by Brian Washington
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State politicians across the nation are skirting ethics laws and making backroom deals with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to trade their votes away in 2017 to corporate special interests pushing voucher legislation.
Keep in mind, ALEC doesn’t call them vouchers. The group refers to them as education savings accounts. However, don’t be fooled—the bottom line is it’s still a voucher and bad news.
At a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., ALEC representatives reportedly announced they have commitments from politicians to run voucher legislation in Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
That’s right. At a time when most states are cutting education budgets, laying off essential school personnel, and jamming students into larger class sizes, ALEC is working with politicians to make things worse by wasting public dollars on vouchers—a taxpayer-supported entitlement program for private and religious schools.
ALEC, which is funded by the right-wing billionaire duo known as the Koch Brothers, lists hundreds of corporations as its members—corporations that are looking to increase profits by privatizing vital government services like public education.
We asked education activists via our Speak Up page on Facebook about ALEC and the sneaky way it does business as well as the group’s goal to try and make 2017 the year of the voucher. The response via social media was swift and on point.
“ALEC has always been a secretive group, and they have had their eye on pushing vouchers for quite a while. Public school supporters need to be vigilant on the local and state levels.”– Barbara Garrett Madea
“Vouchers and charter schools are a waste of money and resources – period.”– Raymond Gipson
“I have been calling out my local representatives for voting for ALEC legislation.” — William Jones
“Typical. Dangerous. Disappointing. We need to keep nagging (Yes, nagging!) both our state and national representatives (about ALEC).”– Ann Weymouth Dean
“We need to make the public more aware of ALEC and their negative effect and (the) damage they do to our communities.”– Harriet Unger Sandberg
Groups like ALEC have been emboldened by President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary—Betsy DeVos, who has a decades-long history of trying to use private school vouchers to drain money away from public schools and ultimately destroy them.
Like Trump, and many of his cabinet appointees, DeVos is a billionaire—a billionaire who has never attended or sent her children to public school, has never worked in a school, and doesn’t have a degree in education. An online petition demanding that DeVos uphold a vision of high-quality public schools for all students has collected more than 85,000 signatures.
As a nation, if we’re serious about securing the futures of all our students, we have to do what works. This means making sure our neighborhood public schools are adequately resourced so that students get the support they need including, more one-on-one attention, inviting classrooms, and a well-rounded curriculum. This is how we give all students an opportunity at having a great future. This is what we must demand of DeVos and all our elected leaders, including those who cut backroom deals with ALEC.