by Brian Washington
Students and working families across the nation are reveling in some big Election Day wins at the federal, state and local levels. The victories signal strong support among voters for public schools and the middle class and also demonstrate what happens when educators get involved in political action on behalf of students and their families.
President Barack Obama is going back to the White House, after defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who wanted to shortchange students by inundating public education with voucher and privatization schemes.
During his first term, President Obama worked tirelessly to make higher education more affordable and spearheaded the passage of health care reform legislation that has benefitted millions of children nationwide.
The President took several key battleground states in the Democratic column including Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel called Obama’s win “a victory for students and their educators.”
U.S. Senate Races
The night also saw the election of several new members to the U.S. Senate who will be strong advocates for students, educators, and public schools.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin is now the country’s first openly gay U.S. Senator in Wisconsin. Baldwin has consistently supported pro-public education policies and legislation to aid the middle class.
One of the country’s most high-profile U.S. Senate races took place in Massachusetts, where Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeated incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown. Warren made college affordability one of her top priorities.
In Connecticut, Linda McMahon (R) lost her second attempt to win a U.S. Senate seat in the state, where she fell to Chris Murphy (D). McMahon is estimated to have spent a total of $100 million on both failed U.S. Senate bids.
Incumbent education champions were also re-elected last night in Ohio and Missouri. In Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown, who is a strong supporter of childhood education and public schools, fended off Republican challenger Josh Mandel. Brown sponsored last year the Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) Act, designed to repair neglected schools and community colleges.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill—the first female Senator from Missouri—defeated Tea Party favorite Todd Akin. McCaskill is a big supporter of federal school lunch programs, Pell Grants to help students in need attend college, and early childhood education.
Mazie Hirono (D) won Hawaii’s open senate seat over former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) and became the country’s first Asian-American female senator. As a congresswoman, Hirono made early education one of her top priorities while serving on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Pre-K Now refers to her as a “Pre-K Champion” for her leadership on quality early education.
U.S. House Races
Educators also rallied around key members of the U.S. House of Representatives to help them hold onto their seats.
In Massachusetts, incumbent Democrat John Tierney maintained his seat in the House. Recently, Tierney spoke with educators from his district during a tele-town hall, which he used to talk about policy issues he’s working on—like college affordability and job training.
In New York, Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop defeated his Republican challenger Randy Altschuler in the state’s First Congressional District.
Key gubernatorial races were won in New Hampshire and Montana by strong supporters of students, teachers and education support professionals.
New Hampshire voters gave a big win to Democrat Maggie Hassan. Hassan has promised to make education and jobs her top priorities.
In Montana, the gubernatorial race between Democrat Steve Bullock and Republican Rick Hill was called in favor of Bullock. Hill advocated for policies that would have promoted charter schools and silenced educators and robbed them of their ability to advocate for students.
In Indiana, another defeat was handed to corporate education reform backers in the race for State Superintendent. Tony Bennett, the incumbent, was defeated by Glenda Ritz, a two-time Teacher of the Year.
Bennett was behind the so-called education reform group backed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called Chiefs for Change.
Ritz is one of only 155 teachers in Indiana to obtain the highest teaching credential, National Board Certification, and she established a strong literacy program that led her school to become a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School and an Indiana 4-Star School.
In California, voters defeated what has been called a “deceptive” ballot measure that would have silenced the voices of educators, other middle workers, and their unions. Educators are calling the rejection of Proposition 32 a vote for political fairness. Meanwhile, voters also demonstrated their willingness to invest in public schools and colleges by voting “yes” on Proposition 30, which will stop $6 billion in midyear budget cuts to schools and colleges.
In Florida, voters overwhelming rejected two measures that would have negatively impacted communities and public schools. One measure would have robbed public schools of valuable funding by placing a cap on state revenues. The other ballot measure would have siphoned away tax dollars intended for public schools for vouchers for private and religious schools.
In Maryland, voters rejected an attempt to cut off the path to higher education for students of immigrants across the state. In a strong show of support, voters fended off an attempt to repeal the Maryland DREAM Act, which allows students of immigrants—who have graduated from high school and have been accepted into a public university—to receive financial aid.
In Idaho, voters rejected three new laws educators say resulted from misguided legislators misreading what the public wanted them to do. Idahoans did so by voting “No” on Propositions 1,2,and 3. One law robbed educators of their voices and ability to advocate for students. Another implemented a complicated, unproven, and unfunded bonus pay scheme based on student test scores, and the third law mandated that high school students be provided “individual mobile computing devices” and would establish online course requirements for graduation.
More to Come
Stay tuned to for more analysis later this week on the outcome and impact of electoral results from key races and ballot measures from across the country. And click here to get the latest alerts from Education Votes.