Archives for category: ALEC

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.

Please support this wonderful new organization of parents and other citizens in Tennessee, organizing to reclaim public schools from bad policy and corporate takeovers.

Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence





Quality Investment

We believe Tennessee must make high quality investments that reach all students by:

Fully funding BEP 2.0 (Basic Education Program 2.0), the funding formula set by the legislature to fund Tennessee schools.
Since the adoption of BEP 2.0 in 2007, Tennessee schools have not received the full amount of funding which the law requires.
Reducing spending on standardized tests and redirecting those funds to classrooms.
Developing compensation, evaluation, and support plans for teachers that make Tennessee a top destination for professional educators.
Providing the student services and support needed for students to achieve.
Providing all students with the arts, physical education, music, and learning opportunities that are essential to a quality educational experience.
Refusing to divert scarce taxpayer dollars away from already underfunded public schools into a bailout program for struggling private schools via vouchers.
Ensuring manageable class sizes.
Funding universal, voluntary public pre-kindergarten programs.

Transparency & Accountability

We believe Tennessee must ensure transparency and accountability by:

Requiring all taxpayer funded schools and entities, including the state Department of Education and related offices to make public all their funding sources, budgets, and expenditures, so that the taxpayers have a clear understanding of:

how public dollars are being spent,
what influence private donors/interests may have on publicly funded institutions,
the true per pupil cost of services being provided.
Examining whether Tennessee’s school accountability systems are based on appropriate and reliable data.
Providing a full accounting of the determination of achievement test proficiency cut scores and value-added scores, so that citizens and parents know how accurate those data are.
Requiring all schools to provide parents with information regarding standardized testing, including what tests are given, when the testing occurs, the purpose of such tests, and the costs associated with the tests.
Informing parents of what educational and personal data are being shared with third party corporations.

Local Control

We believe Tennessee should keep decisions regarding local public schools in the hands of local citizens by:

Allowing each community to determine whether and where to open schools funded by its local property tax money.
Keeping public schools accountable to local voters, rather than remote, unelected/unaccountable state-level bureaucrats.
Ensuring that Tennessean communities, not corporate out-of-state special interest groups, direct Tennessee children’s educations.
Limiting top-down, underfunded, and untested mandates.
Ensuring that parents and teachers have meaningful input into education decision making.

Post Office Box 218554 · Nashville, Tennessee 37221 · (615) 295-8733

©2014 Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence

Seth Sandronsky, a journalist in Sacramento, reports here on some extraordinary events in that city that should raise eyebrows. Maybe even some hackles.

Read Sandronsky to learn about State Senator Ron Calderon, his brother Thomas Calderon, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, ALEC, the Walton Family Foundation, Pearson, Connections Academy, the Sacramento Bee, and various other characters eager to reform our schools.

I would summarize, but this web is too tangled for me.

Since some readers had trouble opening the link, here is how the story begins:

Papering Over Public K-12 School Reform

By Seth Sandronsky

Private interests are busy paying for political favors from lawmakers at the state Capitol in California, writes Dan Morain, a columnist with The Sacramento Bee:
According to him, what we know about Sen. Ron Calderon, a pro-business Democrat representing Montebello, and snared in an FBI sting operation recently, is just the tip of the dollars-and-politics iceberg.

The good senator has ample company, Morain continues. He mentions other actors and forces in the fetid pay-to-play of California state politics.

Yet his column omits the donor role of a leading public K-12 school reform group under the state Capitol dome. What is going on?
Al Jazeera America’s Oct. 31 unveiling of an FBI affidavit that alleges Sen. Calderon’s multiple alleged wrongdoings includes his brother Thomas Calderon’s meeting with star education reformer Michelle Rhee’s lobbyists. Her StudentsFirst group operates from a national headquarters in Sacramento.

The affidavit alleges that StudentsFirst lobbyists met with Sen. Calderon’s brother on Feb. 20. On Feb. 21, Sen. Calderon introduced a teacher-reform measure, Senate Bill 441 that Rhee’s group supports:

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Rhee’s husband and never a classroom teacher, backed Sen. Calderon’s SB 441, which failed to pass out of committee. The mayor’s education non-profit, Stand Up for Great Schools, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the big-box retailer, also supported SB 441, which teacher unions opposed.

As Trevor Aaronson of Al Jazeera America reports: “Ronald Calderon’s push for the education bill came after Rhee’s organization provided critical financial support to the political campaign of his nephew Ian Calderon. In May 2012, state records show, StudentsFirst funneled $378,196 through a political action committee to Ian Calderon’s successful campaign for the California Assembly”:

Rhee’s donation to Ian Calderon represents just over eight percent of StudentsFirst $4.6 million of donations to its 501(c)(4) nonprofit. That figure comes from its Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service, for the tax year ending July 31, 2011.
Operating in 34 states now, the IRS allows 501(c)(4) groups to engage in political activity such as lobbying: “Seeking legislation germane to the organization’s programs (as) a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes.” Oh, and the donor names to StudentsFirst’s 501(c)(4) are secret.

One of the states where StudentsFirst operates is Tennessee. There, Rhee’s ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, is a GOP governor’s appointed state head of public schools.

StudentsFirst’s political donations have swayed lawmakers to evaluate teachers based on their pupils’ standardized test scores: This policy fits with American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation for education reform.

Back in the Golden State, SB 441 was a bid to amend the state Education Code. Accordingly, Sen. Calderon’s bill would have potentially changed the education of 6 million kids attending California’s public K-12 schools.

Comparing ALEC’s “Teacher Evaluations and Licensing Act,” part of its “Indiana Education Reform Package,” approved at the 2011 ALEC yearly meeting: ( “chapter 3″ of an omnibus bill) with Sen. Calderon’s SB 441, one sees similar phrases and words. As we know, ALEC is pushing forward across the U.S. with public K-12 school reform bills, using language that corporate lobbyists write and lawmakers vote on.

We turn to Connections Academy, a for-profit online learning enterprise that began in Houston, Texas. Once upon a time, this company co-led ALEC’s education task force.

Enter Pearson, Inc., a $7 billion publicly traded, global firm that profits shareholders through certifying teachers, grading standardized tests, publishing textbooks and providing digital curriculum on iPads. Pearson Connections in August 2011. Connections left ALEC soon after, said Brandon Pinette of Pearson in an email.

However, the state bills that Connections, the second largest online school company nationwide to K12 Inc., supported on ALEC’s education task force are still operative, said Rebekah Wilce, a researcher and reporter for the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy. K12 Inc., the biggest cyber school firm and formerly owned by Kaplan, Inc., the giant test preparation company, remains a member of the ALEC education task force, according to her.

Meanwhile, The Sacramento Bee financially backs Mayor Johnson’s nonprofit St. HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Excellence ) Development Company: Johnson’s nonprofit, with help from the local school board and billionaire philanthropists such as Eli Broad, converted Sacramento High School to a nonunion charter school after pupils’ scores on high-stakes standardized tests fell in 2003.

Read the whole post, which is fascinating.

PS: Dan Morain, the columnist mentioned in first paragraph, was just named editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee.

A North Carolina Appeals Court turned down K12, the publicly traded corporation that operates virtual charters.

It wanted to open a virtual charter in the state, but the State Board of Education did not act on its request, so it was denied.

K12 sued, and for now, has lost.

When the Legislature goes back into session, we will see whether the rejection sticks.

K12 has a history of astute lobbying and strategic political contributions.

K12 gets very poor marks from researchers and poor results, but that never stands in the way of its expansion.

Besides, the expansion of online charters is a priority for ALEC.

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is the corporate-controlled organization that is pulling the strings on behalf of the privatization movement.

Its next meeting will be held in Washington, D.C., on December 6 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on H Street. Here is the agenda. If any reader of this blog attends, please send a report about the model laws that are adopted to destroy public education, reduce the status of the teaching profession, and mine the public treasury on behalf of private corporations.

Its model legislation for charter schools, vouchers, eliminating tenure and collective bargaining, and promoting virtual learning, has been adopted in state after state, especially where reactionary governors and legislatures are in control. ALEC has a detailed plan to privatize public education and create profits for entrepreneurs.

True conservatives do not support ALEC’s well-coordinated attack on public education. True conservatives respect the traditional institutions that have made America a great country. True conservatives do not blow up democratic institutions.

Keep us informed about the doings of this shadowy but powerful organization, whose members include some 2,000 state legislators, and whose donors include America’s largest corporations.

To learn more about ALEC, read ALEC Exposed, a website to tracking its activities and goals.


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