In Douglas County, the slate of four Republican-backed school board candidates eked out a victory over the four teachers’ union-backed candidates after a contentious race that divided the community. That division was reflected in the election numbers: The Republican-backed candidates won by a slight margins of just a few thousand votes.
Though the surface takeaway is that the Douglas affair is one of conservatives and reformers taking over an affluent district, there’s a much bigger story here: We are likely to see many, many more episodes like this in the months and years to come, though there will be variations on the theme. As statewide teacher-evaluation laws, Common Core implementation, tougher assessments, and other reforms really begin influencing suburbia, the ed-reform debate is going to seriously evolve. New fault lines are likely to appear. I’m not sure what this will look like, but if we thought urban ed reform was contentious, just wait.
Also in Colorado, two out of three voters rejected Amendment 66, a proposal to fund public schools with a $950-million income tax hike. Jack Healy describes the outcome as “a warning to Democrats nationally” and “a drubbing for teachers unions as well as wealthy philanthropists” who spent $10 million in support of the campaign. But Joshua Dunn sees a silver lining for those who want more education spending:
While Amendment 66 went down in flames yesterday, Colorado voters – by an almost exactly inverse proportion – approved Proposition AA, which will tax our now-legal recreational consumption of marijuana. Over one-third of the revenue raised from that measure will be dedicated to funding school construction. … [T]o all the marijuana tourists out there: Please come to Colorado and support our schools. It’s for the children.
Update from a reader:
Let’s be realistic here: these races were not that tight.
The closest race was more than a 3.5% margin of victory and the largest margin was about 6.5%. By contrast, Obama beat Romney in the popular vote by 3.9% and no one except Fox News thought it was a close race.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all rosy for the GOP or education reformers. I haven’t seen any exit polls or reports on turnout, but the GOP has a huge voting bloc advantage in Douglas County. There are more than 100K registered Republicans and only 43K Democrats. Assuming the vote went close to party lines (and turnout represented electorate demographics), that means a vast majority of the 73K independent went for the Democratic side. Independents tend to get turned off by partisanship and negative campaigning, so it could have been more style over substance. But this type of agenda won’t fly in most places.
Look at Boston. The labor unions spent nearly $3 million through outside SuperPACs to help the labor machine candidate, Marty Walsh. This chart on spending is remarkable. Overall, spending per capita on Boston race was 5x that of the NYC election. Connolly (both are Democrats) did not run an anti-union campaign, but had a reform mentality on education issues in particular. And Walsh is about as reliable a labor supporter as you’ll find anywhere. So, Douglas County may have a $800,000 school board race, but Boston had a $9 million mayoral contest. And Walsh “eked out” a 2 pt win.