While the political junkies are fixated on the U.S. Senate races in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas, I’m following a few gubernatorial primaries and a sales tax measure on the ballot in Arizona that have more obvious implications for public schools than those high-profile races. (Unless, of course, you count Rand Paul’s promise to deep-six the U.S. Department of Education if he becomes the next senator from Kentucky.)
In the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Pennsylvania, public school vouchers have been a central issue for state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams of Philadelphia, who is running against three other candidates. Williams has received more than $3 million from a political action committee (bankrolled by three wealthy businessmen) that supports vouchers and charter schools, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Williams founded a charter school in Philadelphia that has had some troubles.
Despite that big money, Williams has been trailing Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, who, if he wins, will likely face Republican Tom Corbett in the general election. Corbett is the state attorney general.
In Arizona, voters will decide today if they are willing to temporarily increase the state sales tax in order to stave off deep cuts to public schools. Even if voters approve the measure, which would generate $1 billion, state lawmakers will likely still have to reduce spending on K-12 in the fiscal 2011 budget. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, has urged voters to approve the measure.
And in Oregon, Jim Kitzhaber, a former two-term governor is the frontrunner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The GOP ballot has two candidates for governor, though Oregon has not elected a Republican to its top job in more than two decades.
Also, Susan Castillo, the superintendent of public instruction in Oregon, is running for her third term against Ron Maurer, a Republican who served two terms in the state Legislature. Castillo is expected to win, though her leadership hasn’t excited editorial writers at the Oregonian, who called the fact that she has no formidable challenger a “lost opportunity.” Ouch.
UPDATE: In Pennsylvania, Dan Onorato and Tom Corbett will battle it out to become governor. All that pro-school voucher money couldn’t propel Anthony Hardy Williams to first place.
Arizona voters gave a resounding victory to Proposition 100, which will raise the state sales tax by one cent for every dollar for the next three years. And in Oregon, Susan Castillo squeaked out a victory to claim a third term as state schools chief.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.