The mood today: Education groups panicked (Republicans! We thought we were done with them!). Republicans in disbelief. Democrats more so. But don’t let the usual suspects spin you, this election had little to do with education and when voters told exit pollsters their big concern was the economy — they meant it.
Eduoutcomes from last night to keep an eye on. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet (D-Ed Reform) is hanging on in a tight race there. Update: Denver Post is calling the race for Bennet. Though he’s still a relatively junior senator he’s widely seen as key to getting an education bill done in the Senate. Sleeper one to watch is Chris Coons (D-DE), he’s a pragmatist, cares about education, and has strong reform instincts. Was a reform Democrat before it was cool to be one and he accomplished a lot of reform, on several fronts, in his role as a county executive in DE.
Hurdles up on Race to the Top? Rhode Island just got a governor who is not much on reform. And while a bunch of state legislative chambers flipped from D to R, Pennysvlania, North Carolina, and Ohio are ones to watch on Race to the Top. In Ohio more generally the new governor (former Republican House member and Budget Committee Chair John Kasich) has a lot of sway over education given changes that were made there to the state’s governance arrangements.
Boehner the eduwonk? 60-plus House members didn’t get elected last night to expand the federal role in education, grow federal spending, or help President Obama and Arne Duncan achieve their goals. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner has a good record on getting things done on education but he’s going to be ringmaster of a three-ring circus. And keep an eye on investigations, big wild card given the new majority and members like Darrell Issa (R-CA) and some talk about Reading First payback.
Odds and Ends. Unfortunately, Andrei Cherny (former WH aide, Democracy co-founder, author) got swept under by last night’s wave in Arizona. It’s another down ticket loss that’s unfortunate if you want to see government reform. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) was also good on the issue. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) a key opponent of coercive federal school accountability rules is gone. But given Wisconsin’s overall education posture it’s hard to see this impacting the debate too much and Feingold was a principled senator on a variety of fronts.
Keep an eye on Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). He wasn’t on the ballot last night but was a big winner. He’s a linchpin on education now. Offline debate among eduwonks who worship the Aqua Buddha: Is the obvious entertainment value of incoming Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) on the Senate HELP committee handling education sufficiently offset by the ensuing gridlock to make it worthwhile?
Also, prepare for the first congress without Ted Kennedy or David Obey, big changes.
Inside baseball: Rick Hess’ excellent election party last night drew more Ds than Rs.