Education Changes? There’s Something Happening Here

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The education status quo, buttressed by teachers’ unions and the education establishment, is beginning to buckle. It can be seen in poll responses and Tuesday’s school board election in Los Angeles.

Charter school supporters have captured a majority of the Los Angeles school board despite strong opposition from the local teachers’ union. The victory is sure to boost the growth of charters in the Los Angeles district that now has 16% of its students in charter schools. It will also encourage charter school supporters to advance their agenda in other jurisdictions.

The May election results comes a month after the Public Policy Institute of California released a survey showing strong support for tax funded voucher systems to be used by parents who want to choose the school in which their children are educated.

While 60 percent of adults endorsed the voucher plan, 66 percent of public school parents, 73 percent of African Americans and 69 percent of Latinos approved the idea, importantly strengthening the statewide consensus.

Despite these numbers, legislative change is slow in coming. A majority of Democrats on the Assembly Education Committee recently turned back Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s (R-Roseville) AB 1482, which would have allowed foster children, students who qualify for reduced cost meals and those students for whom English is a second language to attend public schools of their choice.

Given the failing quality of education, as encapsulated by Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters yesterday, you can understand why an education revolt is brewing. Walters suggested that politicians and citizens “tolerate a K-12 school system that’s failing to properly educate millions of poor students of color.”

But perhaps the poll results and the Los Angeles election are signs that things are changing.

For their part, the teachers’ unions reject the electoral defeat in Los Angeles as a matter of being outspent by charter school supporters. In a release, the California Federation of Teachers said, “education policy is once again being shaped by big moneyed interests.”

Interestingly, when the unions hold the upper hand in election spending as they do in many school boards, local and state tax and bond elections, you never hear concerns raised about campaign funding.

Businesses, frequently conceding school-related elections to unions, have long been concerned with the quality of education in the state and the abilities of students entering the workforce. Yet, engaging in school elections against the status quo usually earns businesses scorn, somehow equating corporations with evil.

Business has a role to play in encouraging better education however it is achieved. Indeed, business has often sided with the education establishment in supporting statewide and local taxes and bonds for schools.

But it is more than money that can bring improvements to education. Competition is key. Support for vouchers and charter schools will bring that competition, which would improve all education vehicles, public and private.

It appears that the voters are waking up to the promise of improved education opportunity by stepping away from the status quo here in California. When will the education establishment catch up?

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