Archives for category: ALEC

Daniel Denvir has been tracking the political activities of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and learned that most of her support went to Republican candidates.

She pretends to be a Democrat but in state after state, she has given big money to candidates who support privatization and anti-teacher legislation..

Rhee “poured money into state-level campaigns nationwide, winning 86 of 105 races and flipping a net 33 seats to advocates of so-called “school reform,“ a movement that advocates expanding privately run public charter schools, weakening teachers unions, increasing the weight of high-stakes standardized tests and, in some cases, using taxpayer dollars to fund private tuition through vouchers as the keys to improving public education.

Rhee pretends to be bipartisan. But, as Denvir writes, “90 of the 105 candidates backed by StudentsFirst were Republicans, including Tea Party enthusiasts and staunch abortion opponents. And Rhee’s above-the-fray bona fides have come under heavy fire as progressives and teachers unions increasingly cast the school reform movement, which has become virtually synonymous with Rhee’s name, as politically conservative and corporate-funded.”

With Rhee’s money, very conservative Republicans gained a super-majority in the Tennessee legislature, virtually guaranteeing that her ex-husband State Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman will have a free hand pushing privatization of public education.

No one knows all the sources of Rhee’s Funding, but it would not be surprising to learn that she is a front for the rightwing, anti-government Koch brothers and others of their ilk.

She is surely a hero to ALEC.

People often ask me: How can parents and teachers hope to beat the big money that is buying elections in state and local races around the nation? What chance do we have when they can dump $100,000, $200,000, $500,000 into a race without breaking a sweat?

True, they have a lot of money. But they have no popular base. The only time they win votes is when they trick voters with false rhetoric and pie-in-the-sky promises. They call themselves “reformers,” when they are in fact privatizers.

They claim they know how to close the achievement gap but their standard-bearer, Michelle Rhee, left DC with the biggest achievement gap of all big cities in the nation.

They claim to be leading the “civil rights issue” of our day, but can you truly imagine a civil rights movement led by billionaires, Wall Street hedge fund managers, ALEC, and rightwing think tanks?

They say they love teachers even as they push legislation to cut teachers’ pensions and take away their job rights and their right to join a union.

There are two reasons they will fail:

First, none of their ideas has ever succeeded, whether it’s high-stakes testing, charters, vouchers, merit pay or test-based teacher evaluations.

But even more important, the public is getting wise. The public has figured out the corporate reform strategy. In state after state, parents are organizing.

Here is one great example in Texas, of all places.

Similar groups of parents are organizing in every state. Even students are getting active in the movement to protect the commons.

When the public gets wise, the privatization movement dies.

The right-wing group called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) has model legislation to enable a governor to appoint a commission to authorize charter schools, thus bypassing those pesky local school boards that don’t want to bring privately managed schools to their local district. The local school boards are charged with improving their schools, not with dividing up the public funds between their schools and an out-of-state corporation that wants to open a school in its district.

This is the reason for the constitutional amendment that passed in Georgia. The privatizers objected to having to get the consent of local school boards, so they got the governor and legislature to put a measure on the ballot that was inaccurately described (something like “do you want to improve student achievement by opening charter schools,” rather than an honest description of the purpose of the law, which was to remove the powers of the local school boards).

Now in Tennessee, the Republicans have a super-majority (thanks in part to campaign contributions by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, which invested generously in GOP candidates).

As readers of this blog may recall, the Metro Nashville school board has turned down an Arizona-based charter chain called Great Hearts because it had an inadequate diversity plan.

It turned down Great Hearts four times, and the TFA State Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman (Rhee’s -ex) fined the Nashville schools $3.4 million for not doing what he wanted them to do.

Great Hearts now says it will not apply to the Nashville board again. Instead, it will wait until the state legislature creates an ALEC-style law creating a charter-friendly state board that won’t ask annoying questions about the lack of diversity in most of the Great Hearts charters.

In fact, the leader of Great Hearts said he was too busy to talk to the Metro Nashville board, and if the city’s director of schools wants to talk to him, he can fly to Arizona.

After Great Hearts gets approval from an “impartial” state board, then it will open “multiple” charters in Nashville.

He knows something. He knows that the governors, the state commissioner and the legislature will give him whatever he wants.

In other news from Nashville, the school board voted to close down a charter school with abysmal test scores (but powerhouse athletic teams). A KIPP school in Nashville was also in the bottom 5% in the state, but was not closed.

Soon after the elections, the mega-corporation K12 convened a conference call with investors to boast about the opening of new markets for virtual charters in Georgia and Washington State.

K12 is the company founded by the Milken brothers to sell online schooling for-profit.

It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its CEO, Ron Packard, has a background at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. Last year, he was paid $5 million.

The academic results of its schools are poor. The National Education Policy Center reviewed K12 and found that its students fare poorly in relation to test scores and graduation rates. The NCAA won’t accept credits from one of its online schools. The New York Times wrote a blistering critique of K12.

But K12, like some other charter operators, makes campaign contributions (as it did in Georgia), and the politicians care more about those contributions than about the children of their state.

The Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., is one of the nation’s leading advocates for privatization of public education. Its leader, Jeanne Allen, was an education policy analyst at the rightwing think tank, the Heritage Foundation, before she founded CER in 1993:

The Center for Education Reform has long advocated for charters and vouchers. It has nothing to say about improving public schools, only that they should be replaced by private management or vouchers.

CER is closely allied with other conservative groups committed to privatization, like ALEC, the Heartland Institute, Democrats for Education Reform, and Black Alliance for Educational Options. CER claimed credit for helping to write the Heartland Institute’s version of the parent trigger law, which served as a model for ALEC.

If you want to track the advance of privatization, keep your eye on the Center for Education Reform.

This is CER’s take on the 2012 elections (to see the links, go to the CER website):

The Center for Education Reform Analysis:
How Education Reform Fared on Election Day

WASHINGTON, DC – The Center for Education Reform analyzed Tuesday’s results through the prism of education reform. Our EDlection Roundup provides our analysis on races up and down the ballots, including:

The White House: The Center congratulated President Obama and offered thoughts about how he could refocus education issues in his second term.

Governors: Two states, North Carolina and Indiana, will be inaugurating reform-minded Governors. They join the 23 other states who are also led by reformers. Is yours one of them? See our Governor grades.

Senate Races: We take a look at the results of four Senate races where candidates were strong reformers, and where two – Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) – were victorious.

Ballot Initiatives: There were education reform ballot initiatives in Georgia, Idaho, and Washington. We look at the results, which included a decisive victory in Georgia.

Superintendents: We examine the results of Superintendent races, with a special look at the disappointing defeat of Tony Bennett, a stalwart reformer.


CER, since 1993, is the leading voice and advocate for lasting, substantive and structural education reform in the U.S. Additional information about the Center and its activities can be found at

The Center for Education Reform
(tel) 800-521-2118 • 301-986-8088 • (fax) 301-986-1826

Some investigative journalist is going to win major prizes for breaking open the story about the money and the motives of those promoting privatization of public education.

Motoko Rich drops tantalizing hints in her story in the New York Times. We learn that the charter referendum in Georgia was funded by “out-of-state donors, including Alice Walton, the daughter of the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton; Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group founded by the billionaire Koch brothers; and several companies that manage charter schools. Supporters of the amendment outspent opponents by about 15 to 1.”

The Georgia amendment was based on ALEC model legislation.

In Washington state, “Donors included Ms. Walton, the Bezos foundation, and Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the co-founders of Microsoft. They raised millions of dollars to promote the ballot initiative…”
Also involved, we learned, was Democrats for Education Reform, the Wall Street hedge fund managers organization, and Stand for Children, which stands for equity investors.

Who coordinates these fund-raisers? Who else is involved? How do they manage to present themselves as liberals and supporters of “the civil rights issue of our era” in alliance with far-right groups? And why are they so intent on privatization when the evidence is clear that charters don’t produce better education than public schools?

And how can the Obama administration support a movement tied to the far-right that worked to defeat him?

I received the following news release from the National Alliance for Charter Schools.

They of course were crowing about the passage of the ALEC-inspired initiative in Georgia, where the governor will be free to open charter schools everywhere across the state without consulting any local school board.

I knew Nina Rees when I worked in the George H.W. Bush administration. She is smart and personable and very, very conservative in her education views. She subsequently worked for the Milken brothers, who own K12, the for-profit virtual charter corporation.

Then she worked as Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation in the George W. Bush administration.

She was co-chair of the education policy committee for the Romney campaign, whose agenda was a flat-out privatization program for education.

And now she is praising President Obama for his leadership in the charter movement!

From: Nina Rees <>
Subject: Public Charter Schools Win Big in Election

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Dear charter school supporter,The 2012 election is an important moment in the public charter schools movement.In two states, voters sent a clear message that they want public school options that are unique partnerships between teachers, parents, and students and that respond to the specific needs of their communities.Voters in Georgia rejected the status quo and created conditions that support the growth of high-quality public charter schools that are accountable for student achievement. Now, charter applicants who are rejected by school districts will have access to a fair appeals process.In Washington state, where votes are still being counted, voters are on the verge of making their state the 42nd with a public charter school law. If the results hold up, families and children in Washington will have the chance to attend schools that are as innovative as the companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing that drive the state’s economy forward.In addition, the re-election of President Obama maintains leadership for charter schools at the national level. In his first term, President Obama created an environment where charter schools could thrive through the incentives in Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, Promise Neighborhoods, and other reform programs. Over the past three years, almost half of states have revised their charter school laws to support growth and quality. Over the past four years, enrollment in public charter schools has risen by almost 1 million students. Today, more than 2 million students attend these unique public schools that serve the needs of students and their parents.

With the support of voters in Georgia, Washington and other states, and with the leadership from elected officials in state houses and Washington, D.C., the best days are ahead for the public charter school community.


Nina Rees
President & CEO

© Copyright 2006 – 2012, The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
1101 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 1010. Washington, DC 20005.
(202) 289-2700

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was rebuked by voters yesterday as they repealed the law that gave dictatorial powers to emergency managers appointed by the governor to control fiscally distressed districts.

Public Act 4 of 2011 was rejected by a vote of 52-48.

Snyder installed emergency managers to take control of public education in Detroit, Highland Park, and Muskegon Heights. The managers in the two small districts abolished public education and handed the students to for-profit charter chains to run. The Detroit emergency manager imposed a drastic plan to lay off teachers, privatize many schools, and increase class sizes.

The law enabled the governor to suspend democracy and impose one-man rule. It also allowed him to evade the state’s responsibility to provide public schools on every district in the state and to deal with fiscal crises with draconian measures.

The most important education vote yesterday occurred in Indiana.

As the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette pointed out in its editorial, this election has national implications.

Tony Bennett had become the face of rightwing reform in America.

His mission was to bring the ALEC agenda to life in the Hoosier State.

He was head of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, the group of state superintendents that were most eager to privatize public education, expand charters and vouchers, turn children over to for-profit corporations, and reduce the status of teachers.

He was honored by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute as the “reformiest” state superintendent in the nation.

The Wall Street hedge fund managers and assorted billionaires pumped $1.5 million into his campaign for re-election.

He was soundly defeated by veteran teacher Glenda Ritz.

Ritz raised $325,000 for her campaign to restore public education in Indiana.

Ritz won over Bennett by a comfortable margin of 53-47.

She got 1.3 million votes, almost 100,000 more votes than Mike Pence, the Republican running for governor, who barely eked out a victory.

Make no mistake: The people of Indiana said “no” to Tony Bennett’s radical plans to turn public education into a free-market of choice and competition, based on high-stakes testing.

The people of Indiana elected Glenda Ritz to rebuild their public school system and to wipe away the misguided, mean-spirited “reforms” imposed by Bennett.

This is a victory for the parents, citizens and educators of Indiana.

Most important, it is a victory for the children of the state of Indiana.

Now, they will have a chance to have a good education, not to be consumers in a vast shopping mall of test-based choices, not to be data points for corporations bent on turning a profit.

With half the vote counted, Georgia voters are likely to pass an amendment to the state constitution re charters. The governor will be able to create a commission to approve charters, giving charters a way to bypass local school boards.

Since the governor is a strong advocate of charters, his commission will likely be a rubber stamp for charter proposals.

This idea to gut local control is an ALEC priority.

Since all money for charters is deducted from public schools, the latter can anticipate layoffs and budget cuts.


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