Archives for category: ALEC

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.

The Progressive.com managed to get a copy of ALEC’s agenda for its 41st annual meeting in Dallas.

ALEC wants to eviscerate Medicaid, support fracking, and expand charter schools in hopes of destroying America’s great public school system.

All for the corporations and the 1%, nothing for the people.

They are shameless.

Lisa Graves was one of the creators of the website ALECExposed. She has followed the money, and she here describes a dangerous threat to American democracy by the billionaire Koch brothers, ALEC, and others who seek control by the super-rich. They want to bust unions and privatize schools. Graves says that progressives must stand together. I agree. That’s why I grow frustrated when union members attack their unions. Of course, they should fight to win democratic control of their unions. But when they begin hurling insults and invective at their allies, they do the work of their common foe.

Graves writes:

“Two of the richest men in the entire world are plotting to dominate our elections this fall, from congressional races to school board seats.

“Their scheming to shove America further to the far right should be a serious wake-up call for anyone who cares about our nation’s soul.

“As Charles and David Koch promised their billionaire buddies, they’ve assessed how the quarter billion dollars they helped raise and spread across the country failed spectacularly in the 2012 elections. And, they’ve made adjustments to their battle plans to win more this time…..

“If unions and their leaders want to stand up to the Koch machine – which has sought to gut union power for decades – I say right on. Nurses, teachers, and factory workers ought to have a chance to negotiate with power for better wages and working conditions than each could negotiate with their powerful employer alone.

“Thank goodness they’ve all stood up to the Kochs’ neo-Bircher worldview, in their own ways.

“Thank goodness they understand that civil society — indeed, our very democracy — is what’s at stake.

“I stand against the cult of greed peddled by the Kochs.

“I’m utterly opposed to the Koch-y brand of Ayn Rand’s dystopian propaganda and the updated version of this kind of every-man-for-himself economic Darwinism peddled by Rand Paul in blue jeans. I don’t want America’s great dream for our people to be shrunk into a members’ only club, letting the richest few rule with the less lucky stuck as servants struggling to survive.

“A civil society — a true democracy – recognizes that investing in our shared future makes our nation stronger.

“A healthy democracy fully funds our public institutions that serve all of the American people and helps those living on the brink, as part of our social contract in recognition of our common humanity and the fact that we all face illness and aging out of work….

“It’s about having truly public schools that provide our children with empowered teachers trained in the art and science of teaching rather than inexperienced and un-certified stand-ins trying to do it on the cheap so a corporation can pay better dividends to stock speculators.

“The right-wing alternative to truly public schools that the Koch deregulation machine has helped spawn is “charter” schools paid for with our tax dollars.

“We’ve seen too many charters run by fly-by-night operators feeding kids religious gruel or designed by corporations to enrich Wall Street speculators through cutting what’s spent on kids, teachers, and classrooms but a healthy budget for slick ads blanketing the airwaves and underwritten by taxpayers.

“Charles and David Koch have spent decades trying to get rid of “government” schools, as touted in David’s run for the White House in 1980. That’s why it’s now practically a litmus test for Republican presidential candidates to list the Department of Education among the government agencies they are in a race to eliminate.

“We need all hands on deck to stop them.

“That’s one of the reasons why attacks on the DA or union leaders like Randi Weingarten as a false equivalent to the Koch cabal are so misplaced. They are not equivalent because the goals of the Kochs matter and investing in an alternative to the Kochs’ agenda matters, a lot…..

“But, as the person who launched ALECexposed with my team in Madison, I can tell you that Weingarten has been totally stalwart in standing up to ALEC and its anti-public education agenda, which is fueled by the Koch family fortune and other rich families — along with corporations that profit from privatizing public schools, of course.

“The American Federation of Teachers has been rock solid in the fight against ALEC, consistently devoting staff time week in and week out for three years to expose ALEC, due to her personal commitment. The ongoing public campaign on ALEC would not have had the success it has had without AFT’s work and her leadership, and without the work of many devoted colleagues across the country, including the National Education Association and other organizations, bloggers, and concerned citizens nationwide…..

“I know we need a more progressive America.

“And progressives need to get better at using their power to persuade each other and to win better policies.

“But attacking genuine progressives for banding together to take on the Kochs or for not being pure enough is foolish sport. And the right loves it when progressives fight. It makes their effort to tear down the left so much easier.

“So, let’s get real.

“Because there’s a real-world war going on to kill our public schools, outsource our public institutions to private companies not accountable to us, and destroy key government constraints on corporate power…..”

In an article at politico.com, Stephanie Simon presents a gloomy portrait of the future of teacher unions.

At the outset, she acknowledges that the unions have been the target of “a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign portraying them as greedy and selfish.”

This campaign is funded by billionaires, millionaires, ALEC, powerful corporations (Koch brothers?), rightwing think tanks, and wealthy foundations, all of whom we must assume are noble and selfless, not “greedy and selfish” like those no-good, lazy, worthless teachers. And then there are the academics who receive lavish funding from the noble and selfless billionaires and millionaires to produce studies and reports about the greedy and selfish teachers and unions.

But, as Simon reports, the campaign seems to be effective, as union membership falls and revenues decline. As evidence, she offers poll numbers reported by Paul Peterson’s group at Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and “Education Next,” both of which support vouchers and charters and oppose teachers unions and are funded by the afore-named groups of billionaires and millionaires. The numbers may or may not be correct, but the source is not reliable since both PEPG and “Education Next” are part of the campaign to rid the nation of teachers unions. But Simon does not mention that PEPG is an integral part of the anti-union campaign.

Simon ends the article by concluding that unions only make matters worse if they fight back against the wealthy coalition that now seeks to destroy workers’ rights:

“And some analysts, even those sympathetic to organized labor, say the teachers unions risk alienating the public with their constant complaints about the conspiracy of wealthy forces arrayed against them and their defense of job protections like those found unconstitutional this week in California.

“It’s entirely possible,” Kerchner said, “that unions can turn public education into a bad brand.”

In other words, resistance is futile.

But many teachers would not agree at all. They don’t believe that the 1%–and those who are on their payroll–are fighting for civil rights and social justice. they believe that it is imperative to stand up for hard-working teachers and the children they teach every day. Teachers are not greedy and selfish. their unions are not wrong to stand up for the rights of teachers, which are under attack in many states. Accepting the claims and the rhetoric of the privatization movement is a recipe for losing public education and the teaching profession, not just losing the unions.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/teachers-union-california-court-decision-107816_Page2.html#ixzz34YN4x9BV

Jersey Jazzman goes through the reasons why the corporate elites and rightwing think tanks love charter schools.

It is not because they get better results. They don’t.

It is not because they save money. They don’t.

They are very effective at busting unions. Nearly 90% of the nation’s charters are non-union. This makes possible a flexible workforce that works long hours, accepts whatever pay management wants to pay, and makes no demands.

Florida Republicans, aided by three rogue Democrats, rammed through voucher legislation in the closing day of the legislative session.

The vouchers are supposedly for the benefit of children with special needs.

The Republican legislators’ alleged concern for children with special needs is especially hypocritical in view of their failure to act on the Ethan Rediske legislation, would have exempted children in extreme medical distress to be exempted from state testing by local officials.

As we have seen time and again (and as ALEC urges), legislation for vouchers is targeted to children with special needs as a way to promote vouchers. Thus, children with special needs are cynically used by rightwing legislators whose real goal is to destroy public education.

**************************

This from a reader in Florida:

 

This skullduggery just in from the last hours of the spring legislative session in Florida’s right wing Republican-controlled Legislature:

Tampa Bay Times, May 2, 2014: Lawmakers revive, then approve school voucher expansion

Quote:

TALLAHASSEE — A surprise procedural maneuver Friday helped Florida lawmakers pass one of the most controversial bills of the session.

Both the House and Senate gave final approval to a bill that would expand the school voucher program and create new scholarships for special-needs children.

The proposal will now head to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it.

School choice advocates celebrated bill’s passage — an unexpected end to a roller-coaster session.

—–

Joanne McCall, vice president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, said she was disappointed. “The members of FEA are chagrined by the continued march to expand voucher schools that are largely unregulated, don’t have to follow the state’s academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely,” she said.

McCall said it was “especially galling that the voucher expansion was tacked on to an unrelated bill on the final day of the session.”

—–

“Public schools should not have a monopoly,” Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said in debate. “We have choices in everything else.”

——-end quote

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/lawmakers-revive-then-approve-school-voucher-expansion/2178137

With this development, Jeb Bush must be gleefully rubbing his hands together.

Just as certain as many people here in Florida were, that then-Governor Jeb Bush would leave no stone unturned in jamming his brother into the White House, many of us KNEW that these radical Republicans in Tallahassee would force this thievery of public education resources into law.

God willing, we will flush Rick Scott and as many of these thieves running the Florida legislature as we can this November, along with their micromanaging mentor, Jeb Bush.

Reader Laura H. Chapman looked at Governor Kasich’s education agenda in Ohio and recognized its source. What is startling is to see the overlap between ALEC and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top:

“This is important work, and ALEC needs to be exposed as the source of Governor Kasich’s policies, along with the legislature’s eagerness to approve the Department of Education’s uncritical use of the “management models” and PR from the Reform Support Network created by USDE to promote the RttT agenda nationally.

“The A-F grading system, for example, was introduced in Ohio schools last year (2013). It is the latest highly reductive strategy for ranking schools and a version of the 2011 model legislation provided by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

“Teachers and schools are assigned letter grades, thereby obscuring a host of issues with the underlying VAMs and cut scores that feed into the ranking. ALEC offered this legislation, in part, because it is a simplistic system and appeals to the press. The league tables produced under this system are no more complex than the traditional A-to-F grading system, or so it seems.

“However, in Ohio, the system is anything but simple. Up to nine “performance indicators” are graded in the A-F system, then these grades are recast as a single rating. For example, a school cannot receive an “A” if any subgroup of students is awarded a “C.” Some grades are based on “attaining a year’s worth of growth” in test scores. This is a fictional concept from economists who think that gains in scores on standardized tests—pre-test to post-test and year-to-year—are “objective” and should count more than other factors in ranking schools.

“In addition to the continued use of VAM scores to rank teachers and schools (with SAS’s proprietary formula and contracts worth millions), about 70% of Ohio’s teachers are rated on their production on gains in scores on state or district approved pre-and post-tests tests. These are described in the dreadful “student learning objectives”

“(SLO) exercises that teachers have to produce for one or more their courses or classes. The teachers are graded on their write-ups of SLOs and have to meet about 25 criteria or go back to a revision. You would think teachers are working to specifications for assembling a 747 airplane. I have elsewhere called this “accountability gone wild.” And in Ohio, 50% of a teacher’s evaluation is determined by this non-sense–whether it the VAM or the SLO. For most teachers, an undisclosed formula in a spreadsheet calculates the minimum acceptable gain scores for SLOs and churns out a color-coded rating for the teacher–Green-to-yellow-to-red.

“The league-table ratings of Ohio’s schools are gaining the same press as major sports, but without the full-time staff looking into the minutia of school reform or the day-to-day work of teachers and administrators. It comes as no surprise that the A-F grades assigned to schools mirror the SES profiles for communities (Amos & Brown, 2013).

“Our Governor, John Kasich, is a pawn of ALEC. He has also decided to offer a “third grade reading guarantee” as suggested by ALEC’s model legislation. Next up is likely to be ALEC’s Student Achievement Backpack Bill. This makes the Duncan/Gates agenda for data mongering “friendly” to parents. The “Backpack” provides access by a student’s parent or guardian or an authorized local education agency (LEA) official to “the learning profile of a student from kindergarten through grade 12 in an electronic format known as a Student Achievement Backpack.” The information in this profile is housed in the “cloud.” It can be accessed by qualified users from a “Student Record Store” posted on the state education agency website. It also includes data about all of the teachers-of-record for a given student, with only a few limits on the data that can be entered. See http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/student-achievement-backpack-act/http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/student-achievement-backpack-act/

“You can find out about ALEC’s legislation in your state at http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

“Other Sources here: American Legislative Exchange Council. (2011, January). A-Plus literacy act, Model legislation: Chapter 1. School and district report cards and grades. Retrieved from http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-a-plus-literacy-act/
Amos, D.S., & Brown, J. (2013, August 22). State unveils new report cards. Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved from http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130822/NEWS0102/308220025/State-unveils-revamped-report-cards”

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization founded in 1973 to promote free-market ideas throughout society. ALEC has about 2,000 members who belong to state legislatures. It is funded by major corporations. Its purpose is to write model legislation that members can bring back to their state, to spread the gospel of ALEC. It supports charters, vouchers, online charters–all forms of privatization. It opposes collective bargaining. It does not believe in due process rights for teachers or any form of job security for public employees. It does not support local control, as it promotes laws that allow state commissions to override decisions by local school boards if they deny charters to private groups.

Among its proposals is the third grade reading guarantee, in which children are flunked if they don’t pass the third grade reading test. What this has to do with free-market capitalism is beyond my understanding. It is punitive towards little children, putting more faith in a test than in teachers’ judgement. There is no research to support this policy, but we know already that zealots are unimpressed by research or evidence.

Here is a comment by faithful reader Chiara Duggan of Zohio:

“This is the ALEC model bill on high stakes testing in third grade.

“It’s nearly identical to Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee:

“C) Beginning with the 20XX-20XY school year, if the student’s reading deficiency, as identified in paragraph (a), is not remedied by the end of grade 3, as demonstrated by scoring at Level 2 or higher on the state annual accountability assessment in reading for grade 3, the student must be retained.

“Just shameful that adult lawmakers were purchased by this lobbying group, and third graders will be paying the price.

http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-a-plus-literacy-act/”

Dear Friends,

Today this blog reached the unbelievable number of eleven million page views!

I had no idea this would happen when I wrote the first post on April 26, 2012.

Thank you for reading. More than that, thank you for participating.

Many of you contribute regularly to what must be the liveliest discussion about education on the Internet. I read your comments and pick out some that are the most interesting, the most thoughtful, the most informative, and the most provocative and post them. It may be the same day or weeks later. The important thing is that I have tried to make this blog a place where the voices of parents, students, teachers, principals, and superintendents are heard, unedited.

The rules of the blog are limited and simple. Be civil. Avoid certain four-letter words which I will not print. Do not insult your host. There are plenty of other forums for all of the above. Just not here.

As you know, the blog has a point of view, because I have a point of view. I care passionately about improving the education of all children. I care passionately about showing respect for the dedicated men and women who work hard every day to educate children and help them grow to be healthy, happy human beings with good character and a love of learning. I care passionately about restoring real education and rescuing it from those who have dumbed it down into preparation for the next standardized test. I care passionately about restoring to all children their right to engage in the arts, to play, to dream, to create, to have a childhood and a youth unburdened by fear of tests. I care passionately about protecting the public schools from those who seek to monetize them and use them as a source of profit and power.

I am in my end game. I will fight to the last to defend children, teachers, principals, and public education from the billionaires and politicians who have made a hobby of what is deceptively called “reform.” What is now called “reform,” as the readers of this blog know, is a calculated plan to turn public schools over to amateurs and entrepreneurs, while de imaging the teaching profession to cut costs.

The people who promote the privatization and standardization of public education are the StatusQuo. They include the U.S. Department of Education, the nation’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, and the nation’s largest foundations. They include ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand on Children, ConnCAN, and a bevy of other organizations eager to transfer public dollars to private organizations. Their stale and failed ideas are the Status Quo. Their ideas have been ascendant for a dozen years. They have failed and failed again, but their money and political power keep them insulated from news of the damage they do to Other People’s Children.

We will defeat them. We will outlast them. Who are we? We are the Resistance. We are parents and grandparents, teachers, and principals, school board members, and scholars. We will not go away. They can buy politicians, but they can’t buy us. They can buy “think tanks,” but they can’t buy us. Public schools are not for sale. Nor are our children. Nor are we.

On Tuesday, I taped an interview with Bill Moyers.

The show will air six times this weekend on PBS stations across the nation.

Bill has become an expert on ALEC, having done important programming (see here) about that shadowy corporate-funded organization that is promoting deregulation of the public and private sectors and encouraging privatization.

Given his interests and mine, we had a great conversation about the strange convergence of ALEC, hedge fund managers, and assorted Republicans and Democrats around a common agenda.

He wanted to “follow the money,” and there were many stories from Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere that reveal the effort to monetize our nation’s public education system without improving it.

He and his crew did something that I have never seen before.

After we finished out taping, we retaped portions of the conversation that needed more detail, clarification, or had any other need for correction.

At one point, I discovered I could not say the phrase “flow freely” without committing a spoonerism. Twice, I tried, and it came out “f-r-o-w-s f-l-e-e-l-y.” I can’t even type the spoonerism because autocorrect keeps changing the words into something else! I think I got it right the third time. I heard long ago that left-handed people (like me) are prone to spoonerisms. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. It has to do with transposing the beginning sounds of two adjoining words.

Anyway, I loved talking to him. We are both Texans of the same generation. We share a worldview about the importance of civic obligation. We both detest the way that capital is invading every part of our lives and finding ways to make a buck for a very few.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 108,110 other followers