Wednesday, November 3, 2010

For Education, Election Results Mean More of the Same

Yesterday, the Democrats lost the House and hung on to the Senate, barely. In the meantime, we still have Obama in the White House. So, what do the election results mean for education policy?

Valerie Strauss over at The Washington Post disagrees with fellow education columnist Jay Matthews that a Republican Congress will be slow to push ahead with a rewrite of N.C.L.B. legislation. Andrew Kelly, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says that although they may wish to increase local control and decrease federal funding, that many Republicans agree with the Obama Administration on items such as merit pay and charter schools. Even so, if history is any indication, the Republican-controlled House won't do much on education, especially if they have to get legislation through a Democratic-controlled Senate. Other good run downs on the ed policy implications of last night's election results are at Public Policy Blogger and Education Week.

I don't generally subscribe to the notion that there's no difference between the two parties. That attitude is in part what cost us an Al Gore presidency back in 2000 and gave us eight years of Dubya. I voted Democratic yesterday and unless a Social Democrat comes along (hahaha!), I certainly will in 2012. That being said, on education, there really is no difference between the parties. I seriously doubt that the Senate or White House would obstruct legislation coming out of the House. And don't stab your finger in the air at me about this, Obama, because I'll stab mine in the air right back at you. On education, to the right of George Bush sounds kind of like, well, the Obama administration with it's anti-union, anti-democratic, pro-privatization education policies.

The Tea Party and Libertarians, both who are popular right now, might take issue with the education policies espoused by both the Democrats and the Republicans because of the strong central control that Arne Duncan is pushing for. In fact, that's why you almost never hear Republicans talk about education these days: they don't want to bring up their support of a reform policy that includes strong centralized control paired with curbs on local control.

In my very conservative district, VA-07, the well-funded and -known Eric Cantor won only 59% of the vote, with unfunded and unknowns Democrat Rick Waugh and Independent Tea Party candidate Floyd Bayne winning 34% and 6.5% of the vote, respectively. I'm not sure where Waugh stood on education issues. Cantor is owned by corporations, so I can't see him standing in the way of corporate-sponsored education reform. On the other hand, in conservative Hanover County, for example, where I live, which has a school board that is appointed by an elected Board of Supervisors, (editors note: I corrected this after posting) the schools are known as some of the best in the state. I can't see the conservatives here, or progressives for that matter, wanting to turn over local control to the feds or to outsiders.

Governors including Virginia's Governor McDonnell, as the Jay Matthews column highlights, are probably another matter. Governor McDonnell seems to be just as eager as Arne Duncan to bring in private companies to open charters and to take over struggling public schools.

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