What is at stake for education reform in this election? Read on.
Headed to the polls to vote? That means you'll be deciding who will implement—or possibly not implement—much-needed education reforms. As we've seen in Washington, D.C., with Mayor Adrian Fenty's lost bid for mayoral re-election, and the subsequent resignation of D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who's in office makes a difference for schools.
The next Congress faces the charge of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). However, whether that reauthorization will happen seamlessly given that candidates, like Kentucky's Rand Paul, want to completely shutter the federal Department of Education, remains to be seen.
Newly elected governors and state education officials will also be faced with deciding whether or not to follow through on one of the most radical education shifts in modern times, the Common Core Standards Initiative. Historically, individual states have the right to decide what's going to be taught, and they don't always choose the same content or the same level of rigor.
Critics of this approach have long said the differences in state standards make it impossible to ensure that students nationwide get a consistent, high-quality education. It also makes it challenging to compare NCLB-mandated standardized testing data and determine which states are really getting the job done and which need to improve.
Enter the Common Core Standards Initiative, a "state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)." The initiative began developing consistent, national K-12 English and math standards in 2009.
Cash-strapped states jumped on board when the Obama administration made a game-changing move and said that states competing for $4 billion in Race to the Top money could get more application "points" if they agreed to adopt the Common Core Standards. So far, 41 states have signed on to implement these national standards, but all that could change with new political agendas that are focused on local control.
Even Race to the Top could be in jeopardy if next year's congress refuses to continue to fund it. The Republican Party's "Pledge to America" promises to fiscal spending to 2008 levels, meaning that the increased federal spending on education reform could come to an end.