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US Ed Sec Betsy DeVos Endorses the ALEC System

July 20, 2017

On July 20, 2017, US ed sec Betsy DeVos addressed the lunch crowd at the Denver, Colorado, meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Her presence was withheld from ALEC’s online conference speaker listing as well as its online conference agenda.

Here are excerpts from DeVos’ opening of her speech:

It’s good to be here at ALEC, with so many friends and quality leaders shaping policy across all 50 states. …

I’m no stranger to state-based advocacy….

You have led the way in helping states across the nation craft innovative solutions to today’s problems: in healthcare, taxes, regulations, entitlements, and importantly, education.

What DeVos refers to as “state-based advocacy” is actually advocacy for model legislation approved by ALEC.

DeVos does not want states to do what individual states want. She wants states to pass ALEC-endorsed, model legislation– which includes vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts.

ALEC is the DeVos-preferred system. Sure, she plays it off as being interested in the individual child and as promoting parents-know-best-for-their-children.

But there is no parent membership to ALEC.

ALEC is DeVos’ system of choice.

ALEC has been around since 1973, but it was not until 2012 that the group’s activities became public knowledge. And ALEC liked it that way.

ALEC is a sophisticated system, one that purports to promote “states’ rights” and shuns “federal overreach,” but what ALEC really wants is to supplant any federal role with its own corporate-friendly agenda and to entice legislators to promote that agenda by, among other things, providing multiple conferences per year, conferences that can easily double as posh family vacations for the legislators involved– even as these conferences provide repeated opportunities for corporate America to meet with those legislators.

ALEC is comprised of two primary groups: corporations and state legislators (there are other members, including nonprofits). The corporations pay thousands of dollars a year ($7,000 to $25,000) to belong to ALEC (with membership to each legislation-writing, -directing, and -promoting task force costing an additional $5,000 per year), but the legislators pay only $100 for a two-year membership and get to sit on task forces for free.

ALEC currently has nine task forces:

  • Civil Justice
  • Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development
  • Communications and Technology
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Education and Workforce Development
  • Energy, Environment, and Agriculture
  • Health and Human Services
  • International Relations and Federalism
  • Tax and Fiscal Policy

Task force meetings are held at ALEC conferences and are closed meetings. Prior to meeting, the ALEC task forces send legislators the proposed model legislation to be considered at a given ALEC conference. (When I began researching ALEC in 2012, these mailouts were done 35 days prior to a given conference.)

The task forces are where ALEC writes/approves the corporate-friendly “model legislation” that legislators then can take back to their statehouses (like the worker ants that they are) and get credit for promoting the corporate-approved legislation as the legislator’s own work. The corporate task force members and the legislative task force members vote on official ALEC approval of this model legislation, which then becomes the officially ALEC-endorsed legislation that ALEC actively promotes, even including talking points for legislators to sell the ALEC product in statehouses nationwide.

(For more detailed background on ALEC, see this post.)

As for Betsy DeVos’ ALEC speech, much of it is typical DeVos (central focus on school choice, especially vouchers/tax credits; anecdotes to promote choice; tossing around the term, “status quo”; and some statement that begins with, “Let me be clear”). But she also is in front of an audience that is a homecoming, so this speech is easy-breezy for her.

This is no press conference. She will not be challenged in the moment on any point.

Even as she sails on ironic winds of federalism before fed-supplanting ALEC, DeVos is also using the opportunity to pitch for the Trump agenda on health care– a Washington, DC, issue that one could say is floundering precisely because some legislators are thinking on the state level.

But enough of that. I leave the bulk of her speech for those who wish to read at their leisure.

Still, keep in mind these words of hers from her ALEC speech, remembering that she is addressing corporate-minded, legislator-toadied ALEC:

 And the next reforms won’t originate from Washington, DC: they’ll come from you. …

My job is to get the federal government out of the way, so that you can do your jobs.

Betsy DeVos has no problem with ALEC’s supplanting the federal government and calling it the work of the states.

United States of ALEC.

betsy devos  Betsy DeVos


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you for keeping us informed.

  2. Our elected and appointed so-called “representatives” in government, state and federal, now serve as nothing more than sales reps for corporate policy “products”, picking up their sample cases at whorehouses, er, warehouses 🏭🏢 like ALEC, KochCo, and Walmart and sent out with their carpet bags 💼 chock full of patent medicine panaceas and snake oil to con their con-stituents into buying their tinker damnation.

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