The emphasis in this election has shifted away from "traditional" education issues -- such as vouchers and tuition tax credits -- to issues ranging from smaller class-size to universal pre-kindergarten.
"This election cycle seems to be dominated by more progressive education reforms than conservative," says Kristina Wilfore, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center , a Washington, D.C., group that was founded in '98 precisely to support liberal ballot measures.
Stinging defeats at the polls in '00 in Michigan and California have put vouchers on the back burner, at least for now. The ballot "is not the best way to implement school choice," says Neal McCluskey, a policy analyst at the Center for Education Reform , a D.C. group that supports vouchers and charter schools.
Voucher proponents instead will likely try their luck with legislatures, not voters, in their push to let government pay for students to attend private schools. Look for action in the next legislative session in California, Illinois, Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas.
This election is also notable in that entertainers, politicians and millionaires are doing more than just lending their names to bolster support for their pet political projects. They are using their celebrity status and connections to personally lead campaigns to get their proposals on the ballots.
This reflects a growing trend of frustrated individuals taking their causes directly to voters when state legislatures refuse to act, says Bill Comer, an organizational specialist with the National Education Association , which represents teachers and school administrators.
Here's a look at the high-profile education initiatives that will be on this November's ballots and the people behind them.
A Silicon Valley millionaire is behind two contentious English-only ballot initiatives in Colorado and Massachusetts. Ron K. Unz saw success in California and Arizona when he pushed to disband bilingual education in those states through ballot initiatives in '98 and '00 respectively. Unz's group, English for the Children" , now aims to replace bilingual education in Colorado and Massachusetts with "English immersion" classes that students take for a year before being transferred to regular classes.
Unz faces a tough battle. This month opponents of the measure in Colorado, English Plus , got a $3 million donation from philanthropist Patricia Stryker to defeat the measure in that state. Unz says since '98, he has spent $1.5 million on all four measures. Look for this issue to resurface as Unz is already eyeing other states to take the campaign.