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.
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.
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.
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.
“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…..”