(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
In 1916, legendary Georgia Tech coach John Heisman had a score to settle with Cumberland College. His engineers led 126-0 at halftime, inspiring Heisman to tell his players “We’re ahead, but you just can’t tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. They may spring a surprise. Be alert, men.”
The final score: Georgia Tech 222, Cumberland College 0. The Atlanta Journal reported, “As a general rule, the only thing necessary for a touchdown was to give a Tech back the ball and holler, ‘Here he comes’ and ‘There he goes.’ ”
Greg has followed Heisman’s example by scoring 4 more times in the Mathews bet. Ohio dramatically expanded their Ed Choice voucher program, their Cleveland program, and upgraded their autism voucher bill to a full fledged special needs voucher. In addition, North Carolina became the first state to enact a tuition tax credit for special needs children.
Let’s see if I can recall them all:
Utah (1) Carson Smith expansion
Arizona (1) Education Savings Accounts
Colorado (1) New voucher program
DC (1) Opportunity Scholarships reenacted, expanded
Florida (2) McKay Scholarship expansion, Step Up for Students Tax Credit Expansion
Georgia (1) Tax credit expansion
Oklahoma (1) New tax credit, (major fix of special need voucher)
Indiana (3) New statewide voucher, expansion of tax credit, new tax deduction
Louisiana (1) Tax deduction expansion
Wisconsin (2) Milwaukee Expansion, New Racine Program
Iowa (1) Tax credit expansion
North Carolina (1) New special needs tax credit
Ohio (3) Cleveland expansion, Ed Choice expansion, Autism to Special needs expansion
Most legislative sessions are winding down this year, but we could see some additions to the list. There are too many great stories to cover here, from the heroic struggle to save the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, to Colorado’s turning a court defeat based upon “local control” on its head, and Wisconsin emerging from years of toil and struggle to enact an amazing expansion, to Arizona lawmakers embarking on an experiment in liberty to give parents control down of the education of their child down to the last penny.
Lots of important reforms outside of private choice as well- major tenure reforms, charter caps lifted, some pathbreaking expansions of digital learning. It will take time for the smoke to clear just to see what actually passed, much more before we will have any clue about results.
A few states have taken what I would describe as deep reform dives-embracing a broad set of reforms making truly historic changes. Florida of course has long been in the lead here, and Florida had a fantastic education reform session this year, reforming tenure, expanding digital learning and passing a truly amazing law to expand high quality charter schools.
Indiana however may be the pupil that has exceeded the master.
Indiana adopted critical Florida reforms, like grading schools A-F and social promotion curtailment, last session. During this session, Indiana’s reformers went far beyond enacting the most far reaching choice programs. Go and read the transcript from Governor Daniels speech at AEI. After detailing Indiana’s far reaching collective bargaining, teacher quality and parental choice reforms, Daniels sort of casually mentions:
And here’s another little calendar quirk that we just moved the school board elections from the spring to the fall. So test from the fall to the spring, elections from the spring to the fall, what’s up with that, you want to know? Well, spring is when we have primaries, nobody votes. It’s a lot easier to dominate, for a small or for an interest group to dominate the outcome and elect a friendly school board in the sparsely attended primary elections. And so now they will have more of the public at least eligible or at least on hand to take part in those elections, we’ll see if it makes a difference.
Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is comprehensive education reform: grading schools A-F based on student proficiency and gains, curtailing social promotion, tenure reform including the mandated use of student performance as a part of formula, throwing out the 900 page collective bargaining agreements, and what will be the nation’s largest system of parental choice. Oh, and by the way, we are going to take a shot at massively increasing democratic participation in school districts while we are at it, just for fun.
Govenor Daniels described these reforms as “mutually reinforcing” in his AEI speech. When I heard that line, I literally gasped and thought to myself: he really gets it!
Indiana lawmakers have not however suspended the law of unintended consequences. Many challenges known and unknown attend such profound change, and the hardest work lies ahead. Among the known challenges: Indiana has term limits, and these far reaching reforms come in the twighlight rather than the dawn of the Daniels terms of office. Seeing this business through will be an enormous challenge for the next crop of Indiana policymakers, if they choose to accept it.
Ok, enough of the grim warrior business. If you can’t pause to celebrate victory, you won’t last the season. This has easily been the best year for K-12 reform, and the best is yet to come.