Discover more from Forza...for Education
Is There a Speaker Yet? No.
And yes, it has a lot to do with education.
The Return of the Know-Nothings?
This isn’t the first time in U.S. History that the House of Representatives has struggled to select a Speaker due to political divisions and disputes. In 1855, during the 34th Congress, as the nation was grappling with the issue of slavery and its expansion into newly acquired territories, the “Know-Nothings,” or the American Party, which was anti-immigrant and anti-slavery, created a deeply divided House of Representatives.
When it came time to elect a Speaker of the House, the divisions were so pronounced that for two months, from December 1855 to February 1856, the House could not reach a decision. Neither the Republicans nor the Know-Nothings had a majority, and numerous ballots were taken without a clear winner. This period of deadlock became known as the "Know-Nothing Speaker Crisis." Sadly the Know-Nothings would win out with the election in early February 1856 of Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, who was considered a moderate on the issue of slavery. Banks' election marked a compromise of sorts, but it also highlighted the deep political divisions and challenges of the time.
Thomas Nast anti-Catholic cartoon from Harper's Weekly magazine 'The American River Ganges' (1875) HARPERS WEEKLY
So the connection to education? The Know-Nothings were also responsible for the Blaine Amendment, which was used as the primary issue why some states would not enact private school choice programs until the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue in June of 2020 and again in June of 2022 in Carson v. Makin. But vestiges of that same prejudice of immigrants and Catholics still colors many education choice debates, even implicitly. More on that another time.
Florida’s ascent to being number one in the nation for giving parents the freedom to make decisions governing their children’s education didn’t come easily. It happened over more than twenty years, starting with the enactment of a modest charter school bill under Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles in 1996, and grew through the administration of Republican Governor Jeb Bush and to the present, under Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed the largest choice program in the nation into law on March 27, 2023. Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz helped lead the charge for much of that progress as a legislator, work that he now gets to implement.
From the beginning of the expansion and improvement of both charter school and education choice laws, student achievement has soared. That history, and the work to unite people who deliver education across all sectors, was the subject of the opening panel of the Florida Department of Education School Choice Summit that I was privileged to be part of last week in Orlando, along with leaders from Florida’s best education organizations. I was also honored to be recognized on this, the 30th anniversary of the founding of CER, for our work in helping states like Florida keep the critical importance of education opportunity front and center over the years.
It’s Texas’ Turn
Lawmakers are hard at work negotiating bills to accomplish precisely what Florida did those 27 years ago, and it’s not been easy. First, you have to give them credit. They are supposed to work for only 60 days a year, and they’ve passed about the 120th day so far. Second, the Senate at least has passed a bill, and the House has one introduced but it’s a long way from acceptable to most parties. Read all about it in my Forbes column, but the details are changing daily so follow along for updates on X (Twitter).
North Carolina Gives Every Parent the Choice Now
Don’t despair, Texas. North Carolina fought for years, but as of September the Tarheel state has one of the best education choice programs in the nation. The Opportunity Scholarship Program gives every parent the tuition assistance - on a sliding income scale - to send their students to the school of their choice beginning in 2024-2025.
It’s Out! Did You See It?
The Yass Summit 2023 was a groundbreaking event hosted at the world-famous Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, marking the convergence of passion, innovation and action in the realm of education. We reflected on three decades of tireless effort and significant progress, and are shaping an inspiring, impactful future for global education.
Watch the highlights video and you’ll see what I mean!
Halloween is almost here and it’s getting spooky out there as we all prepare for the coming year of presidential candidate tricks and treats. 👻🎃😈☠️👹
Start doing your homework and make sure you tell your favorite candidates what you want them to do to ensure opportunity and innovation drives the education landscape for all kids.
Until next week - Jeanne