by Brian Washington
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Educators are reacting to a television news investigation showing Arizona state politicians getting wined and dined by the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, an organization that uses a “pay-to-play” strategy to push policies that are hated by and harmful to Americans.
The hidden-camera investigation was conducted by Phoenix television station KPHO, which released video showing several ALEC politicians mingling with lobbyists over steaks and drinks at a high-priced restaurant.
Andrew Morrill, the president of the Arizona Education Association, which represents teachers and education support professionals throughout the state, says ALEC has had membership drives and events like this before—usually at high-end restaurants and resorts.
“This is ALEC’s mode of operation,” said Morrill, a high school English teacher. “This allows them to bring in extreme agendas from outside the state. However, these agendas are not relevant to the real needs of Arizona.”
ALEC’s agenda is destructive to working families and public schools. But in all that glitz and glamour and wining and dining, they are able to mask that.
Morrill says ALEC’s membership includes big corporate special interest groups and radical privatizers who use secret, back-room deals to dismantle public education and turn a profit on the backs of children.
Among the 17 state politicians who attended the “wine-and-dine” in Phoenix was state. Rep. Debbie Lesko, who serves as ALEC’s point person in the legislature and is the sponsor of a bill that would expand the state’s private school voucher program. Vouchers subsidize the education of those families who want to send their kids to private or religious schools by draining public education funding. These programs are destructive to the vast majority of state students who attend public schools, which are often left deplete of critical resources.
Morrrill asserts that ALEC politicians are tainting our democracy. He says they want a system where money and corporate favors are louder than any individual voice.
“Most troubling for education is that they want profiteering to be more important and take precedent over the public schools that we need, the students we serve, and, quite frankly, the America that public education has built,” said Morrill, who says it’s going to take a committed, sustained action to stop ALEC.
“We can’t be complacent. ALEC is doing this because they know it works.”
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