Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Monday, October 17, 2011

Many States Pass Education Reform Legislation

In the elections of 2011, many state legislatures flipped from Democratic to Republican majorities, and this change in party control, along with many states running out of money, set the stage for passage of education reform legislation. Here are some samples of these new laws.

Wisconsin cut the power of the teachers union to set their own employment standards. Indiana passed an unprecedented expansion in school choice, charter schools, and new tax breaks to make it easier for families to afford private schools. Idaho passed a law to end tenure and retirement bonuses for teachers and to vest power in elected school boards instead of in teachers unions. Ohio passed a new law to establish teacher seniority based on merit instead of on tenure, and to restrict teachers' ability to contract for entitlements. Maine authorized charter schools for the first time. Tennessee brought collective bargaining for teachers under the control of school boards, and replaced tenure with performance-based evaluations.

Florida authorized online schooling, expanded charter schools, replaced tenure with a merit-based plan, and will allow students to transfer from failing schools with a voucher of $3,100. Even heavily Democratic Illinois passed a law to link teachers' benefits to performance in the classroom. Even Massachusetts took away the unions' power to control their own health-care benefits. In Nevada, teachers will now be rated according to objective evaluation of their skills and will keep their jobs based on performance rather than length of employment.

At least ten other states have passed or introduced similar reform legislation. These reforms have enabled states to cut spending and at the same time send students into the next school year with the hope of getting a better education.

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