Archives for category: ALEC

Fund Education Now, a public school advocacy group in Florida, says that the Jeb Bush-ALEC machine gives out grades to legislators. Those who get an A are the ones who want to privatize public education and create profits for their buddies.


Florida voters need to understand that in the topsy-turvy world of Florida school politics, an A from the Bush-ALEC machine is actually an F.


Fund Education Now writes:



This is the season when the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida release their 2015 Legislative Report Cards. In particular, the Foundation assigns grades to legislators’ based on their willingness to pass the Jeb Bush/ALEC-driveneducation reform/privatization policy agenda.


These grades are a road map for voters. When your favorite Senator repeatedly gets an A grade from these folks, that’s a sign. It’s a big part of why legislators are willing to look foolish as they defy all logic to pass policies that hurt children and harm public schools.


Since 2009, parents, teachers, grandparents, districts and students have raised a mighty voice against the mind-numbing, narrowed curriculum, disrespect to teaching and the insane numbers of unfair high stakes tests. Every major newspaper has repeatedly demanded better from legislators. Despite all objections, politicians follow the plan and spend millions of public dollars on vendors, often in support of schemes promoted by wealthy ROI philanthropists eyeing a piece of what Joel Klein and others see as a $600 billion dollar education industry.


Sadly, it’s not enough to drive get out the vote numbers. Voters must know who they are voting for. Take Florida’s Orange County Delegation: There are 13 members and 8 of them got As from Jeb’s Foundation. These legislators carry the water for a particular, extreme policy group, not for voters. Parents seeking relief from Florida’s cruel education reform policies will get zero help from these lawmakers.


Orange County Delegation 13 members/8 A grades from FFF:


Sen. Hays, R, Dist. 11

Sen. Gardner, R, Dist. 13

Sen. Soto, D, Dist. 14

Sen. Stargel, R, Dist, 15

Rep Cortes, R, Dist 30

Rep. Sullivan, R, Dist. 31

Rep. Eisnaugle, R, Dist. 44

Rep. Miller, R, Dist. 47


The remaining 5 members of the Orange delegation who voted or advocated against high stakes testing, tying teacher pay to test scores, corporate tax voucher expansion, handing over voter approved public school tax millage to for profit charters and other measures received considerably lower grades, including an F for Orange’s Rep Bracy, D, Dist. 45.


Voters must understand that politicians who push policy agendas such as School reform are rewarded in many ways. Money pours into races from PACs such as the American Federation for Children and the Florida Federation for Children. And the education reform/privatization agenda seeks to redefine “local control” to reference state legislatures. As a result, duly-elected Florida school board members are under attack for disagreeing with reformers.


It’s interesting to look at a smaller Florida district whose entire delegation is under the sway of education reform. Superintendent Walt Griffin recently wrote a letter to Commissioner Pam Stewart asking to allow Seminole to return to paper and pencil abandon the state’s troubled FSA and switch to a nationally norm referenced test such as the ACT. How much support will Griffin get from his public servants?


Seminole County Delegation: All 5 members received an A grade from FFF:


Sen. Simmons, R, Dist. 10

Rep. Brodeur, R, Dist. 28

Rep. Plakon, R, Dist. 29

Rep. Cortes, R. Dist. 30


Those who work to advance high stakes education reform policies cross all political stripes. If a candidate is not willing to turn down education reform campaign funding, that’s a problem. If a candidate refuses to oppose using tax dollars to create multiple uneven, unfair school systems, that’s a deal-breaker.


We have reached a point where a candidate’s dedication to investing in and improving public education must be a litmus test for service. Legislators often give constituents less than 2 minutes to talk in Tallahassee while policy lobbyists such as Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future are afforded unparalleled access across the board.


Using power and money to drive policy and elections is not restricted to Florida. The Foundation for Florida’s Future is part of an establishednational agenda. In fact, its affiliated with the Foundation for Excellence in Education National, whose motto is: Turning Reform into Reality.


It’s a cruel irony that politicians are so eager to earn grades for passing policies that hurt children. Now voters must use these education reform “loyalty grades” as a tool to weed out politicians who don’t deserve reelection.




As feared, the Ohio legislature installed a CEO to take control of Youngstown’s public school. This move to eliminate local control is based on ALEC model legislation. It allows the governor to choose one person with dictatorial power to do whatever he or she wants.

What the CEO usually wants is to privatize public schools

“In a bold move that has the potential for booting teachers unions from schools, stripping local voters of their authority over their school districts and turning operations over to for-profit companies, the Ohio legislature introduced and passed legislation in a matter of hours with no opportunity for the public to deliver opposition testimony.

“The bill began innocuously in the House as an effort to help communities turn schools into comprehensive learning centers for the neighborhood. The bill passed from the House to the Senate a month ago with an overwhelming 92-6 vote.

“Almost everyone liked it — until Wednesday….

“The discussion centered on Youngstown, which has been guided by an academic distress commission since 2010. The change has the potential to accelerate school choice, sending more children and public dollars to charter and private schools.

“Lorain, the other Ohio school district in academic distress, must perform poorly another two years before it falls under the new provision, Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said.”

This column by Jack Hassard is referenced in the previous post by Edward Johnson of Atlanta.


I missed it when it first appeared. I am posting it now because it contains important advice, not only for Georgia, but for other states whose governors want to copy New Orleans and the Tennessee Achievement School District (which so far has not achieved its lofty goal of moving the lowest performing schools in the state to the top 25% of schools in the state). The model legislation comes right from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the rightwing organization that promotes privatization and deregulation for the benefit of corporations.


Hassard writes:


The Opportunity School District, which was proposed by Governor Nathan Deal, is indeed an opportunity. But it is not in the best interests of students and their families in the communities identified as having “chronically failing schools.” The first detail to pull out of Senate Bill 133 is that this bill is nothing short of opening the flood gates for charter schools, which have been documented time and again as not nearly being as effective as “regular” public schools. These schools will replace public schools that have been red-flagged for three consecutive years. The main goal of school will be to get students to score higher on standardized tests. Success will hinge primarily on the test scores in mathematics and reading. Teaching to the test will be the main goal of schooling in the OSD.
In this Senate bill, paragraph after paragraph is devoted to describing how the state will set up a state-wide charter school district for “chronically failing schools.” But here is a real problem for Georgia legislators to consider. The evidence from the New Orleans Recovery School District is that for the most part, schools that were considered failing before they entered the confines of the RSD continued to earn failing grades, stars, or flags–pick your own symbol.


What Governor Deal does not confront is the connection between poverty and test scores. As Hassard shows in another post, 27% of the children in the state of Georgia live in poverty, and nearly 60% are eligible for free- or reduced-price school lunches.


Creating a special school district for the schools attended by children who live in poverty is a high priority for ALEC, but it does nothing to alleviate the lives of these children or to improve their schools. It amounts to kicking the can down the road. It will take a decade to recognize that this remedy didn’t remedy anything that matters. It just delayed the reckoning with the cause of low test scores: high poverty.



Please read this report and send it to everyone who cares about the future of public education in the United States. Send it to your friends, your school board, your legislators, your editorial boards, and to anyone else who needs to know about the money that is committed to demolishing public schools and turning the money over to private hands.


Common Cause has released an important new report about the dramatic increase in funding and lobbying by groups in New York State committed to privatization of public schools. The report contrasts the political spending of the privatizers to the political spending of the unions, and it is a fascinating contrast.



The report is titled: “Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Educational Policy.”


The report rejects the term “reformers” and uses the term “privatizers.” It explains here (p. 3):



We use the terms pro-privatization and privatizer to describe PACs and coalitions whose central mission is “education reform”—increasing funding and support for alternatives to standard public education, market-based educational programs, decentralizing control of education policy from government, advancing charter schools, supporting private schools, and private school tax credits. Examples of the groups we identified and analyzed as pro-privatization are Students First, Democrats for Education Reform/Education Reform Now, the Foundation/Coalition for Opportunity in Education, and Families for Excellent Schools. When we describe union spending, we include funding from unions such as New York State United teachers (NYSUT) and United Federation of Teachers (UFT), public school teachers, school board leaders, school administrators and other public school employees. Their primary policy goals have related to education budget allocations, teacher evaluations, protecting teacher tenure, testing regimes, mayoral control of schools and, more recently, education investment tax credits.


The report points out that 2014 was a watershed year. It was the first year in which the spending by privatizers exceeded spending by unions by over $16.8 million. (p. 4).


Before 2014, privatizer contributions averaged $3.9 million annually; in 2014, privatizers’ campaign contributions “jumped to $11.2 million.”


The top three recipients of privatizer campaign contributions were: the New York Senate Republican Housekeeping account ($5.06 million); Cuomo-Hochul 2014 ($3.06 million), and The Independence Party Housekeeping account ($1.2 million).


The top three recipients of union campaign contributions were: the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee ($916,600), the Working Families Party ($874,550), and the NYS Senate Republican Campaign Committee ($772,387).


Where the money comes from:


“Pro-privatization campaign contributions totaled $46.1 million raised through 5,700 contributions from less than 400 wealthy individuals, associated organizations, and PACs. The top five individual pro-privatization political campaign contributors were Michael Bloomberg ($9.2 million), James Simons ($3 million), Paul Singer ($2.2 million), Daniel Loeb ($1.9 million), and David Koch ($1.6 million).”


“Union campaign contributions totaled $87.6 million raised through at least 75,000 contributions to Union PACS from well over 18,000 individuals, associated organizations and PACs. Union assert that dues are separate and not used on political spending. The top five union PAC contributors were: New York State United Teachers ($56.1 million), American Federation of Teachers / United Federation of Teachers ($22.8 million), National Education Association ($443,000), Buffalo Teachers Federation ($269,000), and Say Yes To Education ($242,000)….”



The pro-privatization bills introduced in New York are based on bills developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council as part of its national education agenda.


o The major pro-privatization donors in New York are also political contributors to education privatization efforts in other states.


o Pro-privatization lobbying includes “dark money” contributed through c4 advocacy organizations and foundations.


The top 2 recipients of contributions from privatizers (Senate Republicans and Gov. Cuomo) have introduced more extreme versions of education tax credits than those in other states.


o New York’s proposed bills would advantage affluent tax payers and scholarship recipients over low and middle class New Yorkers.


o It would be difficult for everyday New Yorkers to access credits due to unique procedural requirements and application timing.


o New York’s proposals have unusually high income eligibility for scholarships: $500,000 family income limit in Senate bill is almost 400% higher than highest income limit in other states.


o There would be no caps on private school tuition costs, which in New York can top $40,000 annually.


o New York versions of proposed education tax credit programs lack oversight and accountability measures enacted in states such as Arizona, Florida and Georgia, or even those contained in ALEC model bills.


The report gives a brief history of the privatization movement, then says this:


The current trend of market-based education proposals can be seen as interrelated to the ideology and policy goals that contributed to the pre-2008 deregulations of the financial industry and to the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. Using a long term, multi-pronged strategy, the self-styled “education reform” organizations (whose boards are populated by the very hedge fund executives who have dominated Super PAC contributions since the Citizens United decision) are framing this issue. They have used their wealth to access and infiltrate the policy landscape on almost every front except one: the teachers’ unions. 13 In an increasingly polarized debate, these camps are battling for ideological control of the future of education policy at all levels of government.


Seeing Gold in the Schools


Adoption of federal programs, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 and the Common Core State Standards Initiative contained in the Race to the Top Fund (RTTT) (2010), pushed states—using threats to funding as incentive—to establish standards akin to a corporation’s bottom line and employ the burgeoning field of “big data” to determine who was reaching benchmarks or not.


The push to look at education benchmarks in a “bottom line” fashion bolstered a rapidly growing market for nonprofit and for-profit test publishing, test analysis, test preparation, student data management and— for schools who failed to make adequate yearly progress—tutoring, interventions, and alternative school options. Hundreds of new for-profit and nonprofit organizations, from test prep to consulting to charter schools, have opened in the past ten years to meet the demands that NCLB and Race to the Top created. This wave of market-based educational interests has been financed by powerful national foundations and wealthy private investors who, as discussed below, are major political contributors across the country, including in New York. These “venture philanthropists” have been positioning themselves on several fronts: funding research institutions, reframing the national debate in the media, positioning sympathetic leaders into educational regulatory bodies, and lobbying policymakers to enact their desired educational policies.


The Role of the American Legislative Exchange Council


Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), some of the nation’s largest companies invest millions of dollars each year to pass state laws putting corporate and private interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans. ALEC’s membership includes some 2,000 state legislators, corporate executives and lobbyists. ALEC brings together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to vote as equals on model bills, behind closed doors and without any public input, that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line. These model bills are then introduced in state legislatures across the country. ALEC and its member corporations often pay for legislators to go to lavish resorts to participate in ALEC meetings. Among ALEC’s legislative portfolio are bills to privatize public schools and prisons, weaken voting rights, eviscerate environmental protections and cripple public worker unions.


Common Cause has filed a “whistleblower” complaint against ALEC with the Internal Revenue Service, accusing the group of violating its tax-exempt status by operating as a lobby while claiming to be a charity.



The group’s tax exemption allows its corporate supporters to take tax deductions on millions spent each year to support ALEC’s activities, in effect providing a taxpayer subsidy for its lobbying.


Addressing the market demand created by NCLB and Race to the Top, ALEC’s Education Task Force has issued 29 model bills dealing with K-12 education since February, 2013,16 including The Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act,17 and the Parental Choice Scholarship Accountability Act,18 which provide models for state scholarship tax credit programs. ALEC model bills appear to have been the basis for education bills introduced in New York.







Just when you thought that the mainstream media had forgotten how to do investigative journalism, along comes a surprise.

In Atlanta, local NBC channel 11 station did an exposé of the secretive far-right group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC. Under the aegis of ALEC, Georgia legislators met in a posh resort with corporate lawyers to decide their priorities for the next session.

Except for Bill Moyers on PBS, this is a topic the mainstream media won’t touch.

For a thorough and chilling review of ALEC’s plans to privatize education, see ALEC Exposed. ALEC loves charters and vouchers, hates unions, loves profits.

ALEC has model legislation, which legislators introduce into their states. It even has tax credit legislation, similar to the one that Governor Cuomo introduced in Néw York. It has already been adopted by several states to benefit private and religious schools.

One question that I have puzzled over again and again is why anyone who really cares about the quality of education would be a proponent of school choice, for example, vouchers for religious schools and charters run as a business. We have an abundance of evidence that these choices don’t usually produce better education. Children from low-performing schools are not being sent with public money to Exeter, Andover, Deerfield Academy, or Sidwell Friends. Instead, they are going to Backwoods Rural Evangelical Church or Mall Academy, which has few certified teachers, no curriculum, and teaches creationism; or they are going to Charter Schools, Inc., where profits matter more than education.


This article in Salon by Conor Lynch asserts that the GOP (and I would add, many Democrats who have been bamboozled as well) and corporate America (via ALEC) are complicit in the dumbing down of America. Some candidates, and he singles out Ted Cruz, willingly slander Harvard University (which he attended) as a haven for Communists (and I thought the days of McCarthyism were behind us) and ally themselves in opposition to the scientific evidence about climate change.


I have no beef with anyone’s religious beliefs as long as they leave me alone to practice my own religion (or not). But when religion and politics are intermixed, it is not a healthy blend.


Lynch writes:


Ted Cruz has already made it quite clear that, although he went to Harvard, he is as anti-intellectual as they come; embracing conspiracy theories and comparing the climate change consensus to the theological consensus of the geocentric model during the time of Galileo. Cruz has been adamantly opposed to the entire idea of climate change, and was recently named to be Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. Aside from promoting the conspiracy theory that Harvard law is a communist organization, he has promoted other conspiracies that are outright loony, like saying that George Soros was leading a global movement to abolish the game of golf.


Marco Rubio is also hostile to anything contradicting his faith, including climate change, while the leading contender for Republican nomination, Scott Walker, has taken the fight directly to academia, calling for major cuts in public university funding in Wisconsin that would add up to about $300 million over two years. He also just fired 57employees from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources this past Earth Day. Predictably, he doesn’t believe climate change is a big issue either, and possibly has the worst record on environment out of all of the candidates.


And so the Republican primaries will be full of the usual evangelical type preaching, damning abortion and calling their Democratic contenders “elitist” snobs, while brushing off those so-called “expert” climate scientists and their warnings. But you can only blame the politicians so much. When it comes down to it, this is simply what a big part of the population expects from their leaders — religious buffoons who embrace a paranoid style of politics; where experts and academics are looked down upon as disconnected and deceitful, and where faith in Jesus and the Bible is the ultimate guiding light. Where one is expected to go with their gut rather than their head, and where “professorial” is an insult. Anti-intellectualism is an American tradition, and these new contenders denying scientific facts and calling Harvard a communist institution are simply embracing a populace that individuals like Billy Sunday and Joseph McCarthy once embraced. The alliance of religion and big business has fully incorporated America’s unfortunate anti-intellectualist culture, which has resulted in millions of people voting against their interest because of their own ignorant hostility towards anything that could be deemed elitist. It is a cycle of ignorance and poverty, and it is exactly what the real elites, like billionaire oil men, aim for.


The American writer, Issac Asimov, once said, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Unfortunately, this thread has continued to this day, and individuals like Ted Cruz and Scott Walker are here to remind us that ignorance can be quite competitive with knowledge, as long as there’s money behind it.


Several governors have slashed spending on higher education–such as Douglas Ducey in Arizona, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. Why? Do they want to stop young Americans from learning about science and history? In some states, the expansion of charter schools is coupled with the abandonment of teacher credentials. The combination of vouchers to attend religious schools, lowered standards for entry to teaching, and budget cuts for higher education is ominous.

The Texas Legislature is so far out of touch with the needs of children and public schools that we can only hope the legislative session ends before any of the proposals for “reform” are enacted. The Texas Observer here gives an excellent overview of what is happening in Austin that might land on the heads of kids and public schools.

Throughout the legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has painted a dire portrait of hundreds of Texas public schools.

Currently, Patrick remarked during a March press conference, almost 150,000 students languish in nearly 300 failing schools across the state. He vowed to fix the problem.

The measures he championed include red-meat education reform proposals with appealing names: rating schools on an A-F scale; a state-run “opportunity school district” to oversee low-performing schools; a “parent empowerment” bill making it easier to close struggling schools or turn them into charters; expanding online classes (taxpayer funded, but often run by for-profit entities); and “taxpayer savings grants”—private school vouchers, effectively—to help students escape the woeful public system.

Patrick has long fought for many of these, but now that he holds one of the state’s most powerful offices it seemed, going into the session, that his reform agenda would be better positioned than ever before.

The president of Texans for Education Reform, Julie Linn, certainly believes so. She boasted in a January editorial about the potential for success under Patrick’s leadership. “The momentum is in place to make 2015 a banner year for education reform in Texas,” Linn wrote.

Teacher groups and public school advocates have a different take. As they see it, Patrick’s agenda is not a recipe for well-intended reforms but an attack on chronically underfunded public schools.

“There is a concerted, well-funded attempt to dismantle public education,” Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of the public school advocacy group Pastors for Texas Children, told the Observer in March. Johnson blamed elected officials who aim to “demonize and blame teachers and schools for the social ills and pathologies of our society at large.”

Patrick’s education proposals tap the reform zeitgeist that has increasingly gained political favor, both in Texas and nationally, during the last decade.
Patrick’s education proposals tap the reform zeitgeist that has increasingly gained political favor, both in Texas and nationally, during the last decade. From President Obama to presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz, education reform has created odd bedfellows, obscuring policy fault lines between Democrats and Republicans like perhaps no other issue.

Reform critics, though, point out that test scores have always closely tracked family income rather than school quality. They note how schools with high rates of poverty are more likely to be low-performing if the state uses test scores as the primary measuring stick. “The real problem,” Johnson said, “is that we don’t have the political will to assign those schools the resources they need.”

Regardless of where you stand in the debate, with less than two weeks left in the 84th Legislature we can begin to gauge the success of Patrick’s reform agenda, much of which is being carried by his successor as chair of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood).

Note how politicians like Dan Patrick, now in the powerful position of Lt. Governor, are quick to bash the public schools after having defunded them by billions of dollars. Patrick, a former radio talk show host of the right, loves vouchers. He apparently does not care that sending public money to religious schools does not improve educational opportunity, although it does weaken public schools.

Every proposal under consideration–like the parent trigger–has failed to make a difference anywhere. Every one of them is straight out of the far-right ALEC playbook.

A-F grading of schools, a Jeb Bush invention, is a typical useless reformster proposal. The letter grades reflect the socioeconomic status of the students in the school. Imagine if your child came home from school with a report that had one letter on it; you would be outraged. That is how crazy it is to think that an entire school can be given a letter grade; it is pointless and it does nothing to make schools better. Kids from affluent districts are miraculously in A schools, kids from poverty are in low-rated schools. What is the point of the grading other than to stigmatize schools that enroll poor kids and are typically under-resourced? I guess the point is to label them as failures so they can be privatized or the kids can get vouchers to go to backwoods religious schools where they will have an uncertified teacher and learn creation “science.”

Texans are a hardy bunch. Those who are fighting for public education have a steep uphill climb. But they won’t give up. They launched a bipartisan coalition to block the testing Vampire that was eating public education, and they can work together to save public education for the state’s children. It won’t be easy. But it matters to the future of the state.

Peter Greene fell for EduShyster, as everyone does. She can interview anyone, and she interviewed Peter Cunningham. Here’s Peter’s take.

He writes, for starters:

“I have now met Jennifer “Edushyster” Berkshire, and I totally get it. I don’t believe there is a human being on the planet who, upon sitting down with her, would not want to answer every question just to prolong the conversation and once you’re talking, well, lying to the woman would be like kicking a puppy.

“So it makes perfect sense that just about anybody would be willing to talk to her, even if she is on the Pro-Public Education side of the fence.

“She’s just put up an interview with Peter Cunningham, the former Arne Duncan wordifier who now runs Education Post, a pro-reformster political war room style rapid response operation (I knew I’d moved up in the blogging world when they took the time to spank me personally).

“I don’t imagine there are people who read this blog who do not also read Edushyster, but I’m going to keep linking/exhorting you to head over and check out this interview while I note a few of my own responses here.

“There are a couple of eyebrow-raisers in the interview that really underline the differences between the reformsters and the pro-public ed side of these debates. In particular, Cunningham notes that many reformsters feel isolated and under attack. When explaining how Broad approached him about starting EP, Cunningham says

“There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side.

“Organized?! Organized!!?? It is possible that Broad et al have simply misdiagnosed their problem. Because I’m pretty sure that the pro-public ed advocate world, at least the part of it that I’ve seen, is not organized at all. But we believe what we are writing, so much so that the vast majority of us do it for free in our spare time (I am eating a bag lunch at my desk as I type this), and we pass on the things we read that we agree with.

“In fact, it occurs to me that contrary to what one might expect, we are the people using the Free Market version of distributing ideas– we create, we put it out there, we let it sink or swim in the marketplace of ideas. Meanwhile, the reformsters try to mount some sort of Central Planning approach, where they pay people to come up with ideas, pay people to promote those ideas, pay people to write about those ideas, and try to buy the marketplace so that their products can be prominently displayed.

“It is the exact same mistake that they have brought to education reform– the inability to distinguish between the appearance of success and actual success. If students look like they are succeeding (i.e. scoring high on tests they’ve been carefully prepped for), then they must be learning. If it looks like everybody is talking about our ideas (i.e. we bought lots of website space and hired cool writers and graphics), then we must be winning hearts and minds.”

Money can’t buy you love.

A Florida legislator has proposed letting any child transfer to any public school in the state, as long as there is space available and their parents transport them. This smacks of an ALEC-style attack on communities and local control. This is not about improving education but satisfying choice ideologues. ALEC values free-market fundamentalism over community and local control. Will it improve education? No, but who cares?

The article appeared in the Florida Sun-Sentinel. It is behind a pay wall.

It says:

School choices could expand
Under plan, parents have option to send children to schools all over state

By Scott Travis Staff writer

Parents unhappy with their child’s local school soon could have a much wider range of new choices under a proposal that drops district boundary requirements.

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would allow students to attend any public school in the state that has space, as long as families are willing to provide their own transportation.

That could mean parents could leave D-rated Deerfield Park in Broward County and head four miles north to A-rated Addison Mizner Elementary in Boca Raton, which is part of the Palm Beach County School District.

Miami-Dade parents could move their children from D-rated Barbara Hawkins Elementary in Miami Gardens to A-rated Dolphin Bay Elementary in Miramar.

Students even could attend a school several counties away, as long as their parents can get them there.

“The money would follow the child,” said bill sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers. “This could be for a parent who works in a different county from where they live and wants to have their child close to them. Or if a parent thinks another school district has the best learning environment for their child.”

The bill, which passed the Senate Education Committee Thursday, would apply to public schools below 95 percent capacity. That’s most traditional schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have been losing students in recent years to charter schools. Parents also could choose charter schools in other counties if there is room.

About 23 states have similar policies, according to the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based policy group. In some cases they are limited to students who are low-income or are attending failing schools.

For Broward County, this would be an expansion of an existing school-choice policy. The district allows parents to send their children to any underenrolled public school within the county. Students who are attending a school outside their boundary can get busing only if it’s one of the district’s designated magnet or choice programs, such as the Nova schools and Pompano Beach High.

Sharon Aron Baron takes advantage of that policy. She lives in Tamarac but drives 20 miles each way to Parkland to drop off and pick up her children at Park Trails Elementary and Stoneman Douglas High. While she probably wouldn’t consider a school in another county, she supports the proposal.

“The students get the money from the state, so the state’s covering their education. I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said. “But I think the amount of people who would take advantage of it would be very slim.”

Palm Beach County School Board member Debra Robinson said she would be interested in the option as a parent and grandparent. But as a school official, she has concerns, including whether poor children would benefit without busing. “I wonder if we’re just adding more opportunity to a limited few, while pretending these are opportunities available for all,” she said.

Andrew Ladanowski, a Coral Springs parent who advocates for school choice, agrees that could create a dilemma. But he said providing transportation wouldn’t be a good option either.

“The more money we spend transporting students around town, the less money have that gets into the classroom,” he said.   or

A few days ago, I posted about a proposal by powerful Republicans to “reform” public education with a grab-bag of failed policies that punish public schools and demoralize teachers while creating a flow of public dollars to the private sector.


In this article, the brilliant and persistent Sara Stevenson explains the details of the proposal. Stevenson, a member of the blog’s honor roll, is a librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin. She has had more letters published in the Wall Street Journal than anyone I know. She believes in setting the record straight, and she believes in public education. That’s why this destructive proposal made her blood boil.


The bill could well have been written in ALEC’s corporate offices. It has everything on the corporate free-market wish list.


Stevenson writes:


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry
Taylor, R-Friendswood, delivered the terrible news last week: The
Senate education plan contains no financial help for school districts,
600 of which are already suing the state for inadequate and
inequitable funding. It offers no testing relief for students in
grades 3 through 8 who must sit for up to four hours at a stretch
taking multiple standardized tests.


Furthermore, their proposals are
merely warmed up, stale leftovers written by the American Legislative
Exchange Council, a corporation-funded group that emphasizes free
markets and limited government. Here’s a sample serving:


Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public schools.

A “parent trigger” law, which allows the majority of parents at
individual failing schools to petition for new management.

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses.

Tying teacher performance to compensation.

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle
school students.

Creation of a statewide district to manage failing schools.


The most dispiriting part of this education plan is that it proposes
absolutely nothing that will help educators with the serious charge of
preparing our young citizens for their adult lives. Our schools are
terribly underfunded. After the Texas Legislature cut $5.4 billion in
education dollars in 2011, Texas ranked 49th among the fifty states in
per pupil spending. Today we are spending less money per student than
we did ten years ago. How can the Legislature’s continued starving of
school districts help us with the very real challenges we face?


Less state funding for schools translates into larger class sizes,
fewer teaching assistants and painful cuts to electives, arts, PE,
libraries and clinics. Texas educators are willing to work hard in
daunting circumstances, but the more our legislators insult us with
unoriginal, ineffective schemes as they deprive us of necessary
resources, the more those of us with choices will flee our beloved
profession. The best teachers will refuse to work in an environment in
which they cannot be successful. I give this lazy, irresponsible
education plan a big, fat zero.”


Never mind that not one of these proposals is new or that not one of them has been successful anywhere.


Ideologues don’t care about evidence. The goal is to dismantle public education, a fundamental, essential institution of our democracy. In doing so, they override local control and funnel taxpayers’ dollars to entrepreneurs and religious institutions. There is not a shred of evidence that any of their proposals will improve education.


These men are not conservatives. Conservatives conserve. Conservatives don’t blow up community institutions. These men are radicals and anarchists, destroying heedlessly, mindlessly, zealously, without regard for the damage they do to the lives of children, families, educators, and communities.


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