Archives for category: ALEC

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics in California, writes frequently about school “reform,” aka school choice, as a substitute for adequate funding.

In this post, he explains the fraud of school choice and why billionaires and rightwing zealots promote it. To read it in full,as well as his kinks, open the full post.

He begins:

Birthed in the bowels of the 1950’s segregationist south, school choice has never been about improving education. It is about white supremacy, profiting off taxpayers, cutting taxes, selling market based solutions and financing religion. School choice ideology has a long dark history of dealing significant harm to public education.

Market Based Ideology

Milton Friedman first recommended school vouchers in a 1955 essay. In 2006, he was asked by a conservative group of legislators what he envisioned back then. PRWatch reports that he said, “It had nothing whatsoever to do with helping ‘indigent’ children; no, he explained to thunderous applause, vouchers were all about ‘abolishing the public school system.”’ [Emphasis added]

Market based ideologues are convinced that business is the superior model for school management. Starting with the infamous Regan era polemic, “A Nation at Risk,” the claim that “private business management is superior” has been a consistent theory of education reform promoted by corporate leaders like IBM’s Louis Gerstner, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Wal-Mart’s Walton family, Bloomberg LP’s founder, Michael Bloomberg and SunAmerica’s Eli Broad. It is a central tenet of both neoliberal and libertarian philosophy.

Charles Koch and his late brother David have spent lavishly promoting their libertarian beliefs. Inspired by Friedman’s doyen, Austrian Economist Friedrich Hayek, the brothers agreed that public education must be abolished.

To this and other ends like defeating climate change legislation, the Kochs created the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This lobbying organization has contributing members from throughout corporate America. ALEC writes model legislation and financially supports state politicians who promote their libertarian principles.

Like the Walton family and Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch promotes private school vouchers.

Floridians, and everyone else, want to know the answer to this question. Some believe that keeping schools open during a pandemic will destroy them; some fear that opening them during a pandemic will destroy them. Take your pick.

Thanks to Peter Greene, I discovered a Florida blog called Accountabaloney, written by two savvy Floridians who are fed-up with their state’s absurd education policies. Sue and Suzette, welcome!

They write here about a podcast by Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, questioning whether Betsy DeVos’s newfound enthusiasm for opening real public schools is another front in her war to destroy them.

Listening to the “In the Weeds” podcast, they realized that another con was happening:

Some will read the title and dismiss it as a conspiracy theory. That is exactly what we used to hear if we equated “ed reform” with privatization five or so years ago, when the education reformers were still hiding their desire to privatize public education. In Florida, they now make few attempts to conceal their mission. We hope you will read this summary, subscribe at Patreon, listen to the entire “In the Weeds” segment, and draw your own conclusions. Will the Covid pandemic be used fundamentally alter public education in Florida?…

Keep in mind, the Commissioner Corcoran is a strong proponent of “school choice” and privatization, pushing as both a legislator and as the commissioner for the expansion of charter schools and private school voucher programs. Shortly after he was appointed as commissioner, he was reported saying his goal was to move 2/3rd of Florida’s 2.7 million public school students into private options, envisioning a system where most students attended charter and private schools.

After calling for the campus closures of Florida’s public schools in response to the pandemic in March, at the April 1st State Board of Education meeting, Commissioner Corcoran praised Florida Virtual School (FLVS) for re-allocating $4.3 million of its reserve funding to purchase the servers necessary to expand its capacity be capable of serving the entire Florida student population (2.72 million). He suggested that, should the closures remain necessary, FLVS could serve the entire state’s virtual needs…

Shortly after his inauguration, Governor Ron DeSantis redefined public education saying “if it’s public dollars, it’s public education,” an idea celebrated by DeVos.

I’m so glad to read this post. Florida is very likely the worst, most corrupt state in the nation when it comes to education policy.

In this post, Tom Ultican takes a close look at the takeover and privatization of the Indianapolis school district, funded by billionaires and managed by a well-funded group called The Mind Trust (which, of course, claims to be deeply concerned about “civil rights,” while stripping parents of color of their right to elect a school board that represents them). By Ultican’s reckoning, nearly 64% of the students in Indianapolis now attend privately managed schools.

He writes:

With the introduction of Innovation schools in 2015, Indianapolis Public Schools quickly became the second most privatized taxpayer supported schools system in America. It has zoomed past Detroit and Washington DC in the privatization sweepstakes to only trail the poster child for disaster capitalism, New Orleans. The right wing billionaire funded organization, The Mind Trust, has played a major role in this outcome.

He provides a handy list of the major funders of this betrayal of the public trust. Leading the charge is the Lilly Endowment, with a donation of $22.7 million, followed by the City Fund (Reed Hastings and John Arnold) at $18 million. And there are other familiar names, well known in the disruption industry.

Ultican traces the history of the disruption/privatization industry in Indianapolis and finds that its origins can be traced to the far-right extremists of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers. You will not be surprised to learn that Teach for America and TNTP (the organization founded by Michelle Rhee) are integral to the privatization of Indianapolis’s schools. And Relay “Graduate School of Education” (the one with no real faculty or campuses or professors or researchers or library) is also in the mix.

Ultican reviews the sorry situation in Indianapolis, where disrupters have pulled the wool over the eyes of the public and the media with their dazzling sums of money, and he speculates about why billionaires are so devoted to undermining public schools and the teaching profession:

Why are billionaires spending so much to undermine professionalism in public education? It is probably not altruism. More likely, they want to reduce the biggest cost associated with education; teacher’s salaries. In the antebellum south, plantation owners preached anti-tax ideology because they owned the most and paid the most. Today’s billionaires aren’t much different. Most of them won’t put their children in public schools and really don’t value high quality public education. It seems the big motivation is to reduce tax burdens and simultaneously create new education industries.

In this powerful post, NBCT teacher Stuart Egan describes the calculated attack on democracy and social justice in North Carolina.

The state was once considered one of the most enlightened in the South. It is now one of the most regressive, taken down by the Tea Party, by a legislature dominated by ALEC, and by politicians determined to destroy opportunity for people of color and poor people.

Egan provides a timeline of North Carolina’s descent, which accelerated after the Tea Party capture of the General Assembly in 2010. Behind the scenes, big money pushed ALEC bills.

Egan writes:

That timeline is filled with actions that are calculated, highly crafted, delicately executed, and driven by dogma deliberately done to hurt public education and communities that rely on public schools. Each occurred before the May 16th, 2018 march in Raleigh.

Citizens United, you may remember, allowed for corporations and other entities to donate to political candidates. It gave rise to PACs and SUPERPACs. It’s why you now see an incredible amount of money in political races donated by people who have a vested interest in a race or candidate but cannot vote in that race.

HB17 was the legislation produced in a special session in December of 2016 right before Roy Cooper took office. It was a power grab that granted the incoming state superintendent, Mark Johnson, the most power any state super had ever had. Johnson might be the most unqualified person to ever hold the job. What ensued was a lawsuit between Johnson and the State Board of Education that lasted for 18 months. Ultimately, it cemented Johnson’s role as a puppet and led to DPI’s reorganization and reduction of personnel.

The Innovative School District is an educational reform that allows the state to select “poor” performing schools to be taken over by an out-of-state entity. In three years, it has only one school under its umbrella, but has gone through multiple leaders.

And then there was the Voter ID law, racially driven gerrymandered political maps, and the abolishment of automatically paycheck deductions for groups like NCAE. (Yes, the Voter ID law and the gerrymandered districting has been overruled, but we still as a state have not had an election cycle since both were overturned.)

It used to not be this way, but after the Great Recession of 2008 and the rise of a new wing of the Republican Party, a noticeable shift occurred in North Carolina politics. Decades ago, public education was championed by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Think of governors like Holshousher and Martin and you will see a commitment to funding public education like NC saw with Sanford, Hunt, and Easley. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.

That unification is not there anymore. And it wasn’t caused by public education or its advocates. It was planted, fed, fostered, and championed by those who came to power after the Great Recession. These are not Eisenhower Republicans or Reagan Republicans; they are ALEC Republicans whose sole purpose is to politicize all things and try and privatize as many public goods as possible. And on a state level, nothing is more of a public good than public schools.

They have been very adept at combining racial and social issues with public education to make it hard not only to compartmentalize each through legislation, but easy to exploit how much social and racial issues are tied to public education without people thinking they are interlinked. Laws and mandates like HB2, the Voter ID Law, the gerrymandered districts, and the attempted judicial system overhaul have as much to do with the health of public schools as any other factor.

When you keep people from being able to vote, you affect public education. When you keep people below the poverty line, you affect public education. When you gerrymander districts along racial lines, you affect public education. You cannot separate them exclusively. And we have lawmakers in power who know that very well. It’s why when you advocate for public schools, you must be aware of social and racial issues and be willing to fight along those lines.

Public school advocacy that was “successful” before 2008 will not work as effectively in 2020. No ALEC aligned politician who is in a right to work state that outlaws collective bargaining is going to “work with” advocacy groups like NCAE.

For NCAE and other groups to truly advocate for public schools, they must fight for issues outside of school rooms that affect the very students, teachers, and staff who come into those school rooms.

By every measure, North Carolina has regressed and opposed equity and democracy.

For example, “Now name the only state in the country with the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated voucher and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth. North Carolina.“

The legislators who have passed regressive laws are not interested in dialogue or reason. They knew exactly what they were doing. They don’t negotiate. They don’t listen. They must be voted out of office.

 

This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.

Perhaps you have been confused by the proliferation of organizations that claim to be all about fixing schools and teachers. Perhaps you can’t figure out who is who in the galaxy of billionaire-funded world of fake reformers.

Buy this reference book! It names names! It is the glossary you have been waiting for!

EDSPEAK AND DOUBLETALK: A Glossary to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling.

It was written by Nancy Bailey and me. It is published by Teachers College Press. Not only does it have a definitive deconstruction of reform blarney and baloney, but it will be continuously updated online as the billionaires spin out new AstroTurf groups and impose new fads and terrible ideas on the schools and the teaching profession.

Confession: Nancy and I have never met face to face. We met by reading each other’s commentaries about the fraudulent language now current in education. We emailed. I invited her to help me rewrite “Edspeak,” a now dated and obsolete glossary that I had published in 2006. She threw herself and her deep classroom experience into the task. I was the beneficiary of her wisdom and her keen eye for phoniness.

All of the royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the Network for Public Education. Nancy and I look forward to meeting at the NPE conference in Philadelphia in late March.

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.