Pandemic-related school closures at neighborhood public schools left parents wondering what other options they had. Many have voted for the people they hope will give them more choice when they choose heads of state in their midterm elections this month.
But the bigger picture shows that Americans are still divided on school choices, and that was reflected in their votes last week when seven states elected a state superintendent. States with robust school election programs, including Arizona, have elected candidates supporting school election. Other places, like Oklahoma, introduced new leaders who they believe could give them more school voucher options for the first time.
Oklahoma’s new State Superintendent Ryan Walters, a Republican, advocated giving parents the power to choose where their children go to school and taking public funds to a private school, religious school, or homeschooling program if it suits them choice is. Walters is one of the few state superintendents elected last week who is campaigning for school elections and has the backing of powerful national groups and politicians in what some are calling a school election wave.
School choice supporters in South Carolina and Wyoming were also elected. Still, they lost their elections in California and Georgia.
A recent national poll of parents’ views on education in relation to pandemic-related school closures found that a majority of parents “want candidates who support freedom of education.” The study was conducted by survey research provider WPA Intelligence and commissioned by the National Coalition for Public School Options.
The survey found that more parents with children in non-public schools were satisfied with their education than those whose children were enrolled in public schools. And they would likely take those views with them when deciding who to vote for. A majority of all voters, excluding Democratic males, said they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports educational freedom with expanded options and post-student money, the poll found.
And other recent polls show that many parents who criticized their neighborhood schools during the pandemic have either already left or are looking for other options.
In most states, the top post of education is not an elected office. But some would-be superintendents standing for election in the states where they were elected have been supported by national groups that advocate or advocate for private school vouchers. The winners, according to largely complete but unofficial results, will play a crucial role in advancing education-related legislation, including legislation relating to school vouchers.
They will also oversee their respective state departments of education and bring attention to critical issues in state schools emerging from the pandemic, although their power often depends on how well they perform and coordinate with the state governor and lawmakers.
We looked at the results of the races from state to state.
School voucher programs are already in place in some states where pro-school choice supporters were elected in the Midterms. That’s not the case in Oklahoma. Walters’ victory is particularly significant because it means an impending flood shift for Oklahoma’s schools. A failed bill sponsored by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt earlier this year would have created a universal school voucher program in Oklahoma. (The state has a limited school-choice scholarship program for special needs students enrolled in public schools who choose to attend private schools.)
In an interview with US TODAY, Walters said he is working with the governor and the legislature to move a similar law forward “as soon as possible.” He wants Oklahoma to be the nation’s leading state when it comes to empowering parents to take advantage of their educational options. It’s a reversal of Joy Hofmeister, the current superintendent of the state’s public schools, who has spoken openly about how wrong Oklahoma children’s coupons are.
“Governor Stitt’s voucher program is a killer for rural schools that will deplete funding for all children in public schools and negatively impact every public school student across the state,” wrote Hofmeister, the Democrat this year with her failed bid against Stitt became. in February.
Kirk Hartzler, superintendent of Union Public Schools in Oklahoma, which includes Tulsa, said he was concerned about how a voucher program would affect his district financially if parents moved their students to other locations in waves, arguing, that statewide school voucher programs could harm low-students, increase segregation and impact the “collective good of society”.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Oklahoma’s fourth- and eighth-graders experienced the largest declines in math performance in the country during the pandemic. He urges the incoming governor and the governor to conduct a thorough analysis of how a voucher program would be structured and the potential impact it could have on long-term academic performance and the economy.
“It worries me when a state sponsors a program that has the potential to further divide us as a state,” Hartzler said.
It is unclear whether a future Idaho school voucher program would emerge under the newly elected superintendent. Voters by a wide margin voted Republican Debbie Critchfield over school voucher opponent Democrat Terri Gilbert for the open seat. The position is now held by Republican Sherri Ybarra.
Contrary to more fervent school choice advocates, Critchfield said in an October debate with Gilbert that she was willing to listen to parents’ wishes about school choice and would not implement one that comes at the expense of public schools, according to Idaho Ed News. During the debate, Gilbert called school voucher programs a threat to public schools.
In a contentious Arizona race, former two-time state commissioner and pro-voucher advocate Republican Tom Horne was expected to be the winner with 50.2% of the vote against his Democratic opponent Kathy Hoffman, with nearly all ballots counted statewide as of Thursday afternoon. Hoffman conceded Thursday morning.
Horne has sparked controversy with his plans to set up a hotline for people to report suspicions about educators teaching critical race theory, which examines how racism permeates institutions, is not traditionally taught in K-12 public schools, and the completed bilingual education.
However, Horne must work with Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, an outspoken opponent of the legislation that created a massive school voucher program signed into law by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in July, to move forward. The American Federation of Teachers declared Hobbs’ victory a win.
“Governor-elect Hobbs is a strong supporter of public schools who has campaigned to invest in education, raise teachers’ salaries and keep culture wars out of the classroom – unlike her far-right opponent Kari Lake, who ran in attacks on the public – and lost schools, teachers and children,” said Andrew Crook, a spokesman for the teachers’ union.
South Carolina and Wyoming
In South Carolina, voters elected Republican Ellen Weaver, who called for “freedom of education,” by a wide margin over Democrat Lisa Ellis. And voters backed a state superintendent supporting school choice in Wyoming. They elected school election champion and Republican Megan Degenfelder against Democratic opponent Sergio Maldonado.
What is the potential impact on students?
Among other things, unions are concerned about potential voucher schemes and the overarching impact they could have on the public school system. Simply put, fewer students means fewer dollars and fewer resources, although proponents of vouchers argue that fewer students lower school costs.
Generally, when states move forward with legislation to introduce new school voucher programs or expand existing ones, it means parents can choose to direct a large portion of the money that would have been spent on their child in public schools to private or in private schools in some cases homeschooling.
Schools across the country are already concerned about falling enrollments due to divergent school choices and declining birth rates. All of this means less money for public schools. Teachers’ unions, in particular, fear public school kids will be left behind, and they spent heavily supporting anti-voucher candidates in the midterms.
Equity, segregation and student achievement are also concerns. A University of Kansas study suggests that children in high-poverty neighborhoods and from less educated families are more likely to compromise on their school of choice.
“Common sense seems to be that people who choose their school are happier with what they get if they are given choice. One thing that’s always bugged me is, ‘Are people really capable of acting on their true preferences? and to what extent?’” said Argun Saatcioglu, the study’s lead author and professor of educational leadership and policy studies and sociology at the University of Kansas.
Georgia and California
School choice advocates have not been successful everywhere. Democratic pro-choice advocate Alisha Thomas Searcy lost to Republican incumbent Richard Woods in Georgia.
And Republican Lance Christensen, a candidate for the school election in California, never really caught on in his campaign to unseat Democrat Tony Thurmond, an outspoken opponent of the school election. The American Federation of Teachers hailed Thurmond’s victory as an achievement for public education.
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Citation: School choice motivated midterm voters in superintendent races. What that mean for students (2022, November 18) Retrieved November 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-school-choice-midterm-voters-superintent.html
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