Archives for category: ALEC

Florida Republicans, aided by three rogue Democrats, rammed through voucher legislation in the closing day of the legislative session.

The vouchers are supposedly for the benefit of children with special needs.

The Republican legislators’ alleged concern for children with special needs is especially hypocritical in view of their failure to act on the Ethan Rediske legislation, would have exempted children in extreme medical distress to be exempted from state testing by local officials.

As we have seen time and again (and as ALEC urges), legislation for vouchers is targeted to children with special needs as a way to promote vouchers. Thus, children with special needs are cynically used by rightwing legislators whose real goal is to destroy public education.

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This from a reader in Florida:

 

This skullduggery just in from the last hours of the spring legislative session in Florida’s right wing Republican-controlled Legislature:

Tampa Bay Times, May 2, 2014: Lawmakers revive, then approve school voucher expansion

Quote:

TALLAHASSEE — A surprise procedural maneuver Friday helped Florida lawmakers pass one of the most controversial bills of the session.

Both the House and Senate gave final approval to a bill that would expand the school voucher program and create new scholarships for special-needs children.

The proposal will now head to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it.

School choice advocates celebrated bill’s passage — an unexpected end to a roller-coaster session.

—–

Joanne McCall, vice president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, said she was disappointed. “The members of FEA are chagrined by the continued march to expand voucher schools that are largely unregulated, don’t have to follow the state’s academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely,” she said.

McCall said it was “especially galling that the voucher expansion was tacked on to an unrelated bill on the final day of the session.”

—–

“Public schools should not have a monopoly,” Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said in debate. “We have choices in everything else.”

——-end quote

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/lawmakers-revive-then-approve-school-voucher-expansion/2178137

With this development, Jeb Bush must be gleefully rubbing his hands together.

Just as certain as many people here in Florida were, that then-Governor Jeb Bush would leave no stone unturned in jamming his brother into the White House, many of us KNEW that these radical Republicans in Tallahassee would force this thievery of public education resources into law.

God willing, we will flush Rick Scott and as many of these thieves running the Florida legislature as we can this November, along with their micromanaging mentor, Jeb Bush.

Reader Laura H. Chapman looked at Governor Kasich’s education agenda in Ohio and recognized its source. What is startling is to see the overlap between ALEC and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top:

“This is important work, and ALEC needs to be exposed as the source of Governor Kasich’s policies, along with the legislature’s eagerness to approve the Department of Education’s uncritical use of the “management models” and PR from the Reform Support Network created by USDE to promote the RttT agenda nationally.

“The A-F grading system, for example, was introduced in Ohio schools last year (2013). It is the latest highly reductive strategy for ranking schools and a version of the 2011 model legislation provided by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

“Teachers and schools are assigned letter grades, thereby obscuring a host of issues with the underlying VAMs and cut scores that feed into the ranking. ALEC offered this legislation, in part, because it is a simplistic system and appeals to the press. The league tables produced under this system are no more complex than the traditional A-to-F grading system, or so it seems.

“However, in Ohio, the system is anything but simple. Up to nine “performance indicators” are graded in the A-F system, then these grades are recast as a single rating. For example, a school cannot receive an “A” if any subgroup of students is awarded a “C.” Some grades are based on “attaining a year’s worth of growth” in test scores. This is a fictional concept from economists who think that gains in scores on standardized tests—pre-test to post-test and year-to-year—are “objective” and should count more than other factors in ranking schools.

“In addition to the continued use of VAM scores to rank teachers and schools (with SAS’s proprietary formula and contracts worth millions), about 70% of Ohio’s teachers are rated on their production on gains in scores on state or district approved pre-and post-tests tests. These are described in the dreadful “student learning objectives”

“(SLO) exercises that teachers have to produce for one or more their courses or classes. The teachers are graded on their write-ups of SLOs and have to meet about 25 criteria or go back to a revision. You would think teachers are working to specifications for assembling a 747 airplane. I have elsewhere called this “accountability gone wild.” And in Ohio, 50% of a teacher’s evaluation is determined by this non-sense–whether it the VAM or the SLO. For most teachers, an undisclosed formula in a spreadsheet calculates the minimum acceptable gain scores for SLOs and churns out a color-coded rating for the teacher–Green-to-yellow-to-red.

“The league-table ratings of Ohio’s schools are gaining the same press as major sports, but without the full-time staff looking into the minutia of school reform or the day-to-day work of teachers and administrators. It comes as no surprise that the A-F grades assigned to schools mirror the SES profiles for communities (Amos & Brown, 2013).

“Our Governor, John Kasich, is a pawn of ALEC. He has also decided to offer a “third grade reading guarantee” as suggested by ALEC’s model legislation. Next up is likely to be ALEC’s Student Achievement Backpack Bill. This makes the Duncan/Gates agenda for data mongering “friendly” to parents. The “Backpack” provides access by a student’s parent or guardian or an authorized local education agency (LEA) official to “the learning profile of a student from kindergarten through grade 12 in an electronic format known as a Student Achievement Backpack.” The information in this profile is housed in the “cloud.” It can be accessed by qualified users from a “Student Record Store” posted on the state education agency website. It also includes data about all of the teachers-of-record for a given student, with only a few limits on the data that can be entered. See http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/student-achievement-backpack-act/http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/student-achievement-backpack-act/

“You can find out about ALEC’s legislation in your state at http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

“Other Sources here: American Legislative Exchange Council. (2011, January). A-Plus literacy act, Model legislation: Chapter 1. School and district report cards and grades. Retrieved from http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-a-plus-literacy-act/
Amos, D.S., & Brown, J. (2013, August 22). State unveils new report cards. Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved from http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130822/NEWS0102/308220025/State-unveils-revamped-report-cards”

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization founded in 1973 to promote free-market ideas throughout society. ALEC has about 2,000 members who belong to state legislatures. It is funded by major corporations. Its purpose is to write model legislation that members can bring back to their state, to spread the gospel of ALEC. It supports charters, vouchers, online charters–all forms of privatization. It opposes collective bargaining. It does not believe in due process rights for teachers or any form of job security for public employees. It does not support local control, as it promotes laws that allow state commissions to override decisions by local school boards if they deny charters to private groups.

Among its proposals is the third grade reading guarantee, in which children are flunked if they don’t pass the third grade reading test. What this has to do with free-market capitalism is beyond my understanding. It is punitive towards little children, putting more faith in a test than in teachers’ judgement. There is no research to support this policy, but we know already that zealots are unimpressed by research or evidence.

Here is a comment by faithful reader Chiara Duggan of Zohio:

“This is the ALEC model bill on high stakes testing in third grade.

“It’s nearly identical to Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee:

“C) Beginning with the 20XX-20XY school year, if the student’s reading deficiency, as identified in paragraph (a), is not remedied by the end of grade 3, as demonstrated by scoring at Level 2 or higher on the state annual accountability assessment in reading for grade 3, the student must be retained.

“Just shameful that adult lawmakers were purchased by this lobbying group, and third graders will be paying the price.

http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-a-plus-literacy-act/”

Dear Friends,

Today this blog reached the unbelievable number of eleven million page views!

I had no idea this would happen when I wrote the first post on April 26, 2012.

Thank you for reading. More than that, thank you for participating.

Many of you contribute regularly to what must be the liveliest discussion about education on the Internet. I read your comments and pick out some that are the most interesting, the most thoughtful, the most informative, and the most provocative and post them. It may be the same day or weeks later. The important thing is that I have tried to make this blog a place where the voices of parents, students, teachers, principals, and superintendents are heard, unedited.

The rules of the blog are limited and simple. Be civil. Avoid certain four-letter words which I will not print. Do not insult your host. There are plenty of other forums for all of the above. Just not here.

As you know, the blog has a point of view, because I have a point of view. I care passionately about improving the education of all children. I care passionately about showing respect for the dedicated men and women who work hard every day to educate children and help them grow to be healthy, happy human beings with good character and a love of learning. I care passionately about restoring real education and rescuing it from those who have dumbed it down into preparation for the next standardized test. I care passionately about restoring to all children their right to engage in the arts, to play, to dream, to create, to have a childhood and a youth unburdened by fear of tests. I care passionately about protecting the public schools from those who seek to monetize them and use them as a source of profit and power.

I am in my end game. I will fight to the last to defend children, teachers, principals, and public education from the billionaires and politicians who have made a hobby of what is deceptively called “reform.” What is now called “reform,” as the readers of this blog know, is a calculated plan to turn public schools over to amateurs and entrepreneurs, while de imaging the teaching profession to cut costs.

The people who promote the privatization and standardization of public education are the StatusQuo. They include the U.S. Department of Education, the nation’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, and the nation’s largest foundations. They include ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand on Children, ConnCAN, and a bevy of other organizations eager to transfer public dollars to private organizations. Their stale and failed ideas are the Status Quo. Their ideas have been ascendant for a dozen years. They have failed and failed again, but their money and political power keep them insulated from news of the damage they do to Other People’s Children.

We will defeat them. We will outlast them. Who are we? We are the Resistance. We are parents and grandparents, teachers, and principals, school board members, and scholars. We will not go away. They can buy politicians, but they can’t buy us. They can buy “think tanks,” but they can’t buy us. Public schools are not for sale. Nor are our children. Nor are we.

On Tuesday, I taped an interview with Bill Moyers.

The show will air six times this weekend on PBS stations across the nation.

Bill has become an expert on ALEC, having done important programming (see here) about that shadowy corporate-funded organization that is promoting deregulation of the public and private sectors and encouraging privatization.

Given his interests and mine, we had a great conversation about the strange convergence of ALEC, hedge fund managers, and assorted Republicans and Democrats around a common agenda.

He wanted to “follow the money,” and there were many stories from Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere that reveal the effort to monetize our nation’s public education system without improving it.

He and his crew did something that I have never seen before.

After we finished out taping, we retaped portions of the conversation that needed more detail, clarification, or had any other need for correction.

At one point, I discovered I could not say the phrase “flow freely” without committing a spoonerism. Twice, I tried, and it came out “f-r-o-w-s f-l-e-e-l-y.” I can’t even type the spoonerism because autocorrect keeps changing the words into something else! I think I got it right the third time. I heard long ago that left-handed people (like me) are prone to spoonerisms. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. It has to do with transposing the beginning sounds of two adjoining words.

Anyway, I loved talking to him. We are both Texans of the same generation. We share a worldview about the importance of civic obligation. We both detest the way that capital is invading every part of our lives and finding ways to make a buck for a very few.

 

 

The legislature in North Carolina, apparently joined at the hip with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), passed legislation establishing charter schools a few months ago.

Buried in the bill is a stipulation that only 50% of teachers in charter schools need to hold a teaching license (see page 7 of the bill).

In public schools, ALL teachers must be licensed.

Apparently in the minds of the North Carolina legislature, the way to “improve student learning” (the alleged goal of creating charters) is to lower standards for teachers.

Perhaps we will soon see the legislature lower the requirements to practice medicine, law, and other professions and occupations in that state.

And they will no doubt say it “improves the profession by letting anyone do it.”

Mercedes Schneider here reviews the extensive agenda that ALEC has for reshaping education in the audited States.

Unlike Bill Gates, who works in tandem with the United States Department of Education to direct national policy, ALEC works through state legislators. ALEC writes model legislation, working through its committee structure, and its members submit them in their states. If the states are ultra-reactionary, chances are that much of their education (and other) legislation comes right from ALEC.

Be informed. Be aware.

EduShyster reports here on the comings and goings at ALEC.

ALEC is a super-secret rightwing group sponsored by major corporations, whose members include about 2,000 state legislators who want to advance the corporate agenda.

In this post, EduShyster notes that scores of corporations abandoned ALEC after it got so much bad press following the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida (ALEC supports stand your ground laws of the sort found in Florida). But as the publicity-shy corporations bailed out, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute joined.

I was a founding member of TBF, and was sorry to hear the news. Although I left the board in 2009, I always thought that TBF tried to be center-right, not far-right. ALEC is far right. On education issues, they are awful. ALEC loves privatization. It writes model laws for vouchers and charters. It loves online learning and opposes any regulation of online providers. ALEC hates unions. It opposes certification for teachers or any form of rights, job security, or due process for teachers.

ALEC writes laws that would put an end to public education and the teaching profession. Some states have laws that were written by ALEC. It is surprising that ALEC is treated by the IRS as if it was not a lobbying organization. It is.

An effort to create a special statewide district for low-performing schools in Mississippi was defeated by legislators in the House by a vote of 60-55.

The issue now advances to the State Senate.

The far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has made a priority of creating statewide entities and eviscerating local control.

These statewide districts are hallmarks of states bent on privatization, like Michigan, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

There is no evidence that the state does a better job with low-performing students than the local district.

Typically what the students in these schools need is smaller classes, specialized staff, the arts, bilingual teachers, and specific programs that help the students progress.

Fresh thinking is needed that empowers communities and teachers to address the needs of their students.

The status quo of state takeovers (which has been tried and failed for 20 years in New Jersey) doesn’t work.

North Carolina policymakers are putty in the hands of Art Pope, the zillionaire libertarian who funds the John Locke Institute and is also state budget director. Bill Moyers featured him in an exposé and Jane Mayer of the New Yorker wrote an article about his successful takeover of the state, in which he successfully defeated moderate Republicans with extremists to his liking.

The far-out anti-public sector Legislature is intent on advancing privatization. They work from the ALEC script, having passed a law that allows a charter-friendly state “advisory” board to override local school boards that might be so rash as to protect their local public schools.

This is context to explain how a developer who built a gated community got permission to open a charter school right outside the gates of his community. He wanted to build it inside the gates, but the advisory committee thought that might give the wrong impression. The developer, by the way, is an old friend of Vice President Joe Biden, whose brother Frank Biden is involved with a for-profit charter chain called Mavericks.

The developer and his board were turned down by the local school board, one of the worst funded districts in the state. The charter will take funds from the district. Nonetheless, the district was squashed by the state advisory committees, which welcomes more charters, regardless of the fiscal impact on the local public schools.

Unlike public schools, where 100% of teachers must be certified, charters need hire only 50% certified teachers. You can tell this is real “reform” because the standards for teachers are lower.

The charter will be run by a guy who ran another charter that was closed because of financial problems.

Really, folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

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