May 16, 2013
In a recent commentary discussing attacks upon Wisconsin’s school board structure(s), professor Julie Underwood writes about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an influential national network that’s pushing an agenda to shrink government, privatize schools, and promote business interests. The article outlines ALEC’s legislative impact in Wisconsin and why pubic school supporters should be concerned.
In this report by Professor Underwood, ALEC’s involvement in advancing pursuits of their corporate members is laid out in a manner to allow parents and citizens to fully comprehend how they are at the core of the ongoing attacks upon public education. Underwood, J.D., Ph.D., is a professor and the dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
VLTP has provided research articles on issues of privatizing public schools and named those organizations, companies and corporations involved in such privatization – for profit. Dr. Underwood identifies the same players by name and organization in her research:
“According to the Report Card on American Education, the education agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) calls for:
- Reducing the influence of, or elimination of, local school districts and school boards.
- Privatizing education through vouchers, charters and tax incentives.
- Increasing student testing and reporting.
- Introducing market factors into schools, particular the teaching profession.
In short, ALEC seeks to undo much of the work and power of school boards.
Corporate members pay to serve on their task-forces, and provide the funds for the state legislators to attend ALEC meetings.
Model legislation is developed through the ALEC taskforces (e.g., health, safety, education), each co-chaired by a corporate and legislative member. In order to pass a model bill out of the ALEC taskforce, both the public and elected sides of the committee must agree. The elected officials then submit these proposals to their own state legislatures.
Members of the taskforces have an interest in the topical area of the taskforce. For example, education taskforce members include representatives from the Friedman Foundation, the Charter School Association, the private school associations, and corporations providing education services.
The proposals cannot move out of the taskforce without the approval of the corporate interests. The corporations involved have an interest in the areas and thus typically stand to profit financially from the proposals.
For example, two large for-profit corporate providers of virtual education, Connections Academy and K-12 Inc., had heavy involvement in the development of the ALEC model Virtual Public Schools Act. At the time it was drafted by ALEC, the chair of the education committee was Mickey Revenaugh, a principal employee of Connections Academy. Connections Academy and K-12 have reaped huge financial benefits in the states where the Virtual Schools Act has been passed.
The ALEC agenda in education is ambitious. Model bills seek to influence teacher certification, teacher evaluation, collective bargaining, curriculum, funding, special education, and student assessment.
Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by local school boards while increasing control, influence, and profits of the companies in the education sector. Privatization is consistent with the interests of the corporate ALEC members.
The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking — but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight.“
Professor Underwood’s research, analysis and assessment are correct – ALEC and corporate members wishing to realize huge profits off of privatizing state school systems, are pushing this conservative agenda. Key to these efforts is to wrench all control away from local school boards and school authorities. They then seek to assume that control and authority to implement their pro-corporate programs without interference.
Though much of what Professor Underwood wrote is in reference to Wisconsin, the same facts, circumstances and outcomes are ongoing in nearly every state today. In each case, it is ALEC legislation being used to advance the pursuits of the private “educators” seeking to trade your children’s quality of education for corporate profits.