Voters back education reform initiatives on Election Day

Education reform initiatives fared well at the ballot box on Tuesday.

Voters in Washington and Georgia approved constitutional amendments that will create charter school programs in those states. A proposal that would have strengthened collective bargaining for public teachers’ unions in Michigan was handily defeated. Unions also lost in Idaho, where the National Education Association spent nearly $3 million in a failed attempt to repeal a law that limits collective bargaining and introduces mild accountability measures for teachers.

Candidates who supported school choice and education reform were broadly successful on Tuesday, said Malcom Glenn, national director of communications at the American Federation for Children.

“We supported a bipartisan coalition of more than 200 candidates in the general and primary elections across the country. Over 83% of them were successful,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

School choice is no longer just a Republican issue, Glenn pointed out.

“These candidates were both Democrats and Republicans, which is indicative of the extremely broad and inclusive nature of this movement,” he said. “It bodes well for the future.”

Several well-known Democrats–including former chancellor of Washington, DC schools Michelle Rhee, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa—have become prominent spokesperson for school choice in recent years, though President Obama has never endorsed the policy.

Education reform did suffer at least one setback: voters in South Dakota rejected merit pay for teachers. The defeated proposal would have given $5,000 bonuses to high-performing teachers while eliminating tenure. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who suggested the policy, said he may ask lawmakers to take up the issue of merit-pay.

On the other hand, the failure of the collective bargaining proposal in Michigan was a major defeat for teachers’ unions.

“It shows the Democratic Party is not knee-jerk union anymore,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor relations at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “It shows how much of an overreach it was that even Obama Democrats voted against [the proposal].”

On education reform, voters everywhere seem inclined to reject the status quo when given the chance.

“The best education policies empower individuals to do what they think is best for them rather than forcing everyone to abide by rules that keep the establishment comfortable,” said Joy Pullmann, managing editor of School Reform News, in an email to The DC News Foundation.

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