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Report from the States: Standing up for Students is Good Politics

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In every election, there are winners and losers. While the media measures winners and losers in terms of parties and politicians, Stand for Children's North Star is students. And with that measure in mind, students were winners in several states on election day.

Across the country, Stand for Children helped elect legislative candidates who voted for key changes in public schools. The conventional wisdom used to be that voting to change the status quo in public education is politically perilous. Stand for Children proved on Tuesday that, by mobilizing volunteers to support education champions and making significant, strategic investments in education champions' campaigns, bold votes to improve education are good politics in addition to being the right thing to do.

In Colorado, for example, several legislators who were up for re-election made a tough vote earlier this year to pass the Great Teachers and Leaders bill, which among other things ensures teacher tenure will be earned and kept based on demonstrated effectiveness according to multiple measures, makes performance a factor in layoff decisions, and requires that teachers and principals both agree to teacher placements. Both Democratic and Republican candidates who voted yes on the Great Teachers and Leaders bill won re-election, including now-Sen. Ellen Roberts (R), Rep. Jeanne Labuda (D); Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D); Rep. Beth McCann (D); Rep. Kevin Priola (R); and Rep. Christine Scanlan (D).

The same thing happened in Washington, where Stand for Children mounted a major grassroots and fundraising effort to elect candidates who either backed key teacher and principal performance evaluation improvements last session or supported that and other key changes for students. By reaching 25,000 targeted voters in key districts -- six times more than we did in 2008 -- and contributing $244,000 in PAC funds -- 12 times more than we contributed in 2008 -- we helped re-elect incumbents Sen. Steve Hobbs (D), Sen. Rodney Tom (D), Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D), Rep. Ross Hunter (D), Rep. Tim Probst (D) and help an education champion, Steve Litzow (R), prevail over an incumbent, Randy Gordon (D), who opposed educators being evaluated in part based on student performance.

Education may be the nation's most bipartisan issue right now. Even in these highly polarized, partisan times, there's tremendous common ground when it comes to how to help more students succeed. And that's exactly as it should be. At a time when nearly a third of our young people aren't graduating high school on time and another third graduate unprepared for post-secondary education, the dialogue our country needs to have isn't about Democrats or Republicans. It's about what works to bolster performance of our schools and our students.

Public schools affect all of us. Whether we're parents, educators, or community members, we stand to gain a lot when students graduate high school ready for college or technical school. When we elect candidates who champion legislation that helps more students succeed, students aren't the only winners. We all win.