Last week’s election brought both good news and bad news for America’s schoolchildren. A variety of states voted on several education issues, including charter schools, collective bargaining, and education spending.
First, the Good News
Washington State passed a law to allow charter schools. As one of only nine states without a charter school law (which allows charters to operate), it was high time that Washington embrace charters. This new policy means that Washington students will have more educational choice and thus greater opportunity to attend schools that best meet their needs.
Georgia passed a measure to allow state authorizers, namely an independent charter commission, to approve charter schools. While Georgia formerly allowed the state to act as an authorizer if a charter school’s application was denied by a local school board, last year the Georgia Supreme Court struck down this provision. This essentially gave local school boards sole authority to approve charters, creating a “fox-guarding-the-henhouse” problem: School boards don’t find it in their best interest to create competition for the public schools.
The success of this measure will increase the opportunity for charters in Georgia and thereby increase students’ and families’ educational opportunities.
Now, the Bad News
In Idaho, union special interests won out over the best interests of students and teachers last Tuesday. Two measures on the ballot would have helped ensure that children have the best teachers in the classrooms. A merit pay measure to reward effective teachers failed, as did a measure that would have phased out tenure and tied part of a teacher’s evaluation to student performance.
In California, a measure to limit collective bargaining power also failed. The measure would have prohibited unions from using money automatically deducted from teachers’ paychecks for political purposes. Teachers in California are forced to join unions and thereby to pay union fees, which the unions can then use to fund their own political purposes.
Had California’s law passed, teachers’ hard-earned dollars would have been protected from support of political positions with which they may not agree and that often stand in the way of much-needed school reforms.
California also passed a measure to increase taxes in order to fund education. The last thing residents in this fiscally troubled state need is another tax hike. Instead of continuing to throw more money at the government education system, states like California should look for ways to make economically smart reforms to improve education.
School Choice Has Momentum
Promising education reforms have made their way across the states in recent years. The momentum for school choice has never been greater, and new, innovative approaches to education—such as online learning and education savings accounts—are expanding. In a nation where student academic achievement has been lagging for decades, reform is crucial. Those states that promote educational opportunity and the best interests of students are leading the way to a brighter academic future for children.