Archives for category: ALEC

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia is pushing a constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over low-scoring public schools. He calls it an “opportunity school district” and points to New Orleans and the Tennessee Achievement School Districts as models. He brought called together a group of African-American ministers and asked for their support.

Here is the response from one of the attendees, who knew that neither New Orleans or the Tennessee ASD had helped the neediest students. Governor Deal couldn’t answer his questions, because the ALEC model legislation doesn’t explain why cessation of democracy helps schools or what to do after privatizing the schools and giving them to corporations.

Here is the report by Rev. Chester Ellis:

Governor’s Ministers Summoning Meeting was a School Takeover Sales Pitch
By Rev. Chester Ellis 912-257-2394
Pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia

Governor Nathan Deal is working hard to sell the voters on what he calls an Opportunity School District. But this is an opportunity that Georgia should not take.

Recently, The Governor made a pitch to twenty-nine African American ministers in the basement of the mansion. No media was present. But I was one of those ministers.

If Amendment One was about education and opportunity for our communities and children, we could at least hold a logical discussion about evidence-based solutions. As a retired educator and community activist, it is very clear to me that his Opportunity School District is not about education or the community. He has no plan or roadmap to improve schools.

Gov. Deal was looking for our support. He stated, “I need your help.” But we left with more questions than we had answers. It truly is a takeover, and one whose extent is clear to very few voters.

I was disappointed. I thought the Governor would be able to lay out his plan in detail to us. But, what I got from the Governor is he’s making it up as he goes. There’s really no plan. At best, it was guesswork.

Bishop Marvin L. Winans, who has a charter school in Detroit, was the first to speak to us. Brother Winans is a minister and an award winning Gospel singer. He does not live in Georgia. Marvin talked about why he had established his school in Detroit and why he thought it was a good idea that the Governor was willing to do something to help failing schools. But we didn’t have a chance to dialog with him, ask questions or shed light on anything here in Georgia for him. He left for a concert, almost as quickly as he appeared!

Afterwards, the Governor followed with a spiel about why he thought he needed to take over the schools and why the Black clergymen needed to be in support of Amendment 1, The Opportunity School District. He then opened the session up for questions.

I asked him, what is the student to teacher ratio per class of all the schools on your list for takeover? He said he did not have the answer to that question.

My rationale for asking that question was that research tells us ideal pupil to teacher ratio should be 18 to 1, and the further schools and classrooms go past that recommended ratio, the more they are setting students up for failure. Districts need resources to address that problem. The A plus Act of 2000 provided such resources. In fact, this Governor has taken more resources from our public schools. The governor added that he needed to do more research on that issue, so I invited him to do that and gave him some websites he could Google.

I also asked the Governor if all of the schools that are having trouble, as defined by him, are predominately African American schools. He replied, not so much, but that when they looked at schools that were failing they looked at schools that were in a cluster. And that the ministers summoned to the meeting were invited more for being in those identified clusters of schools.

One of my colleagues asked the Governor for the specifics of his Opportunity School District plan. Deal replied that he was using different models, and two of the models he mentioned were the Louisiana Recovery School District and the Tennessee Achievement School District models. Then the question was raised about both of those state’s backing away from the models because they failed to accomplish their achievement goals. In fact indicators prove that New Orleans is worse off now The Governor replied, “We are going to look at what they did wrong, and correct their mistakes so that ours will be right. You know, we have to do something, we are willing to try this and then if it doesn’t work, we are willing to work on what doesn’t work and straighten it out.” The problem with the Governor’s logic is that he is asking the voters to change the state’s constitution. We can’t back up if the voters do that!

The Governor says OSD is a “plan in the works”. . So I urged the Governor to use Massachusetts as a model rather than one from Tennessee or Louisiana, which have both failed.

According to a recent article in Education Week, scholars at the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation and Philadelphia-based Research in Action organization found that some states are proposing to mimic “opportunity school district” takeover models despite evidence that prototypes of these models have gone awry. The esteemed Education Week reports that imitating these models are not an appropriate prescription for providing support for schools that needs it.

Massachusetts put their plan in place with on the ground, in the classrooms education practitioners. . Legislators met with them and applied the educator’s advice and professional know how. They set out on a course working together and didn’t change the course until they got the results they were striving for. They are now one of the celebrated and better school systems in the country. I asked the Governor, why didn’t his planners and plans look at that type of successful model?

He replied, “It’s because of demographics.” I responded that clearly Massachusetts doesn’t look like Georgia but education isn’t rocket science …..It requires an understanding of what you are working with. I also referenced just one of many of our state’s successful public school model, Woodville Thompkins High School in Savannah. I’m a graduate of that school and I have worked since 2006 with that school and the community. As a result it is an award winning school in many disciplines.

For the last two years, Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career High School has had a 100 percent Graduation rate. They have also been cited as being one of the top 30 programs worldwide in Robotics. There is a way to turn schools around and it doesn’t require a Constitutional Amendment. I don’t see the need. It takes a little elbow grease and total involvement from parents, community and legislators to sustain evidence based solutions and models that are already working.

I don’t buy the Governor’s program or plans. He’s selling the public on a quick fix. I think the Governor has some friends who see education as a carte blanche card; something they can make money off of. It’s about the money, not about the children. The legislation doesn’t even define what a failing school is. The Governor has spent little or no time educating the public on the thirteen pages that compose all of the little devils in his plan per Senate Bill 133. He is spending lots of time though, selling his plan.

The Governor is a lame duck, yet he’s asking citizens to trust him blindly and give him all the power over their schools, public property, pocketbooks and children by changing the constitution.

I thanked the Governor for inviting me, but I told him before I left that there are too many uncertainties and too many unanswered questions to go before my congregation and say we should support this. I’m not comfortable with the Governor’s answers or his solutions. His Opportunity School District has no facts and no plans to improve schools. This is an opportunity that citizens can’t afford to take. It is all about the money. It’s just that simple.

Myra Blackmon is one of the most astute commentators on education in Georgia. She writes often for AthensOnline. In this column,she takes issue with the advocates for an “Opportunity School District,” which is on the ballot on November 8.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the state to take over schools with low test scores. It guts local control. As we have seen again and again, state takeovers have repeatedly failed, because the state doesn’t know more than the local school board. The Tennessee Achievement School District, which is a model for Georgia, has not produced any results in its four years of operation. The low-performing schools in the ASD are still low-performing, still eligible to be taken over yet again, but by whom? The Educational Achievement Authority in Michigan has been a disaster.

So why is Georgia following these failed examples? Well, eliminating local control is recommended by the far-right ALEC. ALEC’s goal is privatization, not “rescuing” poor kids.

The proponents of this measure claim that they will “rescue” poor kids from “failing schools,” the usual mantra of privatizers. But the claim is a hoax and a deliberate effort to deceive voters.

Blackmon writes:

These rescuers must have been living on another planet if they haven’t seen their proposed “solution,” a state takeover with no accountability, go down in shame all over the country. They tried it in New Orleans and gave up because it didn’t work. They’ve been trying it in Nashville, and the confiscated schools are doing worse than they were when their “rescue” began. They tried it in Detroit and 11 of the 14 schools that were “rescued” are still failing.

The so-called “Opportunity School District” is among the worst of a long string of dangerous ideas and policies forced on local school districts in Georgia. It is a power grab, pure and simple, moving control of local schools from those closest to them to an unaccountable gubernatorial appointee who, from on high in Atlanta, will dictate local education policies and practices.

The language both on the ballot and in the enabling legislation sounds like a plan for everyone to hold hands and happily work to improve education. But that’s a lie.

These self-styled rescuers of poor children want to turn education over to their buddies in the privatization movement. They want accountability for everyone but themselves.

Rescue, my eye. Keep our opportunities local. Vote “no” on Amendment 1.

Dora Taylor, parent activist in Seattle, describes that city’s battle to prevent the mayor from taking control of the public schools. She notes that the reason for mayoral control is to avoid the messy business of democracy, where parents and ordinary citizens get the opportunity to influence decisions about their schools and their children. Mayoral control and the establishment of state or local “emergency managers” are flimsy but powerful means of eliminating democracy and allowing politicians and elites to exert total control of decisions. Mayoral control and emergency managers clear the way for school closings and privatization. Parents don’t like school closings, but under mayoral control, schools are easily closed and replaced by charter schools.

Philadelphia, under the autocratic School Reform Commission, is constantly teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse, as the SRC closes schools, fires teachers, cuts costs, and opens charters. Its attempt to void the union contract was recently tossed out by the state supreme court. Philadelphia’s public schools have been stripped bare, while its charters are thriving (except the ones led by people who have been indicted).

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made history in an invidious way by closing 50 public schools in one day, claiming they were under enrolled, at the same time that he continued to open new charter schools.

One of the worst examples of the autocratic seizure of control occurred in Michigan under Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. She led the way to the establishment of an emergency financial manager for Detroit, under whose watch the district’s deficit tripled and charter schools proliferated. Detroit is now a worst case scenario, where there is plenty of choice, but none of them are good choices. The recent New York Times article about Detroit schools was titled, “A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift.”

Dora Taylor writes in The Progressive:

The most egregious example of a politician’s undemocratic control of public schools can be seen in the state of Michigan with the decision by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to hire Emergency Financial Managers. The emergency managers have the power to take control of a city’s government, reduce pay, outsource work, reorganize departments and modify employee contracts. Emergency managers can also deem school districts “failing,” close public schools and convert them into charter schools.

The first appointed emergency manager, Robert Bobb, took over the Detroit Public School system in 2009. The County Circuit Court in 2011 found this takeover illegal but soon after, emergency managers were appointed in mostly minority communities around the state, including the city of Flint. In several of these towns, such as Highland Park, Michigan the public schools were closed and taken over by charter operators.

Darnell Earley, the unelected manager of Flint, presided over the devastating decision to switch the city’s water supply to the Detroit River resulting in lead poisoning of residents throughout the city. After the water disaster, Mr. Earley was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to become the CEO of Detroit Public Schools.

Now the Emergency Managers are being named CEOs, as in Chicago, and given tremendous powers. These CEOs can:

Assume the financial and academic authority over multiple schools;

Assume the role of the locally elected school board for those schools they have been assigned;

Control school funds without the consent of the locally elected board;

Permanently close a school without the consent of the locally elected board;

Sell closed school buildings without the consent of the locally elected board; and

Convert schools into charter schools without the consent of the locally elected board.

The people have no voice or control over how their children are educated or by whom. The same holds true for mayoral control. That’s why, in Seattle, people are fighting back.

This is the kind of nondemocratic governance that organizations like ALEC love. Governor Rick Snyder loved it too, since it gave him control of so many districts. The emergency manager gambit blew up in his face when his own appointee, Darnell Early, was responsible for the decision to switch the water in Flint from a safe source to one that was not safe.

All of this matters because the fight for democracy is being waged in state after state. Georgia, for example, will decide in November, whether to allow a state commission to open charter schools against the wishes of the local community.

Let’s hope that former Governor Granholm recognizes that her decision to allow the appointment of emergency financial managers was a disaster. She is a member of Hillary Clinton’s transition team.

AARP represents millions of senior citizens. It lobbies to protect social security, health insurance, and every government program that helps its members. 

Yet AARP belongs to ALEC, the far-right organization that advocates elimination of government safety nets, privatization of government functions, and unfettered corporate action in pursuit of profit. 
Under pressure from unions (read the key letter below in link), AARP dropped out of ALEC. 

Politico reports: 

“At 3:32 p.m. Thursday afternoon, we reached out to AARP to ask them whether they were going to renew their membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a controversial conservative legislative group focus on state politics. We wrote that we were going to do an item about it. Groups like AFSCME, Social Security Works, and others were launching a campaign and had just begun circulating a letter, asking AARP to leave ALEC. At 5:58 p.m., Anna got an email from AARP saying, “We will not renew our membership to ALEC. AARP will continue to explore avenues that will enhance our interaction with organizations and elected officials that represent different perspectives in order to further the issues important to Americans 50+ and their families.” The letter that did it:

Puzzling. Why did it ever join?

Sheila Kennedy, professor of law at Indiana University, writes here about Mike Pence and his lapdog change of stripes since becoming Donald Trump’s veep candidate.

Pence drops his support for free trade and nuzzles Donald’s ear.

She writes:

Pence has always had close ties to ALEC and the Koch Brothers. Other positions he has taken since joining the Trump ticket, however, represent a dramatic change from previous postures. For example, Mr. Conspicuous Piety seems positively eager to support a twice-divorced, foul-mouthed, belligerent buffoon who models behaviors inconsistent with both the culture-war positions for which the Governor was previously known and the civility he actually practiced.

(Speaking of civility: For sheer chutzpah, its hard to top Pence’s recent criticism of Democrats for “name calling.” Psychiatrists have a word for that: projection.)

Mike Pence, candidate for vice-president, was the main attraction at the annual convention of ALEC, the extremist far-right legislative organization.

PR Watch reports:

The American Legislative Exchange Council will push bills to protect failing charter schools, silence political speech, and obstruct environmental protections in the ALEC 2016 agenda introduced at its annual meeting in Indianapolis this week.

ALEC faces renewed public attention as it gears up for the annual meeting, where corporate lobbyists sit side-by-side with state legislators in luxury hotels to vote as equals on “model bills” that then get pushed to become law in states across the country.

As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, Donald Trump chose an ALEC ally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, as his running mate, while his party’s 2016 platform was clearly stamped in the Koch-fueled ALEC mold.

Pence Pushed ALEC Agenda in the Hoosier State

As Governor, Pence appointed an ALEC staffer to his cabinet, and pushed parts of the ALEC agenda into law, such as anti-worker bills like repealing the prevailing wage and privatizing public schools in various ways. He even sent a letter to state legislators urging them to join ALEC, which is widely described as a corporate bill mill. ALEC is funded by Koch Industries, Peabody Energy, huge global tobacco and drug companies, and other corporations that pay a premium to access ALEC lawmakers.

The article appeared before the convention opened. But its predictions were on target.

To learn more about ALEC, read this website, ALEC Exposed.

One of ALEC’s primary goals is the privatization of public education. Pence has faithfully followed the ALEC script in pushing for charters and vouchers in Indiana.

Mike Pence is the most far-right candidate nominated for a national office in modern times.

He addressed the annual meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Executive Council, of which he is a member, and declared that he supported ALEC “before it was cool.”

ALEC is an extremist organization that is funded by major corporations and has 2,000 members who are mostly state legislators. It develops model legislation showing how to replace public schools with charters and vouchers, how to get rid of unions, how to get rid of teacher certification, how to get rid of teacher tenure. Its model legislation targets any and all regulations, including gun controls and the environment.

There is a website called ALEC Exposed that shows who belongs to ALEC, who funds it, and what its model legislation is.

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports on his blog Cloaking Inequity that the National NAACP passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charters.

Read the text of the resolution.

Delegates to the 2016 national convention of the NAACP in Cincinnati passed a resolution expressing their concern about the lack of public governance, the targeting of low-income communities of color, increased segregation, and harsh disciplinary policies associated with charter schools.

Do you think that the Walton family, ALEC, the hedge fund managers, Scott Walker, Pat McCrory, and every other Republican governor will stop claiming the mantle of the civil rights movement, now that their favorite “reform” policy has been denounced by the real civil rights movement?

I want to be super fair to Mike Pence. So I am introducing him by citing the Wikipedia entry about him, which is factual.

Note that he is proud to support the Tea Party. Note also his leadership of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, which is affiliated with the State Policy Network. The latter is a hard-right organization that supports charter schools and vouchers and opposes public sector unions. It is affiliated with ALEC, another hard-right group that wants to privatize public schools and eliminate teachers’ unions.

Pence, as we know, supported this agenda as governor. Many Indianans are happy to see him give up his chance to run again, giving them an opportunity to pick a better governor for their state.

In his zeal to reduce the power of government, Pence denies that smoking is dangerous to one’s health.

Pence also denies that climate change is a problem. He has said that “global warming is a myth.”

Maybe his function on the ticket is to make Trump look like a moderate by contrast.

Jack Hassard, emeritus professor of science education at Georgia State University, warns his fellow Georgians about a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will allow the state to cancel local control.

This is Governor Nathan Deal’s so-called “Opportunity School District,” modeled on Tennessee’s failed “Achievement School District.”

Read the language of the proposed amendment:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No

If we posit that the state of Georgia does not know how to improve student achievement in “chronically failing public schools,” then what is the amendment really proposing? Let the state take control of schools away from their local school district and give them to out-of-state corporate charter chains. Even though this was tried and failed in Tennessee, let’s do it in Georgia too.