Archives for category: ALEC

Governor Tom Corbett wants charter “reform.” He is trying to persuade the state legislature to allow him to create a commission that could authorize charter schools over the opposition of local school boards.

As a Pennsylvania blogger says, this puts the fox in charge of the henhouse.

This is ALEC model legislation. It’s on the ballot in Georgia next month, where ALEC allies hope to eliminate local control.

This is not conservative. It is radical. Since when do conservatives destroy local control to advance the monied interests?

Because I was traveling in Texas over the weekend, I didn’t see Bill Moyers’ report on ALEC. I watched it last night, and I hope you will too.

If you want to understand how we are losing our democracy, watch this program.

If you want to know why so many states are passing copycat legislation to suppress voters’ rights, to eliminate collective bargaining, to encourage online schooling, to privatize public education, watch this program.

ALEC brings together lobbyists for major corporations and elected state officials in luxurious resorts. In its seminars, the legislators learn how to advance corporate-sponsored, free-market ideas in their state. Its model legislation is introduced in state after state, often with minimal or no changes in the wording.

Watch Moyers show how Tennessee adopted ALEC’s online school bill and how Arizona is almost a wholly owned ALEC state. Watch how Scott Walker followed the ALEC template.

Moyers could do an entire special on ALEC’s education bills. ALEC promotes the parent trigger, so that parents can be tricked into handing their public schools over to charter chains. ALEC promotes gubernatorial commissions with the power to over-ride the decisions of local school boards to open more charters. ALEC promotes vouchers. ALEC, as he noted, promotes virtual charter schools (Pearson’s Connections Academy and K12 wrote the ALEC model law). ALEC has model legislations for vouchers for students with special needs. ALEC has a model law to allow people to teach without credentials. ALEC has legislation to eliminate tenure protection. ALEC has model legislation for educator evaluation.

It is all so familiar, isn’t it?

ALEC wants nothing less than to privatize public education, to eliminate unions, and to dismantle the education profession.

Kevin Huffman is state commissioner of education in Tennessee. John White is state commissioner of education in Louisiana. Both taught for two years in Teach for America. Both worked as TFA staff. When John White worked for the New York City Department of Education, he had no pedagogical assignment;his job was to decide where to locate charter schools in public school space.

What does it say about TFA that its two young state commissioners work for governors following the ALEC script to demolish public education?

This reader writes:

Tennessee and Louisiana appear to be locked in a contest to see which can field the most inexperienced Department of Education. Kevin Huffman, the State Commissioner of Ed, logged two years in a classroom teaching 1st grade in Houston for TFA in the early ’90s before taking an executive job with TFA. His chief of staff taught a couple years with TFA in the mid-2000s, and the assistant director of curriculum and instruction finished her TFA gig in 2004.

Darcie Cimarusti blogs under the name “Mother Crusader.”

She is a parent activist in New Jersey who joined the battle to save her community’s public schools from privatizers.

She was one of the parents who protested outside the opening of “Won’t Back Down” in New York City.

In interviews and articles, the film’s director Daniel Barnz made condescending comments about the parents. He said that they didn’t know what they were protesting against. He claimed they were misinformed.

Mother Crusader calls out Barnz for slandering her and her fellow parents. She knew why she was protesting. She saw the movie. She was not ignorant, misled or misinformed.

The parent protesters are in fact, as Darcie shows, very well informed about the film and its political message, even if its director is not. He comes across as a political naif.

Was Barnz unaware that the “parent trigger” is heavily promoted by rightwing groups like ALEC? Was Barnz ignorant of the political agenda of his billionaire producer, Philip Anschutz, owner of Walden Media? Did he know nothing of Anschutz’s political activism, his funding of anti-gay initiatives in Colorado and California, his hostility to unions, his antagonism to public education, his anti-environmental hydro-fracking business, his contributions to rightwing think tanks? Five minutes on the Internet would have informed Barnz.

Who is misinformed? Not Mother Crusader, and not the other parents who picketed Barnz’s movie. The best one can say about Daniel Barnz is that he is misinformed.

How could the director of this film not know that he was promoting an idea dear to the agendas of rightwing think tanks and ALEC?

The Los Angeles Times published a review–maybe it is an article, not a review, it is hard to tell–of the anti-union, anti-public education film “Won’t Back Down.” The article reaches no judgments about anything, other than the opening box office, which does not look good.

It says that critics claim the film is anti-union, but its director and writer don’t agree. Critics say that the producer is a rightwing zealot, but the director and writer say it doesn’t matter. Presumably the conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz, who also underwrote “Waiting for Superman,” just wanted an inspiring parent-teacher story. An uplifting story about how parents and teachers together can take over their public school and give it to a private corporation and live happily ever happy.

Anyone who knows anything about education issues knows that the point of the story is to promote the “parent trigger” law, which has converted no school anywhere as yet. The “parent trigger” law was first passed in California, and is now model legislation heavily supported by the far-right group ALEC and the equally far-right group Heartland Institute. But ALEC and Heartland and Anschutz don’t have a political agenda.

But here is the good news:

Opening weekend expectations for “Won’t Back Down” remain soft, with the $19-million movie on track to pull in less than $5 million when it opens against the sci-fi time travel film “Looper” and the animated comedy “Hotel Transylvania.”

Bill Moyers is releasing a documentary this weekend about ALEC, the far-right group that writes model legislation to promote the parent trigger, charters, vouchers, alternate certification, virtual schools, and anything else you can think of that will privatize public education.

Here is a newsletter about his show with useful links:

Subject: The Origami: Parent Triggers, NFIB Exposed, the Fiscal Cliff and the NFL

This is the Progressive States Action Origami newsletter. (Remember, we take all of the state policy and political news and fold it into something beautiful for you to look at and use!)

On to the latest in state politics and policy…

“Parent Trigger” Laws In Spotlight

On September 28th, a slick Hollywood film called “Won’t Back Down” will be released nationwide. The film purports to show “so-called ‘Parent Trigger’ laws” as a way to help our country’s public schools. In reality, the film completely distorts the facts about the controversial policy, which is no surprise since the film was produced by a conservative billionaire aligned with the Koch Brothers, distributed by Rupert Murdoch and backed by Michelle Rhee.

Update on ALEC

This week on Moyers and Company: “The United States of ALEC.” Find out when the show will air in your local market (if you go to the website of this organization, you will find a link that will allow you to see when the show will air).

At you will be able to find the other companies affiliated with ALEC as of 2011 and the corporations that have recently cut ties with the “shadowy corporate front group.”

If you like, you should check out the newly launched and learn about how the so-called “voice of small business” has deep financial ties to Karl Rove and other extreme conservatives.

Election Updates of the Week

While “twelve states already have tuition equity laws on the books” and ten more moved proposals forward this year, voters have never been able to directly vote on the issue. In November, Marylanders will be the first to do so and two recent polls show overwhelming support for the issue from both white and African-American voters.

Americans’ level of trust in their state governments is at its highest level since the beginning of the financial crisis, but it varies significantly by region and partisan affiliation.

Governor Sam Brownback and his allies are continuing their efforts to make Kansas into the “conservative utopia” that we’ve told you about before. This week they held a fundraiser with several lobbyists “with close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council.”

Missouri Representative Stacey Newman won her primary election on Monday. Newman was also the winner the first time the election was held last month, but a “do-over” was ordered after it was discovered that some voters in the district received the wrong ballots from election authorities.

Legislative Session and Policy News

With apologies to our friends in Seattle, the atrocious call in Monday’s Seahawks-Packers game has prompted New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney to introduce legislation banning replacement referees from NFL games in the state. We think Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker might actually agree with that idea, after he called “for the return of the NFL’s locked-out unionized officials” earlier this week.

State Legislators to Congress: Don’t solve the federal deficit by slashing state budgets

Conservatives in the United States Senate are already planning ways to undermine any deal to avoid the coming “fiscal cliff.” It’s now more important than ever for state legislators to take action.

State legislators are signing a letter to urge Congress to find a better solution. Legislators can read and sign on to this letter here. Legislators can also join us for a webinar – featuring the White House and pollster Celinda Lake – on how the fiscal cliff will affect state budgets and what state legislators can do about it.

Where we’ve been and where we’re going

We’ll be in Kentucky later this week.

Weekly college football prediction

As you may have noticed, we’re huge college football fans at Progressive States Action. This week we’ll be watching Ohio State play Michigan State in Lansing. If the Spartans can find a way to score, they may upset Braxton Miller’s Buckeyes.

As always, you’re encouraged to join our daily updates on Twitter @PSAction.

1800 Massachusetts Avenue NW, 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

Bill Moyers reports on ALEC this week.

I hope he pays attention to what ALEC is doing to American education.

It has a bold agenda of privatization. It has model legislation for charter schools and vouchers.

It wants to destroy the teaching profession. It has model legislation for alternative certification so anyone can teach.

It promotes cyber charters, even though they get terrible results for children.

It has written model legislation so that governors can create a charter commission to over-ride the wishes of local school boards.

ALEC’s proudest moment these days is its “parent trigger” legislation, which is being promoted by the film “Won’t Back Down.”

I hope Bill Moyers pays attention to these things.

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia is supporting a constitutional amendment to create a commission to approve charter schools despite the objection of local school boards. This proposal was drafted by the rightwing ALEC organization, which is heavily funded by big corporations and counts 2,000 state legislators among its members.

This is the statement issued by the Georgia Federation of Teachers about the constitutional amendment that would curtail the powers of local school boards:

Children, Not Profits, Are Our Priority
Georgia Federation of Teachers President Verdaillia Turner
on the Charter School Amendment

The Charter School Amendment is not about supporting parents or student achievement. It is about granting the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker unprecedented power over billions of local and state tax dollars via creating a new state agency which will control billions of tax dollars for private interests. This agency would be appointed by the governor and accountable only to the governor. This agency would siphon precious tax dollars away from 1.7 million Georgia school children. It would support and fatten special schools for select people by exacerbating class and racial segregation. The Charter School Amendment is about “who chooses and who loses.”

Children, not profits, are our priority. We agree with Georgia’s State School Superintendent, Dr. John Barge. Until all of Georgia’s schools are financed appropriately, and students and teachers are no longer furloughed, it is unconscionable to fund a new state agency or support the objectives of the Charter School Amendment. The money for these special “for profit” schools will create a dual state school system and will cost Georgia’s taxpayers billions of dollars.

While the powers at the state capitol deceive the public by pushing for less government, they are creating more government via another state agency to add to the 128 state agencies that already exist. And while the powers at the state capitol deceive the public and claim that they support local control, they are attempting to take local control away from locally elected school boards, the men and women most accountable to the public, by pushing this amendment. And while the powers at the state capitol claim that this amendment is about expanding parental choice and helping students achieve, they deceive the public by taking over 6 billion dollars from public schools and setting up Georgia’s citizens for an educational Enron encounter. Over 70 school districts are operating with a deficit. At least 4 school districts are broke, and over 20 school districts are still furloughing teachers and students. Parents already have a choice. Local boards of education may and do grant charters. And if a board denies a charter petition, the Georgia Department of Education has an appeal process. The only “choice” as per this amendment is the choice to finance private schools at the public’s expense!

If we can’t trust the state with Medicare, transportation, or to use dollars earmarked for the foreclosed homes our families and students need, why would we trust the state with our children?

This amendment is not about charters, achievement, or parental choice. It is about giving five people who will only be accountable to the governor, free range unprecedented control and power over our billions of tax dollars. And it is about big profits for private interests on the backs of our children and at the expense of Georgia’s taxpayers.


Georgia Federation of Teachers
(404) 315-0222

Readers of this blog know we have been following the story of Great Hearts Charter School and its effort to locate in an affluent section of Nashville. Here is a good and objective summary in a Nashville newspaper.

State Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman–whose only prior experience in education was working for Teach for America (he taught for two years, went to work for TFA, was never a principal or a superintendent)– wants this particular charter very badly. He has been monitoring the actions of the Metro Nashville school board, and he warned them there would be bad consequences if they did not approve this charter. Huffman made it clear: he wanted this charter approved.

The local board thought that the school would not be diverse, would not reflect the district, and they turned it down. They turned it down three times. The state board ordered them to approve the charter, and the local board said no again.

Maybe the local board was aware of research showing again and again that charters don’t get better results than public schools unless they exclude low-performing students.

Huffman and the Governor were furious that the school board said no. They announced that they would punish the democratically elected Metro Nashville school board by withholding $3.4 million in “administrative” funds. These are funds for student transportation, utilities, and maintenance.

In their vindictiveness, Governor Haslam and Commissioner Huffman are prepared to deny transportation funds for the children of Nashville and shut off the lights and electricity.

All for a charter that expects parents to pony up $1,200 as a “voluntary” contribution to the school. No wonder there are people who think this is a ploy to open a private school with public dollars, located conveniently in an area where upper-income parents want a free public education, inaccessible to children from the other side of Nashville.

Haslam and Huffman are likely to go the ALEC route. The rightwing organization ALEC has model legislation that allows the governor to appoint a commission to authorize charter schools over the objections of local school boards.

A measure of this kind is on the ballot in Georgia this November.

What this demonstrates is that privatization means more to these conservatives than local control. With a governor-appointed commission, they can hand over public dollars to fat cats and cronies.

Nothing conservative about that. A conservative member of the Alabama state board of education writes me offline, and points out that the privatization movement is about greed, not education. It violates every conservative principle.

Remember when local school boards in the South used their powers to defend segregation. Here is one that is using its powers to defend desegregation.

Governor Haslam and Commissioner Huffman can’t tolerate the school board’s defiance. they are ready to wipe out the authority of local school boards to advance the privatization of public education and to hasten the return of a dual school system..


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