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General Election Results: Education impact beyond Texas' borders

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 11/07/2014

Changes in Congress

The Republican gains seen in Texas after this Tuesday's general election were not exclusive; the party also gained substantial ground in the U.S. Congress, and the changes are likely to have an impact on education policy, at least in part. Prior to Nov. 4, Republicans controlled the U.S. House of Representatives while Democrats made up the majority of members in the U.S. Senate. The seats picked up by Republicans in this election were enough for the party to gain control of both chambers of Congress. While this change is likely to spur more movement of education legislation in the House and Senate, the process still faces a Democratic president with the power of veto. The change in the U.S. Senate majority party will mean a new chairman driving the legislation and policy decisions impacting education. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee and the current ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), is likely to be named chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over federal public education policy. Based on previous education initiatives championed by Republican leaders in both chambers, we have a good idea of the legislation we can expect from the new Congress after January: a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is more commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB); measures aimed at creating school choice; and a change in funding for federal education programs and initiatives. In a letter jointly authored by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the likely next majority leader of the U.S. Senate, the party's top leaders committed to addressing the current education system, which they referred to as "under-performing."

Education Measures on States’ Ballots

Although there were no statewide education initiatives on the ballot here in Texas, voters in several other states were given a chance to determine the fate of various education measures on Election Day. The issues included class size restrictions, vouchers, preschool education and school funding. Colorado: Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have expanded gaming to include casino gambling at horse race tracks with a percentage of the proceeds made through gambling-related taxes to be directed for K-12 education. Hawaii: Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to spend public money on private preschool programs. Illinois: Voters approved a referendum question on a 3 percent tax increase for incomes that exceed $1 million, which would be used to help fund education. (Referendum questions do not change laws but give legislators and other state leaders an idea of how voters feel on certain issues.) Missouri: Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made major changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system and teacher contracts. The plan would have created a teacher evaluation system based on student performance data, prohibited teachers from collectively bargaining around the new evaluation system, limited teachers' contracts to no more than three years, and determined teachers’ employment based on the new evaluation system. Nevada: Voters rejected a statutory amendment that would have increased funding to education through a 2 percent tax increase on businesses with revenue exceeding $1 million. New York: Voters approved a proposition allowing the state to borrow up to $2 billion in bonds for certain public and non-public school initiatives: increased technology, better access to high-speed Internet, improved facilities for pre-kindergarten programs, and high-tech security features. North Dakota: Voters rejected a measure that would have required the K-12 school year to start after Labor Day. Seattle: Voters approved a proposition to create a preschool program that will eventually cover the cost of preschool for up to 2,000 three- and four-year-old children of low-income earners. The funding will come from a four-year tax increase totaling $58 million. Voters were given the option to choose one of two proposals or reject both options. The competing proposal would have raised the minimum wage for childcare workers to $15 per hour and created a childcare worker training program. Washington: Votes are still being counted on an initiative that would direct the legislature to increase funding for the hiring of additional teachers, administrators, and support staff in order to reduce class sizes. (The initiative includes no new funding. Legislators will ultimately decide how to respond to the initiative. Their many options include redirecting funding from other state and local funding sources, leaving the initiative unfunded, or partially funding the initiative.)


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