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Nation Topics - Education Policy

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As the media obsessed over the seesaw presidential poll, voters across the country quietly made their choices on more than 200 disparate ballot measures and initiatives. For progressives the results are--as usual--mixed.

First the bad news: Three campaign finance reform initiatives went the wrong way. Clean-money measures providing for full public financing were thumped in Missouri and Oregon. Similar measures had been passed in previous years by voters in Maine, Massachusetts and Arizona as well as by the legislature in Vermont--but this time around powerful, well-financed business lobbies weighed in, and dirty money beat clean money. In Oregon opponents ran an effective (and expensive) radio campaign highlighting the out-of-state financial support for the reform, and it raised the specter of extremists running for office if it passed.

In Missouri corporate opponents--including Anheuser-Busch, KC Power & Light, Hallmark Cards and the Missouri Association of Realtors--poured hundreds of thousands into their victorious antireform campaign. Californians, meanwhile, approved Proposition 34, billed as campaign reform but actually cooked up by the establishment to block real reform. The returns on these three measures should compel campaign finance reform activists to rethink their strategies. These are significant and stinging defeats.

The good news is that the failed drug war was a loser in five of seven related measures nationwide. Medical marijuana initiatives passed in Colorado and Nevada (although a full marijuana-legalization bill failed in Alaska). Oregon and Utah voted to reform draconian drug forfeiture laws. And in California, Proposition 36, providing treatment instead of jail for first- and second-time drug offenders, passed easily. But a similar proposition failed in Massachusetts (which also refused to approve a universal healthcare proposal).

Another bright spot was public education. Voucher measures in California and Michigan were beaten by wide margins. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper put up millions for the California proposal--to no avail. California voters also approved a measure that makes passage of school bonds easier. But bilingual education, banned in the Golden State two years ago, was also thrown out by Arizona voters. As he did in California, businessman Ron Unz fathered and funded the Arizona measure.

Colorado voters defeated the so-called informed consent measure on abortion, but Arizona and Nebraska approved a ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions. In Maine a measure to protect gays from discrimination was defeated. In Oregon the notorious Measure 9, which outlaws "teaching" homosexuality in schools, failed. Oregonians also rejected two antiunion "paycheck protection" measures, which the state labor federation had vigorously fought.

In a presidential election year, few issues inspire more citizen anguish and less political substance than public education. This year is no exception.

How can we respond most effectively to right-wing assaults on the premises of public education?

Amy Wilkins: The way that you deal with th

This article is adapted from Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope (Crown).

While the public has been napping, the American university has been busily reinventing itself.

By now most of us accept as almost inevitable the idea that education, meaning school reform and access to college, is at or near the top of the political agenda, both in the states and in the na

Just because the ed whiz-biz politicians and the education bureaucrats have announced the end of "social promotion" doesn't mean that it ever existed--not for the past thirty years, anyway.

Wielding high-stakes tests, a noisy alliance of politicians, corporate CEOs and media pundits seems intent on standardizing education, proclaiming that every kid in America should march in lockst

Way down in Georgia last month, REM lead singer Michael Stipe paused in the middle of a solo during a rock concert because he had Kansas on his mind.

Research support was provided by the Open Society Institute and the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

Blogs

National Education Association calls out Obama’s education secretary for focusing on high-stakes testing. Democrats should take the criticism seriously.

July 8, 2014

Northwestern officials will finally comply with the Violence Against Women Act and compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

July 3, 2014

Hardline reformers are using Vergara v. State of California to dismantle tenure in other states.

June 13, 2014

Teachers’ contract vote will depend largely on whether they feel they can rely on this administration to steer the education system in a more progressive direction

May 7, 2014

An alternative education that makes sense would go beyond test prep

May 5, 2014

Rejecting standardized tests, teachers are waging civil disobedience in the classroom.

April 7, 2014

When a winter storm gridlocked Georgia, teachers and school employees proved their worth.

February 5, 2014

There’s no way Cuomo’s plan pays for the kind of effort de Blasio got elected to provide.

January 22, 2014

de Blasio’s pick for schools chancellor is a great first step toward changing the direction of school reform in New York. But it was just the first step.

December 31, 2013

PISA’s reductive test score dumps prevent nuanced debate. 

December 5, 2013