Q: Why are so many states pushing charter schools now? A: ALEC

Michigan, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, plus Georgia. Why are so many states attempting pro or con charter school referendums this year? Because many states have a push for charter schools, especially Louisiana. Where’s that coming from, at the same time in so many states? ALEC, that’s where.

Ed Anderson wrote for The Times-Picayune 12 January 2011, Gov. Bobby Jindal says charter school proposal is based on Florida initiative,

Jindal said his proposal will be fashioned on a Florida law known as “Charter-Schools-in-the-Workplace Initiative” which also has been introduced in 14 other states.

Excuse me? Which “also has been introduced in 14 other states”? Then it’s not just a Florida law, is it? And who introduced it?

Mattreichel wrote for FireDogLake 5 April 2012, Jindal Puts Louisiana’s Schools Up for Sale: ALEC’s Education Reforms Rammed Through

In attempting to identify the instigators of this agenda, the story begins and ends with the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conduit between corporate boardrooms and elected officials willing to enact their agenda of austerity and privatization. The non-profit evades lobby disclosure requirements by presenting itself as an advocate of rather innocuous ends: “the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty,” according to their website. In reality, their initiatives stick to a neo-liberal orthodoxy reminiscent of the structural adjustment programs long imposed on the global south by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. As the economic elite has seen its supply of exploitable poor countries dry up, they have refocused their attention on the United States, using mechanisms like ALEC as to help enact many of the same policies on states with governors and legislators firmly in their pocket. These policies include prison privatization, stripping collective bargaining rights, reducing or eliminating environmental protections, and enacting regressive tax laws.

Louisiana has been a principal focal point of ALEC’s education agenda in recent years, as best evinced in the decision to hold their annual meeting in the soupy August heat of New Orleans last year. Governor Jindal led a plenary session at the conference, and was joined in attendance by no less than 24 members of the state House, according to source material gathered by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Among them was Noble Ellington, a recently retired Republican representative who presided as National Chairman of ALEC at the time. In an interview with Democracy Now that week, he stated that it did not matter that corporations amounted to such a dominant presence at the ALEC meeting, because elected officials were in attendance as well: “We represent the public and we are the ones who decide. So the tax-paying public is represented there at the table, because I’m there”.

That model might work if the taxpayer were the politician’s sole benefactor. However, campaign disclosure records show that some 50 members of the state House together raised more than $500,000 in campaign funds from ALEC member corporations during the last cycle. This fact alone ought serve as sufficient evidence of the foolhardiness of Ellington’s characterization of lawmakers as independent arbiters. However, yet more proof is immediately available on the home page for the Louisiana Legislature. There, one finds a link to the ALEC website: an outrageous illustration of how embedded corporate governance has become. That someone thought it remotely appropriate to put the link in place and no one else found it potentially offensive speaks to a widespread acceptance of the primacy of business interests in the public sector. The political elite sees no inherent problem with a bargaining table composed of corporations, the politicians they support with vast campaign largesse, and an empty chair where the public ought be.

After all, removing the public from the public is precisely the intent of these reforms. The initial wave followed a devastating crisis, a la Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine,” and ensuing reforms have effectively institutionalized the crisis in Louisiana.

Where we are, they first tried school “unification” to create a budget crisis that would degrade public schools, leading to handovers to private-run schools. In Louisiana, they could skip that step because Hurricane Katrina provided the disaster. In other states, they are using other rationales. But the end goal is the same: to degrade or eliminate public schools and to promote private schools for private corporate control of education.

In Georgia, privatized education proponents have chosen a more indirect route, but if you want to know what’s ahead if that charter school referendum passes in November, read the rest of matreichel’s article.

We already knew ALEC is behind Georgia’s charter school referendum. ALEC Exposed has links to a long list of ALEC education model bills including ALEC’s model Charter Schools Act, which begins:

This legislation allows groups of citizens to seek charters from the state to create and operate innovative, ooutcome-based schools. These schools would be exempt from state laws and regulations that apply to public schools. Schools are funded on a per-pupil rate, the same as public schools.

This is very like what’s happening in Georgia, except the charter school referendum would rebrand private charter schools as public schools, and those rebranded privatized schools would get more money per pupil than public schools; money that would come from local sales and property taxes.

Can ALEC really play us for such rubes in Georgia that they can get us to approve a charter school referendum that is actually worse than ALEC’s model legislation?

Vote No on the charter school referendum in November!


One thought on “Q: Why are so many states pushing charter schools now? A: ALEC

  1. Hector Solon

    You are on the right track. Also notice in the official Romney Education Plan is riddiled with ALEC concepts and content. A couple jump points for you:
    It is very clear now that not only is ALEC leading the agenda to divert funding from public education at the State level, but a Romney administration is on the program as well.

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