Archives for category: ALEC

Vermillion Parish School Board in Louisiana joins the Honor Roll as a hero of public education because of its refusal to bow down to the unjust, unwise demands of the State Department of Education. The Louisiana State Department of Education is not at all “conservative.” It believes that bureaucracy should override local control and that the people should hand their local schools over to the whims of the state.

The Louisiana Department of Education chastised four school districts for refusing to obey the Legislature’s command to pay no attention to seniority or tenure when laying off teachers. Three of the four districts–including Vermillion–are among the top 15 districts in the state.

You see, the Legislature thinks it knows more about how to reform education than the best districts and the best educators in the state. Ditto State Commissioner John White, who has only two years teaching for Teach for America and has never been a principal or a superintendent until he was suddenly elevated to his present job by Governor Bobby Jindal, who wants to privatize public education and implement the full ALEC agenda.

The Legislature passed a law (Act 1) last spring saying that layoffs should be based “solely” on demand, performance, and effectiveness. Vermillion’s attorney says that the board has a policy based on the same criteria, but it uses experience as a tie-breaker. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the state, the high-performing Vermillion has a teachers’ union, and the district agreed with the union that seniority or tenure would be used as a secondary way to reduce staff.

Anthony Fontana, a member of the Vermillion school board, spoke plainly about what the Jindal administration was trying to do:

This is an opportunity for Jindal’s administration to bad mouth public education,” said Fontana. “This is another attack on public education. We are not going to stand for it. We have to stand up and fight.”

Jerome Puyau, the superintendent elect of Vermission Parish Schools said, “Our policy does protect great teachers by adding more objective criteria, it takes away the possibility of politics coming into play whether it is the board or superintendent who institutes it. Vermilion Parish respects the experience, certification, and training that great teachers have achieved through the years and has always placed these criteria for major consideration in hiring which is a major reason that Vermilion Parish has been so successful with student achievement.”

This contretemps makes clear what is behind the Jindal agenda: Not improving schools, but privatizing them, even if it ruins the good schools that already exist in Louisiana.

For standing up to the Bullies of Baton Rouge, the Vermillion Parish School Board joins our H0nor Roll as a hero of public education.


Memo to Hollywood: The American public will not pay to see a movie that demonizes teachers’ unions and public schools, while touting the glories of privatization.

“Won’t Back Down” was supposed to be the movie of the year. It had nonstop promotion by NBC’s Education Nation, big-name stars, a stint on Ellen’s show, and a glitzy opening at the New York Public Library.

What was the result?

The movie opened to the worst box-office of any film in wide distribution in thirty years (in 2,504 theaters).

Most theaters dropped it after its poor opening weekend, but it hung on in 513 movie theaters.

Last weekend, the film had box-office receipts of $138,709.

This averages out to $270 per theater, barely enough to pay the ticket-seller.

But the film won’t die.

It will now be shown for free wherever an audience can be gathered to sell the idea that parents should seize their public school and give it to a charter operator. At last report, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was planning free screenings across the nation. Now the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can claim to be part of the new “civil rights” movement, the one that wants to privatize your public schools. It is only fitting for the Chamber to join the “civil rights” movement of our day, since they missed the last one.

An article in a Georgia newspaper identifies the money behind the charter referendum.

Remember that Governor Nathan Deal wants the power to create a state commission to approve charters even though the local school board turns them down. This is based on ALEC model legislation. It serves corporate interests while spurning local control.

The advocates raised almost half a million dollars as of September 1. Almost all of that money came from out of state donors. A big donor was Alice Walton of the Walmart family in Arkansas, who is also a big contributor to the charter campaign in Washington State.

At the same time, the opposition to the referendum had raised less than $90,000, and there were no big donors.

On this charter issue, big donors are swamping local democracy. We seem to be moving rapidly back to the age of the robber barons, only this time it’s the schools they want to buy, not the railroads or other basic industries (they have already outsourced most of them).

The most important voice in state education policy today is the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC.

ALEC has 2,000 state legislators as members, and dozens of corporate sponsors, including the biggest names in business.

Here is an excellent summary of ALEC’s legislative priorities.

ALEC writes model legislation. Its members carry it home and introduce it as their own in their states.

ALEC promotes charters and vouchers.

ALEC likes the parent trigger.

ALEC likes it when the governor can create a commission to approve charters over the opposition of local school boards.

ALEC favors unregulated, for-profit online schooling.

ALEC wants to eliminate collective bargaining.

ALEC doesn’t think teachers need any certification or credential.

ALEC opposes teacher tenure.

ALEC likes evaluating teachers by test scores.

You should learn about ALEC. Read up on it. It is the most influential voice in the nation on education policy.

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.


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