Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.
In today’s edition, you’ll find:
- On the issues: The debate over teachers’ union leadership
- Where the nine governors-elect stand on education
- Extracurricular: education news from around the web
- Candidate Connection survey
Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!
On the issues: The debate over teachers’ union leadership
In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.
In a recent interview with Semafor, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the leadership of teachers’ unions and said, “The most dangerous person in the world is Randi Weingarten. It’s not a close call.” Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers’ union in America. This week, we’ll look at responses to Pompeo’s statement.
Ira Stoll writes that Weingarten and other teachers’ union leaders are not as powerful or influential as Pompeo says. Stoll says that union leadership represents members and cannot force union policies top-down. He also says responsibility for building curriculum in many states and localities falls to state officials and school board members, not teachers’ unions.
Natalya Murakhver writes that teachers’ union leaders, including Weingarten, opposed the interests of parents and students and played a large role in lobbying for policies that kept schools closed and students masked during the coronavirus pandemic. Murakhver says such policies contributed to lower math and reading achievement.
Is Randi Weingarten Really “The Most Dangerous Person in the World”? | Ira Stoll, Education Next
“On the substance, Pompeo is off base in a lot of important ways. He singles out Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, by name without mentioning the president of the larger National Education Association. He doesn’t mention that rather than imposing her own views, top-down, on the union, Weingarten is elected to represent union members, some of whom are far to her left, and most of whom may be more invested in pay and pension issues than the substance of the social studies curriculum. Weingarten didn’t invent the 1619 Project; Nikole Hannah-Jones did. Of all the factors influencing education outcomes in America, teacher-union political power is only one among many. Plenty of jurisdictions with strong unions also have strong math and reading test scores. And in plenty of other places, decisions about textbooks and curriculum are made largely not by the unions but by Republican state and local elected officials. The governments that collapsed most dramatically in recent memory were Communist ones, such as Poland and the Soviet Union, where workers were forbidden from organizing labor unions that were independent of government control.”
Mike Pompeo is right: Randi Weingarten IS a danger to our children | Natalya Murakhver, The New York Post
“The pandemic lockdowns pulled back the curtain and exposed us to the harsh truth. Suddenly, as parents found themselves fighting on the frontlines to reopen our nation’s schools, we were faced with an unfamiliar — and to many of my fellow liberal Democrats unexpected — adversary. While we may have previously believed we share the same values — commitment to diversity, freedom of choice and all basic civil liberties — it turned out the fake values the unions espoused were not what we thought. Furthermore, they held all the cards while parents were left holding their inconsolable children. … So you’ll understand why Mike Pompeo’s comment that Randi is the most dangerous person in the world resonated with me. Randi and her fellow union leaders are the ones who kept our schools closed, our children masked and our communities divided during the darkest times of our lives. They had countless opportunities to lead, to help to unite. But they chose to destroy instead. The result? Math tests scores decreased by the largest amount ever. Decades were taken off reading scores. The union, meanwhile, wants fewer tests, less accountability, and an overall lowering of academic standards.”
Where the nine first-time governors stand on education
On Nov. 8, voters elected 36 governors—nine for the first time. Of the nine first-time governors, six are Democrats and three are Republicans. Most of the governors-elect will assume office in January 2023, and they will begin carrying out their priorities—which, for all governors, includes making changes to state education policies.
Governors play a central role in influencing education policy. But that hasn’t always been the case. According to education and government scholar Arnold Shober, before the 1970s, “many governors felt comfortable leaving education to school boards and state
superintendents because states provided relatively modest payments to districts.”
Today, governors set a vision for education in their annual State of the State Addresses. Governors also propose state budgets that include education financing, and approve the final version of the budget the legislature passes. In many states, governors appoint state superintendents or state board of education members.
In the sections that follow, we’ll briefly look at what the new governors-elect have said about their K-12 public education priorities.
Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs (D) defeated Kari Lake (R) 50.4% to 49.6%. Hobbs is the Arizona Secretary of State. Doug Ducey (R) was term-limited.
Hobbs’ education plan includes universal Pre-K, hiring more school counselors and social workers, investing in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teachers, and making charter schools more accountable to taxpayers.
Hobbs opposes Arizona’s recently-implemented Empowerment Scholarship Account program. The program allows all K-12 students to use taxpayer-funded education accounts to attend schools or pay for curriculum or tutoring outside the public school system. Hobbs said: “This voucher system we are under now doesn’t provide real choice in educational opportunity for most families. It diverts resources from public schools and provides a subsidy for already wealthy children whose parents could already afford private education for them.”
Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) defeated Chris Jones (D) 63.1% to 35.1%. Incumbent Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) was term-limited.
Huckabee Sanders titled her education plan Arkansas LEARNS. The plan calls for improving access to Pre-K (Literacy), curriculum transparency and choice (Empowerment), rewarding quality teachers with higher pay (Accountability), preparing students for the workforce (Readiness), expanding access to high-speed internet (Networking), and school safety and mental health (Safety).
Governor Joshua Green (D) defeated Duke Aiona (R) 67.2% to 32.8%. Green, who was sworn into office on Dec. 7, was the Hawaii Lieutenant Governor. Former Gov. David Ige (D) was term-limited.
Green said he would “develop and fund a universal public Pre-K program” and “expand literacy programs for students who need extra help reading.” Green also said he would “hire and retain quality, experienced teachers by offering competitive pay, benefits, and affordable housing” and “conduct a comprehensive review of Department of Education spending to identify and direct more resources into our classrooms.”
Green said: “Finding the right superintendent who sets the right culture for the DOE is critical; and my preference for this position would be an individual who has an education background, has experience within the DOE system or one similar to it.”
Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) defeated Dan Cox (R) 59.8% to 37%. Incumbent Larry Hogan (R) was term-limited.
Moore’s education plan includes fully funding Maryland’s Blueprint for Education, a 2021 law that increased education funding by $3.8 billion a year over 10 years, raising teacher salaries and strengthening collective bargaining, providing free Pre-K, and encouraging students to go into STEM fields and funding dual enrollment and apprenticeship programs.
Gov.-elect Maura Healey (D) defeated Geoff Diehl (R) 63.8% to 34.7%. Healey is the state attorney general. Incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker (R) did not seek re-election.
Healey’s education plan includes fully funding the Student Opportunity Act, a 2019 law that would add $1.5 billion to Massachusetts schools over seven years, hiring more school counselors and social workers, updating school buildings, and promoting “policies and legislation that will create a pipeline to better recruit, retain, and promote educators of color.”
Gov.-elect Jim Pillen (R) defeated Carol Blood (D) 59.9% to 36.2%. Pillen is an elected member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) was term-limited.
Pillen says: “Our mission in education is to prepare our children for the future, not introduce political ideology. As the parent of a high school junior, I join thousands of Nebraska parents in opposing the proposed State Board of Education ‘health standards,’ which sexualize students and supplant parental values with a radical view.”
Pillen supports charter schools and believes the school funding formula should change: “I’m not talking about defunding. I’m talking about changing the funding. So let’s just keep it simple math. A billion dollars of state funds divided by the number of students, and the funding follows a student to the school district. So it’s per student funding, not per district funding. “
Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo (R) defeated incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) 49.7% to 46.6%. Lombardo is the Clark County Sheriff.
Lombardo said he will “implement school choice initiatives that empower Nevada families” and “re-prioritize and re-institute pivotal educational programs like Read by Grade Three that have been proven to give students a better chance at success.” Lombardo also supports “expanding vocational training and workforce development programs” and working with the legislature to “to repeal ‘restorative justice’ measures, which have made our schools demonstrably less safe.” In 2019, the state enacted a law requiring schools to provide a “plan of action based on restorative justice before expelling a pupil.”
Lombardo also wants to evaluate “potential ballot initiatives that would allow for the break up of the Clark County School District and other school districts that are underperforming.”
Gov.-elect Tina Kotek (D) defeated Christine Drazan (R) 47.1% to 43.4%. Kotek is a former state representative. Incumbent Governor Kate Brown (D) was term-limited.
Kotek said she would “improve Oregon’s graduation rates to 90% for all student groups by 2027” and ensure “all children are reading by third grade.” Kotek supports real-time assessments over standardized testing and opposes “any effort to undermine public schools by providing taxpayer dollars to private schools in the name of ‘school choice.’” She also called for all high school students to take a financial literacy and life skills course to learn skills like budgeting and resume writing.
Kotek said, “I have always supported maintaining rigorous standards for reading, writing, and math. But we don’t need to keep adding on more and more standardized testing beyond what is necessary to monitor student progress. We need to let teachers teach – and our students will benefit from more instructional time.”
Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D) defeated Doug Mastriano (R) 54.8% to 43.4%. Shapiro is the current state attorney general. Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) was term-limited.
Shapiro supports “fully funding and fixing up our schools, prioritizing mental health, empowering students with vocational, technical, and computer training, and ensuring parents have a real voice in their children’s education.” Shapiro also said he will “ensure that every school building in the Commonwealth has at least one mental health counselor, and end our reliance on standardized testing so we can create more time for kids to learn and more flexibility for teachers to teach.”
Shapiro supports lifeline scholarships, a policy that would allow some students from low-performing schools to use state money on educational expenses, including private school tuition. Shapiro said, “I’m for fully funding public education. I’m for making sure we give parents the ability to put their kids in the best situation for them to be able to succeed. And I’m for making sure we add scholarships like lifeline scholarships to make sure that that’s additive to their educations.” In April, the Pennsylvania House voted 104-98 to establish the Lifeline Scholarship program. The Senate Education Committee approved the bill in June, but the full Sente has yet to act on it.
Extracurricular: education news from around the web
This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us!
Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district
We’re featuring survey responses from school board candidates who won their races on Nov. 8.
Today, we’re looking at responses from incumbent Khem Irby (D), who won the general election for Guilford County Schools school board District 6, and Robert Barr (R), who was one of four candidates who won election to Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools school board District 2 (four seats were up for election).
Here’s how Irby answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”
“I am personally passionate about being able to provide the best possible education with the resources that are given to us. I am committed to working with and advocating along side my colleagues for a greater investment for public good of education. Our policies must show children that we want them to be successful and that we respect and support educators for being the experts in a successful educational system. Policies will show the community that we care about the future of Guilford County, safety in schools, the overall well-being of our staff, educators and students, and ending the pipeline to prison which plagues many school systems around the country. I believe that education is the responsibility of the entire village and it will be successful in this light as we continue to build relationships and invite new partners to the table to share their ideas. I see Guilford County as an up and coming model for families to build a future for success and wealth for those who have been marginalized.”
Click here to read the rest of Irby’s answers.
Here’s how Barr answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”
“Making sure all of our kids have the support and resources to learn. I grew up in public housing, raised by a single parent, and economically disadvantaged. However, because of the support of a guidance counselor and a program called Upward Bound that helped my mother and I navigate the educational system I was able to achieve some success. I have a Masters Degree from Wake Forest and a Bachelors Degree from Winston-Salem State University. Through education and the proper support, all children can learn. I am a big advocate of parental involvement and engagement. Parents are a crucial and critical part of children learning.”
Click here to read the rest of Barr’s answers.