Todays word on the state of our state, our nation, and the world.
November 05, 2014 – Last night’s election results have seismic implications for education policy at both the state and federal levels. Voters sent a message that school choice and local control are important to them.
School Choice Wins Big
Charlie Crist, running as a Democrat, lost his election bid for Florida governor to incumbent Republican Rick Scott. Crist supported the state’s teachers’ union and the Florida School Boards Association’s campaign , to stop Florida’s tuition tax credit scholarship program. The program, which enables nearly 69,000 low-income children to attend a school of choice, is the nation’s largest choice program.
David Figlio of Northwestern University, who has evaluated the scholarship program on an annual basis for the state, found that “scholarship students are by and large the ones who struggled the most at the public schools they left behind, but that they are now, on average, making the same academic gains as students of all income levels nationally.”
Scott’s victory is a victory for supporters of school choice in the Sunshine State.
Similarly, in Wisconsin, Republican Scott Walker won his re-election bid for governor running, in part, on a platform of expanding school choice. His goals were in sharp contrast to that of challenger Mary Burke, who opposed school choice. It also appears Wisconsin voters approve of Walker’s efforts over the years to limiting collective bargaining for public employees and give teachers a choice in whether they join a union.
There also are more school choice supporters in state legislatures in places such as Tennessee and also Nevada, where Republicans took control of the state senate and house for the first time in decades. As the Reno Gazette Journal reported:
“Some legislation that was not seriously considered by a Democratic majority—like construction defects, private-school vouchers, ending prevailing wage standards on public building contracts and reforms to the state’s Public Employee Retirement System—would probably be considered.”
In Illinois, school choice also was a major plank in the platform of Bruce Rauner, the Republican who upset Pat Quinn in the state’s gubernatorial race. Rauner is interested in establishing innovative education savings accounts.
Common Core Widely Rejected
Voters resoundingly sided with candidates who both rejected Common Core national standards and tests and promised to restore state and local control of education.
Two races for state superintendent were particularly notable in this regard: In Arizona, Diane Douglas, who ran explicitly on an anti-Common Core platform, appears to have clinched the position. As Politico noted, “Her victory would be a huge win for the anti-Common Core movement.”
Richard Woods, who will become Georgia’s new state superintendent, also campaigned on an anti-Common Core platform and has pledged to work to create Georgia-based curriculum standards.
And in South Carolina, which withdrew from Common Core earlier this year and already has planned to write its own standards, Molly Spearman, an anti-Common Core candidate, won her bid for state superintendent.
The potential for Arizona and Georgia to reject Common Core and forge a new path forward is particularly notable.
The Arizona Republic acknowledged that “voters were voicing their opposition to Common Core standards, [Douglas’] key issue in the campaign.” And Doug Ducey, who was elected governor of Arizona yesterday, has said the state can do better than federally funded standards, which should not be imposed from the top down.
Momentum against Common Core has been mounting. Already this year, four states—Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana—withdrew from the national standards and tests, and more than a dozen others either have exited or downgraded their involvement with the assessment component.
New Opportunities for Federal Policy
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., will take the helm of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and is likely to work to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. Although Congress should pursue policies that would allow states to completely opt out of No Child Left Behind, as the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success, or APLUS Act, does, a potential reauthorization of NCLB would provide an opportunity to move the nation’s largest K-12 education law in a more student-centered direction.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., already has introduced the CHOICE Act, which would allow states to have Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds follow children to the private schools of their parents’ choice. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., has introduced a companion measure in the House. A similar approach to Title I funding for low-income school districts also has been advanced in the House by Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind.
Options such as allowing Title I portability—letting the money follow students in low-income schools to schools of choice—would be an important component of any potential No Child reauthorization, and IDEA portability is something Congress could tackle separately.
Finally, Congress now has the opportunity to actually address the college cost crisis through reforms to accreditation. This is one of the biggest opportunities conservatives have to advance transformational education policy in the coming year.
The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act—or HERO Act— introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., would empower states to allow any entity to credential courses, which could pave the way for a more flexible college experience for students and make possible a dramatic reduction in college costs.
The proposal would allow states to establish flexible accreditation models that would infuse a level of customization in higher education not possible under the existing accreditation system.
Accreditation reform is long overdue. By enabling states to take the lead on accreditation, the HERO Act creates a promising way to drive down costs and increase customization and opportunity in higher education.
Brian S. Brown president of the National Organization for Marriage. / November 05, 2014
Photo: Brian Hawkins Photography/Creative Commons
It was a great night for supporters of marriage Tuesday as support for traditional marriage was a key issue in numerous races across the country. The National Organization for Marriage Victory Fund was active in many of these races and our efforts have been rewarded. This success has strong implications for future electoral contests, including the 2016 presidential race.
Our two most prominent efforts to influence Senate contests were in North Carolina and Arkansas. The NOM Victory Fund spent over $200,000 in these races on television ads, direct mail and grassroots outreach to mobilize marriage supporters.
When our TV ad and mailer hit in North Carolina, Thom Tillis trailed Kay Hagan by 2-3 points. Within days, we helped bring the race into a tie, and then working along with NC Values Coalition (which co-sponsored the ads and with whom we worked to pass the state’s marriage amendment in 2012) we helped mobilize grassroots marriage supporters to get to the polls. In what many consider the biggest upset of the night, Thom Tillis defeated Kay Hagan by two points, and marriage helped make the difference.
We wanted to defeat Republicans who had abandoned us on marriage and send a message to the GOP leadership that support for traditional marriage remains strong and vital to electoral success.
Arkansas was also a race where marriage made a difference. When our TV ad began airing, marriage champion Tom Cotton led incumbent Mark Pryor by 7 points. Cotton ended up winning by seventeen points! Clearly, our advertising and grassroots efforts in that state helped to boost his margin of victory.
We were able to mount very strong grassroots efforts that helped make a difference in a number of other races. For example, we helped sponsor (along with FRC Action and others) a multi-state bus tour to energize marriage supporters who went to the polls to elect Joni Ernst to the Senate in Iowa and Ben Sasse in Nebraska, as well as turnout supporters to help Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts win reelection in Kansas.
But helping to elect pro-marriage candidates was not our only goal. We also wanted to defeat Republicans who had abandoned us on marriage and send a message to the GOP leadership that support for traditional marriage remains strong and vital to electoral success. Again, we were remarkably successful.
One of the top House contests in the nation was in Massachusetts where Republican Richard Tisei battled Democrat Seth Moulton. Tisei supported same-sex “marriage.” We mounted a campaign of automated calls, emails and grassroots activation to deny him election even though the Democrat was no better on the issues than was Tisei. We did this for two reasons. First, a Democrat like Moulton in a House controlled by Republicans could do no damage over the next two years when we can defeat him, whereas a Republican like Tisei could do great damage and could end up holding the seat for years. Second, we wanted to send a message that grassroots Republicans would not stand by and watch the party abandon its historic commitment to marriage.
Two polls in October showed Tisei leading Moulton by two to three points, but Tisei ended up getting crushed on Election Day, losing by almost 40,000 votes. If this was a “wave” election that helped all Republican candidates (as some pundits are now claiming), it certainly didn’t help Richard Tisei. His support for redefining marriage hurt him badly in this pivotal contest.
Another top House race was in California 52 where Republican Carl DeMaio was challenging Democrat Scott Peters. Like Tisei, DeMaio favors redefining marriage. NOM utilized automated phone calls and other grassroots techniques to deny DeMaio election. The results of this race are too close to call and won’t be known for some time. DeMaio holds a small lead (752 votes) but there are thousands of ballots yet to count. If past patterns of late-counted ballots holds true this year, DeMaio may well lose.
For too many cycles, the Republican consultant class has steered candidates away from discussing social issues, a strategy that has utterly failed.
Whether DeMaio holds on to his narrow lead or is defeated, we’ve already demonstrated that nominating this kind of candidate who is wrong on foundational issues like marriage will backfire on the GOP. This seat has 1.3 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, with a high percentage of Independents. If there was a race where a “wave election” could make the difference, it would be this one. But DeMaio did not benefit from this “wave” because pro-family groups and voters rejected him over his position on marriage.
NOM also worked to defeat Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby in Oregon over her decision to support redefining marriage. For a time, Wehby was considered a rising star for the GOP. Then she came out with a television ad supporting same-sex marriage. At the time, she trailed incumbent Jeff Merkley by eight points and hoped that her ad would connect with moderate Democrats and Independents. Instead, it turned off voters of all stripes who were angered that their votes for marriage were tossed aside by a federal judge with no defense mounted by Oregon officials. Wehby’s ad seemed to endorse this corrupt outcome, and voters turned on her. NOM campaigned against her and she lost last night by sixteen points.
My report wouldn’t be complete without letting you know that we helped defeat New York state Senator Mark Grisanti last night, who has finally been driven from office. When Grisanti joined with three other Republican senators to redefine marriage in New York state, we vowed to defeat them all. We have now kept that promise to New York voters.
For too many cycles, the Republican consultant class has steered candidates away from discussing social issues, a strategy that has utterly failed. NOM’s activism his cycle to make support for marriage a key issue in so many races across the country shows that candidates who take a principled stand in support of marriage will be rewarded by voters, while those who abandon marriage will be rejected.
We look forward to helping ensure that support for marriage is a key issue in the 2016 cycle, including in the presidential contest.