ALEC’s Extensive Plans for Education Restructuring in Your State
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) (established 1973) offers corporate America the opportunity to shape legislation that serves its profit-garnering interests and to do so in statehouses around the country.
To accomplish this controlling of the legislative process, ALEC provides forums (conferences that double as posh vacations for legislators and their families) in which both companies and legislators meet in order to write and vote on “model” legislation. The agreed-upon “model” legislation is then advanced in statehouses nationwide, carried home with legislators like a corporate-financed virus, with ALEC providing abundant reminders and “talking points” (a short list of statements that offer the appearance of having detailed knowledge of an issue) for legislators to help ensure passage of bills designed to fill those corporate-sponsor coffers.
For a detailed reading on ALEC, see the Common Cause website. It is quite the eye-opener.
ALEC was able to operate under the radar for decades, until Common Cause filed a whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the IRS in April 2012. Seems ALEC forgot to acknowledge more than a decade of lobbying on its tax forms.
Despite the Common Cause filing, the ALEC mission of serving its corporate sponsors via its model legislation continues.
ALEC currently advances model legislation in nine areas via its task forces:
Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development
Communications and Technology
Energy, Environment, and Agriculture
Health and Human Services
Justice Performance Project (formerly Public Safety and Elections)
Tax and Fiscal Policy
Nine task forces. Nine areas in which ALEC exercises undue influence over the American democratic process, turning its wishes into law.
The remainder of this post will focus upon ALEC’s influence upon education in states across the nation via its Education Task Force “model” legislation.
See if these “models” sound familiar in your state.
The Charter Schools Act (pre-2008, likely 1995)
The Charter Schools Act allows groups of citizens to seek charters from the state to create and operate innovative, outcomes-based schools. These schools would be exempt from state laws and regulations that apply to public schools. Schools are funded on a per-pupil rate, the same as public schools. Currently, Minnesota operates the most well-known program. [Emphasis added.]
The charters are to be evaluated using student test scores.
Here’s another sales pitch for charters– in which they are declared as “necessary” for “choice”:
The Next Generation Charter Schools Act (2007)
The State of [state] (ALEC provides a convenient fill-in-the-blank so that legislators might use as little critical thought as possible in advancing ALEC bills) recognizes establishment of charter schools as necessary to improving the opportunities of all families to choose the public school that meets the needs of their children, and believes that charter schools serve a distinct purpose in supporting innovations and best practices that can be adopted among all public schools. [Emphasis added.]
Charters– often both established by and staffed with individuals having little to no professional teaching credentials and experience– are going to show traditional public schools how to implement “best practices.” Gotta love it.
Moving on. How about “voucher zones”?
The Education Enterprise Zone Act (pre-2008, likely 1995)
The Education Enterprise Zone Act creates and provides for parental choice of schools within an educational enterprise zone (EEZ). All public and private schools within a designated zone. Any elementary or secondary student who is eligible for participation in a free lunch program may attend any school within the zone, provided the school has space and the student meets admission requirements.
The legislation further provides that if the student attends a private school, the state shall issue to the parent a voucher valued in an amount equal to the average amount of per pupil funding allocated to that school system, or the full amount of the private school’s tuition and fees, whichever is less. [Emphasis added.]
Even though the “zone” proposal above is a voucher plan, it seems that ALEC really wanted to sell an individualized voucher plan. The writers of the ALEC bill below go through a lengthy explanation in an effort to convince readers that many traditional public schools are failing students and that vouchers are “an alternative” for the “tax-paying public” to get “a return” they are “entitled to” for the “increasing amount of tax dollars being invested in education.” (No mention is made of ever-increasing responsibility foisted upon schools in conjunction with the “increasing” dollars.)
The ALEC voucher model betrays the misinformed, arrogant viewpoint that public education (i.e., public school teachers) will only educate students if forced.
Here’s another ALEC voucher model bill:
The Family Choice in Education Act (pre-2008, likely 1982)
Modern elementary and secondary education systems have not been able to generate a more informed, more intellectually satisfied student population. …
The Family choice in Education Act does not require additional education outlays. It is funded by that portion of the state budget that currently pays for elementary and secondary education. Since schools would compete among each other for students, the public schools would have an incentive to economize. Schools which are unable to sustain a steady flow of students would either alter their curriculum and policies or cease to operate altogether. …
…In the past fifteen years, the amount of public monies directed to education almost doubled as a share of GNP, tripled as a share of many state budgets and increased over seven-fold as a measure of constant dollars. …
One alternative to the present system is a tuition voucher plan. This is a system under which families would choose which school, be it public or private, that their child would attend. A voucher plan would not require a change in hiring, testing, curriculum or even enrollment standards set by the schools. The only difference between a voucher system and the current one is that families rather than the government would decide on the choice of a school. …
For public schools, participation in the new system would be mandatory. This means that public schools would compete with one another for the enrollment of students, rather than be guaranteed a regular student population. …
This bill creates a scholarship program that helps children from low- and middle-income families attend the public or private 4-year-old preschool program or 5-year-old kindergarten program of their parents’ choice.
On a positive note: The evaluation of the kiddie voucher program does not involve administering standardized tests to preschoolers. On a negative note: Only the preschool voucher model bill includes a section on the evaluation of the voucher program. The other ALEC voucher bills include no means of evaluating the program– and no means of ensuring the quality of participating private schools.
The next voucher bill (ALEC loves the voucher idea) skirts the issue of handing out voucher cash to parents and instead involves the issuance of voucher “certificates” (coupons) for students to attend “choice” schools. According to the bill, public schools must participate, and private schools can decide if they want to:
Tuition Certificate Act (pre-2008)
… the State educational agency shall initiate and carry out a program in which the parent of each school-age child receives from State (or appropriate local educational agency), on request, a certificate that may be used for educational services at a participating school selected by the child’s parent in accordance with this Act.
The School Board Freedom to Contract Act (1999)
The School Board Freedom to Contract Act encourages the establishment of public/private partnerships between school boards and the private sector for outsourcing and delivery of ancillary services under the direction of school boards, when said services/programs can be executed more efficiently and more
cost-effectively by the private sector.
Now for a great idea: Take lower-performing students and put them in an automated education setting. Call it “virtual public school” to make it sound fancy. Be sure to note that virtual public school “may” help students improve academically.
Virtual Public Schools Act (2005)
…“Virtual school” shall mean an independent public school in which the school uses technology in order to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students via the Internet in a virtual or remote setting. …
Meeting the educational needs of children in our state’s schools is of the greatest importance to the future welfare of [state]…
… Providing a broader range of educational options to parents and utilizing existing resources, along with technology, may help students in our state improve their academic achievement….
…Virtual schools established in this article… Must be recognized as public schools and provided equitable treatment and resources as any other public school in the state. [Emphasis added.]
These “schools in front of a screen” may” work– we don’t know if they will prior to pushing through this legislation in [state]– but be sure they get their share of [state’s] public school fiscal pie.
In 2010, ALEC expanded its virtual learning to include a “clearinghouse” of online courses to be offered across districts. The model bill, entitled Online Learning Clearinghouse Act, includes no details regarding the accountability of the online education vendors. There is, however, a section detailing the payment of fees to the unaccountable virtual vendors.
And in order to further ensure that under-regulated online vendors might have a chance to pocket public school funding, in May 2012, ALEC proposed a model bill, Online Course Choice for Students:
This bill opens up the world of high-quality online course instruction to students. Each year, students in public school grades 7-12 would have the option to enroll in up to two online courses that award college credit or meet standards for core academic courses. The state would create standards and accountability measures to ensure that they are providing students with a course catalog containing only high-quality online course offerings. Funding for each online course is driven by the free-market in an open and competitive process, rather than simply allocating a portion of student funding unrelated to the actual cost to deliver the course. (In other words, vendors are paid per student.) Finally, after completion of each online course, parents and students provide feedback via the web in an open forum to rate the effectiveness of the course. This feedback, combined with test scores, provides a quality indicator ranking that is available to all. [Emphasis added.]
No agency monitors these vendors to guarantee that teaching and learning are actually happening.
Moving on, moving on.
What about student data collection? ALEC is all for it, so long as it happens at the state and not the federal level. Only ALEC wants to promote their version of data collection– one clearly meant to feed into the evaluation of teaches using student test scores.
The Longitudinal Student Growth Act (2006)
The Longitudinal Student Growth Act requires the state department of education to implement a state data management system for collecting and reporting student assessment data and identifies the duties and responsibilities of the state department of education and the school districts in implementing the data management system. The legislation instructs the state board of education to adopt a mixed-effect statistical model to diagnostically calculate students’ annual academic growth over the periods between the administration of the statewide assessments…. The department is required to calculate what constitutes sufficient academic growth for each student for each school year. … The legislation… requires the school district or charter school to adopt a policy for using the information in the [academic growth] report…. [Emphasis added.]
The language of the above ALEC model bill hints at the use of student data for evaluation of schools in the “school accountability report” and “students assigned to specific classrooms and teachers.”
The model bill assumes that student achievement can be accurately predicted using statistical equations.
Again, moving right along….
The following two ALEC models were presented as part of ALEC’s annual conference in San Diego in August 2010:
In keeping with the ALEC goal of defunding public education, ALEC offers this model bill to fiscally penalize public schools whose students complete high school early:
Higher Education Scholarships for High School Pupils Act (2010)
This bill enables a school district to adopt and offer higher education scholarships for high school pupils to any high school pupil who graduates high school early and who achieves a score in the “proficient” range or above on all subjects tested in the statewide assessment. The scholarship would be equivalent to 1/2 of the total per-pupil expenditure for high school pupils in such school district to be used to defray tuition costs at any public or private institution of higher education within or outside of [state].
And now, the ALEC model bill we’ve all been waiting for…
Great Teachers and Leaders Act (2010)
The Great Teachers and Leaders Act reforms the practice of tenure, known as nonprobationary status in some states. Teachers can earn tenure after 3 years of sufficient student academic growth; tenure is revocable following 2 consecutive years of insufficient growth. The council for educator effectiveness will define teacher effectiveness and come up with parameters for an evaluation system that requires 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student achievement using multiple measures. The Act requires principals to be evaluated annually with 50 percent of the evaluation based on student achievement and their ability to develop teachers in their buildings and increase their effectiveness. [Emphasis added.]
Can’t collect all of that student test score data for nothing. And as ALEC members well know based upon their vast experience in the public school classroom, testing more (i.e., ‘multiple measures”) equals learning.
Now, as I read many of these ALEC model bills– particularly the voucher bills– I cannot help but think of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Thus, it is only fitting that ALEC should model an omnibus bill (one huge bill comprised of a number of smaller ALEC model bills) after the supposed Florida Miracle– or grading shell game.
The ALEC, “We Love Jeb” bill is called the A-Plus Literacy Act. It was showcased in Washington, DC, in December 2010.
Here’s where grading schools using letter grades originates.
Chapters of the A-Plus Literacy Act
(1) School and District Report Cards and Grades.
(2) School Recognition Program to financially reward schools for good/improving Report Card grades.
(3) Opportunity Scholarships to provide alternatives for students in schools with poor Report Card grades.
(4) Scholarships for Children with Disabilities. (ALEC Model Bill: Special Needs Scholarship Program Act)
(5) Tax credit scholarships for low-income students. (ALEC Model Bill: Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act)
(6) Alternative Teacher Certification. (ALEC Model Bill: Alternative Teacher Certification Act)
(7) Ban on Social Promotion based on tracking of basic literacy skills.
(8) School and Teacher bonuses for student Advanced Placement success.
Here is Florida’s proud confession of the utility of letter grades in promoting its test-dependent, privatizing reforms:
People instantly and intuitively understand letter grades, and this system served as the lynchpin for the reforms…
Letter grading of public schools is indispensable to effective public education dismantling.
Except that Jeb Bush’s Florida reform success requires constant changing of the letter grade formula.
The next ALEC bill promoted in December 2010 is the Open Enrollment Act:
The Open Enrollment Act stipulates that a student may attend any public school or program in the state. The legislation allows the parents of the student to apply for attendance in any nonresident school, either within or outside the district of residence. The nonresident school would advise the parent within a reasonable time if the application was accepted. No school district can be obligated to change existing school structures or program guidelines. No school can reject an application except for lack of space, existing eligibility criteria, desegregation plan requirements, expulsion record or late enrollment.
Provisions are made for transportation within the nonresident district and, under some circumstances, within the resident district. [Emphasis added.]
The model bill reads that parents are responsible for transporting their children to the district. This in itself would limit choice to those with more resources.
Let’s do one more, also featured in DC in 2010:
Parent Trigger Act
The Parent Trigger places democratic control into the hands of parents at school level. Parents can, with a simple majority, opt to usher in one of three choice-based options of reform: (1) transforming their school into a charter school, (2) supplying students from that school with a 75 percent per pupil cost voucher, or (3) closing the school.
ALEC offers this supplemental information on Parent Trigger origins:
The Parent Trigger concept is the creation of the Los Angeles Parents Union, a group of self-described progressives led by Ben
Austin, a Democrat whose previous employers include President Bill Clinton, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, and Hollywood director-turned-political-activist Rob Reiner. Austin was also a consultant to Green Dot Charter Schools, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit charter school chain….
Fine print: “Democratic control” ends once the “trigger” is “pulled.”
Fortunately, Parent Trigger is a flop.
Speaking of “flop”– or more like “flip flop”–
Allow me to offer one more word, on ALEC’s reversed position on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). First, a link to ALEC’s 2011 Resolution Opposing the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. ALEC originally opposed the CCSS– even voting and approving its anti-CCSS resolution– and in December 2011, ALEC even featured a Comprehensive Legislative Package Opposing the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Then Jeb stepped in save CCSS from ALEC.
The ALEC influence is certainly paying off for its corporate members and others who have decided to join the ALEC crusade of public education destruction. ALEC’s spectrum of model bills will look familiar to public education faculty and parents nationwide. However, ALEC doesn’t like having the light shined on its manipulations.
Friends of American public education, we need to up the wattage.