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Why ALEC Fabricated Public School Failures (and Why We’re Not Surprised)

A new report reveals how ALEC has manipulated public education to create sales opportunities for their membership.

Teacher with a group of high school students in a classroom. (Photo: via Shutterstock )

Teacher with a group of high school students in a classroom. (Photo: <a href= via Shutterstock )” width=”637″ height=”424″ />Teacher with a group of high school students in a classroom. (Photo: via Shutterstock )

“ALEC vs. Kids: ALEC’s Assault on Public Education”. That’s the alarmingly accurate title of a new report that focuses on how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education task force has used a state-by-state report card to fabricate failure in state public education systems in order to create sales opportunities for their corporate membership.

ALEC – All About Favoring Corporations

ALEC was formed in 1973 by a group of conservative activists who came together to advance a national right wing agenda in state legislatures across the country. They do this by coordinating and connecting corporate special interests, insurance companies, lobbyists, right wing think tanks, the super rich and conservative state legislators.

They then produce model policies on issues affecting many facets of American life, with the goal of making conditions as favorable to corporations as possible. The group is behind just about every bad Republican initiative, including union-busting, Voter ID and Stand Your Ground gun laws that helped George Zimmerman go free after murdering an unarmed Trayvon Martin.

Recently the conservative lobbying group has found its way into the previously untapped market of public education by producing an education “report card.” And the 2013 result is not a pretty sight.

Report Full Of “Shoddy” Research

Professor Christopher Lubienski and doctoral candidate T. Jameson Brewer, both of the University of Illinois, reviewed the document:

The ALEC report card assigns its grades based on states’ policies regarding their support for charter schools, their implementation of school voucher plans, and the permissiveness they display toward homeschooling.

The authors contend that these grades are based on “high quality” research demonstrating that the policies for which they award high grades will improve education for all students, Lubienski and Jameson write. Instead, the report card draws on the work of advocacy groups and is grounded in ideological tenets, leading the authors to assign high grades to states with unproven and even disproven market-based policies, the reviewers add. They point out that the authors’ claims of a growing body of research lacks citations; their grading system contradicts testing data that they report; and their data on alternative teacher research is simply wrong.

In fact, the research ALEC highlights is quite shoddy and is unsuitable for supporting its recommendations, Lubienski and Jameson conclude. The report’s purpose appears to be more about shifting control of education to private interests than in improving education.

Virginia is one of the nine states profiled in the report. Here’s what happened there:

Putting Profits Before Children

Governor Bob McDonnell received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from virtual learning company K12 Inc., and promptly requested the introduction of ALEC model legislation to expand virtual education in 2010.

It passed in the Virginia legislature, and K12 Inc. swung into action in Carroll County, one of the state’s most impoverished counties, to maximize the public money it would receive. Even when the school board voted to close K12 Inc. down because it did worse than traditional schools on 20 out of 22 measures, Virginia legislators with ALEC connections enacted a law in 2012 requiring high school students to take an online course to graduate.

71 Bills Based On ALEC ‘Models’

ALEC’s ‘model’ bills are making their way into state legislatures, as in Virginia, and they are dangerous.

Currently, at least 71 bills introduced in 2013 that make it harder for average Americans to access the civil justice system resemble ‘models’ from ALEC, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy.

These are bills that would weaken the legal rights of people who are wrongfully harmed by a corporation. Not surprisingly, given the interests of ALEC, they are bills designed to provide protection for the industries who wrote them, by changing the rules to limit accountability when a corporation’s products or actions cause injury or death.

Even though the marriage of big business and education is not unheard of — for example, the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) provided billions of dollars in profits to corporate clients through dubious processes of testing and assessment and supplemental educational services instead of delivering equal access to public education to millions of American children — we cannot sit back complacently.

We need to kick ALEC out of education, and indeed, out of our lives.

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