Update on Smart ALEC: Education, Privatization, and the Pursuit of Profit

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In December 2012 Cloaking Inequity profiled the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a national organization “composed of legislators, businesses and foundations” with great influence and connections to extreme think tanks and supported by funding from corporations that are seeking to drive a public policy agenda based on privatization and profit. At the time I relayed:

A recent flurry of legislation seeking to capitalize on public dollars into “parental choice” and “vouchers” were not inspired by legitimate, local, or a family “grass roots” base but from a national, well-funded effort from extreme think tanks modeled, written, and disseminated by ALEC. Diane Ravitch has extensively written on ALEC’s opinions and activities in the education sector here. Many state legislators have been provided training, technical assistance and handed the language for bills to direct the flow of public money into “parental choice.” As a consequence privatization and profit driving efforts in the education sector are growing as the public dollars are flowing. For example, see the 2012 ALEC Report on American Education. On pages 6 – 9 they summarize their successes in 2011 in regards to vouchers.

Notably, privatization and profit efforts in education have been tried elsewhere. A decade ago Chile decided that private (and non-democratic) organizations should provision schooling— education should be excluded as much as possible from a government’s budget. As a result their public system is shrinking rapidly and low-SES students are now more likely to be denied access to a high-quality education. If you are looking for model voucher legislation for privatization and profit, you have to look no further than Chile. While parental choice sounds attractive, those behind the legislative efforts for privatization are not interested in equity and social justice, despite their simple, impassioned, and convincing rhetoric otherwise. In their hands, our public system of education will continue to wither and collapse.

Karen from Houston sent along the following note and updates on ALEC’s education efforts:

ALEC has finally named a private chair to their Education Task Force, Jonathan Butcher from the Goldwater Institute.  He replaces Mickey Revenaugh, VP of Connections who resigned about a year ago after the company was acquired by Pearson.  Rep Greg Forristall from Iowa was appointed several months ago as the public chair, succeeding Rep David Casas from Georgia. Current Members of the Education Task force are not listed on the ALEC site.  A number of corporations have dropped or not renewed their ALEC membership as well as legislators. The next task force summit is May 2-3 in Oklahoma City.

The next task force summit is May 2-3 in Oklahoma City.

http://www.alec.org/meetings/spring-task-force-summit-2013/

The annual meeting will be in Chicago Aug 7-9.

http://www.alec.org/meetings/annual-meeting/

The list of state chairmen may be out of date as a Texas legislator is listed who retired at the close of the last lege session.

http://www.alec.org/about-alec/state-chairmen/

Sources for information on ALEC include Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC Exposed and People for the American Way.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

http://www.pfaw.org/category/organizations/american-legislative-exchange-council

This month, ALEC announced for the first time they are publicly releasing some of their model legislation.

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/03/12024/alec-corporate-bill-mill-posts-some-model-bills-online-first-time-watchdogs-say-m

We realize that ALEC wants to stay under the radar and gladhandle our legislative process, but why would we let them do that??

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Categories: Vouchers

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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