They’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars in these efforts. And they’ve spent even greater sums and unprecedented hours and energy trying to elect supporters and defeat opponents at every level of government.
In all of this, educrats have also made ultimately self-destructive decisions about alliances. For the most part, they kicked out pro-reform business groups, foundations, and reformers who had worked with them in the past. They decided they no longer wanted to bend their position at all in the direction of reformers, thinking they could now get it all on their own. So, instead of compromise in a broader group, they mounted a massive effort to organize around their own narrow interests. Then, to fight state and federal reforms, they pushed “local control” in real or de facto concert with conservative players.
They and their new bedmates made a pretty effective, albeit temporary, coalition. They wounded accountability, reduced the federal role in education, and compromised and weakened the state role in many places.
It seems not to matter that student achievement stalled just as this retrenchment has occurred. The main thing: educrats have persisted and often succeeded in their largely self-interested mission.
Here’s their problem: just as they thought they were on the verge of great things, it’s all come a cropper.
Let’s start with their all-in gamble on Hillary Clinton. She lost. And they now have a President who dislikes them and their positions more than any president has in recent history. And, in Betsy DeVos, they have a Secretary who is a total polar-opposite. Both Houses of Congress are firmly controlled by mostly unfriendly Republicans, with very vulnerable Senate elections ahead for Democrats in 2018.
The vast majority of Governors are Republicans, many of whom the educrats opposed in the recent election. The Republicans now control a record 67 (68%) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers. The GOP controls both legislative chambers in 32 states, an all-time high. And the Republicans have achieved a trifecta, controlling both chambers and the governor’s seat, in a whopping 24 states.
This has to be the least hospitable political environment for the unions and education bureaucrats in a very long time. One could even make a strong case that it’s measurably worse than it was in the Reagan years.
So, what does this mean? On the positive side of the ledger for the educrats, local control is here to stay, at least for a while. But that will increasingly be a lonely trophy on the shelf. The conservatives have just jumped out of bed, and there’s no one left to keep the educrats company.
That means when it comes to funding, programs, and other initiatives, they’ll be largely alone, fighting losing battles.
Now that local control is firmly established, the conservatives can and will return to their anti-tax, anti-spending, and anti-bureaucracy roots in policy-making. Look for increasing coolness, if not opposition, to educrats in most places and on most things.
Parental choice will become the principal cause du jour. This is not to say that the right will quickly win many choice victories. They probably won’t. But this will be the primary agenda item, and little or nothing will come to those who oppose it. And opposition will be a full time occupation for the educrats, whose energy will be mostly sapped in the rear-guard fights they’ll have to put up.
Did I mention judges? We’ll see more conservative judges at all levels. I would add for good measure a brief mention of the Friedrichs-type cases making their way through the courts now. One should arrive at the Supreme Court soon after Trump’s first nominee takes his/her seat.
Let me conclude on a personal note: I am not saying this outcome is good. It is certainly not the outcome I spent 25 years fighting to achieve. But if reaping what you sow is what guides how it all turns out in life, the educrat scorched earth tactic will prove to have been a bad way to farm.