive abroad and safe at home, we must have a solid domestic foundation, including a robust education system that produces citizens who can compete in the global economy, and who are qualified to protect us.

Prior to the debate, I suggested there were two critical education reform questions that needed to be addressed – national security and competitiveness. I was pleasantly surprised that not only did the candidates address both, but that they went further, discussing the skills gap, teachers, and how education is a driver of economic success.

Some highlights:

• Governor Romney discussed the need to put parents, teachers, and kids first, and asserted that the teachers unions to get behind this principle.

• President Obama talked about the need for more math and science teachers, since American students lag many other developed nations in those subjects. He made the point that our success in these areas will determine whether we have the highly skilled workforce necessary for new business creation, and to make the U.S. attractive to investment.

• Romney talked about the lack of jobs for kids coming out of college and that we can’t fix the economy without fixing that.

• Obama said that if we don’t have the best education system in the world, we will lose our competitive edge over other countries. He argued that Romney’s budget would cut education

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One Last Chance…

by Jeanne Allen
October 19, 2012

Soon the presidential candidates will meet for the last time to debate and with the topic focused on foreign policy, one may be tempted to think education has no place in the discussion. But one would be wrong. There are at least two critical education questions that should be addressed.

QUESTION 1: A recent report from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Chancellor of New York city schools Joel Klein found that “Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk.” The task force behind the report argued that too many young people are not qualified for the military because they do not have an adequate level of education. Do you agree with them and how would you address the issue?

QUESTION 2: Condoleezza Rice recently told a gathering of education leaders at Education Nation last month that a child in Korea learns in 3rd grade what our kids learn in 5th grade. We know that U.S. students rank 25th out of 34 on math scores among Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, with nearly one-quarter of U.S. students unable solve the easiest level of questions. Does this lack of international competitiveness concern you and what would your Administration do to address it?

In the previous two debates, President Obama and Governor Romney have talked about education in many contexts: economic, achievement, school choice, and the role of the federal government among others. In this final debate, they have one last chance to inform voters about their vision for education in the country.


For more on where Romney and Obama camps stand on critical education issues, head over to our Education and the Presidential Candidates page.

Experts’ views about Obama and Romney on Education

by Howard Blume
Los Angels Times
October 12, 2012

The following are edited excerpts from telephone interviews and email exchanges with leading education analysts, writers and researchers regarding the policies and positions of the presidential candidates.

Michelle Rhee

Chief executive, StudentsFirst; former chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Both support expanding educational options for families. President Obama did this, for example, by encouraging states to get rid of unnecessary caps on public charter schools through Race to the Top . At the same time, Gov. Romney supports dramatically expanding choices parents can make about where to send their kids to school. But he doesn’t tie that increased flexibility to strong rules ensuring any school — private or public — that takes the public funds will be held accountable for student learning.

Jonathan Kozol

Author whose books about education include “Death at an Early Age” (1967) and “Savage Inequalities” (1991). His new book is “Fire in the Ashes.”

As we saw in Wisconsin, there is a constituency out there that would like to do away with public-sector unions. The teachers are the loudest of those unions. Romney could not do away with teachers unions, but I think he will do his very best to move us in that direction.

President Obama simply wants to challenge the teachers unions to be more flexible in their demands but obviously recognizes they have a useful role in our society.

I regret the President’s apparent willingness to continue relying on standardized exams in evaluating teachers because I think it’s a simplistic way of judging what happens in the classroom and excludes so many aspects of a good education that are not reduceable to numbers.

The President recognizes that a demoralized teaching force is not going to bring passionate determination to the education of children — no matter how you measure them, castigate them or

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What the Candidates Debate Has to Offer Ed Reformers

October 3, 2012

Who knew education would come up repeatedly tonite?

Romney: After the president opened the debate about his jobs plan, Romney introduced the education component into the debate, combining jobs and skills, which come from education.

Obama: We have to improve our education system — we have a program called Race to the Top and now we are going to hire 100,000 math and science teachers.

Romney: I agree education is key to the future of our economy but we have 27 different training programs across government not working together. (we are fact checking this)

Obama: Says he inherited 18 programs for education that were well intentioned but not working for kids; that one teacher in NV has 42 kids and 10 year old textbooks. (we are fact checking this, too!)

This smattering of their words scratches the surface of an engaging, competitive conversation that highlighted education six times (at least) before the first 15 minutes were up and despite having been asked no direct questions about education. The candidates would go on to amplify their points throughout, and eventually address the proper federal role, which, despite suggestions among education reformers to the contrary, really is very, very different. And by all twitter, news media and pundit reports, even on this issue Romney was the winner.  READ MORE


For more information, review, and comparisons on Romney and Obama’s views on education, be sure to check out these resources:

Presidential Candidates Focus on Education

Opinion: Schooling Obama

Where Do Romney, Obama Stand on Education?

School Choice is Key Issue in Election

GOP Convention Highlights Ed Reform; Now It’s the Dems Turn

Paul Ryan: Education Pioneer

And don’t forget to check out CER’s Field Guide and Mandate for Change, which serve as guides for the kinds of reforms candidates should be embracing and talking

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Chicago Teachers Strike Highlights ‘Societal Problem’

by Fawn Johnson
National Journal
September 19, 2012

There is a bright spot to the Chicago Teachers Union strike that ended Tuesday after keeping the city’s kids at home and its public-school teachers picketing the streets: People are actually talking about education.

They are saying things like this: “When you have two-thirds of our children not college- and/or career-ready and we spend more per student than any country in the world, that is a societal problem. What’s going on in Chicago is sort of a leading indicator of things to come.” That’s Florida’s former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush on MSNBC. Bush is an advocate of student assessments who occasionally clashes with teachers unions.

Or this: “The more difficult task is to make sure the right people are getting into the classroom. I think it is the wrong mental model to let anybody in and then make it easier to fire our hiring mistakes.” That’s National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel on C-Span. NEA is not involved in the specifics of the strike, but it is supporting the Chicago union in principle.

Voters care greatly about education. In a Pew Research poll earlier this year, 72 percent of respondents rated education as “very important” to their vote. Yet both presidential candidates have largely ignored the concept in their campaigns. For whatever reason, education isn’t the kind of winner that moves the dial for a candidate in the electorate.

“People typically put education in their top three, or at worst, top six issues. But I believe they don’t know how to vote on education. They are so convinced that schools are local,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a group that is critical of teachers unions.

Allen says the Obama administration isn’t weighing in on the Chicago dispute because it is afraid

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Step One: Spot the Real Reformer

Calling All Advocates
by Fawn Johnson
National Journal
September 10, 2012

Politicians love to say the word “education,” but when it comes to actually doing something about it, outside forces must do the pushing. That is the lesson I learned from the political conventions that took over the airwaves and newsrooms in the last two weeks.

Former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is one such outside force. She was at both the conventions with the same message, which she outlined for me when I sat down with her in Tampa where Republicans gathered. “There is a huge possibility for both parties to say, ‘OK on this issue, because it has to do with our kids, we can disagree about taxes and everything else, but let’s choose this issue that we can show the American people that we can come together,'” she said.

More from that interview here.

Rhee’s grassroots education group StudentsFirst screened Won’t Back Down, a movie about two mothers who take on a failing inner-city public school, for delegates and convention guests.

BELL, a nonprofit summer and after-school learning provider, was another outside force. “I probably lost 10 pounds of perspiration,” said vice president of schools Joe Small about his two days manning a booth at CarolinaFest, an outdoor carnival of good causes–and bands–organized by the Charlotte host committee for the Democratic National Convention. (The Republican convention did not have a similar exhibit space.) In Charlotte, BELL highlighted the benefits of summer learning for at-risk youth, showing the impact its summer programs have made in a low-income district in the city. Small said the reaction from delegates and visitors alike was, “Wow. How do we bring this back to our community? How do we replicate a Bell program?”

These are just two groups that I happened upon in my wanderings. There

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