Election Day Review: Public Education Issues, Colorado Referendum, Bridgeport and Paul Vallas!

Dear Commons Community,

A review of election results on education issues nationwide  reveal a mixed bag of voter sentiment.  In Colorado, a referendum to levy new taxes to fund a major infusion of programs in public education was defeated even though it was promoted heavily by the teachers unions, the Gates Foundation .Michael Bloomberg, and others.  New York City the election of Bill de Blasio was  seen as a rebuke of the policies of Michael Bloomberg and “corporate school reform” policies that emphasized charter schools, testing, and teacher evaluations.  Two articles in the New York Times and the Huffington Post analyzed these issues.

An excerpt of the New York Times piece indicated little voter support for the Colorado referendum.

“They had $10 million in contributions, a barrage of advertising and support from the usually warring factions of the educational establishment. But Democratic leaders in this swing state were dealt a stinging defeat on Tuesday as voters resoundingly rejected an effort to raise taxes by $1 billion a year to pay for a sweeping school overhaul.

The outcome, a warning to Democrats nationally, was a drubbing for teachers unions as well as wealthy philanthropists like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Bill and Melinda Gates, who pumped millions of dollars into the measure, and it offered a sharp rebuke to Gov. John W. Hickenlooper and the Democratically led legislature, …The Obama administration also lent its support.

Had the referendum passed, the current flat state income tax rate of 4.6 percent would have been replaced with a two-tier system. Residents with taxable incomes below $75,000 would have paid 5 percent; taxable incomes above $75,000 would have been taxed at 5.9 percent. The measure would have poured money into poor, rural school districts, expanded preschool, bought new technology and encouraged local innovations like longer school days and school years, supporters said.

But the promise of higher teacher salaries and full-day kindergarten failed to resonate with voters, even in many reliably blue corners of the state and areas where the money would have had the greatest benefit. The state voted 65 percent to 35 percent against the overhaul, known as Amendment 66.”

In the Huffington Post article, besides the election of Bill de Blasio, several education issues were reviewed but perhaps the most provocative was a city school board election in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“In Bridgeport, a hotbed of recent political fights over education, Democrats Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker, who oppose the leadership of superintendent Paul Vallas and Mayor Bill Finch, won.

Vallas has been called a “superstar” of the [corporate school] reform world, having overseen school systems in New Orleans, Chicago and Philadelphia. But this year, critics accused Vallas of ratcheting up standardized testing and cutting school services. The NEA worked to support the new candidates’ fight against Vallas, posting blogs with titles like, “Five signs that your superintendent stinks.”

All in all, no clear direction of a national mood on education.



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