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Jun
2013
3

ALEC Aims to Destroy Local School Boards, Turn Education Into a Corporate, For-Profit Wasteland

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ALEC is spreading its pro-corporate, pro-privatization agenda into the education space with greater abandon than before. ALEC-style “education reform” includes a push for the complete removal of school boards which would effectively block public input from decisions about schools.

The Voters Legislative Transparency Project recently highlighted the work of professor Julie Underwood, a researcher who has exposed how groups like ALEC are affecting public schools in her home state of Wisconsin.  Underwood is a professor and the Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Underwood’s findings include:

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.

Underwood explains what many readers of this blog already know about ALEC’s approach to undoing Democracy:

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.

With respect to school board destruction, Underwood finds ALEC’s machinations to be particularly “ambitious”:

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.“

It is common knowledge that corporate business interests have their teeth sunk into all aspects of modern life. But turning the education system into a for-profit industry is even more alarming than, for instance, turning extra profit in other already-for-profit industries.  Local school boards represent one of the last lines of defense against the education reform movement’s desire to turn kindergarten into a corporate training ground which neglects the interests of the individual student. They must be protected. 

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