2014 Election round-up, PAA style

 

 

election

 

We asked our chapters and affiliates to reflect on the results of the November election, especially as they impact education. Here are some of those reports:

 

PENNSYLVANIA:

PAA Philadelphia affiliate Parents United leader and PAA founding member Helen Gym shared a special post on the group’s web site, “Why we vote,” which surely helped motivate people to turn out to vote and to turn out of office the anti-public school governor Tom Corbett. Helen suggests we all read this wonderful article, “Diagram of Victory,” by PAA Pittsburgh affiliate Yinzercation’s Jessie Ramey, which was reposted by Diane Ravitch, shares some of the winning strategies, and begins like this:

And that, my friends, is how you win an election. For three long years we have been fighting the devastation wrought by Gov. Corbett on our public schools. But last night we helped unseat the first incumbent governor in Pennsylvania history, to elect Tom Wolf, who ran on a strong public education platform! In fact, I dare say that we here in the grassroots are largely responsible for this victory….We wrote letters to the editor, op-eds, and blog pieces; we staged rallies and demonstrations; we held mock-bake sales; we wrote petitions and got on buses to Harrisburg to deliver thousands of signatures; we hosted public debates, lectures, and national authors. With “dogged” determination, we took every opportunity to counter Corbett’s attempts to minimize the damage he was inflicting on our schools: we took to social media and made on-line comments on news stories at every chance. Some folks had been doing this work for many years and became advisors and mentors to the more recent groundswell of advocacy, as we joined the long arc of the education justice movement.

MASSACHUSETTS:

In Massachusetts, the news is pretty gloomy. Some great local candidates, like state Senator Patricia Jehlen, a powerful advocate for public education, won reelection (in Sen. Jehlen’s case, by a whopping margin), but the gubernatorial result has us very worried. Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, a strong supporter of early childhood education and at least moderate on charter expansion, lost to Republican Charlie Baker. Baker has a long association with corporate education reform, does not support expansion of early childhood ed, and has appointed Jim Peyser, of the radically pro-charter Pioneer Institute, to head up his transition team.

However, we draw strength from the example of Pennsylvania, and the work of parents who fought and succeeded in ousting Tom Corbett. Thank you!

Submitted by Mary Battenfeld (QUEST: Quality Education for Every Student)

TEXAS:

 

The midterm elections were definitely not a moment of victory for education in the Lone Star State.Perhaps the biggest disappointments were the races for Governor and Lt. Governor in which truesupporters of public education lost to candidates who promise to continue underfunding education whileupping the ante on privatization. Statewide, 66% of registered voters didn’t vote, 20% voted Republican,and 13% voted Democrat (based on Governor’s race.).

 

Education Funding and the Governor’s Race

 

In 2011, the Texas legislature proposed cutting $5.4B from the education budget—a reduction of over10%. State Senator Wendy Davis (D) fought against and filibustered the cuts to education and in theend the cut was reduced to $4B. School districts sued the state and the courts have since ruled schoolfunding both inadequate and inequitable. Davis lost the 2014 Governor’s race to Attorney General GregAbbott (R) who has defended the cuts in court and continues to do so.

 

While over 95% of the $4.1B in local school bonds up for election this November were approved byvoters, those same Texans just voted in state leaders and legislators who by and large are not forincreased funding. Clearly, Texans believe in investing in their local schools but don’t care if theirlawmakers believe differently. A number of winning candidates have plans that will decrease schoolfunding and the official Texas Republican platform calls for additional cuts to education spending at alllevels.

Governor-elect Abbott has not laid out a specific education plan, other than expanding state- funded pre-K programs, but has said that he wants Texas to have the best education system in the US.Time will tell whether he will put his money where his mouth is—so to speak.

 

Vouchers, Charter Schools, and the Most Powerful Man in Texas

 

In Texas, the Lt. Governor is a more powerful position than the Governor. As President of the Senate, theLt. Governor appoints committee chairs and controls what legislation gets brought before the Senate. Therace for Lt. Governor was between State Senators Dan Patrick (R) and Leticia Van De Putte (D) who bothcurrently serve on the Senate Education Committee. Tea Party darling Patrick won.

 

Patrick will appoint a new Education Committee chair when the legislature convenes in January. Hischoice will have a significant impact on education legislation. Patrick is also an outspoken supporterof vouchers, which he calls “Tax Credit Scholarships,” and charter school expansion. With Patrick’sinfluential new role in the Senate, we can expect these pro-privatization issues to top the list of prioritiesin the upcoming session. Additionally, Patrick supported the 2011 funding cuts, which resulted in thefiring of 11,000 teachers, stating that because schools stayed open those cuts must have been okay.Patrick’s victory could have long-lasting consequences for public education in Texas.

 

140 Days Every Two Years

 

Texas has a part-time legislature that meets for 140 days in odd numbered years. The 2015 sessionconvenes in mid-January. Along with vouchers, charter schools, and school funding, lawmakers willhave to address the growing concerns about STAAR testing. Recently, Rep. Myra Crownover (R) sentout a survey on issues concerning her constituents. There were 2 questions about standardized testingand STAAR. 75% of respondents said testing has hurt their local school and 77% supported furtherreductions of STAAR in middle and elementary schools. Public opposition in Texas is growing by leapsand bounds along with a burgeoning opt-out movement.

 

In 2013, HB5 reduced high school EOCs from 15 tests to 5 required to earn a diploma. The class of 2015will be the first to graduate under STAAR. There are currently 48,000 high school seniors who have notpassed one or more EOC exam meaning approximately 16% of students may not graduate with theirclass. There is currently no appeal process for these students; they simply cannot receive a diplomauntil they pass all 5 exams. Sen. Kel Seliger (R) has already submitted SB149 which would create reviewcommittees and a secondary set of requirements for students who have not passed an EOC after twoattempts.

 

 

 

STAAR relief for grades 3 through 8 was addressed in 2013 by HB2836. This bill, which would haverequired the state to prove the tests are valid measures of accountability and limited tests to 2 hoursin length, passed both the House and Senate unanimously. Unfortunately, it was vetoed by Gov. RickPerry because of another provision requiring a study of the State Board of Education, the electedbody responsible for setting curriculum standards. The 2015 legislature will likely take this issue upagain. Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA), which was instrumental in thepassage of both HB5 and HB2836, is already at work lobbying for reducing testing at all levels to federalrequirements and removing all high stakes including grade advancement at grades 5 and 8 tied to testscores. PAA-Northeast Texas is proud to be supporting TAMSA’s efforts.

Submitted by Jennifer Collins, PAA-Northeast Texas.

ILLINOIS:

Illinoisans elected the greater of two evils in a governor’s race between Bruce Rauner, a hedge funder who already has a charter school named after him, and the team of Pat Quinn and Paul Vallas. Losing lieutenant governor candidate Vallas is better known as the progenitor of high-stakes testing in Chicago and the carpetbagging school “superintendent” who charterized New Orleans schools, brought Phiily’s school system to near-bankruptcy, and was tossed out of the job in Bridgeport, CT.

While Rauner never detailed his education plans, he is likely to follow the corporate reform textbook of privatization and “choice,” and his promises to cut spending are frightening in a state that already ranks 49 out of 50 in per capita education spending.

Submitted by Julie Woestehoff, Parents United for Responsible Education

 

 

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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