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Federal & State Education Policy Changes Coming
posted by: Alix | November 04, 2010, 03:45 PM   

In the aftermath of a historic shift in power, pundits and citizens across the country are making predictions about which changes this new crop of lawmakers will have in store for K-12 education policy. Shockwaves will be felt nationally as well as at the state and local levels.

Several Republicans won gubernatorial races this week. Many campaigned on a return to local control of education with an emphasis on returning education decisions to the states. GOP school superintendent candidates on the state level also did well, winning control of several positions that will allow them to play a critical role in shaping education policy.

Click here to track your state's new governor or education chief.

Also in the states, several key ballot initiatives on spending and class size were considered. In New Mexico, voters passed a $7.1 million bond initiative to finance academic, public school, tribal, and public library buildings. In Washington however, voters rejected a measure that would have raised taxes on individuals making $200,000 and families making $400,000 for the purpose of increasing funds for health and education.

In Florida, an amendment to the state constitution that would have rolled back a current constitutional amendment that limits class size was defeated. All of these referenda were a direct result of tight budgets and an uncertain economy.

"It's all funding," stated Jennie Drage Bowser, a senior fellow in the Legislative Management Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. In Colorado, voters rejected two amendments and one initiative relating to reducing various taxes and restrictions on government borrowing. Critics advocated that these cuts would have decimated the education budget in the state.

Click here to find out if your state passed any interesting ballot initiatives.

On the federal level, presumed House Education and Labor Chairman, John Kline, is already circulating legislative priorities for the 112th Congress, including conducting a robust oversight of education programs and a focus on pursuing education reform that restores "local control, empowers parents, lets teachers teach, and protects taxpayers."

President Obama, weighing in on the GOP surge in the House and gains in the Senate, called for bipartisanship. "K-12 policy is one area where Republicans and Democrats could see eye-to-eye," he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Obama stressed that both Democrats and Republicans have a stake in ensuring that America's children "are the best educated in the world. ... That's going to be an area where I think there's potential for common ground."

Obama maintained that he did not want to see spending cuts in areas that are critical to America's economic future, including k-12 education.

There is an obvious ideological fight on spending in this country. Obama once stated, "Money without reform will not work." It will be interesting to see the reform agenda in action when Washington and state legislatures try to live within a budget.

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