It’s the morning after, which usually means thumb-sucking time. What do yesterday’s election results mean for K-12 education in Colorado? But there is much we still don’t know, so the pundits, including your truly, will have to stifle the urge to pontificate.
Certainly the resounding defeat of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 mean that the grim budget picture facing the state and school districts won’t be even worse. The election of John Hickenlooper as governor suggests that state education policies will remain generally the same as under Bill Ritter. Now we’ll have a lieutenant governor grounded in higher education policy rather than K-12.
The choice of a new education commissioner to replace departing Dwight Jones is the purview of the State Board of Education, not the governor. So we’ll have to wait a while to see how the new state board – still made up of four Republicans and three Democrats – deals with that challenge in the coming months.
What matters most for state education policy is the newly reconstituted state legislature. Democrats have retained control of the state Senate. The House, however, has flipped to the Republicans, so Hickenlooper will have to work with a divided legislature.
On education issues, Hickenlooper allies himself closely with his pal Michael Bennet (who appears to have won his first election, to the U.S. Senate, by a whisker). They are more in tune with the Obama administration and Democrats for Education Reform than with traditional Democract influencers, including teachers’ unions. So Hickenlooper may find it a bit easier to push education reforms through the GOP-controlled House.
And the composition of the Democratic caucuses will be somewhat different as well. Lost to term limits is state House Education Committee Chair and teachers’ union stalwart Michael Merrifield (who, by the way, appeared headed to defeat in his El Paso County commissioner race against State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton).
Aso, Democrat Debbie Benefield, another union favorite, appears to have lost her House District 29 (Arvada) race to Republican Robert Ramirez. But just 221 vote separate the two, so a recount seems likely.
Meanwhile, rising state Senate Democrat Mike Johnston of Denver, who earned the ire of the Colorado Education Association by authoring Senate Bill 191 which tightens teacher evaluation and accountability, won overwhelmingly in his Northeast Denver district.
Mapleton School District deserves hearty congratulations for winning a $32 million bond issue, which allows it to match much-needed state construction dollars. It has been a tough slog in recent years for that Adams County district to get voters to fork over funds.
I could blather on, but the dust will settle as the day progresses and the contours of the political landscape should become clearer. Until then, enjoy studying the results.
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