Apparently there's a law requiring all bloggers and commentators to write election wrap-up pieces within twenty-four hours, and the clock is ticking on me here.
So what does the election mean to the Reformsters and the Resistance?
Decoupling Could Happen
Not of Common Core and High Stakes Testing, silly. That's never going to happen.
Nobody ran on support of Common Core, and lots of people ran against it. Ted Cruz felt emboldened enough by results to call for a repeal of Common Core, a gesture has no real meaning other than as a signal that the windsock that is Cruz has a sense of which way the CCSS wind is blowing.
But you know what nobody ran against successfully (almost-- but we'll get there in a moment)? Charter schools. Several privatization fans noted immediately that election results were good news for charter school vultures and privateers (they might not have phrased it quite like that).
Point is, we're seeing repeatedly that you can be pro-charter and pro-reform and simultaneously anti-Core and anti-reform. This has been coming for a while. Initially, privateers needed the Core and its attendant testing to "prove" that public schools were failing and needed to be "rescued" by charters. But even as Common Core has turned into political poison, privateers have learned that starving public schools of resources (Philly) or simply changing to charters because, hey, you have the power and you want to do it (Chicago, Cleveland, New York City) are effective all by themselves.
Not only can conservative-labeled politicians safely jettison the Core while keeping their support for everything else, they pretty much need to. It will be more true than ever that you can't assume that someone's opposition to the Core goes hand in hand with support for public schools. I think we're actually going to see a period of shuffling, because Dem-GOP-charter fan-Core supporter-etc-etc don't necessarily help us tell the sides apart. Stay tuned for Bush 2016.
The Democratic Party Still Has Its Head Way Up Its Butt
Over at Slate, John Dickerson argues that the Republicans won by running against Obama. While that undoubtedly helped drive plenty of GOP voting, he doesn't note that it probably drove Democrat voting (and non-voting) as well. This administration has been relentlessly anti-public education and anti-teacher, and if they were figuring that the Big Teacher Unions would deliver the votes of millions of shat-upon teachers anyway, they had simply failed to note that the union leaders have firmly aligned themselves with the power elite, and not the members they allegedly represent.
It was positively painful to watch Randi Weingarten help torpedo Zephyr Teachout's candidacy. When Time magazine put up an ugly cover, she could muster some fight and zip, including a piece of sidewalk kabuki. But when Andrew Cuomo directed as direct and unambiguous threat against teachers and public education-- certainly as clear and vicious as anything that ever came from a GOP politician-- the crickets chirped. Okay, she wrote a strongly worded letter. While crickets chirped.
The Democratic party is currently clueless and spineless. I could respect them a little if they were blatant, unapologetic sell-outs, instead of trying to pretend that they have some feelings for the 99%. I could respect them a lot if they actually stood up for the people whose votes they take for granted. I'm angry that they have reduced the national unions to puppet extensions of the party, robbing the leadership of any right to command respect in or outside the profession. The Democratic Party has tried selling off seats at the table, but it turns out that it's the kids table. Now the party just runs on a platform of, "You know you're never going to cast your ballot for that other guy, so shut up and give us your vote, already."
The Democrats deserved to lose last night (even the ones who won by polishing their 1% credentials). I do hope they'll figure out why.
The Cavalry Is Not Coming
My favorite thing about the end of an election is that I can stop listening to people who think that once we elect Chris Pootwaddle to office, Everything Will Be Great. It's not that political solutions don't matter. It's not that politicians can't make things better-- or worse. But this idea that the Right Person in office will help is self-defeating and foolish.
At the very best, when Pootwaddle gets into office, the newly-elected office-holder will not be able to accomplish anything without a ton of ground support. At the worst, Pootwaddle won't be able to get anything done. Well, actually, the worst is when Pootwaddle turns out to be just as bad as the last one.
Which brings me to Pennsylvania.
There are several things to note about my state.
One is that Corbett largely lost by having screwed with education too much. And not in abstract ways-- what killed him was that everybody in PA knows a school that's been downsized, a college that cut programs and got more expensive. And they have heard, from a chorus of people who wouldn't shut up about it, how all the blame for that lay at Corbett's door. Kudos to the many actual grassroots organizations that appeared in the Keystone State.
That's an extraordinary accomplishment, particularly when you consider that when Corbett repeatedly argued that he did not cut $1 billion from education, he was kind of telling the truth. Democrat Ed Rendell did that, covering it by using stimulus money exactly they way he wasn't supposed to-- to fill the regular operating budget gap. Corbett inherited the gap, and decided not to plug it, and to screw with the funding program to the detriment of poor districts, and to let cyber charters drain public schools dry. Corbett was terrible at PR, and he could never overcome the umpty gabillion Pennsylvanians who saw the real effects of his slash and privatize ways.
Corbett's fall (the first involuntary one-term governor in PA history) was a direct result of his reformy education ways. He is a cautionary tale for every reformster politician out there. (Starting with, I hope, Tom Wolf, who before he got electoral religion and smelled Corbett's blood, liked the charter school movement just fine. So, we'll see.)
I suspect that most of the real election stories are local, and that's where a lot of the good coverage is. Believing that we can sort out the effect of education policy in all that is kind of-- well, it's like believing that you can take a student's test scores and correct for all other influences so that you can create a reliable Value Added Measure of the teacher's influence. So, baloney.
I think it was not a great night for the Core, an opportunity for soul-searching and navel-gazing among Democrats and union leaders, and really really bad news in some states for fans of public education and actual trained and qualified teaching staffs.
I have no cheery spin to put on that. In some places in this country, it sucks to be a teacher these days. But the good news from PA is that there are limits to what the public will put up with, particularly if they become well-educated about the source of their dismay. The reformsters may have had a good election this year, but they didn't win a free pass.