2016 Elections: Education Week's Voters' Guide

Read Education Week's comprehensive guide to the 2016 election, including details on the issues, candidate positions, and policy stakes that mattered to educators in federal and state contests.

2016 Elections: Education Week's Voters' Guide

Get a jump on the issues, candidate positions, and policy stakes in the Nov. 8 federal and state elections.

Clinton vs. Trump | U.S. Map: Election Landscape | State Ballot Measures | Gubernatorial Contests
Congressional Seats | Statehouses | School Chiefs | State School Boards


UPDATE: Republican Donald Trump narrowly won the election and is set to become the United States' 45th president. Read more about what that means for education here.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, and Donald Trump, the Republican contender, have some clear differences when it comes to education policy. Click here to compare their key policy positions.


State-level elections and ballot measures could have far-reaching implications for education policy nationwide.


UPDATE: Ballot measures passed in several states, including California and Maine. Those that passed are highlighted in green below.

Voters in a number of states are being asked to weigh in on education-related initiatives and legislative referendums Nov. 8. Here are some highlights:

Proposition 58 | Bilingual Education
Would repeal a statewide requirement that English-language learners be taught using only English-immersion programs. Would instead allow districts and parents to choose a language-acquisition program best suited to children’s needs, without having to seek a waiver. Those programs can include English-only, dual enrollment, or sheltered immersion.
Proposition 51 | Bonds for School Facilities
Would authorize $9 billion in bonds for school construction and modernization, including $3 billion for new construction and $3 billion for modernization of public school facilities; $1 billion for charter schools and vocational education facilities; and $2 billion for community college facilities.

Amendment 1 | Intervention in Failing Public Schools
Would allow the legislature to authorize an Opportunity School District for state interventions for failing schools.

Question 2 | K-12 Funding
Would levy a 3 percent surcharge on the portion of any household income exceeding $200,000 per year to provide schools with $157 million more in annual state funding.

Question 2 | Charter Schools
Would allow the state board of education to approve up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions to existing charter schools annually.

Amendment 3 | Cigarette Tax for Pre-K Funding
Would increase the state’s cigarette tax from 17 cents to 67 cents per pack in order to provide $300 million annually, mostly to expand the state’s pre-K services.

Question 779 | K-12 Funding
Would increase the state’s sales tax from 8 percent to 9 percent in order to provide, among other things, a $5,000 raise for teachers in the coming year.

Measure 97 | K-12 Funding
Would impose a 2.5 percent tax on corporate gross sales that exceed $25 million to provide $3 billion worth of revenue to benefit public schools, health-care services, and services for senior citizens.
Measure 98 | Dropout Prevention and College Readiness
Would require the legislature to provide an additional $800 per high school student to an account administered by the state education agency. Districts could apply for the money and use it for career and technical education, college readiness, and dropout-prevention strategies.

Sources for State Ballot Information: National Conference of State Legislatures; Education Week


UPDATE: Governors' race winners are highlighted below in green.

Colin Bonini (R)
John Carney (D)

John Gregg (D)
Eric Holcomb (R)

Eric Greitens (R)
Chris Koster (D)

Steve Bullock (D)*
Greg Gianforte (R)

Chris Sununu (R)
Colin Van Ostern (D)

Roy Cooper (D)
Pat McCrory (R)*

Doug Burgum (R)
Marvin Nelson (D)

Kate Brown (D)*
Bud Pierce (R)

Gary Herbert (R)*
Mike Weinholtz (D)

Sue Minter (D)
Phil Scott (R)

Bill Bryant (R)
Jay Inslee (D)*

Bill Cole (R)
Jim Justice (D)



Standardized testing has roiled the state’s political landscape for years and has taken center stage in this year’s gubernatorial race. Democratic candidate Gregg said in a debate that he wants to replace the state’s ISTEP exam and reduce the weight of test scores in the state’s accountability system. GOP candidate Holcomb thinks the state should keep the current A-F accountability system and continue to evaluate teachers based on test scores, though he’s willing to make tweaks.

The candidates have sparred over whether teachers’ salaries have indeed increased over the past four years, when Republicans for the first time in decades controlled the House, the Senate, and the governor’s mansion. McCrory, the Republican, said in an ad they had been falling, but that “average teacher pay next year will be more than $50,000, and that’s just the start.” Cooper, the Democrat, who has teachers’ union endorsements, argues that according to his staff’s calculation, teachers still make among the lowest average pay in the region.
UPDATE 11/11: This race is still being contested, with Cooper declaring victory but McCrory refusing to concede.


Party control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will have implications for education in a number of areas.
UPDATE: Republicans retained control of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

ESSA Oversight: Congress has oversight authority as schools shift to the Every Student Succeeds Act for the 2017-18 school year. If Republicans maintain control of one or both chambers, they’ll likely be eager to take the U.S. Department of Education to task over such issues as accountability and spending, especially if Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton becomes president.

Higher Education Act: Last reauthorized by Congress in 2008 as the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the law could become a vehicle for sweeping legislation affecting college affordability, particularly if Clinton is elected. However, such an attempt could also make reauthorizing it a lot trickier.

Career and Technical Education: The House passed a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. If the Senate fails to pass its own version before the new Congress starts next year, the House-approved bill could be a starting point for a reauthorization attempt.

Sequestration: The caps on defense and nondefense spending, first adopted by Congress in 2011, are slated to return in fiscal 2018 unless lawmakers can figure out a different budget plan. What will be the impact on education funding?

52 Republicans
46 Democrats
2 Independents
(caucus with Democrats)
54 Republicans
44 Democrats
2 Independents
(caucus with Democrats)

UPDATE: Prior to the election there were 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats on the Senate education committee. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., lost his bid for re-election.
There are 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats on the Senate education committee. Eight are seeking re-election: Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Tim Scott, R-S.C. (Murray is currently the top Democrat on the committee.) Another, committee member Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is retiring.
Potential Leadership Changes: If Democrats take control of the Senate, Murray is first in line to become the head of the committee, although there is also a chance that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., could become chairman.

240 Republicans
195 Democrats
246 Republicans
186 Democrats
3 Vacancies
UPDATE: Prior to the election there were 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats on the House education committee.
There are 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats on the House education committee. Three, including Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman, are retiring from Congress. All the others are seeking re-election.
Potential Leadership Changes: Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., is perhaps the most commonly named Republican to take over for Kline if the GOP maintains control of the House. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., is the committee’s top Democrat.

(Based on Associated Press trend data as of Nov. 10.)



Voters in five states will pick state schools chiefs on Nov. 8. In two of the states, Montana and Washington, voters will pick a new chief, while in Indiana, North Carolina, and North Dakota, the incumbents are seeking re-election. Perhaps the biggest issue facing the candidates is how they will handle their states’ shift to the Every Student Succeeds Act.

UPDATE: School chiefs winners are highlighted below in green.

Jennifer McCormick (R)
The district superintendent of the Yorktown, Ind., schools, McCormick has expressed some skepticism about the place of tests and grades for schools in accountability, yet has also said that “there’s a purpose to testing” in the classroom. She also wants a review of school funding and is seeking expanded broadband internet.
Glenda Ritz (D) Incumbent
First elected in 2012, Ritz has said that testing has interfered with teaching and learning in Indiana. She’s been at the center of big policy fights with state lawmakers over issues like A-F school accountability and education governance.

Elsie Arntzen (R)
A teacher for the past 23 years who also serves as a state senator, Arntzen has blasted federal education policies that “D.C. bureaucrats try to force on our students” and favors local control instead. She opposes the Common Core State Standards and also wants to attract more teachers to rural areas.
Melissa Romano (D)
An elementary school teacher who won a 2012 National Science Foundation award, Romano wants to help more 19-year-olds earn a high school diploma and wants more funding for preschool in the state. She’s also praised the Every Student Succeeds Act for allowing Montana more control over policy.

June Atkinson (D) Incumbent
Atkinson was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008 and 2012. She currently is the longest-serving state superintendent in the country. A former teacher, Atkinson has said she welcomes the opportunity to have fewer prescriptive measures from Washington thanks to ESSA.
Robert Johnson (R)
A former teacher who now serves on a county school board in the state, Johnson says students have to take too many tests. He also wants to improve the screening process for hiring teachers and says the state should shift away from the common core.

Kirsten Baesler (Nonpartisan) Incumbent
Baesler was first elected in 2012. She was previously the president of a district school board as well as an assistant principal. On her watch, the state has instituted a review of the common core, as well as worked to increase student participation in Advanced Placement classes.
Joe Chiang (Nonpartisan)
A math and history teacher, Chiang has criticized “fancy education jargon” such as “college and career ready” and “rigor.” He’s also calling for more funding for schools and says that “education is broken, bone through the skin, compound-fracture broken.”

Erin Jones (Nonpartisan)
An assistant superintendent in the state education department, Jones has been recognized by the White House for her work on education in the African-American community. She’s criticized the state funding system as being inequitable and opposes the use of student-test scores in teacher evaluations.
Chris Reykdal (Nonpartisan)
A Democratic state representative, Reykdal has also served on the state board for community and technical colleges. He supports an increased emphasis on career and technical education, along with “fully funding” public schools.


Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico,* Texas
*Advisory role only, to the state superintendent.

District of Columbia, Nebraska, Ohio, Utah

Nevada, Ohio

Information and analysis in this Voter’s Guide were compiled by Assistant Editors Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa and Staff Writer Daarel Burnette II.
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Coverage of policy, government and politics, and systems leadership is supported in part a grant from by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, at www.broadfoundation.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the November 02, 2016 edition of Education Week as 2016 Elections: Voter’s Guide