Joanne Barkan has written an excellent summary of how public education fared in the recent elections.
Barkan knows how to follow the money. Her article “Got Dough?” showed the influence of the billionaires on education policy.
She begins her analysis of the 2012 elections with this overview of Barack Obama’s embrace of GOP education dogma:
“Barack Obama’s K-12 “reform” policies have brought misery to public schools across the country: more standardized testing, faulty evaluations for teachers based on student test scores, more public schools shut down rather than improved, more privately managed and for-profit charter schools soaking up tax dollars but providing little improvement, more money wasted on unproven computer-based instruction, and more opportunities for private foundations to steer public policy. Obama’s agenda has also fortified a crazy-quilt political coalition on education that stretches from centrist ed-reform functionaries to conservatives aiming to undermine unions and privatize public schools to right-wingers seeking tax dollars for religious charters. Mitt Romney’s education program was worse in only one significant way: Romney also supported vouchers that allow parents to take their per-child public-education funding to private schools, including religious schools.”
Barkan’s analysis shows significant wins for supporters of public education–the upset of uber-reformer Tony Bennett in Indiana, the repeal of the Luna laws in Idaho, and the passage of a tax increase in California–and some significant losses–the passage of charter initiatives in Georgia and Washington State.
The interesting common thread in many of the key elections was the deluge of big money to advance the anti-public education agenda.
Even more interesting is how few people put up the big money. If Barkan were to collate a list of those who contributed $10,000 or more to these campaigns, the number of people on the list would be very small, maybe a few hundred. If the list were restricted to $20,000 or more, it would very likely be fewer than 50 people, maybe less.
This tiny number of moguls is buying education policy in state after state. How many have their own children in the schools they seek to control? Probably none.
The good news is that they don’t win every time. The bad news is that their money is sometimes sufficient to overwhelm democratic control of public education.