Results in key education races

Here are the results of some of the important races around the country that matter to public education:

1) Florida voters rejected a bid to allow the use of state funds to go to religious institutions, including religious schools. Had it passed, a statewide voucher program would have been likely.

2) In Georgia and Washington, it appears that voters approved measures to permit charter schools to open. In both races, outside money was important. In Washington, Bill Gates gave more than $3 million and billionaires who don’t live in the state (Gates does) donated big money too. Washington voters had rejected such a measure three times earlier but appears to have approved it by just a few percentage points.

3) Idaho voters appear to have overturned the “Luna laws,” three school reform laws named for state schools Superintendent Tom Luna who made them the centerpiece of his agenda. Voters rejected his plan to require high school students to take two online courses and for the state to spend $180 million to lease laptops to make this happen. They also rejected merit pay for teachers that is linked to student standardized test scores and they opposed limits on the collective bargaining rights for teachers.

4) In Indiana, voters ousted Superintendent Tony Bennett, who has pushed an aggressive agenda of privatization of public education, including charters and vouchers. They elected veteran Indianapolis teacher Glenda Ritz.

5) Maryland voters approved the state’s version of the federal Dream Act that would give in-state tuition at public universities to undocumented immigrants who have applied for a green card, graduated from a Maryland community college, have no criminal record and whose families have paid state income tax.

6) In California, voters approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which calls for a $6-billion-a-year tax hike to fund things including public education. Brown had warned of devastating budget cuts if it hadn’t passed. (Voters rejected a competing education revenue-raising initiative, Proposition 38.)

7) In New Orleans, voters elected Sarah Newell Usdin to represent District 3 of the Orleans Parish school board. The parish operates fewer than 20 schools in the city (where most of the schools are charter schools run by the Recovery School District), but Usdin, a big supporter of charter schools, attracted big outside money to help her win.

8) In Michigan, voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have guaranteed unions the right to organize and collectively bargain.

9) In Missouri, voters narrowly rejected an effort to raise the state tobacco tax; most of the new revenue was to have gone to public education.

10) In Bridgeport, Conn., voters rejected an expensive effort by the mayor and his supporters in the corporate world to win mayoral control over the Board of Education. Voters retained the right to elect their own school board representatives.

11) In Minnesota, voters in the Twin Cities district reelected Rep. John Kline (R) to the House, where he is chairman of the education committee. Kline wrote budget proposals that among other things mandated school districts to link teacher evaluation to standardized test scores and limited the federal role in public education.

12) In Illinois, U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, a veteran of the House education committee who was endorsed by the National Education Association, lost to her Democratic rival, Bill Foster. Biggert had gone against Republican support for vouchers and other initiatives.

13) And the victory of President Obama for a second term may mean four more years of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | November 7, 2012