On this blog, I’m going to keep my post-election reflections focused on education, save for one thought: continued progress in the realization of the American dream is extremely important for our nation and the world as a whole, and I look forward to continuing to play a bit part in this vitally important endeavor. I hope you do too.
On to education.
#1: MA and GA Drive Home that Traditional Public School Support is Boosted by Populism
In Massachusetts, a populist blue state, the charter school cap was not lifted because unions effectively portrayed this expansion as something that would harm traditional public schools.
In Georgia, a populist red state, a state takeover entity was rejected because opponents effectively portrayed the intervention as something that would hurt local public schools.
In populist politics, communications messages that focus on preserving local, traditional public schools appear to be very effective.
Interestingly enough, it’s not clear to me that these results demonstrate a significant antipathy toward charter schools; rather, they seem to indicate a deep protectionist instinct for traditional public schools.
For charters to be successful, we may need to communicate in a fashion that reduces fears that existing traditional schools will be harmed.
#2: In Cities Where Charters are Normalized, Elections are Producing Pro-Reform Results
In New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Oakland – all cities with 25%+ high-performing charter sectors – reforms either held or expanded majorities.
Generally, reformers prefer top-down quick wins like ballot initiatives; however, we have emerging evidence that, in cities with higher charter market share, elected school boards can tip into modestly sustainable pro-reform majorities.
This is more evidence that market share drives everything.
#3 What Will Ideological but Not Constituent Support Deliver?
The federal government is now fully controlled by Republicans, a party that is highly ideologically aligned with choice and charters.
However, many Republicans represent states without large charter sectors. As such, there is not uniform constituent demand for more charters.
An open question to me is how much Republicans will use this moment to expand thoughtful, sustainable choice reforms.
#4 The Status of Within District Reform will Rise
Given the populist rise of traditional school protection, reforms that disrupt within districts – such as technology – will likely see in increase in philanthropic support.
There is much to be learned by listening to how people express themselves through voting.
It’s a noisy signal, but in a world of communication bubbles, it’s a signal nonetheless.