Archives for category: ALEC

The drive to diminish local control in Pennsylvania was halted when Republicans backed away from Governor Corbett’s charter “reform” legislation. The bill would have allowed the Governor and the State Education Department to override local school boards and open charters where the local board rejected them. This is a priority for Governor Tom Corbett and for ALEC, which values privatization over local control. Apparently, some Republicans had trouble following the attack on public schools and local school boards, which are important and traditional institutions in the communities they represent. The bill would have also allowed charter operators to escape accountability and transparency in their expenditure of public funds.

I received this note from an ally in Pennsylvania, with links:

Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania had a major setback in his attempt to follow an ALEC goal of taking management of charter schools out of local control and put it in the hands of the Pennsylvania Education Department. Wednesday night the Pa. House of Representatives failed to pass what Corbett said had been his major goal of this legislative session.

Details of what happened are still coming out, but key Republicans bailed on supporting the bill. There had been growing opposition as reflected in newspaper editorials around the state.

In my opinion it is an indication that people are beginning to pay attention to ALEC’s role in state legislatures and there is growing questioning about the growth of charters and the closures of public schools..

“School Shutdowns Trigger Growing Backlash”

from Education Week


Pa. House pulls the plug on charter reform bill, killing the measure for this year
from the Harrisburg Patriot-News

“A historic charter school reform bill was all teed up for a House vote on Wednesday, but the vote never happened.
Enough House Republicans peeled away their support from the bill as the day wore on, making it apparent the measure did not have the 102 votes needed to pass. It would have been the first significant reforms to the 1997 charter law that created these independent public schools.
Concerns arose over a charter school funding study commission it would have created and other reforms it contained, said House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson.
The Senate had passed the bill on Tuesday by a 33-19 vote.”

Charter school bill falls apart in Pa. House
from the Pittsburg Post Gazette
“But House leaders worked into the night without calling the bill and, around 9:30 p.m., announced they would adjourn until after the election. After leaving the chamber, House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, attributed the breakdown in part to dissatisfaction among some members with a provision establishing a commission to examine charter school funding. Some of those members wanted the Legislature to go ahead and change aspects of funding, such as that for cyber charter schools, he said.”

House Speaker Smith: Too many “moving parts” derailed charters vote.
from Capitol Ideas at Allentown’s The Morning Call
“The top Republican in the state House said Wednesday that an inability to build consensus among both state lawmakers and interest groups derailed an expected vote on a charter school reform bill.
The state House broke for the year late Wednesday night without voting on the bill, which would have — among other things — allowed existing charter schools (with state oversight) to consolidate their operations. The bill would also have created a special state commission charged with studying special education funding issues.

The reform package, which cleared the state Senate on Tuesday night, was a top priority of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
Corbett’s spokesman, Kevin Harley, said the administration was “disappointed” by the House’s failure to vote on the reform bill and would begin work anew in January.”

Pennsylvania charter schools reform bill dies when House fails to take action
from the Delaware County Times
“Harrisburg — A closely watched proposal to rewrite the state’s charter schools law died Wednesday when the House wrapped up its two-year legislative session without putting it to a final vote.
The Senate approved the measure to toughen oversight of the publicly funded, privately run schools on Tuesday, but House Speaker Sam Smith, a Republican, said after adjournment there had not been enough time to deal with the complicated bill, and funding was a sticking point.
Neither chamber was scheduled to return to Harrisburg before the Nov. 6 election, nor do lawmakers plan to vote on any bills in the postelection period that ends Nov. 30. A new Legislature will be sworn in in January.”

In November, voters in Georgia will vote on an important referendum to amend their state constitution.

The goal of the amendment is to allow the government to appoint a commission that can impose charter schools in districts over the objection of local school boards. More than 90% of the money to support the referendum is pouring into Georgia from out of state contributors.

This proposal comes from ALEC, which is so eager to push privatization that it is ready to abandon local control. This is a clear sign that the ALEC agenda is a radical agenda, not a conservative one.

Conservatives are lining up to support local control, including John Barge, the State Superintendent of Education.

A reader sent us a useful description of propaganda techniques:

“How to Identify Propaganda Techniques”

(So many parallels to the “reform agenda”.)

Look for the use of “glittering” generalities in the form of catchphrases, sweeping and vague statements. Slogans using positive and uplifting concepts such as love, honor, family, peace and freedom are often the tools used by propagandists because they appeal to the masses .

Watch for the use of symbols that are attached to authority or things most people respect. The Nazi swastika is an example of a symbol used to elicit an emotional response from the public such as, intimidation or fear. A respectful symbol, such as the American flag is used during the Pledge of Allegiance to unify people’s patriotism, reinforce their belief in God and loyalty to the country. This is the transference technique used to appeal to people’s emotions and get them on the propagandists’ bandwagon.

Be alert to name-calling. Propagandists will often make negative statements against groups or institutions they are attempting to denounce rather than positively tout the merits of their own proposals and concepts.

Be leery of testimonials by those who might garner respect from the public. Testimonials may be presented by a person who really doesn’t have the authority to gauge the value of the product or concept being presented, but is respected in the community. The “expert” may also have a vested interest in backing the propagandists’ agenda.

Be on the lookout for “plain folks.” Propagandists will often use spokesmen who claim to be from humble beginnings to gain the respect and trust of the crowd.

Watch for suggestions that if you’re not on board with the concept or product being hyped, you will be left out. Propagandists try to get followers on the “bandwagon” to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Be alert to strong, one-sided facts that support the propagandists’ case. “Card-stacking” is the most difficult propaganda technique to identify, GMU points out. The propagandists will stack the cards in their favor, only using facts and arguments that support their agenda, ignoring evidence that contradicts or invalidates their point of view.

How to Identify Propaganda Techniques |

The online for-profit corporation K12 wants to grow its business in Florida but school boards are opposing it. The online charters poach students and funding from public schools while providing a poor quality of education.

They do, however, have one big political advantage. They have the fervent support of former Governor Jeb Bush, who is a political powerhouse in the state.

Independent studies have found high dropout rates, low test scores, low graduation rates, and inflated billing at the virtual charters. K12 is under investigation in Florida. But it is so profitable that it is undeterred by little issues like poor results and the harmful effects on the entire structure of public education. These guys are corporate raiders of the public purse. A “school” that recruits only 10,000-15,000 students will draw $100 million in revenues while having no maintenance costs, no nurses, no social workers, no library, nothing like the fixed costs of real schools. And what profits!

Here’s a hard-hitting investigative report on the money pouring into California to beat the unions by cutting off dues collections. The face of this campaign is Gloria Romero, who flipped to the right and is now the face of Democrats for Education Reform, the pro-privatization Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group.

Seems the Koch brothers tossed in a few million, which makes it hard to maintain the pretense that the anti-union campaign is warm, fuzzy and progressive.

The only error that I spotted is calling ALEC “neoconservative.” It is a reactionary organization pushing radical schemes to suppress voter rights, relax gun control, crush unions, relax environmental regulation, and privatize public education, among other things.

The reform/privatization strategy is now in full operation is states across the nation.

This is the way it works:

First, set an impossible goal, say, 100% proficiency for all students.

Second, say that there can be “no excuses,” no reference to social conditions in which children live.

Third, insist on accountability for schools, teachers, and principals. If they can’t meet the impossible goals, fire the staff and close the school.

Fourth, hand the school over to private management.

Mission accomplished!

Oklahoma is in the midst of this process, as this teacher describes here. The schools will be graded. Many will fail, by design. Does anyone still believe this is about improving education?

You know what comes next. This Oklahoma teacher writes:

Oh, it’s much worse than just testing…the use of this data will “fail” schools and then trumpet their failure. In order to earn an “A”, a school must score nearly 94%. The easy-to understand resources on the OKSDE website are anything but simple and transparent. The district Superintendents (nearly 200, I believe) who objected to the release of scores have been called names by our State Super and our Governor. Dedicated professional educators have been attacked personally.

The State Superintendent likened them to the kid who runs home to white-out his report card before his parents get home. Remember, she’s speaking to career educators…which she is not. She was a speech pathologist for a few years, became a dentist, and helped open a charter school in OKC because her own children were struggling in public schools. She sees herself as the heroine of DON’T BACK DOWN.

The spokesperson for the SDE says they’ve worked with districts, getting their input. I was at the Public Comments meeting, at the SDE…scheduled by the SDE. NO ONE representative from the SDE attended the meeting except the lawyer who pushed ‘play’ on the tape recorder. We all spoke to a tape recorder…superintendents, principals, school officials, legislators, PTA state officers, and I was the lone teacher…we were all ignored. Is THIS how our SDE works with us? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘yes’.

Our state officials are bullies, and they bully with smiles on their faces, with the knowledge that the media won’t pursue the story to the ultimate truth.

Tomorrow the grades come out…the same grades Mitt Romney thinks are such a good idea. My firm belief is the grades will show exactly what high-stakes testing shows: poverty matters. So, once again, schools and teachers and districts will be punished and publicly shamed because we serve poor children.

Pray for us.

A reader writes:

This is the reason why no one listens to all the sound reasons presented so far.

“No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.” ~ Karl R. Popper

I wrote a post about radical legislation in Pennsylvania that will authorize the Governor to create a charter commission with power to overturn local decisions. This legislation was written by the corporate-funded organization ALEC.

The Louisiana legislature passed the radical ALEC agenda last spring. Teachers lost tenure; unqualified people can become teachers. Test scores determine teachers’ careers. More than half the state’s students are eligible for vouchers, with some going to fundamentalist schools. Charters will pop up everywhere. Students can take their tuition money to online schools that get poor results, or to any snake-oil salesman that hangs out a shingle and pretends to be an educator.

Everything comes out of the minimum foundation funding for public schools, which is supposedly illegal, but who cares? Lots of new opportunities to make a buck in Louisiana or any other state that passes ALEC model legislation.

A reader in Louisiana notes that the proposed governor’s commission, stripping local boards of their decision-making powers, has already passed in his state:

This legislation was passed in Louisiana last spring. Don’t let this happen to Penn -teachers get the word out to fight this. This December our Board of Education will present the first list of applicants to fall under this new provision and they have shown that they decry true accountability. My school district,St. Tammany Parish, is the highest performing large school district in the state with highest average ACT score in the state and above the national average. We have never allowed charters but we are now expecting to be invaded. One prospective charter operator is advertising on Craig’s List for personnel to open an “international school.” He is a former instructor of Muslim studies at the Air Force Academy (5years) from Edinburgh, Scotland. Where do these charter promoters come from and how do end up here.

State after state is imposing new teacher evaluation systems that have never worked anywhere else; new pay structures that no one understands; eliminating collective bargaining rights; removing tenure to make it easier to fire teachers.

All of this is allegedly to “improve” the teaching profession.

But this is what is happening on the ground. Bill Gates, if you are reading this, can you please explain? Arne Duncan, this is what you brought about through your Race to the Top, perhaps you could explain.

Can anyone explain how these measures improve the teaching profession?

I’m a first grade teacher in Indianapolis. We cannot even get anyone to explain to us what the new pay structure is for our school district. We know we will no longer be given pay increases…..we’ve been told nothing about bonus pay, or starting salaries. Our union has no power since our legislature stripped it in this last session. I understand that we want to hold teachers accountable, but I think it is not unreasonable to expect that I be at least told what my pay structure will be so I know what to work towards. I’ve earned a masters degree, two separate certifications and have 16 years of experience in inner city schools. I do what I do because I love it and I make a difference. I’m tired of being demonized and demoralized in the press because I want to know whether or not I am going to be able to continue to support my family. These new evaluation systems are so complicated and at the same time vague and ambiguous. I’m in the process right now of writing my state approved forms for my administrator for part of my evaluation and I’m overwhelmed by what I must now do. People believe all of this paperwork and bureaucracy is going to make better teachers, but in reality it is driving people from the profession. College enrollment in education programs has dropped dramatically over the last 5 years. Who would want to be a teacher in this climate? I don’t know about Chicago and DC, but in Indianapolis, we are all frustrated and worried about the future of our schools.

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?


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