Archives for category: ALEC

Democratic progressives have launched a new organization to counter ALEC at the state level. It is called the State Innovation Exchange, or SIX.

Its goal is to advance a “people’s agenda,” not a corporate agenda.

An article in politico.com called it an ALEC-killer.

The question is whether this group will detach itself from the neoliberal slant that have put so many Democrats (think Cuomo of Néw York and Malloy of Connecticut and Arne Duncan) in alliance with the right.

ALEC–the American Legislative Exchange Council--is an organization underwritten by major corporations, whose members are state legislators. It writes model state legislation to reduce taxes and regulation on business, to eliminate unions, to promote vouchers and charters, to reduce environmental controls, and to advance a far-right agenda.

Ed Berger, an experienced educator who lives in Arizona, writes that the corrupt politics of the state are hurting children and public education. Berger has worked in education in Arizona since 1991, and during that time he has met many dedicated, hard-working teachers, doing their best to educate children with inadequate resources.

 

What have I experienced? Great things at all levels Pre-K-University! Dedicated teachers and administrators constantly working to improve our schools; dedicated human beings fighting for children and quality education. They are pitted against an economic system that has created pockets of poverty which damage children and their potential for learning, and political ideologues who want to destroy or profit financially from public education.
I am witnessing first-hand the calculated destruction of Arizona public schools and the professional educators who serve our children.

 

Arizona is a ‘right-to-work state.’ No worker’s rights means no organized opposition to the politicians who control the State. As with other public employees, educators have no power to confront and expose abuses and those who damage our schools and children.

 

Arizona is a ‘one-party-rules state.’ One powerful political party controls what happens to our children and our community schools. That party is closely aligned with the religious right. Those groups gets access to the education tax dollars citizens pay. With tax dollars, they inject religious bias into the curriculum in the schools they run. Politicians in Arizona have effectively broken down the barriers between church and state.

 

How do they do it? Too many make profits from the education tax dollars citizens pay for our children. They do this by privatizing schools, bypassing safeguards, and taking over or eliminating elected school boards that stand in their way. They exempt, stop, modify, or eliminate accountability. They stop full audits and the release of specific information about what these profit-driven schools do to, or for children. They maintain a chokehold on information.

 

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been diverted from public education–which enrolls 85% of the state’s children– to private bank accounts. The children are cheated.

 

Berger writes that:

 

In Arizona, under the cloud provided by the Legislature, hundreds of millions of dollars are not accounted for. As a result of legislation, well over 600 charter schools have been created since the mid-90s. There are over 450 of these partial schools active now. Whole industries including banks and finance systems, school management services, and curriculum businesses have risen to get a ‘free’ piece of the public education pie. Public tax dollars are being diverted into private ventures. All of these services come out of the tax dollars that citizens are led to believe educate children.

 

Services already provided by law in our public district schools are being duplicated at great cost to taxpayers. In Arizona, ‘schools- of-choice’ spend valuable resources on rent and purchases of buildings. This results in public funding used to buy, build, or lease space. It often pays the property mortgages for private corporations and crooked individuals who will end up owning the buildings. What a great deal for kids. Right?

 
Besides siphoning off teaching money for buildings, kids are not getting the comprehensive curriculum and services that our district schools must provide. Partial schools cheat children by not exposing them to at least 10 disciplines taught by certified and vetted professionals.

 

He adds:

 

Arizona is a state controlled by ALEC (Alliance Of Legislative Executive Councils). Much of the Alliance’s agenda comes from the teachings of the radical right-wing John Birch Society, the legacy the Koch Brothers continue to force on America. The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and the Arizona political machine advocate the destruction of public education in America, the end of workers’ rights and worker organizations, and the right to access public tax dollars for their own profit. They call it “privatizing.”

 

More often than not, legislators allow ALEC teams to write the legislation they will introduce and vote in. This process subverts the democratic process of representative government. It is in fact, corporation representation.

 

The public schools are starved of the resources they need to educate the children. The ALEC-controlled legislature is trying to destroy public education.

 

This is political corruption of the worst kind, the kind that hurts children and undermines the future of the state.

John Oliver has some of the smartest political commentary on television. In this Youtube video, he explains ALEC, the corporate-funded organization that writes model legislation for states to benefit corporations and defund the public sector. One of every four state legislators, Oliver says, belongs to this secretive group that promotes privatization. ALEC supports charters and vouchers and test-based teacher evaluation. It opposes teacher tenure and unions. For some inexplicable reason, ALEC is tax-exempt.

This comes from “In the Public Interest,” an organization that reports on outsourcing and privatization, which is usually NOT in the public interest.

Donald Cohen writes:

As we approach Election Day, a number of governors in tight races are finding that privatizing public services isn’t good politics. But it may be good for campaign fundraisers seeking donations from corporations that want government contracts.

A new report released by the Center for Media and Democracy highlights the intensive efforts of governors seeking re-election to privatize important public services to private firms. Time after time, outsourcing has gone awry, generating worse outcomes for the public, scandals, lawsuits, and scorching headlines that are impacting the campaigns. The report includes examples from Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Wisconsin.

Here are examples from the report:

• In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder outsourced prison food service to Aramark after the company spent half a million dollars on lobbying. The contract has been plagued by scandals, including maggots, employees smuggling drugs and having sex with inmates, and even murder-for-hire allegations.


• In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has outsourced millions in legal contracts to major campaign contributors to defend ALEC-style voter ID legislation and other policies. The governor also attempted to privatize liquor sales, which would have benefited another set of deep-pocketed contributors like retail giant Walmart.
 Walmart donated $33,500 to Corbett’s campaign.

• In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has overseen a massive expansion of for-profit online schooling to companies that spent millions on lobbying. Scott signed a bill requiring every student to take online courses and tests benefiting firms like K12 Inc.

The outcomes of these races could very well be an important referendum on outsourcing and privatization. We’ll be watching.
Sincerely,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
In the Public Interest

In the Public Interest” reports:

1) National: A report released last week by the Institute for College Access & Success says that former students of for-profit colleges account for nearly half (44%) of all federal student loan defaults. “For-profit colleges also continue to have a much higher average default rate than other types of schools: 19.1 percent, compared to 12.9 percent at public colleges and 7.2 percent at nonprofit colleges.” Among other steps, the Institute recommends cracking down on default rates through administrative actions and an upcoming rulemaking.

“National: Gordon Lafer digs into the goals and strategy of the charter school industry. He reports that “a new type of segregation” is at hand. “The charter industry seeks to build a new system of segregated education—one divided by class and geography rather than explicitly by race. (…) The US Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity and their legislative allies are promoting an ambitious, two-pronged agenda for poor cities: replace public schools with privately run charter schools, and replace teachers with technology.”

This is the most important article you will read this week, this month, maybe this year. Lee Fang, a brilliant investigative reporter at the Nation Institute, documents the rise and growth of the new for-profit education industry. They seek out ways to make money by selling products to the schools, developing new technologies for the Common Core, writing lucrative leasing deals for charter school properties, mining students’ personal data and selling it, and investing in lucrative charter schools.

Their basic strategy: disrupt public education by selling a propaganda narrative of failure, which then generates consumer demand for new, privately managed forms of schooling (charters and vouchers), for new products (a laptop for every child), and for new standards (the Common Core) that require the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars for new technology, consultants, and other new teaching products. The Common Core has the subsidiary effect of reducing test scores dramatically, thus reinforcing the failure narrative and the need for new schools and new products. Meanwhile, absent any evidence, the boosters of the Common Core promise dramatic results (“bigger better cleaner than clean, the best ever, everything you ever dreamed of, success for all, no more achievement gap, everyone a winner”), while reaping the rewards.

The end goal is the reaping of billions in profits for entrepreneurs and investors.

The crucial enabler of the entrepreneurial takeover of American public education has been the Obama administration. From the beginning, its Race to the Top was intended to close schools with low scores, require more charter schools, all to create a larger market for charter organizations. Its requirement to adopt “college-and-career-ready standards” established the Common Core standards in 45 states, thus creating a national market for products. Its funding of two national tests guaranteed that all future testing would be done online, thus generating a multi-billion dollar market for technology companies that produce software and hardware. At the same time, the Obama administration was curiously silent as state after state eliminated collective bargaining and silenced the one force that might impede its plans. Neither President Obama nor Arne Duncan made an appearance in Wisconsin when tens of thousands of working people protested Scott Walker’s anti-union program.

Lee Fang has connected the dots that show the connection between entrepreneurs, the Obama administration, ALEC, and Wall Street. We now know that their promises and their profit-driven schemes do not benefit students or teachers or education. Students will be taught by computers in large classes. Experienced and respected teachers do not like the new paradigm; they will leave and be replaced by young teachers willing to follow a script, work with few or no benefits, then leave for another career choice. Turnover of teachers will become the norm, as it is in charter schools. “Success” will be defined as test scores, which will be generated by computer drills.

This is the future the entrepreneurs are planning. Their own children will be in private schools not subject to the Common Core, or large computer-based classes, or inexperienced teachers. The public’s children will be victims of policies promoted by Arne Duncan to benefit the entrepreneurs.

We see the future unfolding in communities across the nation. It can be stopped by vigilant and informed citizens. If we organize and act, we can push back and defeat this terrible plan to monetize our children and our public schools.

Bloomberg News reports that Google will or has quit ALEC. Probably this means Google will not renew its membership in this radical extremist organization, which writes model laws to bust unions, privatize public education, restrict voting rights, oppose gun control, deny climate change, and eliminate regulations on corporations.

Google was alarmed about climate change denial. Apparently the rest of ALEC’s extremist, anti-democratic agenda was OK with Google.

Isn’t its motto “do no evil?” ALEC is no do-good organization, unless you seek to maximize corporate power.

As a tea

ALEC is a super-conservative organization that writes model legislation for vouchers, charters, and every imaginable way to privatize public education, undermine unions, tenure, certification, and anything else that is associated with teacher professionalism.

ALEC is supported by major corporations. It writes legislation on every topic of interest to its backers, reducing government regulation, reducing the role of government, attacking unions and maximizing profits. It also opposes gun control and seeks limits on voter rights.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said on the Diane Rehm show that he regretted that Google had given money to ALEC because it denies climate change. Google cares about the environment.

But Google spokesmen would not say whether Google had actually quit ALEC. Facebook, AOL, and Yelp belong to ALEC.

Learn more about ALEC here.

Feeling down about corporate ownership of almost everything? So is David Greene. Gates, Walton, Bloomberg, Bezos, Murdoch, Koch. What don’t they own? Our votes.

David thinks back a century. Other oligarchs owned almost everything then. Of course, it didn’t occur to them to monetize the schools.

But we beat them back. We elected people to regulate the oligarchs. We can do it again.

Rex Sinquefeld is a billionaire (or maybe just a multi-millionaire) who has poured millions of dollars into political campaigns in Missouri.

He is not satisfied with what he has. He wants lower taxes, less government, and the privatization of public schools. He doesn’t want workers to have any rights.

Read about him and his political activities in these reports prepared by the Center for Media and Democracy: here, and here, and here.

What does Sinquefeld want?

Here is a quote from the third reference:

“Sinquefield is doing to Missouri what the Koch Brothers are doing to the entire country. For the Koch Brothers and Sinquefield, a lot of the action these days is not at the national but at the state level.

“By examining what Sinquefield is up to in Missouri, you get a sobering glimpse of how the wealthiest conservatives are conducting a low-profile campaign to destroy civil society.

“Sinquefield told The Wall Street Journal in 2012 that his two main interests are “rolling back taxes” and “rescuing education from teachers’ unions.”

“His anti-tax, anti-labor, and anti-public education views are common fare on the right. But what sets Sinquefield apart is the systematic way he has used his millions to try to push his private agenda down the throats of the citizens of Missouri.

“Our review of filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows that Sinquefield and his wife spent more than $28 million in disclosed donations in state elections since 2007, plus nearly $2 million more in disclosed donations in federal elections since 2006, for a total of at least $30 million.

“Sinquefield is, in fact, the biggest spender in Missouri politics.

“In 2013, Sinquefield spent more than $3.8 million on disclosed election-related spending, and that was a year without presidential or congressional elections. He gave nearly $1.8 million to Grow Missouri, $850,000 to the anti-union teachgreat.org, and another $750,000 to prop up the Missouri Club for Growth PAC.

“However, these amounts do not include whatever total he spent last year underwriting the Show-Me Institute, which he founded and which has reinforced some of the claims of his favorite political action committees. The total amount he spent on his lobbying arm, Pelopidas, in pushing his agenda last year will never be fully disclosed, as only limited information is available about direct lobbying expenditures. Similarly, the total amount he spent on the PR firm Slay & Associates, which works closely with him, also will not ever be disclosed. These are just a few of the tentacles of his operation to change Missouri laws and public opinion.

“Even more revealing is how Sinquefield behaved when Missouri was operating under laws to limit the amount of donations one person or group could give to influence elections. In order to bypass those clean election laws, he worked with his legal and political advisers to create more than 100 separate groups with similar names. Those multiple groups gave more, cumulatively, than Sinquefield would be able to give in his own name, technically complying with the law while actually circumventing it. That operation injected more than $2 million in disclosed donations flowing from Sinquefield during the 2008 election year, and it underscored his chess-like gamesmanship and his determination to do as he pleases. (Sinquefield is an avid chess player.)

“Shortly after that election, the Missouri legislature repealed those campaign finance limits, with his backing. Those changes benefited Sinquefield more than anyone. As a result, in 2010, Sinquefield made disclosed political donations more than ten times greater than what he spent in 2008…..

“In Missouri, Sinquefield’s strategy has been to focus on a few issues dear to him.

“First, he spent lavishly to try to prohibit some cities in the state from imposing an income tax. He shelled out more than $11 million underwriting the “Let Voters Decide” ballot proposition in 2010, which won by a two-to-one margin. He spent about $8.67 a vote.

“The proposition required Kansas City and St. Louis to hold a referendum on whether to keep the municipal income tax in 2011, and every five years after that. To Sinquefield’s dismay, in April 2011, citizens voted overwhelmingly to keep taxing themselves, with 78 percent in favor in Kansas City and 87 percent in St. Louis.

“But he hasn’t given up.

“Now Sinquefield is trying to do away with the 6 percent state income tax. Doing so would enrich him personally, since the investment firm he co-founded still manages more than $200 billion in investments, some of which he may still own. Plus, if the business is ever sold, he stands to make a windfall.

“To help replace lost revenue from the income tax, Sinquefield favors an increase in the sales tax (and a broadening of it to include such things as child care). A study he commissioned also recommends increased taxes on “restaurants, hotels, cigarettes, and beer,” while “shift[ing] the major tax burden from companies and affluent individuals,” like Sinquefield. And it recommends selling off the public’s assets, like the St. Louis airport, trading a short-term infusion of revenue in exchange for giving for-profit corporations access to decades of revenue.

“He doesn’t want an increase in property taxes. Can you blame him? He has a 22,000-square-foot house on an estate of hundreds of acres in the Missouri Ozarks, and another home in St. Louis worth at least $1.78 million, replete with a private elevator. He also owns a lot of cars, including a 2008 Bentley Continental Flying Spur that retailed for $170,000.

“Sinquefield’s taxation proposals would necessitate cuts in the state’s provision of services many people take for granted as part of living in a modern, civil society: public education, public libraries, and other public goods.”

One of his major goals is the privatization of public education.

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