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Education Reform on the Ballot 2012

Common Dreams staff

CORPORATE EDUCATION REFORM: On November 6, three states—Washington, Idaho, and Georgia—will allow voters to vote on ballot initiatives that will have direct impact on the future of public education in their state.

The national trend of 'education reform movement'—better described as the 'movement to privatize public education'—is driven by a corporate model of schooling and is backed by some of the nation's wealthiest individuals, for-profit education companies, anti-government and anti-union zealots. Some of the major initiatives, including the push for private charter schools, merit-based teacher evaluation schemes, and the elimination of union rights for educators, have infiltrated both major political parties in one of the most unfortunate instances of bi-partisan agreement ever foisted on the nation's school age children.

The troubling trend for this kind of education reform has already occurred in state legislatures across the country and can be found in many federal initiatives as well.  The ballot initiatives represented below should only serve as a sampling of the national trend, but should offer a glimpse into how certain specific policies fit into the wider scheme to use catchy phrases like "school choice" and "teacher accountability" to decimate public education in the US.

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Washington:  Creating Statewide Charter School System - Initiative 1240

Initiative Measure No. 1240 concerns creation of a public charter school system.

This measure would authorize up to forty publicly-funded charter schools open to all students, operated through approved, nonreligious, nonprofit organizations, with government oversight; and modify certain laws applicable to them as public schools.

Should this measure be enacted into law?



The Basics

This measure would allow a newly-created state commission or approved local school boards to authorize qualifying nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to operate public charter schools, limited to forty schools over five years. Public charter schools would receive standard per-student public school funding and be open to all students without tuition. Public charter schools would be subject to teacher certification requirements, government oversight, and performance reporting requirements, but exempt from certain laws and school district policies.

No on I-1240

  • People for Our Public Schools is the primary campaign fighting to protect public education in Washington from the latest attempt to implement a charter school system in the state.
  • Washington voters have voted down previous three previous efforts to partly-privatize education in recent years.
  • Opponents argue Initiative-1240 would drain millions of dollars from Washington’s K-12 public schools into experimental, privately operated charter schools.
  • Instead of diverting scarce funding from public schools and spending it on a failed concept like charter schools, the Washington Education Association (WEA) says the state should be investing more in the innovative public schools Washington already has.
  • I-1240 would not reduce crowding in classrooms... not restore arts, music and similar enrichment programs... not close the achievement gap.. not replace outdated textbooks and technology... and not hire enough qualified teachers to provide kids with the individual attention they need.
  • Washington's PTA's opposition to I-1240 lays entirely in its failure to protect shared decision-making between the school and family and community. It does not require parents on the charter school boards, or some alternative site council structure. It does not address how to maintain local input and oversight of school budgets if a charter school answers to a state commission.

No on 1240 and 'The Charter School Fairytale' video:

Yes on 1240

  • Yes on 1240 is the main proponent of the charter school initiative and is backed by some of the wealthiest individuals in the state, including billionaires Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
  • At one point, just 17 individuals contributed a total of more than $3 million to campaign.
  • Other cleverly named political-lobbying groups, Stand for Children and Partnership for Learning. Masquerading as grassroots organizations, these groups actually represent no more than a few hundred individuals across the state.
  • There will be an evaluation at the end of the five-year period to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed.

Public polling on Washington's Initiative-1240:

10/18 KCTS 9 / Univ. Wash. Poll 47.5% 39.2% 12%

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Idaho:  Destroying Teachers' Rights, Undermining Public Education - Props. 1, 2, & 3

Prop 1:

Referendum to approve or reject legislation limiting negotiated agreements between teachers and local school boards and ending the practice of issuing renewable contracts.

Referendum to approve or reject S1108... to revise the annual written evaluation process for professional staff; phase out renewable individual contracts; provide that professional staff employed after January 31, 2011 shall not be entitled to a formal review of decisions for not being reemployed; allow school boards to change the length of terms stated in current contracts and reduce the salaries of certificated staff with renewable contracts without due process proceedings; require school districts to disclose to employees a list of professional liability insurance providers; eliminate education support program for school districts experiencing enrollment decreases greater than one percent; eliminate teacher early retirement incentives; restrict the scope of negotiated agreements between school boards and professional staff to compensation and the duration of negotiated agreements to one year; and eliminate provisions for fact finding in professional negotiations.

Shall the legislation limiting negotiated agreements between teachers and local school boards and ending the practice of issuing renewable contracts be approved?

A YES vote means you approve the legislation. A NO vote means you reject the legislation.



The Basics

Prop 2:

Referendum to approve or reject legislation providing teacher performance pay based on state-mandated test scores, student performance, hard-to-fill positions and leadership.

Referendum to approve or reject S1110; relating to education: revising Idaho Code by adding new section 33-1004I to provide and distribute in fiscal year 2013 state share-based pay for performance bonuses to certificated instructional staff based on a school's median student growth percentiles on state achievement tests and a school's median standardized score on state achievement tests and local share-based pay for performance based on student test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, percent of graduates attending post-secondary education or entering military service, meeting federal "adequate yearly progress", number of students successfully completing dual credit or advanced placement classes; percent of students in extracurricular activities, class projects, portfolios, successful completion of special student assignments, parental involvement, teacher-assigned grades, and/or student attendance rates, and, in fiscal year 2014 and thereafter, in addition to the aforementioned bonuses, provide incentives for certificated instructional staff in hard-to-fill positions and leadership awards for certificated instructional staff who assume one or more of the following additional duties: instructional staff mentoring, content leadership, lead teacher, peer coaching, content specialist, remedial instructor, curriculum development, assessment development, data analysis, grant writing, special program coordinator, research project, professional development instructor, service on education committees, educational leadership and earning national board certification.

Shall the legislation providing teacher performance pay based on state-mandated test scores, student performance, hard-to-fill positions and leadership be approved?

A YES vote means you approve the legislation. A NO vote means you reject the legislation.



The Basics

  • Opposition: Vote No Props 1, 2, 3 is a coalition of teachers, parents and education advocates that is leading the fight against all three education-related ballot initiatives. They say:
  • Proposition 1 restricts the voice and limits the rights of Idaho’s teachers. This complicated, top-down mandate puts Idaho’s students last. In the year since Proposition 1 took effect, class sizes have gone up, and the State Department of Education reported that nearly twice as many Idaho teachers left the profession as in previous years. Proposition 1 prevents teachers from negotiating with their school administrators about anything except for wages and benefits. It prohibits teachers from speaking up about class-size limits, student safety protections, lesson-planning time, or funding for basic classroom supplies.
    Proposition 1 takes away teachers’ voices. They’re in our children’s classrooms every day; they know what our kids need to stay safe and succeed.
  • Proposition 2 unfairly links teacher pay to misleading standardized testing, much like the failed federal No Child Left Behind law. This one-size-fits-all plan puts Idaho’s students and teachers last. Measuring teacher performance is important, but this is the wrong way to do it. With these rules, even more emphasis is put on a single test score, and students are treated like widgets coming off an assembly line. The fact is, each child is unique, and it takes a dedicated, caring, highly trained teacher to reach them. We need to make sure our children are good critical thinkers, not just good test takers.
    This one-size-fits all mandate penalizes our schools and our kids because it will discourage the best and the brightest teachers from working in the schools that need them most.
  • Proposition 3 forces your local schools to spend your tax dollars on expensive, unproven technology before they spend money on essentials like reducing class sizes, purchasing basic classroom supplies, or protecting student safety. Because this state mandate was left largely unfunded by the legislature, it could lead to higher property taxes for all of us. It also requires all students to take on-line courses in order to graduate from high school. One of the online course providers that benefits most from this law, K12 Inc., was even caught sending students’ English essays to reviewers based in India. The last thing we should be doing is using our taxpayer dollars to outsource Idaho teaching jobs and our students’ education to another country.
    This costly, top-down mandate is the wrong way to develop a 21st century education.

NO on Props. 1,2,3 campaign video


  • The main campaign for the pieces of legislation is Yes! for Idaho Education
  • Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush endorsed the reforms, saying that the pieces of legislation "will be the models for the rest of the country.”
  • Tom Luna, state superintendent, is also the lead advocate of the measures at the state level.

Public Polling on Idaho's Props. 1,2,3:

Prop 1:

10/13 Mason Dixon Polling & Research 42% 38% 20%

Prop 2:

10/13 Mason Dixon Polling & Research 42% 39% 19%

Prop 3:

10/13 Mason Dixon Polling & Research 47% 40% 13%

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Georgia:  Charter Schools Provision - Amendment 1

Amendment 1:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?



The Basics:

This proposal authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for the creation of public state charter schools, which would operate under the terms of charters between the State Board of Education and charter petitioners, while preserving the authority of local boards of education to establish local charter schools. Specifically, the proposal clarifies the authority of the General Assembly to provide for state-wide policies for public education prior to the college or post-secondary level, restates the authority of the General Assembly to establish special schools, prohibits the incurrence of bonded indebtedness or the levy of school taxes for the support of special schools without approval of the local board of education and the voters in the affected school system, provides that special schools may include public state charter schools, preserves the authority of local boards of education to establish local charter schools, authorizes the expenditure of state funds for special schools, and prohibits the deduction of certain state funds from local school districts as a direct result or consequence of the enrollment of students in state charter schools.

The General Assembly has enacted a law to exercise the authority granted by the proposed constitutional amendment to provide for public state charter schools. This law will become effective only if the constitutional amendment is ratified by the voters.

The Opposition:

  • The primary opposition campaign to the measure is Vote Smart Georgia
  • The amendment is also opposed by the state's major education associations and teacher unions
  • Last year, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a 2008 law that allowed the state to create and fund state charter schools with local school funds against the wishes of local school boards and local communities.
  • The Georgia State Constitution says that local school boards and local communities have exclusive authority to decide if they want charter schools in their communities.
  • The proposed amendment permanently changes the Georgia State Constitution to allow the state to do what the court ruled was illegal.
  • Why does the state want to set up a dual school system when they are underfunding the public schools we already have?

No on Amendment 1 video:


  • The chief proponents of the amendment are Republican state legislators, including Senator Mike Crane and Senator Buddy Carter



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