November 10, 2016

Massachusetts Charters, Trump And Ed, The Election And Bullying, Plus Election Takes

By Bellwether

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OK, wow. Interesting election. Good reminder that any major party nominee can win, one-in-three odds are not really long odds, and people vote for lots of reasons. Next time you hope the other party nominates someone who can’t possibly win and treat that person as a political gift rather than a real threat, well, something to think about.

On the education front the charter referendum in Massachusetts, probably the most watched education issue on the ballot on Tuesday anywhere, went down. Something interesting on the referendum is that it failed by roughly the same margins (62-28) state voucher referendums in various places often did in the past. And those referendums were fought with a political message about costs, taxes, and the damage that might to do suburban schools. That’s basically the same playbook opponents of raising Massachusetts’ limit on charter schools effectively used there.  The opponents knew they couldn’t win if the debate turned on quality – because everyone pretty much agreed Massachusetts charters are an outlier high on quality – so instead they went after the risk aversion suburban voters feel about their schools. It worked. One impolite question a reasonable person might ask, in the wake of the national election, is how much money did the unions spend in Massachusetts in an effort to basically protect jobs and keep poor black kids bottled up in crappy schools? And might that money and effort have been better spent in, oh I don’t know, Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania on politics there?

About that election. Voters are frustrated and angry. Shouldn’t be too hard to see why? The moment early this year I began to worry was at a typical Washington dinner with nice food and discussion of various issues when someone – a comfortable dean at an elite college –  literally raised a glass of fine red wine to their lips while saying “I just can’t understand what all these people are so angry about.”

Everyone has a theory about the election but many of them don’t comport with what we see in the exits and seem more about confirmation bias than political analysis. It’ll take a while to sort out. But, Sean Trende is good to read on the possibly fragile coalition Trump put together. This New York Times map of counties and voting is worth paying attention to before you buy into reductionist narratives about the election. It appears, for instance, that about one-third of Hispanic men who voted on Tuesday voted for Trump. Voting behavior is often not as simple as people will have you believe.

This article from a Never Trumper is also worth reading.

More generally this Tucker Carlson piece from early in the year and this Glenn Greenwald from this week offer some explanatory views on what’s going on. Arthur Brooks cites out of work men as a fulcrum. But I’m not sure the data support that. Rather, based on both the demographics of Trump voters and then a bunch of anecdotal evidence I think a driver for some may have been economically anxious Americans who have a job but worry if they lose it they’ll never have one as good again because of actual economic dislocation or their perception of it.

At its core this election seems like a populist revolt from understandably frustrated voters. What makes it unique is that the person it thrust into  the highest office is such an unknown quantity and so non-transparent about his policy preferences and even his own personal business and financial interests. So no one really has any idea what is next.

The President-elect could do a lot worse as an early step than to say a few words in an effort to tamp this sort of thing down. I heard about episodes like this from some teachers yesterday.

This summer I spent five weeks all over the country from the reddest enclaves of Oklahoma and Wyoming to Erie and Toledo in the Rust Belt midwestern states and blue havens like Marin and Cape Cod. I listened to a lot of very different people of various economic means, races, ethnicities, and creeds and I remain firmly convinced that a few things are true. As people Americans have much more in common than what divides us and most are not consumed by our various cultural battles but rather are frustrated with our leaders, don’t like being condescended to by American elites they know sneer at them, and mostly just want to live their lives. But, second, we, and especially politically active Americans, are increasingly isolated in our lives, communities, media and social media choices and so forth and people don’t spend a lot of time talking to people with substantially different views and we’re losing the ability to do that and consequently to understand each other. Rhetoric about America being a failed state is way overblown but we’re certainly failing each other. And that’s why millions were willing to take the risk they did Tuesday. Ignore that at our peril.

For education, we’re likely to see some familiar names in the policy world emerge. I’d keep an eye on Gerard Robinson and on Bill Evers in particular. Probably good news if you favor D.C. vouchers and a larger school choice package, perhaps as part of some sort of urban bill, seems likely. For-profit higher ed types probably woke up happy on Wednesday, too. President Elect-Trump is one of them. I don’t think Trump will abolish the Department of Education or end the federal role in K-12 schools – there are 100 Senators and 435 members of Congress who like that money and are fine with swamps getting drained as long as it is not their own. But we’ll see. Maybe he’ll just end the federal Common Core for the next four years.

*Spellcheck completely failed on this post so it’s been updated with numerous corrections.

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