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Silly Season Returns Good News for School Choice, Bad News for Unions

The silly season is over. We are now free to return to our everyday silliness. This morning I was reminded that television and Internet advertising is also frequently used to sell food, drinks, cars, airfare, electronics, and toys. Who knew that the airwaves and “Interwebs” could so thoroughly be used to hawk consumer goods, and not just to convey fearful messages about how Candidate B hates People and wants to take away their Things, so vote for Candidate A?

Anyway, since so many important decisions about schools are made at the state and national level, the results of these elections that nearly drive my parents crazy actually have a fair amount to tell us about the world that I’m interested in. Let’s cue the various expert big people to fill in the gaps:

Let’s start with Chalkbeat’s rundown of Colorado election results, and the best news of all: Colorado voters overwhelmingly agreed to Open the Door (on school board-union negotiations) with Prop 104! No other statewide initiative passed, and most of the local education tax measures lost. As we have been told, Prop 104′s transparency requirement should begin to take effect this coming January, in time to affect the next round of local negotiations — though it may not be able to override current contract language until it expires.

Out of the sunshine and into the shadows. In his typical fashion, Mike Antonucci pulls no punches in pointing out that when it comes to major campaign spending, even the national teachers union’s dark cloud has a dark lining. RiShawn Biddle echoes the theme, noting the awful election day experienced by the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers. How bad was it? “So bad that [AFT president Randi] Weingarten cancelled what was supposed to be a gloating victory call with the press,” Biddle writes.

Looking at races big and small, he and Antonucci together deliver numerous examples of victorious union-backed opponents. Probably none was bigger than the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, that the likes of NEA and AFT came no closer to being able to unseat. Rick Hess lists Republican education reform governors like Walker as one of his election night winners, and the unions who so ardently opposed him as the biggest losers. (He also gives a shout-out to Colorado’s own Michael Johnston, who wasn’t on the ballot this year and whose chances for higher office probably weren’t affected too greatly one way or another.)

On the other hand, Hess puts “Common Core advocates” in the wait-and-see category, after an apparent mixed bag of outcomes last night. Mike Petrilli observes in more detail that both pro- and anti-Common Core Republican governors prevailed and showed strength, suggesting the issue will remain contentious and won’t be going away anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the trend in state-level races brings about a more unanimously positive result for school choice, including Rick Scott’s re-election in Florida. (See the Center for Education Reform’s breakdown to get a good sense of where the different gubernatorial candidates stand.) Alabama and Arizona are two states where choice supporters registered many key wins down the ticket, as well.

I’m told that no election night is ever completely one-sided. One of the very few bright rays of light for the unions and the anti-reform crowd was California’s re-election of Tom Torlakson as state superintendent of public instruction. Is it wrong for someone as young as I to reach the precipice of giving up hope in the Golden State?

Let’s wrap up back home, where it appears the pro-reform team has picked up seats in the state legislature — just a matter of how many — while the State Board of Education essentially returns the same cast of characters. Even though a certain character who once said that “charterizers and voucherizers” deserve “a special place in hell” returns to the legislature, I remain hopeful that true freedom, accountability, innovation, and excellence is about to get more traction under the Golden Dome.

The silliness has ended. Let the serious policy work resume.