Education at the Polls
Last week’s elections made headlines for shifting the balance of power in Washington and state houses across the nation. The impact of these elections on state and federal education policy will play out over the next two years. Voters in 11 states, however, made an immediate impact on education through statewide ballot initiatives.
*Click image to see the full chart.
Source: EPE Research Center, 2006
The most highly publicized ballot measure was Michigan’s proposal to ban racial preferences in public education, public employment, or contracting. While the approval of this measure made national headlines, most initiatives received limited attention outside of their state.
Overall, eight ballot measures were approved, while 11 were voted down. However, this total does not indicate the impact on education, because differences in how a measure is phrased could mean that approval in one state and rejection in another have the same impact.
Among measures approved were The Education First initiative in Nevada, which required the state legislature to appropriate funds for the operation of the state’s K-12 system before any other appropriations could be made. Three states (California, Arizona, and South Dakota) approved tax increases that would go to fund education. Arizona also passed a measure that would prevent non-residents from attending state-sponsored adult education classes.
Among the measures that were amendments modeled on “Taxpayers Bill of Rights,” which were voted down in Oregon, Nebraska, and Maine. These measures would have limited spending on all state programs, including education. Voters in Colorado also voted down two measures that would have required local school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their expenditures on classroom instruction and services that directly impact student achievement.
To build your own tables, graphs, and maps with state-level policy indicators, access the Education Counts database.