by Karen R. Effrem, MD
The 2018 midterm elections are (almost) now in the books. Here is a brief review of the education outcomes relating to Common Core, Congress and FedEd, school funding, and school choice:
There is much new data and analysis coming out about falling ACT scores under Common Core, the twin dangers of Common Core and school choice, and Joy Pullman’s excellent piece on the overall failure of Common Core:
Common Core sucked all the energy, money, and motivation right out of desperately needed potential reforms to U.S. public schools for a decade, and for nothing.
As discussed in September, there were several gubernatorial primaries where Common Core was an important issue. Here are the general election results:
With Democrats regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives after eight years, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) will be the new chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He strongly supported ESSA, supports social emotional research in SETRA, data collection, the epic disaster that is Head Start, and increased education spending that is unconstitutional at the federal level.
Dr. Mary Byrne, co-founder of Missouri Coalition Against Common Core and Heartland Institute education expert, summed the situation up nicely:
Now that Democrats have regained control of the House, look for the new chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) to protect Obama-era education policies embedded in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Despite plummeting standardized assessment scores across the country – and despite the failure of common standards aligned to 11 federal laws in ESSA – Scott will protect the law rather than evaluate its negative effects on student learning.
Multiple members of the committee resigned or were defeated in the election, so the direction of the committee may change with new members. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) — who were chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the PreK-12 subcommittee — and Luke Messer (R-Ind.) all left to run for other offices. Polis and Messer were working on student privacy issues, albeit from a more corporate perspective. Two other Republicans, Dave Brat (Va.) and Jason Lewis (Minn.), lost their seats, and Karen Handel (R-Ga.) is in grave danger of doing so.
How this will effect the potential passage any major education legislation — with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) remaining as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Donald Trump as president leading up to both their re-election campaigns — remains to be seen. Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, has noted:
Something like the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which beyond partisan philosophical differences also involves significant federal costs, would be even less likely to happen, given the inevitable blame game and finger-pointing around fiscal responsibility and the deficit.
The Arizona initiative to make education savings accounts (ESAs) available to all students instead of just special needs students failed by a 2-to-1 margin — despite the winners being badly out-funded. Lack of accountability leading to waste of taxpayer funds was already a major concern for the special needs ESAs. This concern expanded to the strong potential of these wasted dollars decreasing funding for public, charter and private schools and harming educational achievement.
The removal of Florida’s school choice constitutional amendment by the courts combined with this Arizona defeat means that there has still been no statewide school choice program approved by voters. Although many parents — including the 90 percent whose children attend public schools — are concerned about Common Core and other public school issues, they also do not want the public system blown up by corporate elites pushing choice programs that are not always fiscally and or academically effective while also imposing Common Core testing mandates, and therefore the standards, on private schools.
Many local bond referendums and sales tax increases to fund various education initiatives passed throughout the country, even in generally tax-averse states like Florida. This seems to be related to voter concern about school safety, teacher shortages, building conditions, etc. All of these concerns should be laid at the feet of federal and state legislators and bureaucrats that imposed standards and testing mandates and the thoroughly ineffective yet very expensive education technology, data gathering, SEL, and personalized computerized learning boondoggles that are siphoning money from the basics needed for an educated citizenry.
This election makes it abundantly clear why we must continue the fight to #EndFedEd and #StopCommonCore.
Photo credit: US Department of Education via Flickr, CC BY 2.0