Posted In: ALEC, Uncategorized, Virginia
By Amanda Litvinov /photo by amboo who?
Last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council hosted a celebration at its new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Never mind that the group had just weathered a hailstorm of criticism for its role in creating the “Stand Your Ground” law that helped a Florida man go free after shooting an unarmed teenager. ALEC was in a partying mood.
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The American Legislative Exchange Council was established four decades ago to connect corporate players with lobbyists and legislators, trading political influence for funding from foundations with corporate connections, big business and its associations, and some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals.
It’s no surprise, then, that the hallmark of ALEC model legislation is to make conditions as favorable to corporations as possible. The group has long sought ways into the previously untapped market of public education.
A new report by ProgressNow focuses on how the ALEC education task force has used a state-by-state report card to fabricate failure in state public education systems in order to create a sales opportunity for their corporate membership.
Since 2008, those ALEC report cards have focused on education policy, giving higher grades to states that have opened up their public school system to privatization. States that have passed laws to support virtual schools and voucher schemes, for example, receive higher grades than those with high-performing schools but few or no market-based education policies.
In fact, the 25 states with the top performing schools are ranked lower than the 25 states with the lowest performing schools in ALEC’s most recent report card.
The National Educational Policy Center’s examination of the ALEC report card concluded:
Overall, ALEC’s Report Card is grounded less in research than in ideological tenets, as reflected in the high grades it assigns to states with unproven and even disproven market-based policies. The report’s purpose appears to be more about shifting control of education to private interests than in improving education.
ALEC uses its annual report card to paint a false picture of states in need of education reforms. Then its members take the opportunity to sell the solution, calling on their vast network of elected leaders to introduce model legislation that creates opportunities, not for students, but for corporate interests.
Take Virginia, one of nine state stories profiled in ALEC v. Kids.
After receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from virtual learning company K12 Inc., Governor Bob McDonnell requested the introduction of ALEC model legislation to expand virtual education in 2010. It passed in the Virginia legislature, and K12 Inc. swiftly set up shop in one of the state’s most impoverished counties to maximize the public money it would receive.
The Carroll County School Board voted to close down K12′s Virginia Virtual Academy just four years after its opening, due to financial and administrative burden and the fact that the Virtual Academy fared worse than traditional schools on 20 out of 22 measures.
Still, Virginia legislators with ALEC connections enacted a law in 2012 requiring high school students take an online course to graduate, further expanding the market for K12 Inc.
“ALEC v. Kids shows what happens when private interests overshadow the needs of those attending and working in our public schools,” said earth science teacher and Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber.
“The cozy relationship between private interests and elected officials in ALEC should raise a red flag as ALEC ‘model’ bills make their way into state legislatures, including Virginia’s. … We need to put children, not profits, first.”