By Brian Washington
As a parent, how would you feel if someone was depleting funding from your child’s public school and giving it to a private or religious school that gets to pick and choose which students it wants to enroll?
It’s already happening in several states nationwide, thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, one of the biggest adversaries of public education.
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ALEC is a privately-funded group made up of ultra-conservative, right-wing state lawmakers from across the nation, foundations and think tanks that support a free market and limited government, and corporations. These groups work together, in secret, to promote and protect the interests of the 1-percent. ALEC uses money from its wealthy donors to wine and dine state lawmakers and, in exchange, these lawmakers promote its “model legislation” back home.
ALEC wants to shortchange your children and dismantle public education by robbing them of badly needed funding and giving it to private schools. Its ultimate goal is to privatize public education, which its corporate donors see as a multi-billion dollar industry just ripe for the taking.
ALEC members subscribe to the flawed theories promoted by Economist Milton Friedman, who believed that our children, their education, and, ultimately, their futures, should be left to market influences. According to Friedman, education improvements would come, “by privatizing a major segment of the educational system—i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools.”
How did ALEC get its foot in the door with vouchers? The answer—by introducing them on a small scale, usually as a pilot program aimed at a target audience, i.e. children with special needs. However, once that door was opened, ALEC legislators came back again and again, introducing bills to expand these programs to cover more and more students. That’s certainly what happened in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida.
In 1990, there was just one state with a voucher program, but now almost 20 states and the District of Columbia have voucher programs that are depleting public schools of critical monies. In fact, during the 2011-12 school year, more than $800 million was set aside for voucher programs—which have also been cloaked as tuition tax credits and scholarships as well as education savings accounts. Despite this growth, vouchers have never been shown to improve student achievement.
ALEC is also pushing other model bills to privatize public education and profit off our children. These bills include the following:
- Legislation that directs school funding toward the purchase of software sold by ALEC’s corporate members
- Bills that require school districts to purchase assessments sold by ALEC’s corporate members
- Bills that require public education students to take at least one on-line course (offered by – guess who…ALEC’s corporate members!)
- Bills allowing for-profit charter schools (run by – you guessed it… ALEC members!)
It’s time for pro-public education activists to take a stand. Click here and sign our petition and tell ALEC to stop cashing in on our children.