Archives for category: ALEC

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..

The Center for Media and Democracy keeps a careful watch on the activities of ALEC, the ultra-conservative organization of state legislators. One of ALEC’s model law is a “parent trigger” bill.

The new film “Won’t Back Down” pulls together the threads of corporate backing for the privatization of public education.

Read about it here.

Commissioner Kevin Huffman ordered the Nasville school board to approve the Great Hearts charter school.

Four times the board turned it down, so Huffman is cutting $3.4 million from the district’s budget.

Even more ominous, he and Republican governor Haslam threaten to push legislation to create a state panel to authorize charters over the opposition of local boards.

This is the ALEC model legislation, in which the demand for privatization trumps local control.

Interesting that Tennessee Democrats spotted Huffman’s membership in the far-right “Chiefs for Change,” run by Jeb Bush.

This is a power grab, and Democrats must wake up or lose public education.

By the way, Great Hearts expects an upfront “voluntary” contribution of $1200 from parents.

Partisan battle intensifies feud over charter school

Lawmakers are furious about Metro’s $3.4M loss

Written by Lisa Fingeroot The Tennessean
2:45 AM, Sep 19, 2012 | 

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman / Erin O’Leary / File / Gannett Tennessee
Gov. Haslam, others discuss state’s decision to wi…: Gov. Bill Haslam, Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell discuss the state’s decision to withhold about $3.4m from the Metro Nashville school system because the board refused to approve a charter school.

Rep. Mike Stewart
A decision by the state to withhold almost $3.4 million from Metro Nashville Public Schools for defying an order to approve a charter school escalated an already simmering partisan battle over whose political philosophy will shape public schools.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam stopped just short Tuesday of saying a statewide charter school authorizer would be on his legislative agenda when the session begins in January. But Democratic representatives are lining up behind the Metro school board and every district’s right to make decisions for its constituency.
“At a time when we hear so much about ‘education reform’ and ‘local control’ from this administration, this unprecedented action would seem counterproductive,” said Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, House minority whip.
“Taking $3 million from Nashville children is a foolish move and I intend to fight this kind of petulant behavior when we get back in January,” said Jones, who plans to fight any proposal for a statewide charter school authorizer.
State officials said they chose to withhold administrative money — not classroom funds — in hopes of having the least possible effect on students.
Kevin Huffman, commissioner of education, announced Tuesday that the state would withhold a month of administrative funding because the Metro school board refused to approve a charter school application by Arizona-based Great Hearts Academies after being ordered to do so. Board members voted 5-4 to deny the charter Sept. 11, after the board’s attorney said they would be breaking the law.
“We’re responsible for enforcing the law,” said Haslam, who is accused of backflipping on his opinion about whether Metro schools should be fined. In August he said, “With education, the discussion should always be about what’s best for the students.… That being said, threatening money, that’s not the business we’re in.”
Haslam said Tuesday that “when their own attorney tells them that they are violating state law, we can’t just stand back.”
The school system released a statement early Tuesday saying officials had not had time to develop a plan for the loss of funds during October. The state money earmarked for non-classroom expenses is not designated for administrative purposes only, but for all kinds of expenses that also affect Metro’s 81,000 students, such as utilities, student transportation, and maintenance of the system’s 5,000 classrooms, the statement said.
The Metro school system has an annual budget of nearly $700 million with less than 30 percent supplied by the state, said school spokeswoman Meredith Libbey.
Newly elected school board member Amy Frogge, who voted against Great Hearts, called the state Board of Education’s decision “shameful.”
“Apparently a few people at the top are angry with five of us for voting against Great Hearts and they’ve decided to take it out on 80,000 children,” said Frogge. “This will not hurt me or the board. It will hurt the less fortunate.”
Frogge, an attorney, said she believed the board’s vote last week against Great Hearts was legal. The state gave Metro an “unclear mandate” about the charter school, she said. On the one hand, it asked Metro to approve the school. On the other hand, it also issued three contingencies for Great Hearts approval, one being diversity, she said.
“I felt the contingencies should be met before approval,” she said. “The state raised the diversity issue. My question was, ‘How are they going to comply?’”
Diversity was the main sticking point between Metro officials and Great Hearts, which wanted to open a school on Nashville’s affluent and mostly white west side. The school board didn’t have a formal diversity policy and has since decided to develop one.
Metro school board member Michael Hayes voted in favor of Great Hearts. He said the state could have taken much more punitive measures — replacing board members, taking over the district, filing suit in court, or withholding more money.
“Our counsel openly stated if we voted against it … we’d be violating state law, and sanctions could include withholding of funds.”
State law gives the education commissioner authority to withhold funding as an enforcement measure.
Board gets support

Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, entered the fray Tuesday when he released a statement supporting the Metro board.
“Each school board knows the best way to handle their students,” he said.
The Democratic Caucus has long discussed and been in favor of more control for local school boards, spokesman Zak Kelley said.
“There is a lot of talk about introducing legislation to ensure that the decisions of the local school boards are respected,” said state Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville. “I don’t think it’s appropriate or wise of a nonelected official to wander into Nashville and tell the people’s representatives how to spend tax dollars,” Stewart said of Huffman.
At this time, however, state law establishes a charter school appeal process that allows the state Board of Education to override a local board and direct it to approve the charter. When Metro school officials chose to defy that direction, Huffman accused them of breaking the law and discussed the financial penalty with Haslam, who approved it.
Haslam and Hayes said there is greater support for a statewide authorizer since Metro school officials denied Great Hearts.
While Huffman was appointed by Haslam, the bulk of criticism for the decision to withhold funds from Metro schools was aimed at Huffman.
Stewart accused Huffman of promoting “a radical and often untested agenda” and said, “It’s not a mainstream Republican agenda. It’s a radical agenda that places great emphasis on taking money away from public schools and turning them over to private entities.”
Huffman is listed among a group of 11 national education officials who have been named “Chiefs for Change” by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a foundation started by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to promote educational reforms across the nation. School choice through charter schools and vouchers and accountability determined through high-stakes testing are the cornerstones of the Bush reform movement.
“Huffman has staked out a position in the far-right radical school reform movement that people like Jeb Bush have championed,” Stewart said.
Former Metro school board member Mark North, who was on the board during three of its four votes relating to Great Hearts Academies charter school, released scathing comments about Huffman on Tuesday, too.
“Huffman’s position is indefensible,” North said.
Huffman’s “heavy-handed, iron-fisted power play is the embodiment of the exercise of arbitrary and oppressive authority in a sort of political extortion,” North added.
Related Links

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman is withholding $3.4 million from the Nashville public schools as punishment for the defiance of the school board. The board voted four times to deny a charter to an Arizona company called Great Hearts, even though Huffman ordered the board to approve the application.

Clearly, Huffman does not believe in local control.

This seems to be an attitude of today’s reformers. Arne Duncan decided to rewrite NCLB to meet his own specifications. He likes mayoral control, where the mayor need not listen to parents or communities. ALEC has model legislation where governors can appoint a commission to authorize charter schools and override local opposition.

One begins to suspect that the reform movement is anti-democratic to its core.

Do you happen to know a billionaire? Or maybe someone with lots of millions?

Not just any old billionaire, but one who cares about supporting public education. One who thinks it is wrong to hand out children over to entrepreneurs. One who knows the difference between the free market and the commons.

I ask because of this comment that I received from a teacher in a northeastern state. I have edited it to obscure the identities of all involved, which was the condition for using it:

As part of research for my master’s degree, I interviewed [XX], whom I had gotten to “know” over Facebook. XX leads a local branch of StudentsFirst, funded by David Tepper and Allen Fournier, the billionaire hedge fund boys. By his own admission, XX fell into ed reform when he was unemployed. 
He’s not in this because of any deep abiding conviction to make schools better (though he may have developed an interest). He’s in this because he needed a job, is a private-school educated African American who speaks well and now controls a SuperPAC. It’s a chess game for him, and is quite addictive. He hangs out with Rhee and has addressed ALEC on several occasions.
He said two interesting things to me in our meeting. “I’m here because you’re not.” Translation – if the education establishment had taken on the issues, or at least been less complacent about messaging (the REAL problem in my opinion) there’d be no market for the “reforms.”  The second thing he said was, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Reform 1.0 was school choice. Reform 2.0 was tenure (for NJ). Reform 3.0 is we have a SuperPAC – we can elect candidates.

As I said, he’s developed an interest in education but he’s hanging with the wrong guys, and i told him as much. His real interest is in the chess game of politics, which is fascinating, especially when you have the resources to play for real.

Between the AFT and NEA we have millions of people on street level. Save Our Schools has thousands more folks. Where do we find super rich folks who can help us pay for someone like James Carville to craft our multi-level consistent message and actually get it out there? I’m asking you because I’m hoping you’ve run across them in your travels.


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