Archives for category: ALEC

The anti-teacher, anti-public school movie “Won’t Back Down” was released into 2,500 movie theaters (owned by its producer Walden Media) and died a quick and ignominious death. Despite massive advance publicity at NBC’s “Education Nation” and a CBS promotion, despite Michelle Rhee hosting screenings at both national political conventions, despite attention on the “Ellen” show, the film had one of the worst opening weekends in recent history. The critics ridiculed it, and within four weeks, the film had disappeared.

It became a dead film, but it lives on as a zombie film. Its producers Philip Anschutz and Rupert Murdoch never expected to make money. They are billionaires, and they didn’t care about the box office receipts. They wanted their propaganda film to persuade people that teachers are lazy, that unions are evil, and that parents must seize control of their school and hand it over to a charter corporation.

Their goal was nothing short of privatization of public education.

So now they have taken their dud and, with the help of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are showing it to legislators in conservative states, hoping to keep their campaign alive with a zombie film that died months ago.

Call it the ALEC road show.

You know who Rupert Murdoch is. He is the man who owns Fox News and many publications and is now embroiled in a scandal in Great Britain, where his reporters hacked into the telephones of scores of people, including a dead teenage girl.

Maybe you don’t know much about Philip Anschutz, who owns Walden Media. He has been a successful movie producer (“Chronicles of Narnia,” among others). His energy company is very involved in the controversial practice of hydrofracking in many parts of he nation, which environmentalists oppose. He contributes generously to libertarian, anti-government think tanks. He supported anti-gay campaigns in Colorado and California.

Ball State University terminated three low-performing charter schools, but not to worry. More are on the way.

Despite the lack of demand, the state board of education invited charter school Carpe Diem to come to Fort Wayne. As veteran Fort Wayne journalist Karen Francisco put it, “Indiana supporters of corporate education reform are determined to force a charter school on Fort Wayne– whether the community wants one or not.”

The state charter board will hold a “hearing,” but apparently the most interested party is the charter’s prospective landlord. Read the article to see all the really cool connections between the charter board, the landlord, and politicians.

Carpe Diem is heavily dependent on computers, has very large class sizes, and is reportedly a favorite of ALEC.

Another step backward for American education.

Just an hour ago, I posted the story about how officials at the Tennessee Virtual Academy had instructed teachers to delete failing grades, allegedly to show “progress.”

The virtual school, run by the for-profit K12 corporation, is among the lowest-performing schools in the state.

This afternoon a state legislative committee blocked any discussion of the school altering grades and prevented efforts to limit enrollment in the school. Although the legislators refused to hear any reference to the school’s practice of deleting failing grades, they did hear a teacher who claimed that home instruction on a computer was a very positive experience for children with autism.

The legislators gave the virtual school an additional two years with no accountability, despite its poor academic performance.

The school gets about $5,000 per pupil and enrolls more than 3,000 students. It is known for its astute lobbying and well-targeted campaign contributions.

Another step backward for American education.

The Tennessee Legislature is rushing to pass legislation that would allow charters to apply to the state to get authorization, instead of the local school board. As noted in an earlier post, the legislation would apply only to Nashville and Memphis.

Note the rationale for targeting these two districts: they already have the most charter schools, so they of course need many more and the state must do it, not the local board.

This legislation–gutting local control–comes right out of the ALEC playbook, which considers privatization to be a higher value than local control. This is evidence not of conservatism–which respects local control–but of radicalism in the service of corporate interests.

ALEC pushed through the same idea as a constitutional amendment in Georgia, and big-money came from the Waltons and others interested in increasing privatization while claiming they are doing it “for the children.”


The Republican super-majority in the Tennessee legislature introduced legislation to strip away the the power of the school boards in Memphis (Shelby County) and Nashville to authorize charter schools.

The power would be moved to a state authority.

This move is retaliation against the Metro Nashville school board, which rejected an application from the Great Hearts charter school academy of Arizona. The school board rejected Great Hearts four times! The problem was that Great Hearts wanted to open in a mostly white, affluent neighborhood and had inadequate plans for student diversity.

In an exposé in the Arizona Republic a few months ago, Great Hearts was singled out for dubious financial self-dealing. See here and here. Arizona blogger David Safier reported last fall that Great Hearts expects each family to make a contribution of at least $1500 to defray costs.

Metro Nashville decided it didn’t want Great Hearts to open in its district.

Nashville’s insistence on turning down this particular application infuriated State Commissioner Kevin Huffman (whose prior experience is limited solely to TFA). Huffman withheld $3.4 million that the state owed to Nashville. The governor and legislators were angry too that Nashville acted to exercise local control. They are now talking about vouchers.

Huffman and the state’s far-right Governor and legislature are determined to privatize as many schools as possible as quickly as possible in Memphis and Nashville.

Local control be damned!

Question: why are the Republicans in Tennessee so determined to destroy public education in their state? Has anyone in the state read the research on charters and vouchers? Or are they taking marching orders from ALEC?

This is a guest post by Peter DeWitt on a topic that should concern us all.

We lack the infrastructure to be testing factories, and that shouldn’t be our job in the first place.

If the nightly news really wanted to look into the Fleecing of America, they need not look further than the serious fleecing that companies are doing to American schools. At a time when school budgets are being severely cut, many companies are offering to “help” schools and making multi-millions while doing it.

Whether it’s creating products to help in the adoption of the Common Core State Standards or selling schools textbooks that are aligned to high stakes testing, companies are there to meet every possible need of the school system and they are not doing it for free.

As with anything there are pros and cons to the Common Core State Standards. I think the six shifts will be helpful to our thinking as educators and it offers a base to build on. However, what is the most difficult aspect is the fact that schools will be required to buy new textbooks, software and offer professional development at a time when they lack the money to do so. Schools are in a bind because they no longer feel as though they can use products that are not aligned to the core.

We have had the perfect storm of implementing the Common Core and not having the ability to do it properly. Of course, all schools have to do it at a time when they also have to implement the new APPR which includes teacher/administrator evaluation being tied to high stakes testing.

The bigger issue for schools presently is the idea that next year or the year after that many states will be obligated to have their students complete high stakes testing on-line. For those schools that will dive into on-line assessments next year and those who will be required to hold on-line field tests, they have a lot of preparation to do.

On-line Exams
If you have ever taken a comp exam in college or in post graduate degrees you probably remember going to a testing center to take the exam. We all had to empty out our pockets to make sure we did not bring any accoutrements for cheating purposes. We had to sit at one computer with headphones where we could not talk with anyone and had to raise our hands if we needed a break.

The computers we took the tests on were not ones where you could Google something, and you certainly could not take anything in to the exam room with you. It came close to feeling like you needed a brain scan before you were allowed to take the exam to make sure it was really you. It sounds very adult-oriented or something from a sci-fi movie but that level of security may be coming to a school near you next year.

How will schools do it? We lack the infrastructure to be testing factories, and that shouldn’t be our job in the first place. Many schools gave up computer labs in order to use netbooks or get more desktops in classrooms to use for center-based learning. They have cut teachers and administrators so there are less people to police kids when they are taking the exam. Make no mistake, we have been given the task of policing kids. If you do not think that is part of the job of the teacher, you have not been paying attention.

Open up the first page of any NY State high stakes test, not that you were allowed to keep any because that would be cheating, and you will notice that the first page has a warning for anyone who may cheat. Apparently, many state education departments have such low expectations of us that they need to tell us what will happen if we cheat on the very first page of a test. How will teachers check each and every computer? How will they ensure that kids are not Googling answers? Remember, the stakes are high and students feel the pressures of testing.

Schools presently lack the bandwidth needed to support the number of students who will be taking these exams at the same time. In the future this will be beneficial for schools that want to go BYOD. However, right now there will have to be software updates to make sure students cannot multi-task on other sites at the same time they are taking the on-line assessments. Teachers and administrators need to make sure the computers are “secure.”

We all know that there are many very intelligent people out there waiting to “help” schools meet this need, which will be another cost accrued by districts. Schools are seen by many organizations and companies as the something to invest in but remember that invest has two meanings. As educators we invest our time into students so they can be contributing members of a democratic society. Companies are investing in what we do so they can make money.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about the fact that state education departments want us to teach kids 21st century skills at the same time they make students take 90 minute paper and pencil exams. I guess I need to be careful what I ask for.

Peter Dewitt is an elementary principal in upstate, NY and he writes the Finding Common Ground blog for Education Week. Find him on Twitter at @PeterMDeWitt and

Want to know who is pulling the stings of he corporate reform movement?

Keep your eye on ALEC, short for the American Legislative Exchange Council.

This is a secretive group of about 2,000 state legislators, major corporations and far-right think tanks.

The goal of ALEC is privatization and advancing the interests of corporations.

ALEC drafts model laws and its members introduce them in their state, sometimes verbatim.

ALEC has model was for charter schools, vouchers, online charter schools, for-profit schools, and laws to weaken or eliminate collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and certification. It wants a free market.

Recently, ALEC debated Common Core and came close to passing a resolution opposing the standards as a federal takeover. But Jeb Bush intervened and persuaded his friends to remain neutral.

Some of the corporate sponsors dropped out last year because of ALEC’s sponsorship of the “Stand Your Ground” legislation in Florida, invoked by the man who killed an unarmed black teen.

Here is a list of ALEC’s education task force members.

You may see some of your state legislators on the list.

To learn more about ALEC, read this informative article by Julie Underwood, dean of the school of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

ALEC Exposed is the best website to learn about ALEC’s ambitious plans to privatize and deregulate many spheres of American society while benefitting big corporations.

When I blogged at Education Week, I wrote a post about ALEC. Its policy director wrote to say that President Obama shares many of ALEC’s goals. It is a strange time we live in.

Governor Jan Brewer has an idea.

It is a bad idea.

Someone please explain it to her.

She wants all schools to start with the same base funding (perhaps lower than what they have now). Then to give bonuses to schools that get an A or B!

As this blogger, David Safier, explains, the schools that get high marks are likely to be the school serving the students from affluent families.

Governor Brewer’s plan will increase inequity in funding and drag down poor kids whose schools need more staff and more resources. It will reinforce the Matthew Effect where those who have get more, and those who have not get less.

Safier proposes a way to make performance bonuses equitable, by factoring in family income.

Personally, I oppose funding schools in relation to their test scores because the tests are far too unreliable to carry that burden. And the more pressure you put on test scores, the less valid are they as measures because of the amount of time that will be squandered on test prep.

Really, someone on the governor’s staff should explain to her that there is quite a lot of research showing that bonuses tied to test scores do not produce higher test scores, although they often produce cheating and narrowing of the curriculum.

In the last few years, there has been an all-out attack on local control. Most of the attack comes from the privatization movement, which thinks that school boards debate too much, listen too much, move too slowly. The privatizers prefer mayoral control in cities to get fast action. And they push laws and constitutional amendments allowing the governor to create a commission to override local school boards that reject charters. This is the ALEC agenda.

Happily, leading members of the National School Boards Association will have a chance to ask Arne Duncan why he pushes mayoral control, which has done so little for Cleveland and Chicago–and is now approved in NYC by only 18% of the public.

And they can ask Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia what he thinks about that state’s recent drive to strip local school boards of control of their districts. They might also ask him what he thinks of the re segregation that charters are promoting.

Media Advisory

Contact: Linda Embrey
Communications Office, National School Boards Association
Office: 703-838-6737; Cell: 571-437-7425
Onsite Press Room as of January 27: 202-797-4820;

Secretary of Education, Key Congressional Leader to Address National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Conference

Alexandria, Va. (Jan. 25, 2013) – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee & Member, Senate Finance Committee will speak at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference on Monday, Jan. 28. The conference is taking place January 27 to 29 at the Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave., Washington, D.C., and will be attended by more than 700 school board leaders from across the country. Attendees will participate in sessions on major public education issues and meet with their members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff to discuss key education policy issues.

The following events are open to the press and are being provided to the media for planning purposes. Items are subject to change.

Monday, Jan. 28:

3 p.m. – Remarks by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He will speak about progress in K-12 education and the Obama administration’s goals for education reform going forward. A question-and-answer session will follow.

3:30 p.m. – Remarks by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee & Member, Senate Finance Committee.

Media are welcome to cover these conference sessions. Valid credentials must be shown before obtaining a NSBA press pass. The press room and press registration will be located in the Embassy Room, Terrace Level. Please contact Linda Embrey at 703-838-6737 (office), 571-437-7425 (cell/onsite), 202-797-4820 (onsite press room on Jan. 27), or at .

# # #

Founded in 1940, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a not-for-profit organization representing state associations of school boards and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Working with and through our state associations, NSBA advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership.

If you would rather not receive future communications from National School Boards Association (NSBA), let us know by clicking here.
National School Boards Association (NSBA), 1680 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314 United States

Anthony Cody reflects on a year in which the voices of parents and teachers are at last being heard.

The foundations and the U.S. Department of Education and ALEC were having a field day, pushing untried and noxious policies without debate, until 2012.

Then things got interesting.

Reform hero Tony Bennett was upset by a National Board Certified Teacher in Indiana.

Cody spoke truth to power in his dialogue with the Gates Foundation.

Friends, we are finding our voice.

The public is beginning to understand.

Be strong.

Bad ideas eventually collapse, especially when they have no record of success and a long history of failure and demoralization.