If there's an analog today it's Common Core, or something related to Common Core. It doesn't lend itself as well to us vs them politics, though, as it's mostly a constellation of issues about which everybody has something negative to say. And I think that's true more generally--K-12 education is a quintessential political talking point. Everybody has strong opinions, they're just all largely the same uninformed opinions. It takes effort to keep people split along party lines, so you don't see the same persistent talking points across the years. Take vouchers--briefly a strongly divisive issue along party lines, but now a very muddy topic. People still have strong opinions, there's just no simple narrative for the media to play on.
I used to be naive and think that everything should go to popular vote. Now I realize how infeasible and futile that would be. It would end up being an unmitigated disaster as people fight over everything instead of just a few hot-button issues.