This November's election delivered a massive jolt not only at the national level, but also at more than a dozen statehouses, where one or both chambers switched. Now consider this aftershock: still more change is ahead as appointments are made to state agencies, boards of education, and other important rule-making agencies.
Because much of the policy making that shapes public education happens at the state level, such changing of the guard might suggest that massive shifts in direction are coming too. But if the past is any guide, the agenda for improving education in America will remain stable -- and bipartisan.
Sure, parties argue over emphasis and flavor; and any time a leadership baton changes hands, we will see shifts in emphasis as some things get easier and some harder. Clearly, money is tighter. But the guiding ideas for improving education in this country have been largely bipartisan for more than a decade. Throughout three presidencies and countless changes in governorships across the nation, the country has remained focused on closing gaps to ensure all students graduate ready for college and career, improving school and educator effectiveness, and advancing and protecting quality charter schools. Those goals weave together values deeply held by both the right and the left into a synergistic agenda that combines institutional improvement strategies with system-disrupting policies that create alternatives, build pressure, and encourage innovation.
This kind of policy stability is no accident, nor does it come easily. The education reform agenda has remained remarkably steady in large part because the civic communities in so many states have worked relentlessly on both sides of the aisle to advance it. In almost half the states in the country, civic leaders created full-time organizations whose missions are to improve K-12 education statewide. Those 25 organizations make up the PIE Network. In the election's aftermath, we'll see this irony: as new elected leaders seek their bearings, education reform advocates, who typically push tirelessly for change, will become the leading force for constancy and stability for education reform.
Of course, as new leaders settle into their roles, we'll see a pause in the pace of change, but that's not such a bad thing. The year 2010 brought some of the most dramatic legislative changes in education policy we've seen in a long time. Time is needed to transform those laws into sensible implementation plans. Advocates will play a leading role here too, ensuring that regulations remain true to the spirit of the laws they implement.
Great advocates plan for the long run and know that shifts in leadership are inevitable. That's one of the reasons why the PIE Network maintains that the best advocates are nonpartisan organizations whose leaders are bipartisan in their approach. That positioning ensures they are ready to work with whomever occupies the statehouse to make sure that ideas that are good for kids are implemented.