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School Choice in the 2013 Elections

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While school choice is playing a role in numerous elections throughout the country next week, here is a look at a few of the races where it has been a major factor in the campaigns. Stay tuned to the blog next week to find out how the elections played out and what it means for charter schools, voucher programs, and parent-trigger laws around the country. 

• In Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is a supporter of school choice. During his campaign, he vowed to establish a tax-credit scholarship program for students in failing schools and implement parent-trigger legislation in the state. He has also pushed for allowing the Virginia Board of Education to approve charter schools. (Right now, such schools must be approved by local school districts.)

Cuccinelli's opponent, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has attacked Cuccinelli's plan, saying that it would strip $1.4 billion of funding from the state's general fund, leaving little left for schools, and criticizing the idea of allowing taxpayer dollars to flow to private and religious schools.

• In New York City, Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has threatened to slow the growth of charter schools there, which grew exponentially under the tenure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. De Blasio has also said he will re-evaluate the city's controversial co-location policy, under which charters and regular public schools share the same buildings, and potentially begin charging rent to some of the charter schools in the city.

His opponent, Republican Jon Lhota, on the other hand, has vowed to double the number of charter schools in the city if he is elected.

• In Colorado, a school board race in Douglas County hinges on how the public feels about the changes that have gone on in the district starting in 2009, when the Republican-controlled board began enacting policies such as a voucher program and merit pay for teachers. There are four seats up for grabs in this year's election, which make up a majority on the seven-member board. Voters there will choose between a set of four Republican-backed candidates who vow to maintain the course that the district has gone on, or choose to switch tactics by electing four teachers' union-backed candidates who have expressed dissatisfaction with the current board's moves.

• In New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie is up for re-election. Gov. Christie has been a supporter of school choice, trying (but failing) to pass a tax-credit scholarship program for students in the state. His opponent, Democrat Barbara Buono has criticized Gov. Christie for cuts to education spending under his tenure. In a speech to retired educators last week, Buono accused Gov. Christie of being more concerned about charter and private schools than district-run public schools and vowed to fully finance the K-12 public schools under the state's formula, reports NJ.com. "You can't create enough charter schools to replace traditional public schools," she told the crowd. 

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