Education and the 2014 Election: A Guide to Key Races

Education is front and center in dozens of federal, state, and local contests in this pivotal midterm election year. Here's a selection of key contests to watch on election night.

Education and the 2014 Election: A Guide to Key Races

Education is front and center in dozens of federal, state, and local contests in this pivotal midterm election year, with issues such as K-12 funding, teacher collective bargaining rights, and the growing role of the charter sector roiling the campaign landscape. In all, 36 governorships are up for grabs, along with control of 46 state legislatures, seven state schools chiefs’ spots, and nine state school boards. And with control of the U.S. Senate hinging on the outcome in a few key showdowns—including North Carolina’s expensive battle, where education is a marquee topic—the Nov. 4 results could set the policy template for years to come. Here’s a selection of key contests to watch election night.

Download a PDF of this election guide.

Party control of the U.S. Senate will have implications for education in a number of areas.

Early Education: With the Obama administration’s call to provide free preschool for all low- and middle-income families, it’s likely legislators will begin looking at ways to provide more access to early-education programs.

Higher Education: Both chambers began work this year to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, a mammoth law that covers the entire federal student-loan system and various federal tuition grants and work-study programs. Overhauling the law is a priority for both chambers and parties as student-loan debt and tuition prices continue to increase.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act: The long-stalled reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act will slide into the 114th Congress.


Democrat: U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (Incumbent)
Sen. Begich, who is getting some last-minute help from teachers' unions, introduced the Investing in Innovation for Education Act, which seeks to continue the Obama administration's "i3" grant program; he is a member of the Senate STEM Education Caucus.
Republican: Dan Sullivan
Mr. Sullivan, a former Alaska attorney general, has pledged to help grow the pipeline of Native Alaskan teachers. He formerly served at the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council and is more focused on foreign relations and national-security issues than on education.


Democrat: U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (Incumbent)
Sen. Udall is getting help from groups such as the National Education Association, which recently poured $200,000 into a TV ad that criticizes Rep. Gardner for his vote in favor of the federal fiscal 2015 House budget, which would have cut access to the Pell Grant, a college-tuition-assistance program for low- and middle-income students.
Republican: U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner
Rep. Gardner has played a big role in higher education issues, introducing two bills this year to help students tackle their loans and help families save for college.


Democrat: U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley
Rep. Braley, who has been a major player in Democratic efforts to keep student-loan interest rates low, visited several state colleges and universities over the summer to talk to students about increasing access and affordability in higher education.
Republican: State Sen. Joni Ernst
Sen. Ernst says that the biggest issue with higher education is not necessarily keeping student-loan amounts low, but shrinking costs on the front end.


Democrat: Michelle Nunn
Ms. Nunn, the CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, the largest volunteer-service organization in the country, and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, has attacked Mr. Perdue for opposing the Common Core State Standards.
Republican: David Perdue
Mr. Perdue, a successful businessman and a cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue—a Republican who led the National Governors Association's effort to develop the common core—has capitalized on growing public sentiment that the common core is a federal initiative.

North Carolina

Democrat: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (Incumbent)
Sen. Hagan has hammered Speaker Tillis for his role in passing a series of state budgets that blocked more than $500 million in education spending, resulting in larger classes and a shortage in school supplies. Ms. Hagan, who serves on the Senate education committee, led an effort among moderate Democrats to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and has introduced several education-related bills.
Republican: N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis
Mr. Tillis has accused Sen. Hagan of being a proxy for President Barack Obama. He touts the fiscal 2015 budget he helped negotiate, which restructured teacher-salary schedules and resulted in pay raises across the board.

Other Senate Races to Watch

Democrat: U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (Incumbent)
Republican: U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton
Louisiana (Open Primary)
Democrat: U.S. Sen Mary Landrieu (Incumbent)
Republican: U.S. Rep Bill Cassidy
Republican: Rob Maness
South Dakota
Democrat: Rick Weiland
Independent: Larry Pressler
Republican: Mike Rounds
Democrat: Alison Lundergan Grimes
Republican: Mitch McConnell (incumbent)
New Hampshire
Democrat: Jean Shaheen (incumbent)
Republican: Scott Brown


Democrat: Seth Moulton
Mr. Moulton, an entrepreneur and Iraq War veteran, ousted nine-term U.S. Rep. John Tierney in the September primary. Rep. Tierney has long served on the House education committee. Mr. Moulton largely backs the Obama administration’s K-12 education agenda and supports more-rigorous training and higher salaries for teachers.
Republican: Richard Tisei
Mr. Tisei, the former state Senate minority leader, sat on the education committee while in the state House from 1984 through 1990.

New York

Democrat: U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop (Incumbent)
Rep. Bishop is on the House education committee and a strong voice for college access and affordability.
Republican: State Sen. Lee Zeldin
Sen. Zeldin has no notable education experience; the GOP is spending big in hopes of flipping the district.


Democrat: Gov. John Hickenlooper (Incumbent)
Republican: Bob Beauprez
Gov. Hickenlooper backed a controversial—and ultimately unsuccessful—$950 million tax-increase initiative that would have overhauled public school funding. He also fine-tuned the way the state rates schools and teachers. Mr. Beauprez is an opponent of the common core who supports school choice.


Democrat: Charlie Crist
Republican:Gov. Rick Scott (Incumbent)
Libertarian:Adrian Wyllie
Gov. Scott increased K-12 spending by $1 billion this year and has pledged to boost per-student spending above what Mr. Crist approved in 2007-08. (Mr. Crist served as governor from 2007 to 2011 as a Republican, and switched parties in 2012.) Gov. Scott also approved legislation that will expand the state’s school choice program, the nation’s largest. Mr. Wyllie opposes the common core.


Democrat: State Sen. Jason Carter
Republican: Gov. Nathan Deal (Incumbent)
Gov. Deal has expressed interest in creating a state-run network of charter schools and pledged a thorough review of the state’s school funding system. Sen. Carter, a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, wants a significantly bigger K-12 budget separate from the rest of the state’s spending plan, and says charter schools are helpful but have gotten too much attention in the state.


Democrat: Gov. Pat Quinn (Incumbent)
Republican:Bruce Rauner
Gov. Quinn signed a high-profile bill into law last year designed to curb pension costs, a move that public-employee unions decried and swiftly sued to overturn. Mr. Rauner, a business executive, has been critical of public-sector unions, raising concerns in union quarters that he would move to curb public workers’ collective bargaining rights.


Democrat: State Rep. Paul Davis
Republican: Sam Brownback (Incumbent)
Libertarian: Keen Umbehr
After significant budget cuts and a high-profile lawsuit over school funding, Gov. Brownback signed a fiscal 2015 budget that increased school spending by $120 million, while curbing due process for teachers, easing teacher-licensing requirements, and increasing school choice. Rep. Davis says Gov. Brownback has deprived schools of needed revenue. Mr. Umbehr opposes the common core and says state and federal aid should follow students instead of being directed to schools.


Democrat: Tom Wolf
Republican:Gov. Tom Corbett (Incumbent)
Gov. Corbett made significant cuts to public education spending during his first three years in office. Mr. Wolf has said he believes that the state needs to pay a bigger share of K-12 costs and take the burden off local property taxes, and has proposed raising taxes on wealthy individuals to help shoulder the education funding burden.


Democrat: Mary Burke
Republican: Gov. Scott Walker (Incumbent)
Gov. Walker has expanded vouchers and spearheaded the state’s controversial change curbing collective bargaining powers for public workers, including school employees. Ms. Burke supports increased spending on public schools, but says that, like Gov. Walker, she would have sought changes to collective bargaining.

Hawaii, Amendment 4

Would allow the state to use public funds to support private early-childhood-education programs.

Colorado, Amendment 68

Would legalize casino gambling at horse tracks and use a percentage of the revenue to fund K-12.

Illinois, Public Act 098-0794

Would increase taxes by 3 percent on incomes greater than $1 million to increase school district revenues.

Nevada, Question 3

Would increase taxes by 3 percent on incomes greater than $1 million to increase school district revenues.

North Dakota, Measure 8

Would shift the school year to begin on July 1 and end on June 30, with classes beginning Labor Day.

Seattle, Proposition 1B

Would institute a four-year, $58 million tax increase in the city to create a preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Washington, Initiative 1351

Would direct the legislature to increase funding to reduce class sizes and hire support staff, such as librarians, counselors, and nurses, giving priority to schools that serve low-income communities.

Oregon, Measure 86

Would allow the state to issue bonds to capitalize an education fund that provides financial aid for college or job-training programs.

North Dakota, Constitutional Amendment 3

Would change the state’s education governance structure by replacing the current 11-member State Board of Higher Education with a three-member Commission on Higher Education.

New York, Proposal 3

Would authorize the sale of state bonds up to $2 billion to increase access to classroom technology and high-speed Internet, to increase classroom space for prekindergarten, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech security features in schools.

Missouri, Constitutional Amendment 3

Would create a standards-based performance-evaluation system for teachers; would dismiss, retain, demote, promote, and pay teachers based on quantifiable student-performance data as part of the evaluation system; would limit teacher contracts with school districts to three years; would prohibit teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining in regard to the design and implementation of the teacher-evaluation system.

Note: Seven members of New Mexico’s Public Education Commission, an advisory body, are up for election.

2014 Partisan

Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Texas

2014 Nonpartisan

District of Columbia, Nebraska, Ohio, Utah

2014 All Members Elected

Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Utah, Texas

2014 Mix of Appointed and Elected Members

Ohio (seven seats up for election this year)

Seven states pick chief state school officers Nov. 4. California’s superintendent is the only incumbent on the ballot.


Democrat: David Garcia
Republican: Diane Douglas
Mr. Garcia is a supporter of the common core, but believes there is too much of an emphasis on standardized tests in state education policy. Ms. Douglas is a staunch opponent of the standards.


(Nonpartisan race)
Tom Torlakson (Incumbent)
Marshall Tuck
Mr. Torlakson says he has helped implement major reforms since he was elected in 2010, such as a new school finance system and the common core. Mr. Tuck, who used to lead a network of charter schools in Los Angeles, believes teachers and principals are still weighed down by burdensome state regulations. (Both candidates identify as Democrats.)


Democrat: Valarie Wilson
Republican: Richard Woods
Ms. Wilson, the former head of the Decatur city school board in Georgia, wants more funding for schools and believes the current accountability policies for teachers and schools are unfair. A former teacher and administrator, Mr. Woods wants a testing moratorium and thinks Georgia should drop the common core.


Democrat: Jana Jones
Republican: Sherri Ybarra
Ms. Jones, who used to work in the state education department, supports increased funding for schools and expanded early-learning programs. Ms. Ybarra, a school administrator, says the common core is important to the state’s future.


Democrat: John Cox
Republican: Joy Hofmeister
Mr. Cox, an adjunct professor at an Oklahoma university, believes there should be less testing in Oklahoma. He also opposes the common core. A former state school board member, Ms. Hofmeister thinks teacher pay and benefit packages need to be improved to bolster the K-12 workforce.

South Carolina

Democrat: Tom Thompson
Republican: Molly Spearman
American Party: Ed Murray
Mr. Thompson, who has been a teacher, thinks teachers in high-poverty districts should receive extra retirement benefits. Ms. Spearman, a former member of the state legislature who leads the state’s school administrators association, wants more career and technical education programs in the state and thinks students in rural districts need more technological resources. Mr. Murray supports public school choice and wants to encourage high-quality teachers to remain in the classroom.


Democrat: Mike Ceballos
Republican: Jillian Balow
Mr. Ceballos, a former business executive, wants testing reduced in the state and supports the common core. Ms. Balow, who used to work for Gov. Matt Mead, also a Republican, thinks standards and accountability are not as crucial to student success as good teaching.
Reporting & Analysis: Lauren S. Camera & Andrew Ujifusa | Visualization & Design: Deanna Del Ciello
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A version of this article appeared in the October 29, 2014 edition of Education Week as Education on the Campaign Landscape