Andy Smarick had all but completed this swell book when he was snapped up by Chris Christie and Chris Cerf to fill the Number 2 job in the New Jersey department of education, which he did with much success over the past two years. During this time the manuscript ripened. Now, as a partner at Bellwether Education Partners and a Bernard Lee Schwartz Senior Policy Fellow here at Fordham, he’s been able (swiftly, at that) to polish and publish it. Now in print, it’s even better than the original draft thanks to Smarick’s latest experiences in the trenches.
Smarick’s starting place is the irrefutable contention that yesterday’s urban school system is broken beyond repair and needs to be replaced by something radically different if today’s children are to be soundly educated. What he would replace it with is a version of a “portfolio district” headed by a mayor-appointed “chancellor.” So far it sounds like D.C. and New York, but Smarick goes notably farther in three directions: He really does mean that all the schools in the city, not just a subset, would be run, charter-style, by outside operators, not by a municipal bureaucracy. Second, at least where this is constitutionally possible, he would include the city’s private schools in the arrangement, too. And third, he focuses laser-like on school effectiveness, finding some successful schools (for poor kids)
A well-informed Louisiana resident shared this tantalizing post-election tidbit from the Bayou State, further evidence that Americans are growing restless with the dysfunctionality of traditional public-school governance:
In 2012, our legislature narrowly passed a bill that put a local option school-board term limit proposition on this year's ballot in 67 parishes. (There are 70 total but the Recovery School District doesn't have a board and Lafayette and Jefferson Parishes already have term limits.) On Tuesday, the proposition passed with enormous margins. The lowest support was at 70% (Baker) and the highest at 85% (St. Tammany, which has one of the most backward, anti-reform boards in the state). In fact, 1.16 million people in Louisiana voted for school-board term limits.
You can find the 2012 legislation here: http://www.legis.state.
Although limiting the terms of public officials sometimes turns out to be a mixed blessing, declaring school board members less than immortal—at least giving voters the opportunity to do that—is a step that reformers in other states should consider.
Lots of people are weighing in on the implications of Tuesday’s election results.
- Eduwonk Rotherham has a good piece in Time magazine lamenting Tony Bennett’s loss (my thoughts on that here), celebrating the wins for charter schools, and noting the continued strength of teachers unions when they are tested.
- Mike comes to many of the same conclusions. Tom Luna’s losses get his attention, as do a number of results from the Midwest.
- Stergios also highlights the charter wins and the fallout from Bennett’s undoing (particularly regarding Common Core) and adds accountability and ESEA reauthorization to the list of affected subjects.
- Naturally, the prolific Rick Hess has a series of posts on the subject, declaring the night a split decision for reformers. He emphasizes the union wins and the subtle split in the reform community between conservatives and progressives. See here for his take on Bennett’s loss and its implications for Common Core.
- The WSJ’s Stephanie Branchero also concludes that voters are divided. Branchero discusses Luna’s losses, the charter win in WA, and CA’s decision to spend more on schools.
- Politics K-12 is already looking ahead, surfacing the five big issues facing Secretary Duncan during the second term.
One final thought from yours truly: Lots of reformers, especially those in the ed-tech camp, continue to think that Common Core is just about the best thing produced in eons. So there’s a good deal of cheerleading going on, and
- Tony Bennett lost his re-election bid. There’s no sugar-coating it: This one hurts. Bad. As I wrote yesterday (and told the Associated Press), this was a referendum on the most aggressive reform agenda in the country. Despite being massively outspent, the unions managed to get one of their own elected to this critical post. We’ll have to wait for more data to determine the degree to which conservatives also punished Bennett for his support of the Common Core. If that was the deciding factor, it will go down as one of the stupidest moves in the annals of education policy history. Bennett will be fine (I suspect he’s already getting calls from Florida, Ohio, and other states looking for a hard-charging state supe). But a union-backed state superintendent is going to wreak all kinds of havoc in the state’s new voucher program and much else. (Just ask choice supporters in Wisconsin, where state superintendent Tony Evers has made life hard on choice schools for years.) Bad, bad, sad.
- The Washington State charter initiative is ahead. They are still counting the votes; it’s going to be a squeaker. But a victory is a victory, and it looks like charter schools are coming to Seattle.
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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