Archives for category: ALEC

Politico reports that Betsy DeVos thanked her ideological bedfellow, ALEC, for its help in framing proposals to defund public schools (aka vouchers, opportunity scholarships, tax credits, education savings accounts, a rose by any other name, etc.).

ALEC is the far-right extremist libertarian organization that hates public schools, gun control, unions, environmental regulations, and anything else that infringes on the right of corporations to pursue profits without regard to consequences. ALEC is also a strong supporter of charter schools.

 

DEVOS IS SCHEDULED TO THANK ALEC FOR EDUCATION FREEDOM SCHOLARSHIP SUPPORT in a speech to the council’s conference in Arizona today, the Education Department said. The proposal, which has found little traction in Congress, would create a new $5 billion federal tax credit for donations to scholarship-granting organizations to pay for students to attend private schools or expand their public education options.

DeVos is a longtime friend to ALEC’s group of conservative state legislators. The secretary’s addressed the group’s conferences before, and drawn protests with a push for local control of education issues.

Arizona unionists have planned extended protests at ALEC’s conference, and have been aware that DeVos would be visiting.

NBCT high school teacher and blogger Justin Parmenter discovered a shocking fact: a company in the state called SAS pays to send state legislators to the annual conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a far-right anti-public school organization that writes model legislation. SAS sells software to districts and states to evaluate teacher effectiveness.  The SAS software is very controversial because it’s algorithms are secret and proprietary. Teachers in Houston sued and won a court judgement against SAS, when the judge ruled that its secret processes were arbitrary and denied due process to teachers, who had no way to know how they were judged or if the calculations were accurate.

Parmenter writes:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an infamous legislation factory which is notoriously hostile toward traditional public schools.  Its model bills are passed into law–often word for word–by state legislatures around the country.

ALEC’s education platform claims the nation’s K-12 education system is “failing our students, leaving them unprepared for college, careers, or life,” and the policies the organization writes for lawmakers offer a smorgasbord of legislative pathways for defunding public schools, especially those that serve high-poverty students.

That’s why it’s so disappointing to learn that one of North Carolina K-12 public education’s most high-profile partners, SAS Institute, is paying for members of North Carolina’s General Assembly to travel to ALEC’s annual meetings, where viewing and discussing the group’s suggested anti-public school policies is one of the primary activities.

SAS Institute is a privately held analytics software company based in Cary, NC.  Its founder and CEO James Goodnight’s net worth is estimated at more than $13 billion, making him the richest person in North Carolina by a wide margin.

SAS has an extremely cozy relationship with the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI).  Just last month, for example, SAS hosted an event where company software specialists and professional educators including DPI Deputy Superintendent of District Support Dr. Beverly Emory presented on how to use SAS data in public schools.

Millions of North Carolina taxpayer dollars go to SAS every year for a variety of software-related education contracts.  The company provides K-12 teachers with EVAAS ratings, which employ a secret algorithm to measure individual teachers’ effectiveness using DPI’s standardized test data.  It also produces the North Carolina School Report Cards.

North Carolina’s School Report Cards assign each school a single A-F letter grade representing its overall performance. The report cards have been controversial since state legislators introduced them in 2013 as the grades are highly correlated with levels of poverty and sometimes have the effect of pushing families away from traditional public schools.

Probably not by coincidence, ALEC has been peddling its “A-Plus Literacy Act” to lawmakers since early 2011.  The model bill recommends a statewide A-F school report card system with a special focus on reporting results for students who score in the lowest 25th percentile, and it refers to the grading system as a “lynchpin for reforms.”  One such reform is also included in the bill, as ALEC recommends students who attend F schools be given an opportunity to enroll in private schools instead.

A cozy arrangement indeed!

Gay Adelmann, the mother of a recent graduate of the Jefferson County Public Schools, writes here to explain why voters in Kentucky should get rid of Matt Bevin and elect Andy Beshear as Governor.

She writes:

“During Kentucky’s past two legislative sessions, Gov. Matt Bevin lashed out at the record numbers of teachers descending upon Frankfort. But teachers are not the only ones who have been showing up in opposition to his attacks on public education. Many of us are also parents, retired teachers, students, business and community leaders, allied laborers and taxpayers. Our teachers are also taxpayers and often parents, after all. 

“We aren’t just standing up for teachers’ pay or pensions, either. We are also pushing back on Bevin’s draconian education policies, inspired by wealthy elites like the Koch Brothers and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. His solutions involve implementing the American Legislative Exchange Council’s carefully orchestrated schemes to underfund and undermine Kentucky’s public schools, turn our “persistently low-achieving” schools over to outside operators and drastically cut teacher compensation and benefits. This will not only destroy our public schools, it will further displace students (especially our “gap” students), and disenfranchise families across this commonwealth. Unfortunately, this austerity experiment comes at the expense of our community’s most vulnerable children and on Jefferson County taxpayers’ dime…

“Shortly after the 2015 election, Bevin declared, “We’re going to bring charter schools to Kentucky, and we’re going to start in west Louisville.” As a parent of a student in a “low-performing” West End school, this statement set off alarm bells for me. You see, my son’s school has long been the target of charter school wannabes. The entire time my son was in the aviation magnet at The Academy @ Shawnee, our building leaders and teachers lived under Jefferson County Public Schools’ former superintendent’s constant threat of “state takeover.” This often resulted in one failed change-for-the-sake-of-change maneuver after another, further making Shawnee a sitting duck for charter school sharpshooters…

”As a parent and taxpayer, I’m asking Jefferson County voters to stand with other public school parents, teachers and taxpayers and say “no” to four more years of out-of-touch, destructive education policy from the Bevin administration. Vote for Andy Beshear on Nov. 5.”

 

 

 

Cathy Frye is a veteran journalist who joined the staff of the Arkansas Public Schools Resource Center as communications director for three years. She learned that APSRC was a shell organization funded by the billionaire Waltons to trick rural schools into joining the Walton crusade to eliminate public schools.

In this post, Frye names names.

She begins:

Tonight, I am sharing a Who’s Who in the Arkansas education “reform” movement.

First – a reminder: The end game is not charterization. It is privatization. Charter schools are merely a bridge. Look at them as place-holders.

The Arkansas Public School Resource Center, where I worked for three years as the communications director, purports to support both open-enrollment charter schools and rural traditional school districts. In actuality, APSRC is one of many Arkansas-based and Walton-funded lobbying entities.  Some of these organizations specialize in charters. Others exist to promote private schools and vouchers. One seeks to convince teachers that they don’t need to belong to unions. A couple others promote the alleged glories of school “choice.”

Here’s a list of such organizations:

Remember, Arkansas is not the only state being targeted by American billionaires who seek to do away with public education and those pesky teachers’ unions. The Waltons are among those leading the charge. Curious, isn’t it, that the Waltons and other billionaires who are supposedly concerned about education haven’t donated a dime to public schools. Instead, they’re focused on supporting charters and private schools. 

 

Andy Spears, editor of the Tennessee Education Report, says that Tennessee should learn from Alabama’s mistakes when authorizing charter schools.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee wants to disrupt public schools and throw open the public treasury to anyone who wants to open a charter school. He wants charters to open without the approval of local school districts, a recipe for disruption and an attack on local control.

Andy Spears writes:

Look to Alabama to see what happens.

Here’s more from the Alabama Political Reporter:

Woodland Prep is a charter school horror story — and it hasn’t even been built yet.

Located in rural Washington County, Woodland Prep, which will open as a K-7 school this fall and add a grade level each year, is everything state leaders assured us could never happen under Alabama’s charter school laws.

Its land is owned by a shady Utah holding company. Its building is owned by a for-profit Arizona company. It will be managed by a for-profit Texas company that doesn’t employ a single Alabamian. It will pay the head of that management company around $300,000 per year — up front. Its application was rejected by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, which Alabama pays a hefty sum to review and approve charter applications. Woodland’s management plan failed to meet basic standards for approval in any of the three plan areas reviewed by NACSA.

In spite of all of those concerns, Woodland Prep was approved by the Alabama Charter School Commission — a board similar to the one envisioned by Lee and his legislative supporters for authorizing charters in Tennessee.

Governor Lee is following orders from ALEC and Betsy DeVos. He does not have the best interests of the children of Tennessee at heart.

 

 

Mike Petrilli, president of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute, published a report about the “dramatic achievement gains” of the 1990s and 2000s. 

Surprisingly, he attributes most of these gains to improving economic conditions for poor families of color, not to standards, testing, and accountability, a cause that TBF has championed for years. But, not to worry, TBF has not changed its stripes, dropped out of ALEC, and joined forces with those who say that poverty is the main cause of low test scores.

So, I give Mike credit for acknowledging that improved economic conditions and increased spending had a very important effect on student academic performance. But he can’t bring himself to say that the accountability policies of NCLB and Race to the Top were poisonous and harmful, and that Common Core was a complete bust. He seems to be straining to find examples of states where he thinks high-stakes testing and school choice really were positive.

My first thought as I reviewed his data on rising achievement was that all these graphs looked very familiar.  Yes, they were in most cases the graphs (updated to 2017) appeared in my book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (2013). I used these graphs to debunk the Corporate Reformers’ phony claim that America’s public schools were failing.  I cited NAEP data to show the dramatic test score gains for African-American and Hispanic students. I argued in 2013 that test scores had risen dramatically, that graduation rates were at a historic high, that dropout rates were at an all-time low.

The data, I said, demonstrate the hoax of the Reformers’ narrative. Despite underfunding, despite an increased number of students who were English learners, despite numerous obstacles, the public schools were succeeding. Most of the gains occurred prior to enactment and implementation of No Child Left Behind.

Now, to my delight, I find that Petrilli seems to agree. He even admits that the decade from 2007-2017 was a “lost decade,” when scores on NAEP went flat and in some cases declined. Yet, despite his own evidence, he is unwilling to abandon high-stakes testing, charter schools, vouchers, and Common Core. How could he? TBF has been a chief advocate for such policies. I don’t expect that Mike Petrilli will join the Network for Public Education. I don’t expect him to endorse new measures to address outrageous income inequality and wealth inequality, though I think he should, based on his own evidence. And I doubt very much that TBF will withdraw as a member of the fringe-right, DeVos-and-Koch-funded ALEC.

Mercedes Schneider has a sharp analysis of Petrilli’s almost “mea culpa.”

She does not forgive him for serving as a loud cheerleader for Common Core, testifying to its merit even in states that had standards that were far superior to those of CCSS.

The title of her post sums up her distaste for his newfound insight that “poverty matters.”

“Common Core Salesman Michael Petrilli: *Economics Affect NAEP, But Stay the Ed-Reform Course.”

She does not forget nor forgive TBF’s ardent advocacy for the ineffectual Common Core Standards. She refers to TBF as “Common Core Opportunists.”

Schneider accuses Petrilli of cherry-picking the data so that he can eke out some credit for standards-testing-accountability by overlooking the irrelevance of CCSS and the big gains before the era of Corporate Reform:

Moreover, for as much as Petrilli pushed CCSS in its 2010 – 2013 heyday, he is notably silent on the CCSS lack of connection in his October 2019 NAEP score analysis. Petrilli only mentions CCSS one time, and there is certainly no encouragement to further examine any connection between his Gates-purchased CCSS push and NAEP subgroup scores.

Petrilli had yet another opportunity to do so in his 2017 “Lost Decade” piece about NAEP scores from 2007 to 2017, which Petrilli links to in his October 2019 report. No mention of CCSS at all.

It is noteworthy that Petrilli’s “lost decade” begins with 2007, the year that NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized, but lawmakers could not seem to make that happen; the bipartisan honeymoon that produced NCLB had apparently ended.

NAEP scores soared prior to NCLB and continued to do so for several years after NCLB authorization in 2001, but then came a leveling off, and for all of TBF’s selling of a CCSS, the NAEP “lost decade” continued.

Petrilli does not bother to consider whether the standards-and assessments push has negatively impacted NAEP scores. Instead, he assumes that pre-NCLB IASA was the beginning of “the real revolution.”

No word why that standards-and-testing “revolution” has not continued to raise NAEP scores even though standards-and assessments continue to be the end-all, be-all of American K12 education.

However, in convoluted and contradictory fashion, Petrilli does include standards and assessments in the NAEP-subgroup-score-raising “secret sauce,” even though he has already spent the bulk of his argument justifying the mid-1990-to-2010 NAEP subgroup-score rise as related to improved economic conditions for school children.

So, NAEP subgroup score rises appear to be correlated with socioeconomics, but a slice of credit must also go to the standards-and-assessments push, but not beginning with NCLB, sooner than that– 1994– but let’s ignore rising NAEP scores of Black students in the 1970s and 1980s.

Schneider contrasts Petrilli’s newfound appreciation for the importance of economic conditions with his deeply ingrained commitment to the Bush-Obama “test-and-punish” regime, in an article published just a few weeks ago:

Here’s Petrilli again, this time from September 23, 2019, Phi Delta Kappan, in a piece entitled, “Stay the Course on Standards and Accountability”:

So what kind of changes do we now hope to see in practice?

Here’s how we might put it: By raising standards and making the state assessments tougher, we hope that teachers will raise their expectations for their students. That means pitching their instruction at a higher level, giving assignments that ask children to stretch, and lengthening the school day or year for kids who need more time to reach the higher standards.

Gotta love the “we.” Must be the royal “we” because it sure is not “we” as in “we who work directly with children.”

For all of his promotion of “accountability,” Petrilli is accountable to no one– a hypocrisy with which he is apparently comfortable enough to “stay the course.”

 

 

 

 

Hedge fund managers decided in 2005 that the best way to advance the charter school idea was to create a faux organization called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), then to funnel campaign cash to Democratic candidates who promised to support charter schools. This worked for a time. Senator Barack Obama spoke at the inaugural meeting of DFER at a penthouse in Manhattan filled with Wall Street types. When Obama was elected, DFER recommended Arne Duncan to be Secretary of Education, and Obama picked him over the highly qualified Linda Darling-Hammond, who had been his spokesperson during the campaign.

But some Democrats realized that DFER was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Democratic Party of California passed a resolution demanding that DFER drop the D because it was a front for corporate interests. The Democratic party of Colorado also passed a resolution denouncing DFER.

In 2016, DFER supported a referendum in Massachusetts to expand the number of charter schools, in company with the Waltons and big Republican donors. The charter campaign went down to a crashing defeat, after charters were denounced by the state Democratic Party and almost every school district committee in the state. The only demographic that supported the expansion of charters was members of the Republican Party.

Today, the loudest champion of charter schools is Betsy DeVos. The biggest allies of the charter movement are Republican governors and legislatures.

Sensing the change in the air, recognizing that charter schools now belong to ALEC and DeVos, almost every  Democratic candidate for President has steered clear of charter schools. Bernie Sanders endorsed the NAACP call for a moratorium on new charters.

But wait! DFER has commissioned a poll to demonstrate that Democrats actually favor charters!

Peter Greene says the poll is baloney. He explains it here. His advice: Ignore it.

Steven Singer has written recently about the origins of charter schools. He insists that Albert Shanker, president of the AFT, was not their father.

The real fathers of this first big step towards privatization, he writes, were Ted Kolderie and Joe Nathan of Minnesota, who wrote the nation’s first charter school law and opened the door wide for entrepreneurs, grifters, and attacks on unions.

Singer is a flame-thrower in this post, because he has come to see that behind the “progressive” facade of charters lurks Betsy DeVos, the Walton Family, the Koch brothers, ALEC, and a galaxy of public school haters.

He begins:

If bad ideas can be said to have fathers, then charter schools have two.

And I’m not talking about greed and racism.

No, I mean two flesh and blood men who did more than any others to give this terrible idea life – Minnesota ideologues Ted Kolderie, 89, and Joe Nathan, 71.

In my article “Charter Schools Were Never a Good Idea. They Were a Corporate Plot All Along,” I wrote about Kolderie’s role but neglected to mention Nathan’s.

And of the two men, Nathan has actually commented on this blog.

He flamed on your humble narrator when I dared to say that charter schools and voucher schools are virtually identical.

I guess he didn’t like me connecting “liberal” charters with “conservative” vouchers. And in the years since, with Trump’s universally hated Billionaire Education Secretary Betsy Devos assuming the face of both regressive policies, he was right to fear the public relations nightmare for his brainchild, the charter school.

It’s kind of amazing that these two white men tried to convince scores of minorities that giving up self-governance of their children’s schools is in their own best interests, that children of color don’t need the same services white kids routinely get at their neighborhood public schools and that letting appointed bureaucrats decide whether your child actually gets to enroll in their school is somehow school choice!

But now that Nathan and Kolderie’s progeny policy initiative is waning in popularity, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter are calling for moratoriums on new charters and even progressive politicians are calling for legislative oversight, it’s important that people know exactly who is responsible for this monster.

And more than anyone else, that’s Kolderie and Nathan.

Over the last three decades, Nathan has made a career of sabotaging authentic public schools while pushing for school privatization.

He is director of the Center for School Change, a Minneapolis charter school cheerleading organization, that’s received at least $1,317,813 in grants to undermine neighborhood schools and replace them with fly-by-night privatized monstrosities.

He’s written extensively in newspapers around the country and nationwide magazines and Websites like the Huffington Post.

Read it all. Joe Nathan has frequently commented on this blog, defending charters as just a different kind of public school. I disagree vigorously because it is obvious by now that charters have become vehicles for busting unions (more than 90% are non-union), charters are more segregated than public schools (especially in Minnesota, where there are charters specifically for children of different ethnic and racial groups), and they remove democratic control in communities of color. The proliferation of corporate charter chains adds to their reputation as destroyers of democracy.

Bottom line is that Walton money, Koch money, DeVos money is not meant to advance public education but to eliminate it.

There is a reason that the Democratic candidates for president are distancing themselves from the charter idea. They understand that they can’t support the DeVos agenda. Betsy did us all a favor by removing the mask.

This is a fascinating article by Mary Tuma, published by the Austin Chronicle about the annual meeting of ALEC in Austin, the liberal city in the heart of red red Texas. ALEC–the American Legislative Exchange Council–is a hotbed of rightwing politics, funded by the Koch brothers, Betsy DeVos, major corporations, and other malefactors of vast wealth. (If you want to learn more about ALEC, read Gordon Lafer’s compelling book The One-Percent Solution.)

The 15-foot-tall fat cat clutches his money bag in one paw and the working man’s throat in the other. (Photo by John Anderson)
“Hey hey, ho ho, corporate lobbyists have got to go!” chanted around 100 labor, immigrant, environmental, disability, and social justice advocates outside the JW Marriott Hotel Downtown on Wed., Aug. 14. “Hey, ALEC, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side!” they later continued. The protesters stood alongside a 15-foot, cigar­-chomping, inflatable cat wearing a pinstriped suit – with one paw he held a construction worker by the throat; with the other, he grasped a bag of cash. The “unwelcome reception,” organized by Progress Texas and joined by a coalition of advocacy groups, rallied against what was gathering inside the high-end hotel: the 46th annual American Legislative Exchange Council conference.

Better known as ALEC, the group markets itself as “America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” Gaining public notoriety in the past decade, the group has been around since 1973. According to investigations into the shadowy organization, ALEC is a corporate-backed group with ties to the right-wing Koch Brothers network that drafts “model policy” for member legislators to use as their own at their statehouses.

While keeping members’ identities secret, ALEC claims “one-quarter of the country’s state legislators” participate in its efforts. The “corporate bill mill,” as described by watchdog groups, is behind controversial “Stand Your Ground” gun laws and measures that limit workers’ rights and health care access. With Reaganomics icon Arthur Laffer as a celebrated ALEC scholar, the group supports corporate tax breaks, the privatization of public services (from education to prisons), and voter suppression policies.

Activists laid out the charges against ALEC at the Downtown protest. “Hijacking the legislative process to serve corporate interests and right-wing billionaires is not welcome in Texas,” said Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Montserrat Garibay. “ALEC has promoted far-right agendas on the environment, health care, disability rights, voting rights, immigration, and on other issues that we address every day in a quest to build a better Texas. They are a secretive, partisan shadow group. And this week, ALEC is in Austin working behind closed doors to hatch more bad bills.”

Montserrat Garibay (Photo by John Anderson)
Heiwa Salovitz with ADAPT of Texas criticized the group’s attacks on Medicare and Medicaid and its push for a rollback of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “We need to make sure ALEC knows they’re not welcome in Austin, and they’re not welcome in our Capitol,” he said. Jorge Lopez with the Workers Defense Project recounted his traumatic experience in a privately owned Texas detention center (major detention operators CoreCivic and GEO Group are longtime ALEC backers). Anne White Hat, leader of a campaign to stop the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in south Louisiana, told the crowd she’s one of the first people to be charged under ALEC-model laws “criminalizing” environmental and anti-pipeline protests. “I’m standing here and fighting for my life – I’m facing 10 years in prison,” said White Hat.

Council Member Greg Casar noted the symbolism of ALEC’s meeting at the JW Marriott, where workers accused the developer of underpaying them in 2013, as a reflection of ALEC’s battle against the labor movement. He told the crowd, “ALEC is not a bunch of elected officials, ALEC is the corporate special interests that see the best way of making money as trampling on every worker’s rights, every civil right, and trampling on the planet. They are not elected officials, they are just the puppets of these corporations that pick and choose to extract their profit.”

Greg Casar (Photo by John Anderson)
In scorching 100-degree heat, the activists marched along Second Street and blocked shuttles transporting ALEC attendees in front of the JW Marriott garage. “Human need over corporate greed!” they repeated. Eventually, several police officers – who had been trailing the peaceful protest – cleared the way for the vehicles, but that didn’t stop activists from continuing their march along the street.

Read this article by E.J. Montini in the Arizona Republic to learn how the Koch-funded ALEC controls Governor Doug Ducey and the state legislature in Arizona. ALEC was behind the voucher legislation that was overturned by voters earlier this year.

He writes:

About 30 of Arizona’s Republican state lawmakers, along with Gov. Doug Ducey, attended the annual convention of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Austin, Texas, this month.

For the politicians, membership in ALEC is like joining one of those meal kit delivery services, only in this case lawmakers are presented with ready-made, easy to introduce legislation guaranteed to satisfy the special interests who came up with the political recipes, and to give regular citizens indigestion.

Earlier this year an investigation by USA Today, the Arizona Republic, and the Center for Public Integrity found that from 2010 to 2018, bills based on ALEC legislation were introduced nearly 2,900 times across all 50 states.

Arizona ranked second among states for the highest number of ALEC bills introduced and passed during those years, with more than 200 bills introduced and 57 enacted. Only Mississippi had more.

‘Chefs’ are lobbyists and executives

ALEC is the HelloFresh of politics, except what they cook up isn’t good for you. Instead the group produces ready-to-introduce legislation for politicians more interested in serving special interests and promoting their own careers than in serving their constituency