A lot going on in the midterm elections, some directly about education and some that will affect education through more general changes in politics. Here’s what I’ll be looking for on Tuesday night:
– Magnitude of Senate outcomes. Who wins control of the Senate matters, but in a closely divided Senate a majority doesn’t get to just work its will because of how the body operates. So keep an eye on the magnitude of the outcome. Is there a GOP wave? Do Democrats outperform predications? And what’s the margin of victory in some key races, for instance New Hampshire, Colorado, or Georgia and margin of victory for safe seat moderates like Virginia’s Senator Mark Warner. (If you tune into Virginia a few House races worth watching, too, in Northern Virginia swing districts. House control isn’t at issue but those races will offer some important political clues on the nation’s mood.)
– Tuck v. Torlakson. The race for California ed chief is turing out to be a fascinating one. There is stark divide between the candidates – who are both Democrats – about the direction of education reform. It’s a microcosm of a larger point of friction within the Democratic party over education. And while Tuck was initially overmatched financially it looks like in the end both sides had enough money to get their messages out. This is a telling race in a bellwether state and definitely the headliner in the education world.
– Teachers union power. The unions put a lot of effort into this cycle. They are going after governors they despise (Wisconsin’s Walker, Michigan’s Synder, Florida’s Scott, and Pennsylvania’s Corbett). The PA race is a gimme given Corbett’s performance in office but the others will tell a lot about their power today. Rhode Island is also one to watch, who wins and the margin of victory in the races for governor and lieutenant governor there – both with Democratic candidates the unions are not happy with in that union stronghold – has implications for moderates and reformers in the Democratic tent.
– Ballot initiatives and school board elections. Down ballot issues should be interpreted with caution because they can be so contingent, but they still also offer some signals. In particular higher education in Oregon, taxes for education in Nevada, and a pseduo-class size initiative in Washington State bear watching. There is also a fascinating pre-K referendum in Hawaii. And keep an eye on the school board races in Indianapolis.