Education

Republican Revolution Postponed

August 01, 1995 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The House GOP leadership made a mistake, Simpkins says now, by including former school administrators and teachers (who favor more traditional school reform) in the party’s 12-to-6 majority on the education committee. “We screwed up,’' the lawmaker says. “We just put too many educators on the education committee.’'

Simpkins’ frustrations are hardly his alone. Seven months after the GOP revolution at the polls, many states have yet to see a revolution in education policy.

Expectations of big change ran high after the Republican landslide last November tilted the membership of many statehouses to the right. Nationwide, the GOP picked up 480 legislative seats, the party’s biggest gains at the state level in a generation. Also, 14 of the 19 new governors and six of the eight state schools superintendents elected last year carried the GOP banner. “Clearly, the status quo is in trouble,’' the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank, proclaimed at the time.

Despite such predictions, the status quo so far has held in many states where it was thought that Republican gains would translate into policy makeovers.

In Florida, where Republicans grabbed control of the Senate and the state superintend-ent’s office, GOP measures promoting prayer in school, charter schools, and tuition vouchers for private schools advanced but ultimately failed. Vouchers also failed in Arizona, defying proponents’ hopes that the election of choice-champion Lisa Graham as schools chief would propel their initiatives into law. In Connecticut, meanwhile, Gov. John Rowland, the state’s first Republican chief executive in 24 years, “supported virtually total reform,’' one observer says, “but he got virtually nothing.’'

Such defeats have surprised those who had braced for apocalyptic change. “We were worried about the new political climate, but things didn’t turn out as bad as we thought they would,’' says Sheila Simmons of the National Education Association’s Center for the Preservation of Public Education.

The GOP has successfully spearheaded drives to cut state education departments and promote local control of schools in such states as Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. And Republicans could still record big wins in several others.

But Republican policy successes appear to be limited largely to governance changes, and even those did not succeed everywhere. In Connecticut and Montana, for example, moves to restructure the state’s role in education failed. And while Florida approved pink slips for some 300 of its 1,450 education department employees, it balked at a proposal to throw out its current education code and write a new one from scratch.

Also, the bumper crop of bills promoting charter schools, private school vouchers, and tuition tax credits has yet to pay off.

Charter school laws have passed in eight states--Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wyoming--but observers say most are watered-down plans that don’t give schools great freedom. “A lot of the people sponsoring good bills decided to just fold them up, put them in their pocket, and wait for next year,’' says Ted Kolderie of the Minneapolis-based Center for Policy Studies.

Similarly, while more than 20 states have considered tuition voucher bills this year, no statewide proposal has yet to make the leap into law. One of the best chances faded in June when Republican House leaders in Pennsylvania postponed a vote on Gov. Tom Ridge’s choice plan, apparently because it did not have the votes to pass.

The silver lining for choice advocates is that vouchers and charters gained legislative ground in a number of places. Lawmakers in Wisconsin, for example, expanded Milwaukee’s voucher plan--the first in the nation--to include religious schools, and those in Ohio approved a similar plan for Cleveland. (Opponents say they will challenge both bills in court, arguing that they are an unconstitutional mix of church and state.) In Illinois, the Senate passed a voucher proposal for the first time. And a number of governors who shelved their choice plans this year to focus on pressing budget issues have said they will make them a high priority next year.

“We thought that ’95 would be the year,’' says Allyson Tucker, policy director of the National Policy Forum in Washington and a school-choice advocate. “But now it seems that ’95 will be the preparation year for ‘96.’'

A version of this article appeared in the August 01, 1995 edition of Teacher as Republican Revolution Postponed


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP