Biggest State Stories of 2011: Perry, Political Battles, Pensions

By Sean Cavanagh — December 30, 2011 2 min read
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This was a good year to be covering state education policy, one that produced loads of drama in statehouses across the country.

Republican governors and lawmakers pushed through laws weakening teachers’ collective bargaining powers, changing how educators are paid and evaluated, and bolstering charters and private school vouchers.

We covered it all here on the State EdWatch blog. Here were the most popular blog posts, as judged by page views:

1. Rick Perry Goes National. Texas’ Republican governor, unlike some state GOP leaders, is an unabashed critic of the Obama administration’s education policies and what he sees as the federal heavy hand on school issues. Readers were keenly interested in the Perry’s presidential aspirations. He officially announced his candidancy in August.

2. New Teacher Law in Illinois. State officials approved a bipartisan measure, which tied teacher tenure, hiring, and job security to performance. It was touted by supporters as the alternative to Wisconsin’s Republican-led effort to reduce teachers’ collective bargaining power.

3. Korean Official Advises Caution. A former top education official in high-performing South Korea warned U.S. officials against copying his country’s test-obsessed education blueprint.

4. Governors Who Pushed K-12 Overhauls See Popularity Slide. Did GOP leaders who championed controversial school measures face a backlash? We took a look.

5. Ohio Voters Reject Bargaining Limits. State residents defeated a months-old law, backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, that limited the collective bargaining powers of teachers and many other public workers.

6. States Look for Way out of Pension Woes. Speculation emerged that states might try to get out of their pension obligations through a change in federal law to let them declare bankruptcy.

7. Michelle Rhee Backs the Dream Act. The former D.C. school chancellor voices support for a measure to give undocumented immigrants a route to citizenship by obtaining a college degree.

8. Texas Pulls Out of CCSSO. The Lone Star state decides to withdraw from the influential Council of Chief State School Officers, citing disagreements on policy, and worries about costs.

9. Obama, Duncan Weigh in on Wisconsin. The Democratic president and his secretary of education said Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to limit teachers’ bargaining powers went too far.

10. Do Four-Day School Weeks Make Sense? A leading expert on school finance, Michael Griffith of the Education Commission of the States, says no.

That’s all folks. On to 2012...

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.