by Brian Washington
Take Action ›
Tell Betsy DeVos: Your voucher plan harms students. Click here›
Colorado educators, parents, and a whole host of progressive activists are arming themselves with knowledge as they prepare to take on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in Denver this week.
Yolanda Calderon, an elementary school music teacher, is one of hundreds of activists who will march on Wednesday from the State Capitol to the Hyatt Regency Denver, where ALEC is holding this year’s annual meeting.
On Saturday, Calderon participated in a “teach-in” where she and others who plan to march learned about ALEC’s brand of politics. It’s the type of politics Americans say they are tired of and doesn’t work for them.
There’s zero transparency and zero accountability,” said Calderon, who says the corrupt “pay-to-play” process ALEC uses to pass its unpopular and harmful policies is bad for the nation. “It undermines democracy.
ALEC’s membership is a marriage of state politicians and corporate special interest groups. ALEC politicians outsource their duties to corporate lobbyists who write the laws and vote on which bills get introduced and, in many cases, approved in state legislatures nationwide. It’s all done behind closed doors—with no input from voters or the general public.
Think of any legislation that has to do with taking money away from vital public services and giving it to private interests and, more often than not, an ALEC politician is behind it.
On the education front, ALEC politicians are known for pushing voucher legislation. Vouchers drain critical funding away from public schools to pay tuition for a select few at private and/or religious schools. However, as Calderon learned when she attended Saturday’s teach-in, ALEC’s tentacles stretch far and wide.
“It was very eye-opening to me,” she said. “The environment, tax laws, privatizing prisons and public schools. I now have a better understanding of how all this fits together. And it’s bipartisan. There are Democrats and Republicans working with ALEC.”
And what do these politicians get in exchange for “working” with ALEC? Big campaign checks and extravagant all-expenses paid vacation junkets. And it gets worse. Partnering with ALEC allows them to sell out their constituents in secret and skirt ethics laws.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has proven on more than one occasion that she is unqualified for her new post, is an ALEC supporter and plans to speak at the Denver meeting. Calderon believes the march will also send a message to DeVos, who, along with her boss, President Trump, are pushing a budget that would slash more than $9 billion from federal education funding and set up a $1 billion national voucher scheme.
“We (educators) need to be relentless and let her know that we are not going to back down,” said Calderon. “My students are important to me. My profession is important to me, and we will not allow her to undermine the good that we have been doing in our communities.”
With this new training under her belt, Calderon feels she’s better equipped to get her fellow Coloradans to see the truth about ALEC and why they need to get involved to ensure a better future for our students.
“We have to build a tidal wave of support,” said Calderon. “It’s not about being anti-anything. We are for our students. We are for public schools, and we are for our communities.”