A 2020 EDlection Cheat Sheet: Recapping the 48 Key Races, Winners and Campaign Issues That Could Reshape America’s Schools and Education Policy
By Asher Lehrer-Small
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While it was the outcome of the presidential election that had the nation on edge through Saturday when Joe Biden was finally declared the winner, contests up and down the ballot in 2020 will have long-term consequences for education coast to coast. In the coming months, governors and state legislatures especially will play a pivotal role in determining how to steer schools through the public health and economic crises of the pandemic.
That’s why we’ve curated 48 contests from the federal, state and local level with key implications for students, teachers and families, and why we’re reporting both the outcomes and the those that remain too close to call. Among the races we’ve been watching: A first-ever ballot proposition on sex education in Washington state that critics decried as “school porn” but voters approved; a school board election in New Orleans to determine the fate of a highly watched district that remains largely undecided; and the victory by former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, whose education background runs deep and who became one of the few Democrats to unseat a GOP incumbent for U.S. Senate.
Here’s the full rundown of the 2020 votes that mattered most to educators; further down you’ll see a full archive of our Election Week livechat, which included rolling updates on candidates, votes and the national conversation:
North Carolina: In a state on which Democrats had pinned their hopes this election cycle, Tuesday turned out to be anything but a blue sweep. While Democratic incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper earned a second term (read our summary of the governor’s race), Republicans sustained their majorities in both chambers of the state’s General Assembly, which spells at least two more years of divided government (read our NC legislative recap). One bright spot for Democrats: political newcomer Ricky Hurtado outpolled an incumbent GOP candidate to become the first Latino to win a seat in the North Carolina state House ( more on Hurtado’s race). Republican Catherine Truitt, an education reformer and online university chancellor, won her race for state superintendent of public instruction ( see our coverage of the contest). At the federal level, incumbent GOP Sen. Thom Tillis clings to a narrow lead over Democratic former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.
California: 2020 was the year of the ballot proposition in the Golden State. Voters turned down a measure to end the state’s ban on affirmative action (see our summary of the Prop. 16 vote), and vote totals are too close to call on a proposition that would reverse a four decades-old tax law, whose repeal would mean new revenues for education. At the municipal level, the state’s Bay Area split over measures to let teens cast ballots, with Oakland lowering the voting age to 16 for school board elections while San Francisco rejected a similar measure (read our full story on the two measures). In Los Angeles, a costly campaign for school board appears to have ended in a draw, with one candidate backed by the teachers union and one supported by charter advocates each winning a seat (read our story on the L.A. Unified board race). And in news heartily welcomed by school district leaders, voters approved a $7 billion bond measure that will pay for facilities improvements and new technology, among other things (read our recap of the bond vote).
. But once the dust clears from additional legal action promised by President Donald Trump, most experts believe that The composition of the Senate will also determine whether Biden would have to scale back his sweeping education agenda and whom they’ll approve as White House: Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States, pushing past the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House as additional states were called on Saturday ( read our update on the presidential contest) President Biden will assume office on Jan. 20 facing a divided Congress. As Thomas Toch, the director of FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University, warned, “There’s no mandate momentum here.” For schools, it’s been clear for months that they need more pandemic relief funding for remote learning, improving the safety of buildings and retaining teachers. But with Trump now even less likely to negotiate with the Democrats, is it better to wait until Biden is in office? And even then, the size of the package will depend on whether Biden is working with a Republican-controlled Senate or one where Harris would have to break a tie. the next secretary of education ( see our earlier coverage of predictions and speculation surrounding the next education secretary ).
Colorado: In a victory widely celebrated by Democrats, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper defeated Republican incumbent Cory Gardner to win a seat in the U.S. Senate Tuesday evening (read what the flipped seat may mean). And through a ballot initiative, Centennial State voters approved an increase on smoking and vaping product taxes to provide pandemic relief funds for K-12 schools and preschool for the state’s 4-year-olds beginning in 2023 (see our coverage of the vote).
U.S. Senate: Is it time to get better acquainted with Sen. Richard Burr? The education community might have been expecting Washington’s Patty Murray, ranking member on the education committee, to take over as chair of the education committee if the Democrats assumed control of the Senate. But now, that seems less likely. Votes are still being counted in Alaska and North Carolina, and both Senate seats in Georgia are headed for a January runoff. If Republicans retain control, North Carolina’s Burr is in line to become chair, even though he stepped aside from leading the intelligence committee because of an investigation over a stock sale (read our story on the future of the HELP committee). Rand Paul of Kentucky — an advocate for abolishing the Department of Education — could also move into the chairman’s position. Either way, a Biden education agenda would not be nearly as well received as it would have been if the oft-predicted “Blue Wave” had come to pass.
Alaska: We have been watching as education activist and former teacher Alyse Galvin, an independent candidate who won the Democratic Party’s nomination, challenges Rep. Don Young, currently Congress’s longest-serving member, in a rematch of their 2018 contest. In a race marked by crashing oil prices that threaten to constrict Alaska’s school budgets, Galvin will have to make up serious ground if she hopes to pull off the upset.
Missouri: In a race where school reopenings were a top issue, Missouri voters elected Republican Gov. Mike Parson to a second term (read our recap of the governor’s race). In the state’s most Democratic-leaning district, Cori Bush — a pastor, nurse and Black Lives Matter activist — became Missouri’s first Black congresswoman in a landslide win ( more on Bush’s victory). At the local level, St. Louis voters delivered a win for pre-K through the approval of a ballot proposition to fund early education (read our piece on the measure).
U.S. House: Speaker Nancy Pelosi could lead a House with the thinnest majority in 20 years. By Friday, the Democrats had lost five seats, while the Republicans had gained six. And several races were still too close to call, including for members of the education committee. Republican Jefferson Van Drew, from New Jersey’s 2 nd district, for example, held a slim lead over Democrat Amy Kennedy, a former middle school history teacher who married into the Kennedy family. And Democrat Susan Wild in Pennsylvania’s 7 th district was barely ahead of Republican Lisa Scheller. A tighter margin means House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to work more with moderate Republicans and ensure details of major bills are negotiated with caucus leaders before they reach the House floor. Throughout the Trump administration, the education committee has occupied itself with investigations into how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos conducted business. But under a Biden administration, the adversarial tone will likely be replaced with appeals to party unity.
Kansas: Former teacher and school administrator Brenda Dietrich, a Republican endorsed by the Kansas National Education Association, won a seat in the Kansas state Senate (read our summary of the state Senate race). And Stephanie Byers, a retired band teacher, made history as Kansas’s first transgender legislator, and the nation’s first transgender lawmaker of Indigenous ancestry, winning a seat in the state House (read our recap of Byers’s victory).
Election Week Flashback — Here’s our full archive of The 74’s Election Week liveblog, tracking the candidates, vote tallies, campaign buzz and national conversation from November 2020.
Originally published at https://www.the74million.org on November 7, 2020.