Election Day and What it Means for K-12 Education

By John Schilling

We will have a new president tomorrow. I’ll refrain from stating the obvious regarding the end of this bizarre election year. Suffice to say, given the unpopularity of the two party nominees, many people will be unhappy regardless of the outcome!

There has been a lot of talk in the media this election year about non-college educated voters. There wasn’t much talk in the media about non-college educated voters in 2012, but there were just as many then. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, voters who are not well educated should trouble you. Why? Because it’s an indictment of an antiquated and under-performing K-12 system that is short-changing millions of children every year and hurting our economy.

Despite spin and happy talk from the education establishment, the facts are the facts:

  • We rank 17th in the world on international tests
  • Every 42 seconds a student drops out of high school
  • The achievement gap between white students and low-income and minority students remains shockingly large
  • Less than 40 percent of fourth graders and 12th graders are proficient in reading and math
  • The federal government says graduation rates are at an all-time high, yet only 8 percent of high school graduates are truly college and career ready and families spend $1.3 billion annually on remedial coursework

This is the state of K-12 education today. If we want better educational outcomes, better educated voters, and a vibrant economy with more taxpayers, policymakers must stop tinkering around the edges and disrupt the status quo in education. Policymakers can do this by boldly expanding educational choice and innovation in state legislatures and Congress can help by leveraging federal money to support what the states are already doing to expand choice and innovation.

The last six years have seen tremendous growth in school choice all across the country. Twenty-five states plus D.C. have 50 private school choice programs and 43 states plus D.C. have charter schools. Virtual, blended and personalized learning is growing by leaps and bounds. This growth is a direct result of AFC’s political work – defending bold leaders, electing new leaders and holding our elected officials accountable.

AFC serves as the voice to millions of parents nationwide who want nothing more than to see their child succeed. This year, similar to previous election cycles AFC is fighting hard to protect school choice:

  • AFC and our affiliated state PACs invested nearly $4.9 million in 208 races
  • In the general election, AFC invested in 118 races in 10 states
  • AFC created 304 unique mail pieces, reaching literally tens-of-thousands of households
  • 26 radio ads
  • 47 digital ads
  • 7 TV commercials

As result of our work, millions of parents have told policymakers that it doesn’t matter if it’s a public, private, charter, virtual, blended or home school – what matters is the right educational environment for their child to succeed.

But while growth has been strong, there are still only 5% of K-12 children enrolled in a private school choice program or a charter school. Progress is not happening fast enough and bold change is needed to create opportunity for the millions of children who remain trapped in schools that are not meeting their needs.

School choice is a policy winner for kids and a political winner for policymakers.  Voters all across America are overwhelmingly supporting Governors, State Legislators, Congressmen, and Senators who support school choice. This year, the American Federation for Children (AFC) has invested in more than 200 races to support state policymakers who fight for school choice and defeat policymakers who stand in the way of giving parents greater choice in education.

Our goal for this election is pretty simple: defend and expand school choice legislative majorities all across the country, and then push policymakers to enact bold change in the 2017 legislative sessions. The question is whether state and federal policymakers will have the courage to be disrupters and say no to an education establishment determined to spend ambitiously to protect the status quo. AFC will be urging them to listen to the millions of parents who are demanding more and better educational options for their children.

John Schilling is the chief operating officer of the American Federation for Children. Schilling has nearly three decades of political and policy experience, and spent the past 20 years advancing education reform and school choice. Prior to working at the American Federation for Children and its predecessor organization, Schilling served as the Deputy State Superintendent of Arizona Public Schools. A Southern California native, John resides in Alexandria, VA.

For election night updates, follow the American Federation for Children on Twitter. Also be sure to join AFC at our Elections and Education event Thursday, November 10th in Washington, D.C.