Home > Uncategorized > Thomas Edsall’s Column on “The 50 State Solution” Underscores ESSA’s Fatal Flaw

Thomas Edsall’s Column on “The 50 State Solution” Underscores ESSA’s Fatal Flaw

January 13, 2016

NYTimes columnist Thomas Edsallss columns typically draw conclusions from detailed statistical analyses based on polling data and electoral trends and today’s column, “The Republican Party’s 50 State Solution” is no exception. The article describes the Republican Party’s decision to invest more heavily in state elections with an eye on the long term benefits of such a strategy. And the results have been positive for the party:

Seven years ago, Democrats had a commanding lead in state legislatures, controlling both legislative chambers in 27 states, nearly double the 14 controlled by Republicans. They held 4082 state senate and house seats, compared to the Republicans’ 3223.

Sweeping Republican victories at the state level in 2010 and 2014 transformed the political landscape.

By 2015, there were Republican majorities in 70 percent — 68 of 98 — of the nation’s partisan state houses and senates, the highest number in the party’s history. (Nebraska isn’t counted in because it has a non-partisan, unicameral legislature.) Republicans controlled the legislature and governorship in 23 states, more than triple the seven under full Democratic control.

As political junkies realize, the 2010 state level victories enabled the Republicans to redraw the voting districts in several states effectively guaranteeing Republican control of the House at the national level and thereby stymying any efforts by the President to enact sweeping changes. In education, though, the logjam enabled President Obama to institute Race to the Top (RTTP), a deeply flawed policy that effectively increased the emphasis on standardized testing and accelerated the privatization of public education by leaving the worst elements of NCLB in place. When Congress passed ESSA to supersede NCLB and RTTT they did so with the support of teachers organizations and school board associations who were frustrated by the stranglehold NCLB and RTTT placed them under. But… as noted in previous posts… ESSA’s empowerment of state legislatures is not necessarily a good thing. While Edsallss column made no mention of ESSA, I weighed in on the issue in my comment:

As a progressive who follows public eduction policy closely, this analysis confirms my belief that the “bi-partisan” reauthorization of ESEA was a clear victory for Republicans. By diminishing the national role in public eduction and giving states more power, the Democrats who supported the legislation effectively shifted the decision making on public schools to Governors who support privatization of public schools… Governors like Abbot, Walker, Snyder, Rauner, Christie, Brownback, Kasich and yes— Cuomo. And the reach of the Koch brothers is not limited to STATE elections. They’ve invested heavily in school board races in CO and other states… and the Board members they want elected are ones who want to turn over the operation of public schools to private enterprise.

My concern is that since ESSA passed the pro-privatization movement will gain even more traction and, once it is in place in states like Michigan, it will take an act of congress to return the control of schools to local voters…. and democracy will wither even more as a result.

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