Some Ballot Initiatives Could Have Far-Reaching Outcomes

Last Updated: November 27, 2012

This article appeared in the November 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

Some type of education initiative was on the ballot in at least 19 states this month. The majority of initiatives related to tax policy or school funding.

Several of the initiatives, however, could have a national impact. Among those were initiatives related to teacher policy. In both Idaho and South Dakota, voters were asked whether or not to repeal newly implemented state policies that dramatically altered teacher law.

In Idaho, the laws, pushed by state superintendent Tom Luna and backed by Republican Governor Butch Otter, largely dismantled teachers’ collective bargaining rights, tied teacher pay to student test scores, and implemented a student laptop program, funded in part by state reductions in funding for teachers. The South Dakota initiative, backed by Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, sought to phase out tenure protections and give pay bonuses to teachers rated as the best in their districts, with 50% of the rating based on student test scores.

In both states the reforms were defeated by wide margins. Rejection of these laws, championed by Republican leaders in two heavily Republican, right-to-work states has been widely characterized as a firm non-partisan statement of voter support for teachers and public schools and a repudiation of policies that reduce teacher authority and autonomy.

In Michigan, voters defeated Proposal 2, which would have guaranteed public employees, including teachers, the right to collective bargaining and other union activity. The meaning of the defeat, however, is still being debated.

In Georgia, voters approved an initiative that will enable charter operators to establish charter schools without approval of the local board or the state. But the law is being challenged in court on grounds that initiative language was misleading. See “Georgia Charter Law Faces Legal Fight.” Washington State voters narrowly approved an initiative to allow the state to establish 40 charter schools. The Yes on 1240 campaign to approve charters outspent opponents by $10 million with major contributions from Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen and from Alice Walton, one of the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune.

In Alabama, Amendment 4 was defeated. Proponents had argued it was important because it removed racist language from the state’s 1901 constitution. But opponents, including advocacy groups and the Alabama Education Association, said it would also undermine the state’s constitutional obligation to public education.

Read more:





South Dakota



Read more from the November 2012 Rural Policy Matters.