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Bush Leads Kerry in Tight Race; Key Education Contests Decided

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President Bush this morning appeared on his way to securing a second term in the White House, with a majority of the popular vote in hand and a substantial lead over Sen. John Kerry in the crucial state of Ohio.

Given the enhanced Republican majorities in the House and Senate based on Election Day results, Mr. Bush, if indeed the winner, would be well positioned to enact his campaign plans for education. A key element of that agenda is to build on the No Child Left Behind Act with an added focus on high schools, including more required testing at that level. Proposals to expand private school vouchers—now limited at the federal level to a pilot program in the District of Columbia—could also see a boost.

In Washington state, voters said no to charter schools, with 58 percent voting against allowing the state's recently passed charter school legislation to go into effect. A separate ballot measure there to increase the sales tax by 1 percentage point and dedicate the proceeds to educational programs was trailing in the count early Wednesday morning. In Nevada, an effort to raise the state's per-pupil spending to the national average appeared to be headed for a narrow defeat. In Arkansas, voters rejected a measure that would have allowed school districts to raise property-tax rates by 3 mills. Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment that will require all money from motor-vehicle sales and fuel taxes be spent on transportation infrastructure—a measure education groups say will direct funding away from schools.

But in a victory for school funding advocates, Oklahoma voters approved measures that will establish a state lottery and dedicate the revenue from it to schools.

In races for state schools superintendents, Terry Bergeson handily won re-election to a third term as Washington state's chief over Judith Billings, a former state superintendent. Incumbent chiefs in Indiana, Montana, and North Dakota also won decisive victories. Indiana's Suellen Reed gained a fourth term, North Dakota's Wayne G. Sanstead won a sixth term, and Montana's Linda McCulloch was re-elected to a second term.

The state chief's race in North Carolina was in a dead heat with 89 percent of the precincts reporting. Candidates June Atkinson, a former state education official, and businessman Bill Fletcher, each had 50 percent of the vote for the seat vacated by Mike Ward.

At least seven new governors will take control of offices that are pivotal in shaping education policy and implementing the No Child Left Behind Act. Republicans were expected to win at least five of the 11 governor's races, including hard-fought seats in Indiana and Missouri. Democrats scored a big upset in New Hampshire and took control of Montana's highest office. The gubernatorial election in Washington state was too close to call. In Utah, a voucher proponent, Republican Jon Huntsman Jr., was elected governor. Incumbent Democrat Michael F. Easley appeared to have held on to his seat in North Carolina, along with incumbent Republicans Jim Douglas in Vermont and John Hoeven in North Dakota. Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, easily won re-election in spite of controversy over high-stakes graduation exams. In West Virginia, Democrat Joe Manchin cruised to victory.

Education Week staff

Contributing: Michelle R. Davis, David J. Hoff, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, Joetta L. Sack, and Erik W. Robelen.

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