Efforts to privatize prisons and use public tax dollars to fund private schools have key common element–ALEC


by Brian Washington

An educator in Arizona is drawing a comparison between the state contracts to privatize prisons and its destructive voucher programs that divert taxpayer money into private and religious schools. 

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In a column for a local newspaper, guest commentator Mike McClellan said the state’s efforts to privatize prisons and its voucher programs, including the newest– known as the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts–have one thing in common–  no accountability to the public.

“Nope, these (private and religious) schools get the money with no strings attached, not even academic accountability,” wrote McClellan, who is also a member of the Arizona Education Association, which represents current and retired teachers and education support professionals statewide.

 We don’t know how the kids getting the vouchers test in private schools; no state testing is required of them. We don’t know where that money goes when it is sent to private schools; no auditing is required of them.

He says the companies that run private prisons for the state have the same setup–no accountability.  According to McClellan, private prisons house about one-sixth of the state’s inmate population. However, taxpayers have no information on how these privately run prisons compare to those run by the state. That’s because in 2012 state lawmakers eliminated requirements for cost comparisons–even though earlier studies showed state-run prisons got the job done at a lower cost to taxpayers.

“State-mandated audits showed just that, wrote McClellan. “Corrections Department studies from 2008-2010 reveal that it was cheaper to house inmates in state-run medium correction facilities than it was to put them up in private prisons.”

However, McClellan’s piece leaves out another similarity that’s important for voters and taxpayers to know. Arizona’s voucher program and private prison contracts are being pushed by politicians who, instead of carrying out the will of the people they supposedly represent, have pledged their support to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the profit-driven corporations and ideologically motivated foundations and think tanks that craft its policies and model legislation.

It’s time to show these ALEC-led politicians that we put them in office to represent our interests. Click here to sign the petition to tell ALEC to stop cashing in on our kids!

Reader Comments

  1. I certainly wouldn’t want my child attending Bernie Madoff Elementary or Enron High, and this is what our schools will become without a public school system. Our public schools are one of the few remaining public entities and many of our states publish all students test scores including academically and medically challenged students, students whose primary language is not English, while many other countries in the world, that U.S. public schools are often compared to, only report their upper quartile. In this light, despite gross underfunding and savage inequalities, public schools are the greatest in the world.

  2. For profit prisons are in business to make money and therefore the more prisoners they have the more profitable they are.

    As a result, I have heard that many prisons skew reports to make prisoners not good parole risks because it is better financially for the prison to keep the prisoner.

  3. to retired coach: public schools put the USA ahead of Europe from the 1800’s through most of the 20th century. Parents who wanted their children educated in religion, as well as scholarly matters, always had the freedom to send them there, instead of the use public schools. That was their choice. It is NOT a red-herring to state that the voucher system took money from public schools. It happened. AS a nation, we made a pact to become a society of freedom, where there would be a freedom FROM religion as well as freedom OF religion. That is Constitutional, and everyone of the Founding Fathers believed in that separation. Public schools respect that separation. Parents of parochial school children have that freedom to practice their own. But the nation, as a society, should not have to fund it, any more than it should be expected to fund the churches connected to the schools.
    I sent my own daughters to Montessori school for their first 3 years, because the schools in my area were not particularly good in the early grades. I paid dearly for that freedom to do so. I would never have expected public school funding to be a part of it; I made the choice and I paid for it. Any private school, as far as I am concerned, should be approached the same way. My husband and I were barely making it then, so I went back to work while the kids were in private school. I never regretted it and my girls had a head start on education that never left them, both doing exceptionally well in their professions. I made sure I was a part of their educational experience, both private and public, and their teachers knew me. The type of privatization ALEC is involved in does not encourage parent involvement on the level I had with schools. Cousins who teach in North Carolina have told me what has happened there, where even teachers are not allowed to be very involved with the way things are taught, textbooks and other things.

  4. The large gap, which grows larger by the year, between those at the very top and the middle class, the number of those in the middle class falling into the poverty level making it grow even more, is the by-product of not only the recent economic upheaval, but the decline of unions nationwide.
    None of my family is union. But I know the history of the USA to know without a doubt, that the unions are one big reason why the middle class grew so large, poverty shrank, and the gap between those at the top 2% was not as it is today. Looking at the economy from after WW2 through the middle 1980’s, it has never been so robust. The oil embargo by Iran, the Iran hostages and subsequent election of Reagan are all things that brought that robust economy to a halt.
    I know there were bums at the top of some of those unions. However, that does not take away the fact that the unions were a way to protect benefits, work place safety, hourly wages, holiday pay, and yes, medical coverage. The strength of the combined workforce under unions gave even non-union workers higher wages and benefit packages during that robust economy. Breaking up the unions was, and is, as much a part of what ALEC and those like the Koch brothers have been about making happen as anything else they have planned. It has taken away the united strength of work forces across the country. The result has been the grasping control of the economy, the government and the economy by corporate and wealthy interest, which have shipped jobs overseas, polluted our water, soil and air and lowered taxes on the top 1% to the lowest since the 1930’s. That is the first time taxes have been lowered during war time in USA history. Now, children are hungry, school funding is cut, veterans needs are not met as promised while the wealthy loopholes, tax breaks, offshore accounts and low taxes let them enjoy the biggest economic growth in history.

    1. Not only have our unions and their leverage declined, but many forget that the greatest growth in our economy happened during the Eisenhower years when the tax rate on the upper crust and the multi-nationals was 91%, and they could get half of that back if they proved they reinvested it in America. The lack of tax dollars in the system, and a responsible government ensuring growth and sustenance in our economy and infrastructure is no longer representative of the remaining 99 percent and certainly not the middle-class.

  5. According to the Associated Press Sunday, March 9,2014:

    “The FBI has taken over the Idaho criminal investigation into Corrections Corp. of America, a prison company. CCA, based in Nashville, Tenn., has operated Idaho’s largest prison for more than a decade, but last year CCA officials acknowledged it had understaffed it by thousands of hours in violation of its state contract. CCA also said employees falsified reports to cover up the vacancies.
    The Idaho State Police was asked to investigate the company last year but didn’t until the governor ordered the agency to do so last month. Democratic state lawmakers asked the FBI to take up the case this year.
    The under-staffing has been the subject of federal lawsuits against CCA. in 2012 a Boise law firm sued on behalf of inmates contending that CCA had ceded control to prison gangs so that the company could under-staff the prison and save money on employee wages.”
    ALEC has been behind the move to privatize prisons, just like it has been behind privatizing public schools and colleges. Neither area has been very well run, and like the privatizing of toll roads, has ended up usually costing tax payers much more than previously, under state/city governments ever had, along with much poorer results. It might be good to look and see just who is on the board of directors of CCA that are also on the board of ALEC. Perhaps it is also time to find out how these entities that ALEC has been behind (writing the blue prints for state legislatures to follow to achieve privatization) can somehow be brought, when dissatisfied of results, join forces to fight ALEC together. If nothing more than to bring what ALEC has been doing behind closed doors with legislators more into the sunlight. It certainly has not been that much in news media for public information.

  6. I wonder if educators could bond together and make a class action suit against alec for attempted abolishment of democracy and American education?

    1. That’s what the union ought to doing, but I think they lack the spine and are together with the corporate dems–

  7. I have been in public education for years myself and all those anecdotes that “retiredteacher” is talking about are what makes the news cycle especially FAUX News. 99% of all educators are working hard, with little or no breaks and just barely decent wages, and trying to help ALL their students. If you want your child to attend a private school, then you pay to send your child to the school of your choosing. There has always been an inequality of public school funding with most tax payer dollars going to the upper income level schools and the poorer neighborhoods get the dregs. Republicans just want to drain off tax-payer money for the for-profit schools where this is no accountability. Public schools are the whipping boy for the ignorant. Politicians use them to whip up their base. Make it mandatory for politicians to spend a couple of months a every year that they are in office working in a public school before they can vote on anything to do with public schools.

    1. That is so true…….but recently, there is a case in which a Kansas State judiciary told Kansas that there must be equal money from the state going to poorer school districts, that un-equal education funding was unconstitutional. There were other elements to the case, that were not decided at the same time, but are being studied. Governor Brownback was delighted to find they would not be presented until probably after the next election. He has been cutting funding to schools all across the state for several years, until the ire of voters reached him. Now, he is promising to promote and fund early childhood preschools. Of course, that won’t start until AFTER the election, as well.

  8. Those so-called “liberal” unions are what ensured that you and your wife had tenure, retirement pensions, pay based on experience and decent benefits. Turn off FAUX News, Coach. Without a union the school system could have fired you for losing too many football games. And you didn’t do 88 years because you and your wife were probably teaching at the same time. My parents used to do that to me about their “wisdom” and years of experience, too. You are just another tiresome Republican and against everything that is right and good. I’ll bet you also screamed about the schools having to educate kids with disabilities. Admittedly some of the stuff schools do now is stupid, but that is not caused by unions but amateurs and politicians running the schools. Most particularly is Zero Tolerance and that crap about play guns. But alot of the controversies are caused by religious conservatives pushing their perversion of Christianity on the rest of us.

    1. The number of top quality students not going into teaching is astounding. I asked a dozen or so of my former students why this is not happening. The answers were all true. No job security, low pay scales, excessive work hours for 7 days a week, lack of respect from the public, even less respect from students and parents, and being held accountable for things that they would have not control over were the most common reasons. “From the mouths of babes…”

  9. Who owns all children? The state and Federal government-or the parents of those children?

    You know the answer, and to say, “destructive voucher programs that divert taxpayer money into private and religious schools.” is to throw a red herring and shout that the public schools and liberal education unions OWN and must not allow any child and his parents to CHOOSE what is BEST for that child’s education!

    My wife and I taught for a total of 88 years in public schools and watched the whole system go sliding downhill and into more and more government control of every phase of the programs and “lessons”
    (Heather has Two Mommies” “Climate change” “A woman’s right to choose” “suspension for pointing your finger-like a gun” “transgender prom ‘queen'” “Obama rap songs” “Do not wear red or green during holiday celebrations, and no striped candy canes or saying “merry Christ-mas”!!!!!

    1. With these “privatized” schools, the parents’ ONLY control is maybe being allowed to remove their child once he or she is enrolled. They get NO sayso about what is being taught, and no feedback as to whether or not ANY institution of higher educaction, other than perhaps a few Evangelical Bible Colleges will even accept these kids once they graduate from these charter schools. To me, at least, that means the charter schools are stealing from the parents, who most likely, pay only a small amount of the taxes it takes to pay for their child’s education. And yes, retiredcoach, I am speaking directly to you. With your handle, it would seem you should KNOW a bit more than your posting gives you credit for.

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