On Tuesday, November 6, the nation will go to the ballot box to vote. We will decide who will be the President of the United States, state senators, state representatives, and a plethora of other political positions and referendums on various state and local levels. Political ads have bombarded all media and social networks vying for our support on Election Day, but we have seen a dearth of political ads advocating support for public school education reform in Virginia. This, however, has not been the case in all states. Public school education reform has been a topic in a number of states and particularly contentious in Idaho and Washington.
Idaho voters are considering three referendum measures advocated by Governor Butch Otter and proposed by State Superintendent Tom Luna. The voters will decide if parents have input into teachers evaluations, limits on teacher union collective bargaining and elimination of teacher tenure. The teacher unions and the National Education Association have spent over 1.3 million dollars in political ads to persuade voters that the trinity education reform advocated by Governor Otter would set students in a downward spiral of achievement because of wasteful resource allocation and additional bureaucracy. However, Otter’s attempt at public education reform has also been supported by political ads. Wealthy businessman Frank Vandershoot has supported a cascade of political ads calling for support of the referendum.
The exact amount of contributions for the support of Otter’s referendums will not be known for a few days. Fourth District Judge Michael Wetherell ruled on October 29 all donors who financed more than $200,000 in campaign ads for Otters must be disclosed. The voters of Idaho will have to define the future of public education reform for on November 6.
The voters of Washington are also going to define the future of public education reform on November 6. The political ads are supported by Bill Gates and Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton on one side, and state and national teacher unions on the other side. The two areas of education reform contention are allowing charter schools in Washington and allowing parents to demand any public school be converted into a charter school.
Washington does not presently allow charter schools. Charter schools are public funded schools but managed privately. Many charter schools are operated by privately for-profit companies. When parents have the ability to “take over” a school it is referred to as a parent trigger. The recently released movie “Won’t Back Down”, directed by Daniel Barnz, sensationalizes a group of parents in California that forced education reform in their school. The political ads in Washington are well financed and portray the success or failure of charter schools and the determination or misguided efforts of concerned parents.
The voters of Idaho and Washington will consider contentious education reform issues on November 6. Political ads attempt to fortify support for divergent reforms that will ultimately affect all educational stakeholders. The voters of Idaho and Washington are serving as public school educational reform petri dishes for the rest of the states. We are all hoping the experiments will be successful and repeatable.
Simon, S. (2012). Some states will soon call the roll on school reform. Retrieved from www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBRE89S0FL20121029