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


ALEC, the smartest guy (Because corporations are people too) in the room that maybe you have never heard of…

The American Legislative Exchange Council (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. The People for the America Way profiled ALEC’s donors:

ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation). These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.

ALEC convenes state politicians behind closed doors to rewrite state laws and develop “model bills” that reach into almost every area of American life— often to directly benefit corporations.  According to ALEC exposed, ALEC has said that corporations have “a VOICE and a VOTE” on specific changes to the law that are then proposed in states. As reported by, about 1,000 state bills have been written/inspired by ALEC and about 1/5 get passed.

One major ALEC effort in the educational policy arena is vouchers. ALEC has promoted an elegant campaign to frame them as educational policy that would help poor children and children of color to have access to a better education. I have extensively discussed the fallacy of that argument/opinion based on empirical research and observing the implementation of vouchers in practice here.

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. If ALEC’s privatization and profit forces are left unchecked, their goals will be realized at the expense of our children and nation.

For more information on who ALEC is and why it is so powerful:

Written with assistance from Aurelio M. Montemayor


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