Election Day brings good news for K-12 reform in Colorado, but setbacks in other races around the nation

Nov 6, 2013 by

MUSKEGON, Mich. – Election Day delivered mixed results for education reform advocates.

Of the six races EAGnews was closely following, three had favorable results for reform proponents, while the other three represented lost ground.

The good news first.

The innovative school board in charge of Colorado’s Douglas County School District was given an enthusiastic thumbs-up by voters. All four pro-reform candidates won their races, overcoming a variety of teacher union-backed campaign stunts designed to turn taxpayers against the conservative school board.

“The majority of people like the way things are headed and want to see them implemented,” newly elected board member Judi Reynolds told OurColoradoNews.com.

That direction includes market-based pay for teachers, a disempowered teachers union, and a potential voucher system operated by the district.

The election results represent a serious setback for state and national teacher unions that targeted the conservative school board for defeat. The race had gained nationwide attention as a measure of popular support for anti-union, pro-student reforms.

The good news continues in nearby Denver Public Schools, where all four pro-reform school board members won their races.

The Denver Post reports, “Traditionally more evenly split, the school board could end up with a 6-1 majority in favor of (school Superintendent Tom) Boasberg’s reforms, which have included shuttering low-performing schools, implementing new teacher-accountability measures, and bolstering the number of charter and charter-like schools.”

The busy Colorado voters also overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 66, a nearly $1 billion tax increase proposal that was designed to prop up the state’s big-spending – and subsequently cash-strapped – public schools.

The extra revenue would have allowed Colorado schools to expand preschool and full-day kindergarten programs, support for English-language learners, and funding for charter schools.

“Colorado families spoke loud and clear,” Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado, which opposed Amendment 66, told the Denver Post. “We need substantive outcome-driven reforms to the educational system before we ask families and small businesses to foot a major tax bill.”

The not-so-good news

Reformers’ biggest loss of the night occurred in New York City, where anti-charter school Democrat Bill de Blasio enjoyed a landslide victory over his Republican challenger in the race to replace retiring Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

New York City schools are under mayoral control, which means de Blasio will have significant power to stop the addition of more charter schools to the city, and to force cash-starved charter schools to pay rent to their government school landlords, with whom they share building space.

The result is that the future of New York City’s successful charter program is now “in question,” according to Newsweek.

But that’s only the beginning of the damage Mayor-elect de Blasio could inflict to the city’s decade-long education reform effort. The New York Post reports de Blasio is vetting American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten to become the city’s next schools chancellor.

Weingarten is also an outspoken critic of charter schools, and she opposes linking student learning to teacher evaluations “and most of the other reforms Mayor Bloomberg enacted,” The New York Post reports.

“The idea of putting a union chief in charge of a school system is mind-boggling,” one political consultant told the news site. “It strains credulity that de Blasio would go that far.”

Unionists scored another victory over in Boston, where former legislator and long-time labor leader Marty Walsh became the city’s next mayor.

While Walsh favors lifting the state’s current charter school cap, he has promised to work with the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) to improve the city’s school system, reports WBUR.org.

That signals Walsh will be far less bold in his approach to K-12 than his opponent, John Connolly, would have been. That explains why the BTU threw its support behind Walsh “at the last minute” and why Walsh’s campaign was “fueled by unprecedented spending by organized labor from the across the country,” according to Boston.com.

Reformers also suffered a discouraging defeat in Ohio’s Springboro Community City school district, where current board President Kelly Kohls has implemented a variety of “children first” policies that put her in direct conflict with the state and local teachers union.

Union-friendly candidates won all three open seats – including the one being vacated by Kohls. The outcome signals the Springboro district will revert back to spending practices and school policies that put the interests of adult employees ahead of students’ needs.

Election Day brings good news for K-12 reform in Colorado, but setbacks in other races around the nation – EAGnews.org powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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