Teachers unions won several big victories in both red and blue states Tuesday, overturning laws that would have eliminated tenure in Idaho and South Dakota, defeating a threat to union political work in California, and ousting a state schools chief in Indiana who sought to fundamentally remake public education.The night didn't belong entirely to big labor; advocates of charter schools, which are typically non-union, scored a win in Georgia and looked likely to prevail in a tough fight in Washington state.
But unions had the bigger trophies - none bigger than in Indiana, where they stunned pundits by handing a loss to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who was running for a second term.
Bennett, a Republican, had emerged as a national leader in the bipartisan education reform movement. He pushed to grade schools and teachers by their students' test scores. He gave middle-income families vouchers to pay tuition at private and parochial schools. He seized control of struggling public schools, then turned them over to private managers, including a for-profit company based in Florida. And he required 9-year-olds to pass a reading test before earning promotion to fourth grade.