Election Results: A Muddled Picture for K-12 Funding and the Education Industry

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to supporters early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

This year’s election appears to offer mixed results for the nation’s school districts–and for the companies and organizations that serve them–judging from results that are still rolling in.

The overwhelming amount of attention has focused on the U.S. presidential race, where Democrat Joe Biden and incumbent Republican Donald Trump were locked in a process that could take days to resolve because of the narrow vote margin and the slow pace of counting in many vote-rich precincts in key states.

But there were also many key elections and ballot measures in play at the state level, with big implications for K-12 policy and funding.

Check back here for updates as they come in.

A White House Race That Could Sway K-12 Budgets

The battle to control the presidency appears to come down to a few key states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Biden appeared to notch a key victory on the electoral college map when he flipped Arizona from GOP to Democratic control. If he were to win some combination of Pennsylvania and another state in the upper Midwest, it would appear to give him the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win.

Trump appeared to be poised to contest the vote-counting process in those states, as Democrats make gains in tallies conducted overnight and today. The Republican incumbent made false claims overnight about election fraud and vowed to challenge the results in court.

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

If elected, Biden has vowed to greatly expand funding for schools–which has risen under Trump–by channeling new money into Title I and other major federal funding sources. (See Brian Bradley’s pre-election breakdown of the issues at stake.)

Education advocates also see the potential for new federal funding for after-school programs and other needs, if Biden wins.

The party in control of the White House also controls the leadership of the Federal Communications Commission. Ed-tech groups believe a Biden victory would lead to more funding and policy changes that are more favorable to creating new flexibility with the E-rate program, which supports internet connectivity in schools.

Congress: More Gridlock Ahead?

Either presidential candidate’s ability to set the education agenda and funding levels also rests in large measure on who controls Congress. Democrats, who kept a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, had hoped to wrest a majority in the U.S. Senate from Republicans.

But Republicans appear to have fought back challenges in several key races, including Iowa and North Carolina. Some analysts on Wednesday were predicting the results would lead to a 50-50 split in the Senate, raising fears of an even greater degree of gridlock and partisan rancor than exists now.

Many school groups are hoping that Congress will eventually deliver billions of dollars in additional emergency aid for school districts, which have been coping with new financial costs and the continued likelihood of declining revenues caused by the pandemic.

State Legislatures and Key Ballot Items

A total of 6,000 legislative seats in 44 states were up for election on Tuesday. State legislatures and governors typically play a key role in shaping K-12 policy and spending, since states contribute a much bigger share of funding to schools than does the federal government.

Many of those results are still rolling in, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

EdWeek Market Brief is watching the results in several states, including Michigan, which is controlled by the GOP; Colorado and Nevada, which are controlled by Democrats, and Minnesota, which is split.

But as of Wednesday mid-day, the results of those races had not been called.

Education advocates are hoping to channel new funding into K-12 through ballot measures, which would most likely have an impact on districts’ ability to spend on new products and services.

Early results on Wednesday suggested some of those high-profile measures were on their way to victory, while others were on the brink of defeat.

  • California Proposition 15. While pre-election polls had shown that California voters were narrowly in favor of Proposition 15, results from election night indicated that the ballot measure was poised to fall short of passing by a slim margin. The state’s election tallies, which were not yet final, indicated Wednesday morning that a bare majority, 51.7 percent, of voters rejected the ballot measure, while 48.3 percent of voters approved it, out of a total of about 11 million votes cast. State officials said 94.5 percent of the state’s precincts had partially reported results, and that totals could change during the canvassing period.
  • Arizona’s Proposition 208. The measure would create a 3.5 percent income tax surcharge on taxable income above $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for those filing jointly. All of the new money would go to K-12 education, with half of it meant to create new positions for teachers and classroom support personnel, and boost base compensation for teachers and classroom support personnel. The results, so far, show the measure passing with just over 50 percent of the vote.
  • A Colorado ballot item that created a tax on various nicotine products and devoted the money to schools has been approved by voters, the Denver Post reports. The measure would raise taxes by nearly $300 million annually, according to estimates. The money would help support preschool and rural schools, among other needs.

Check back on this post as election results are confirmed in the days ahead.

Photos: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik). President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


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