Archives for category: ALEC

Stephanie Simon of Reuters continues to be the most industrious investigative education journalist in the nation.

Here she reveals the outline of the free-market model of school, where students learn what they want, where they want, when they want, and pay for it with taxpayer dollars.

She calls it “a la carte” schooling.

It eliminates public schools as we have known them. It opens the door to private, for-profit vendors and anyone who hangs out a shingle.

Remember the old Hollywood movies where Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland said, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show?”

Now, it’s “Hey, kids, let’s open a school and make money.”

I published a post with a photo of a teacher who was named Teacher of the Year by her colleagues but found “unsatisfactory” or “ineffective” by the value-added methods of her state. I knew her name–Mrs. Cook–but nothing more.

Here is the story. She teaches first grade in Florida. Her school got a low grade, so every teacher lost points. Her VAM rating was based on students she never taught,

She is a victim of a nutty system imposed by Jeb Bush, Rick Scott and ALEC.

Sabrina Stevens somehow got herself into a closed-door meeting of the ALEC education task force, and she told the task force how disturbed she was by what she saw. They told her that she does not “understand the process,” and it is clear in the video that they were shocked to find a real live teacher and advocate for public education in their midst.

I can’t wait to get a full account from Sabrina. Meanwhile, bravo, to our fearless champion!

Just to show that great minds think alike, here is EduShyster’s description of the Michigan plan to end public education as we know it.

The plan was designed by the deep thinkers at the free-market think tank called the Mackinac Center.

She calls it a reform “turducken,” which is one reform wrapped inside another, all of them together accomplishing the long-held dream of the extreme right: abolish public education and replace it with a market-driven system, with minimal regulation, minimal oversight, free choice for all, and profits for the plucky.

Sort of like the stock market. Just where you want your children’s future to be decided, right?

I wonder whether Governor Snyder will get a special award from ALEC as the first state to take the bold move of dis-establishing public education?

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?


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