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Quick Takes on Election Results

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow in education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, is guest-posting this week. He can be reached at andrew.kelly@aei.org.

Now that the election results have had a few more hours to percolate, I thought I'd offer some quick reactions (look for a more systematic run-down tomorrow in the AM).

1. Kasich and Scott win, Duncan Shudders

Yesterday, I argued that the governor's races in Florida and Ohio could be key to the eventual verdict on Race to the Top. Things got increasingly interesting on this front last night and into this morning, as John Kasich bested Ted Strickland in Ohio yesterday night and Alex Sink conceded to Rick Scott in Florida this morning. Kasich has publicly signaled that he will not maintain Strickland's program of reforms, which the outgoing governor claims helped Ohio win RTT money in the first place. Couple Kasich's win with a newly-unified Republican state legislature in Ohio, and you've got a recipe for new directions in education policy.

Rick Scott ticked off the Florida teachers' unions even before he was elected, suggesting that the "union buy-in"--purchased by Charlie Crist's veto and crucial to the state's winning application--may go up in flames.

All eyes will be on Secretary Duncan and how he might respond to policy drift in Ohio and Florida.

2. Bennet and Murkowski (Seem to) Survive

In two of the more surprising results, Sens. Michael Bennet and Lisa Murkowski appear to have beaten the odds. The Denver Post officially called Bennet the victor in his race against Ken Buck, and in Alaska the "write-in candidates" are ahead of Republican challenger Joe Miller by 7 points or so. Of course, Murkowski could still lose if a good portion of those write-in votes are not hers.

Bennet's win installs Obama and Duncan's ed policy ally on the HELP committee for another six years, one of the lone bright spots for the administration's policy agenda.

3. Oklahoma Voters Smack Down Equalized Funding, Promote Charter Operator to Schools Chief

In Oklahoma, voters roundly rejected a proposition that would have required the state to maintain per-pupil funding levels that are comparable to the five neighboring states. The rejection was overwhelming: 81% of voters went against the proposition while 19% supported it.

In a victory for charter school advocates, these same voters elected Republican Janet Barresi, founder of two successful charter schools, to be Oklahoma's Superintendent of Instruction. Barresi has promised to expand parental choice, including homeschooling. (Thanks to Vance Fried, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State's Spears School of Business, for keeping me posted on Oklahoma's results.)

4. Florida Rejects Class Size Increase (But Not By Much)

The Florida proposition that would relax class size restrictions failed to pass, as expected. However, it's important to note that while the proposition failed to garner the 60% of the vote necessary to amend the state constitution, it was still supported by about 55% of voters. A majority of Florida voters saw the merit of relaxing costly and cumbersome class-size requirements, which could provide political cover for governor-elect Scott and the Florida legislature to revisit this question in the coming session.

5. Kline Announces "Investigations" and "Local Control" As Priorities

As Politics K-12 noted earlier today, soon-to-be chair of the House education and labor committee John Kline wasted no time in announcing his priorities for the coming session. Problem is, his statement was a little light on the details, promising only that his committee would investigate education and workforce training programs across the federal agencies and would promote education policies that increase local control and empower parents.

--Andrew Kelly

Update: A few proud Ohioans have responded to my post to argue that Strickland's education initiatives had little to do with Ohio's RTT win, and that Ohio won in spite of Strickland's policies, not because of them. Their point is well-taken. I was mainly referring to the arguments Strickland made during the campaign and to his personal involvement in the RTT application process, but I appreciate the additional context.

The question still remains, though, as to how the political turnover in Ohio will affect the implementation of RTT.

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