It will take a while to get a full picture of how public education was affected by the election, but Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, sums up some of the highlights (and lowlights) here. we will keep reporting as we gather more information.

Carol writes:

The two foremost issues on voters’ minds this election were the economy and reproductive choice. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’s “parent power” push poll earlier this year and Jeanne Allen’s (Center for Education Reform) claim that privatized school choice was responsible for some candidates’ victories are two thinly veiled attempts to ingratiate their organizations with those elected.

Nevertheless, who won and who lost will influence education policy. Below are some notable outcomes as well as what we are watching that is still underdetermined.

State Legislatures

When it comes to charters and vouchers, the state level is most important. Resistance to both consistently comes from Democrats, at times, with rural Republican support. For example, the wild expansion of vouchers coincided with former Republican sweeps in state legislatures in 2020. There was no red wave through most state houses, which is good news.

Although we still await vote counts in some states, Republicans have not flipped any state legislatures their way so far, and there have been some realized and still possible victories for Democrats that can bode well for public education.

Michigan:

Michigan is the brightest spot of all. Democrats now have control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature in a state where they have not controlled either chamber since 1984. This provides a long-awaited opportunity to pass laws to make that state’s low-quality charter schools, run predominantly by for-profit operators, more transparent and accountable.

NPE Board member Cassandra Ulbrich retired from the Michigan State Board of Education. However, a great long-time friend of NPE, Mitchell Robinson, was elected, which is wonderful news.

And what about that voucher bill that Betsy De Vos attempted to push through a super-majority? Unless the Secretary of State goes through all of those signatures by the end of the year, it will go to the next legislature, which will not push it through. It will then go on the ballot where just as before, it will fail.

Pennsylvania:

Although Josh Shapiro voiced some support for private-school vouchers on the campaign trail, it is doubtful he will follow through, especially since the House will flip to the Democrats when all the votes are counted. In any case, the super-majority that held school funding increases hostage when the former Governor attempted modest charter reforms is now gone. School board members, teachers, and superintendents who have long fought for reforms to the charter funding system will now have a fighting chance.

And the state’s newest Senator, John Fetterman, is not only opposed to vouchers, he strongly supports Governor Wolf’s charter reforms.

Arizona

While the House will likely remain under Republican control, there is an outside chance that the Senate will split and the Governor will be Democrat Katie Hobbs. If that were to happen, there might be a respite from dismantling the public school system in that state by Republicans.

Federal

The House of Representatives:

Rosa De Lauro is one of the strongest friends of public education in the House of Representatives. She has kept the federal Charter Schools Program in check during her tenure as the leader of the House Appropriations Committee. While Rosa easily won re-election, if control shifts again to the Republicans, education budget priorities will likely change. There will be an attempt to overturn the Charter School Program reform regulations of the Education Department.

Senate:

Continued control of the Senate by Democrats means that even if the House flips, there will be some check on Republican attempts. And if Bernie Sanders assumes control of the HELP committee, that will mean good news for public schools.

But if the Republicans prevail, there is a strong possibility that Rand Paul will lead HELP. Libertarian Paul makes his disdain for public education apparent, and his leadership would lead to constant battles over the education budget and the Department of Education itself, which he would like to abolish.

Propositions

Finally, in some states, voters passed propositions for which we should cheer.

For example, California’s Proposition 28 passed with overwhelming support. The state will now put in about one billion dollars a year to support education in music and the arts, ensuring that arts education will not be dependent on where a child lives. And in Colorado, with the passage of Proposition FF,all children will now receive free lunch in schools even as they did during the Pandemic.

If you have more information about your district and state, please send it to me or to Carol, or both.

cburris@networkforpubliceducation.org