Dropout Nation isn’t going to preach to people about why they should vote. The reasons are already clear, especially for black men and women whose ancestors were murdered, maimed, and persecuted for the ability to participate in governing this democratic republic. But this publication does have some views on whom you should support at the polls today. This is because the politicians who sit in elected offices will have plenty of sway over the course of American public education — and as much say (as God allows) over the educational, economic, and even social futures of our children.
So here are some suggestions on which candidates to support in your states. This isn’t a comprehensive list: The gubernatorial candidates in Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvvania, for example, have been left off the list in part because neither of the leading candidates are either worthy ethically or reform-wise to be given consideration. Particularly in the Sunshine State, both incumbent Rick Scott and Democratic challenger (and predecessor as state chief executive) Charlie Crist have proven so unreliable on school reform (and generally unethical in other areas of governing) that they are undeserving of high office. And in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett’s failure to lead on expanding choice is more than enough reason for him to lose office; at the same time his opponent, Tom Wolf, will be even worse on education policy. And in a number of races — California and Oregon, to name two — the incumbents are likely to win anyway.
As for state superintendent and state board races: In Oklahoma, neither candidate to replace Janet Barresi would be an improvement over the incumbent; same is true in Georgia, where the best candidate for the job, outgoing State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, was defeated in the Democratic primary some months ago. In the race for Colorado’s District 3 seat on the state board of education, neither incumbent Republican Marcia Neal Neal nor Democrat challenger Henry Roman support expanding school choice; so they don’t deserve consideration.
As a bipartisan publication that supports candidates ultimately on their actions and positions on systemic reform, you will find a list of both Democrats and Republicans worthy of your votes. Read, consider, and take action today.
Wisconsin: Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker’s successful effort to end collective bargaining as well as halt compulsory dues payments by teachers to the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers affiliates in the Badger State has worked out for both districts, teachers, and children. So has his support for expanding the school voucher program now serving kids in Milwaukee and several other cities. He deserves another term.
Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder has been aggressive in pushing for systemic reform. This includes ending Zip Code Education policies by expanding the state’s inter-district school choice program, defending implementation of Common Core reading and math standards, and passing the state’s right-to-work law (which allows for teachers to no longer be forced to pay dues to NEA and AFT locals). Snyder is also deserving of re-election.
Ohio: Gov. John Kasich has certainly garnered some criticism from fellow Republicans for arguing that the expansion of Medicaid as part of ObamaCare shouldn’t be repealed. But the former congressional powerhouse has proven his reform bona fides, especially in defending Common Core as well as in backing Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s school reform efforts. Reform-minded Democrats, especially, should cross the political aisle and back his re-election.
New York: Of course. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election is a given. In all honesty, his conduct this election season has been anything but laudable. But he still deserves credit for pushing for the overhaul of the state’s teacher evaluation system. And his strong defense of expanding school choice, overhauling public education in the Empire State, and battling with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over the direction of the Big Apple’s school district makes Cuomo the best choice for governor — and even for the Democratic presidential nomination two years from now.
Connecticut: Incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy deserves credit for successfully passing a modest school reform package two years ago. His decision to sign into law a measure ending felony convictions for parents accused of the laughable offense of stealing education should also be praised. At the same time, he should have been more aggressive in advancing reform in the Nutmeg State; appointing an AFT official to the state board of education (which is now the subject of a suit by Connecticut Parents Union President and DN Contributing Editor Gwen Samuel) wasn’t smart at all. All that said, Malloy deserves re-election.
Georgia: Nathan Deal has turned out to be a better governor than expected on the reform front. From successfully pushing for voter passage of the referendum allowing for the state to authorize charter schools, to defending Common Core reading and math standards, Deal has done right by Peach State kids. He deserves another term.
Illinois: Bruce Rauner is the best choice to move further on addressing the most-pressing educational and fiscal issue facing the Land of Lincoln: The state’s teacher pension system, which is virtually-insolvent to the tune of $76 billion (or 27 percent higher than officially-reported), according to DN‘s latest analysis. As a prominent supporter of charter schools and other forms of school choice, Rauner should be the choice for Democrats and Republicans in the state.
Rhode Island: Gina Raimondo deserves plenty of credit for standing up to public-sector unions and pushing a pension reform plan that moved teachers and others from the virtually-insolvent defined-benefit plan to a hybrid system that is better for their retirements. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung would also be a smart choice for the top job. But Raimondo’s track record on fiscal matters gives her the edge this time around.
Chief State School Officers and State Boards
California: Marshall Tuck offers reformers in the Golden State a new opportunity to revive efforts to overhaul public education. Certainly he will just be one of numerous players in the state’s byzantine educational governance structure — and one who will be someone hamstrung by a state legislature, governor, and board of education who are handmaidens to the NEA and AFT affiliates there. But as the top executive in charge of the state’s education department, Tuck can work aggressively-yet-smartly to build a culture that embraces systemic reform.
Colorado State Board of Education District 7: Incumbent Jane Goff, a Democrat, has been a strong defender of Common Core reading and math standards, something that will be needed given the odds of former congressman Bob Beauprez (an opponent of the standards) beating incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper for the chief executive post.
Initiatives and Referendums
Support Colorado Prop. 104: The proposition would require districts to open their negotiations with NEA and AFT locals to the public. Such transparency on the process that, along with state laws, drive how districts manage teachers in their classrooms, is much-needed. Other states should pass similar measures.
Support Missouri Amendment 3: The measure, which would end near-lifetime employment for teachers and require objective, comprehensive teacher evaluations, deserves support from anyone who wants all children to gain the high-quality teaching they deserve.
Support Hawaii Amendment 4: This measure would help more kids in the Aloha State gain access to high-quality early childhood education by financing their schooling in privately-operated preschools. In short, no different than supporting public charter schools. Vote for it.
Support California Prop. 47: Certainly the referendum, which would reclassify most nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors, isn’t an education issue per se. But given how so many of our children end up in prison, often because of the combination of low-quality education and criminal laws that inappropriately incarcerate people on charges not worthy of imprisonment (and in some cases, shouldn’t be crimes at all), supporting this measure makes sense.