Archives for category: ALEC

Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County public schools, wrote a strong column opposing Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to takeover “low-performing” schools. Deal wants to copy Tennessee’s faltering “Achievement School District,” which has shown no progress in the past four years. Why anyone would copy a failed model is puzzling.

Lanoue cites several reasons for opposing the state takeovers, the most fundamental being the elimination of local control of schools. He may not have known when he wrote this article that elimination of local control is

He writes:

The Opportunity School District superintendent will have final decision-making authority over all aspects of the school, which would no longer be under the control of local superintendents and school boards. This is in direct contrast to current governance structures in public and charter schools, which require checks and balances through board governance models. In addition, the superintendent would have sole authority to select schools that qualify as “failing” schools. This does not align with the current movement to have more local control, as the selection of schools does not require any level of input by the State Board of Education, local boards of education, local school districts, governance entities or communities. The current budget for this program includes 3 percent administrative costs, and is concerning in this time when public education budgets are already suffering.
Here in Athens-Clarke County, a governance model based on democracy is a cornerstone of how we operate — as it is across the state. To take away democratic principles is monumental and allows Georgia communities to be stripped of their identities as having primary responsibility of educating their children. To impact schools and communities, we must take a collaborative and comprehensive approach to reform centered on the creation of dynamic learning environments strongly joined with quality early literacy; physical and mental health care; and positive and safe home and school environments. In a time where collaboration is the key to systemic change, simply changing governance as the key to reform has a greater result of creating divisions — not unity.
Educators, school boards and local school communities have the ultimate responsibility for providing engaging learning environments that ensure all students achieve. To change the Georgia Constitution to take away that responsibility will fragment communities across the state, and sets a very dangerous precedent for future decisions in educating all Georgia students.

Dr. Jim Arnold, superintendent of the Pelham City schools, explains why Georgia has a teaching shortage. The answer can be summed up in a few words: Governor Nathan Deal and ALEC, and one very long sentence:

Is it any wonder that many teachers have finally reached the point where they are fed up with scripted teaching requirements and phony evaluations that include junk science VAM and furlough days and increased testing that reduces valuable teaching time and no pay raises and constant curriculum changes and repeated attacks on their profession from people that have no teaching experience and the constant attempts to legislate excellence and cut teacher salaries and reduce teacher benefits and monkey with teacher retirement and SLO’s for non-tested subjects and state and federal policies that require more and more paperwork and less and less teaching and tighter and tighter budgets that mean doing more and more with less and less and longer school days and larger classes with higher and higher expectations and a political agenda that actively encourages blaming teachers for societal issues and the denigration of public education and market based solutions and legislators bought and paid for by ALEC and a continued reliance upon standardized test scores as an accurate depiction of student learning and achievement with no substantive research to support such a position and top-down management from people that wouldn’t know good teaching if it spit on their shoes and slapped them in the face? No wonder teachers are discouraged. No wonder teacher morale is at an all- time low. No wonder more and more teachers are retiring.

Please read the rest to find out what should be done about Governor Nathan Deal’s embrace of Alec’s agenda to get rid of public education.

As some people recognize, unions helped to build the middle class in this nation. Their disappearance just happens to coincide with growing income inequality, a shrinking middle class, and a growing divide between the 1% and everyone else. Why would corporations want to get rid of unions? Unfortunately, many corporations want low-wage workers who work overtime without extra pay. Unions wouldn’t tolerate that. So unions must go. They have nearly disappeared in the private sector, where people can be fired at will, with no cause. The strongest unions are in the public sector, and the teachers’ unions are the largest unions, so they are constantly attacked by those who want to get rid of the last union and have a totally free market.

 

Here is a useful comment by our reader, Laura H. Chapman:

 

There is a fairly new scheme by corporations to insert their policies into local government, with killing unions priority one.

 

Without much fanfare, the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC—the source of corporate-friendly and “free-market” state legislation—has spawned ready-to-use model legislation and ordinances for local governments.

 

ALEC’s progeny is called the American City-Council Exchange (ACCE). Set up in 2014, it is designed to promote “America’s only free-market forum for village, town, city, and county policy makers.”

 

In addition to proposing model ordinances and legislation at this smaller scale of governance, ACCE is also intended to diminish the influence of the National Conference of State Legislatures as a go-to-source for policy ideas and status reports on legislation. For example, the National Conference has a searchable data-base on pending or passed legislation of great use for legislators and their staff. This data base and search engine means YOU can track 50 issues in education with state-by-state reports–summaries of legislation and the text of bills. Because the National Conference is not a 100% shill for market-based policies framed by corporations, ALEC and ACCE claim it is “too liberal” as a source for ideas about legislation.

 

Here is how the ACCE works. Elected officials in villages, towns, cities, and counties pay $100 for a two-year membership. They are identified as members of “the Public Sector.” Here is the ACCE pitch members of the public sector.

 

“ACCE members receive academic research and analysis from ALEC/ACCE policy experts who work with issues, processes and problem-solving strategies upon which municipal officials vote. Provided with important policy education, lawmakers become more informed and better equipped to serve the needs of their communities.” So corporations are the sources of policy expertise and the proper way to “educate” public officials. No need for local expertise, public debate, and so on. Local elected officials can now become shills for ALEC/ACCE.

 

Corporations pay $10,000 to be a member of an ACCE Committee, or they pay $25,000 to become members of the Founder’s Committee with more influence on priorities.
Here is the pitch for members in “the Private Sector.”

 

ACCE Committee members “provide industry insights during policy creation.” “ACCE Council Committees closely imitate the city government legislative process: resolutions are introduced, meetings are conducted, experts present facts and opinion for discussion, after which lawmakers take a vote.”

 

The ACCE is basically a pay-to-play scheme for peddling corporate views to public officials at the local level, with a very low threshold of expense for local and policy makers to be open to ready-to-use corporate friendly ordinances and legislation. The scheme comes with the bonus of a tax deduction because ACCE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

 

ACCE first two initiatives are already in circulation, thanks to regional chapters and the nurture by ALEC of this strategy to control local governance. Some elected officials who are Democrats are trying to blow the whistle.

 

One of the first ACCE initiatives is a model ”Right to Work” ordinance, a local version of ALEC’s anti-union model legislation.

 

A second is designed to limit local government oversight of the process of contracting for municipal water and wastewater piping. Apparently the municipal and wastewater industry wants to secure total autonomy for project engineers to set performance criteria for the piping in these huge public works projects. This may also be a scheme to by-pass EPA’s 2011 “green infrastructure” practices for administering the “Clean Water Act.” For both model ordinances go to http://www.alec.org/legislation-tags/acce/

 

In addition to these initiatives, I think we will see more of ACCE’s influence, working in tandem with other efforts to get rid of locally elected local school boards, to have all education funding follow the child, and set up “virtual” and/or multi-location districts to process funds, meet any remnants of public accountability, all with appointed CEOs. The Center for American Progress and venture capitalists like Global Silicon Valley Advisors want to accelerate popular acceptance of such schemes as “essential” to get more bang for the buck, to allow for more choice, and so on. Getting rid of local school boards s also a strategy for killing unions.

 

If your community still permits unions and suddenly decides to scrap those with something that looks like a ready-made ordinance, it could be from ACCE. It might come with claims that it will not only save money on salaries, but reduce pension obligations, permit fires and hires based on performance, and also be good for business, especially for those corporations who have paid for access to your elected officials. BEWARE.

 

Corporations do not want employees to have due-process rights. Many also have NO respect for authentic democratic governance and the electoral process—witness the current efforts of billionaires with corporate fortunes to buy the next President of the United States and also to make it difficult to vote.

Dan DeLamater of Athens, Georgia, is a conservative Republican, a public school parent, and an insurance executive. Maureen Downey posted his article on her blog “Get Schooled” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

DeLamater says he is “disgusted” by Governor Nathan Deal’s proposal for a statewide “opportunity school district,” in which the state would abrogate local control and take over low-performing schools. He wrote: Unfortunately, opportunity in this administration is defined by crony capitalism not beneficial education reform.

DeLamater came to see that ALEC was behind the state takeover plan:

First, we have learned about ALEC, a hideous national legislative-steering organization where lobbyists, private interests, and legislators craft legislation behind closed doors. There is no sunlight on this entity. There is no accountability. Participants are back-room puppet masters controlling the local and national political agenda. Until recently, most of us had no idea it even existed.

Regarding one important topic, ALEC is admittedly and proudly against public education. The for-profit education industry rules ALEC’s agenda here – including testing companies, consultants, for-profit schools. And lest you doubt ALEC’s influence in Georgia, know that state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, has served as National Chairman for ALEC.

Second, we have learned that Gov. Deal has become enamored with state takeover of school districts. The power play topped the governor’s education agenda in the last legislative session, in the form of the legislation to allow a state-wide referendum to create the “Opportunity School District.”

This state takeover is contrary to the long-standing “conservative” mandate of local control within the Republican Party since a state takeover clearly usurps locally elected school boards. This is contrary to any information provided by the governor’s appointed Education Reform Commission as their recommendations are still under construction to this day. This is contrary to our state’s Constitutional mandate as Georgia state government is forbidden to control local school districts.

Third, we know the governor hired an inexperienced but eager-to-lead Erin Hames as his education expert. The statewide-elected Georgia state school superintendent was evidently not an appropriate expert for Gov. Deal. This is not a surprise, of course. After all, Deal has minimized and circumvented the voters’ superintendent for years – John Barge previously and Richard Woods recently.

Hames lobbied for the takeover law, pushed it through the legislature, then–before leaving public employ–created a consulting business to advise districts on how to avoid falling prey to the law she helped to pass.

Her first contract was a no-bid contract with the Atlanta Public Schools for $96,000.

DeLamater writes:

The APS Board has $96,000 available to hire Ms. Hames. I fear for those who are not as fortunate as the APS. Or Gov. Deal. Or Ms. Hames. Or their friends. I wonder where public school children in Georgia fall in this pecking order… you’ll be hard pressed to find their interests represented by anyone involved in this sordid tale.

If you want to get rid of public education, unions, and the teaching profession, Scott Walker should be your candidate. As this article shows, he dances to ALEC’s tune.

He prides himself for breaking public sector unions in Wisconsin. At one campaign stop, he said that his victory over the unions proved that he could beat terrorism.

He is a wrecking ball for public education. He has expanded charters and vouchers. He is a cheerleader for privatization.

He is ALEC’s boy.

What is ALEC? Read here. It is the organization that works on behalf of deregulation, corporate profits, and privatization. It writes model legislation for states. Inexplicably, the IRS allows it non-political, charitable (c3) status, although it is deeply partisan.

The state board of education in Kansas voted to drop teacher certification requirements for six districts, including two of the state’s largest.

Kansas is preparing for the 19th century, when teachers needed no professional preparation.

“Cynthia Lane, superintendent of Kansas City USD 500, one of the affected districts, called the compromise “a reasonable outcome.”

“The bottom line,” Lane said, “is we want every possible tool in order to put the right staff in front of our kids.”

Who dreamed up this scheme to lower standards? ALEC.

“Earlier in the day, more than a dozen educators and parents gave impassioned statements to the board in hopes of persuading the 10-member body not to exempt the districts from licensure regulations.

“James Neff, a chemistry teacher from Manhattan USD 383, said Kansas’ current rules, which stipulate that teachers need formal, academic training in pedagogy, not just subject matter, are critical to the “integrity” of the profession.

“A subject matter specialist is just a subject matter specialist,” Neff said, “but a teacher is something different.”

“The measure will waive the state’s licensure regulations for a group of districts called the Coalition of Innovative Districts, a program that the Legislature established in 2013 based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council….,

“Critics who spoke earlier Tuesday against dropping the requirements included education professors, Kansas Parent Teacher Association president Denise Sultz and Topeka USD 501’s Marie Carter, who recruits teachers for the district.

“They warned of the difficulties that untrained teachers can face managing large class sizes, understanding pedagogy and the learning process, and serving students with a variety of skill levels, including those with learning disabilities or behavioral issues.

“No members of the public spoke in favor of the waiver Tuesday.”

The hoax is at last coming to light. Vouchers were sold as a way to “save poor black and brown kids from failing schools,” but that was always a sleight of hand. Vouchers are about privatization.

ALEC has on its current agenda a presentation titled: “entitled: “Problems in Suburbia: Why Middle-Class Students Need School Choice, Digital Learning and Better Options.”

Jonas Perrson of PR Watch writes:

School vouchers were never about helping poor, at-risk or minority students. But selling them as social mobility tickets was a useful fiction that for some twenty-five years helped rightwing ideologues and corporate backers gain bipartisan support for an ideological scheme designed to privatize public schools.

But the times they are a-changin’. Wisconsin is well on its way toward limitless voucher schools, and last month, Nevada signed into law a universal “education savings account” allowing parents to send their kids to private or religious schools, or even to home-school them—all on the taxpayers’ dime. On the federal level, a proposed amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would have created a multi-billion-dollar-a-year voucher program was only narrowly defeated in the U.S. Senate.

ALEC is not the only organization presenting the real agenda for education:

At the American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit held in New Orleans, lobbyist Scott Jensen—who, before being banned from Wisconsin politics for violating the public trust served as chief of staff to governor Tommy Thompson, and was a prime mover behind the first voucher program in the nation—admitted that vouchers were really all about “pursuing Milton Friedman’s free-market vision” even though the ideological agenda was nowadays sugarcoated with “a much more compelling message … of social justice.”

So what exactly was the brave new world Milton Friedman envisioned when he first floated the idea of school vouchers? While lecturing rightwing state lawmakers at a 2006 ALEC meeting, Friedman jumped at the opportunity to explain what his vision was all about. It had nothing whatsoever to do with helping “indigent” children; no, he explained to thunderous applause, vouchers were all about “abolishing the public school system.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held its annual conference in San Diego to fete its leaders and their anti-democratic agenda. ALEC is bankrolled by major corporations. Its members are about 2,000 state legislators. At its annual meetings, it drafts model legislation to advance corporate interests: to privatize public schools, to eliminate labor unions, to roll back environmental regulation, and to slash government social programs.

ALEC has model legislation for charters and vouchers, for online learning, and for anything that breaks public education and removes teacher professionalism.

Fund Education Now, a public school advocacy group in Florida, says that the Jeb Bush-ALEC machine gives out grades to legislators. Those who get an A are the ones who want to privatize public education and create profits for their buddies.

 

Florida voters need to understand that in the topsy-turvy world of Florida school politics, an A from the Bush-ALEC machine is actually an F.

 

Fund Education Now writes:

 

 

This is the season when the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida release their 2015 Legislative Report Cards. In particular, the Foundation assigns grades to legislators’ based on their willingness to pass the Jeb Bush/ALEC-driveneducation reform/privatization policy agenda.

 

These grades are a road map for voters. When your favorite Senator repeatedly gets an A grade from these folks, that’s a sign. It’s a big part of why legislators are willing to look foolish as they defy all logic to pass policies that hurt children and harm public schools.

 

Since 2009, parents, teachers, grandparents, districts and students have raised a mighty voice against the mind-numbing, narrowed curriculum, disrespect to teaching and the insane numbers of unfair high stakes tests. Every major newspaper has repeatedly demanded better from legislators. Despite all objections, politicians follow the plan and spend millions of public dollars on vendors, often in support of schemes promoted by wealthy ROI philanthropists eyeing a piece of what Joel Klein and others see as a $600 billion dollar education industry.

 

Sadly, it’s not enough to drive get out the vote numbers. Voters must know who they are voting for. Take Florida’s Orange County Delegation: There are 13 members and 8 of them got As from Jeb’s Foundation. These legislators carry the water for a particular, extreme policy group, not for voters. Parents seeking relief from Florida’s cruel education reform policies will get zero help from these lawmakers.

 

Orange County Delegation 13 members/8 A grades from FFF:

 

Sen. Hays, R, Dist. 11

Sen. Gardner, R, Dist. 13

Sen. Soto, D, Dist. 14

Sen. Stargel, R, Dist, 15

Rep Cortes, R, Dist 30

Rep. Sullivan, R, Dist. 31

Rep. Eisnaugle, R, Dist. 44

Rep. Miller, R, Dist. 47

 

The remaining 5 members of the Orange delegation who voted or advocated against high stakes testing, tying teacher pay to test scores, corporate tax voucher expansion, handing over voter approved public school tax millage to for profit charters and other measures received considerably lower grades, including an F for Orange’s Rep Bracy, D, Dist. 45.

 

Voters must understand that politicians who push policy agendas such as School reform are rewarded in many ways. Money pours into races from PACs such as the American Federation for Children and the Florida Federation for Children. And the education reform/privatization agenda seeks to redefine “local control” to reference state legislatures. As a result, duly-elected Florida school board members are under attack for disagreeing with reformers.

 

It’s interesting to look at a smaller Florida district whose entire delegation is under the sway of education reform. Superintendent Walt Griffin recently wrote a letter to Commissioner Pam Stewart asking to allow Seminole to return to paper and pencil abandon the state’s troubled FSA and switch to a nationally norm referenced test such as the ACT. How much support will Griffin get from his public servants?

 

Seminole County Delegation: All 5 members received an A grade from FFF:

 

Sen. Simmons, R, Dist. 10

Rep. Brodeur, R, Dist. 28

Rep. Plakon, R, Dist. 29

Rep. Cortes, R. Dist. 30

 

Those who work to advance high stakes education reform policies cross all political stripes. If a candidate is not willing to turn down education reform campaign funding, that’s a problem. If a candidate refuses to oppose using tax dollars to create multiple uneven, unfair school systems, that’s a deal-breaker.

 

We have reached a point where a candidate’s dedication to investing in and improving public education must be a litmus test for service. Legislators often give constituents less than 2 minutes to talk in Tallahassee while policy lobbyists such as Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future are afforded unparalleled access across the board.

 

Using power and money to drive policy and elections is not restricted to Florida. The Foundation for Florida’s Future is part of an establishednational agenda. In fact, its affiliated with the Foundation for Excellence in Education National, whose motto is: Turning Reform into Reality.

 

It’s a cruel irony that politicians are so eager to earn grades for passing policies that hurt children. Now voters must use these education reform “loyalty grades” as a tool to weed out politicians who don’t deserve reelection.

 

 

 

As feared, the Ohio legislature installed a CEO to take control of Youngstown’s public school. This move to eliminate local control is based on ALEC model legislation. It allows the governor to choose one person with dictatorial power to do whatever he or she wants.

What the CEO usually wants is to privatize public schools

“In a bold move that has the potential for booting teachers unions from schools, stripping local voters of their authority over their school districts and turning operations over to for-profit companies, the Ohio legislature introduced and passed legislation in a matter of hours with no opportunity for the public to deliver opposition testimony.

“The bill began innocuously in the House as an effort to help communities turn schools into comprehensive learning centers for the neighborhood. The bill passed from the House to the Senate a month ago with an overwhelming 92-6 vote.

“Almost everyone liked it — until Wednesday….

“The discussion centered on Youngstown, which has been guided by an academic distress commission since 2010. The change has the potential to accelerate school choice, sending more children and public dollars to charter and private schools.

“Lorain, the other Ohio school district in academic distress, must perform poorly another two years before it falls under the new provision, Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said.”

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