Smart ALEC?

If you are a supporter of public education and you haven’t heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). You should do a little reading. ALEC is powerful and it has in it’s sights public education in the United States.

ALEC is a 501(c)(3) non profit. It’s purpose is to advance the conservative agenda by crafting “model” bills with legislators and corporate biggies. Like all things that are legitimate in this country, ALEC’s model bills are secret. Reason I guess to believe that they have nothing to hide.

As my ranting has been going over the last few days you can probably imagine that they have their fingers in education somewhere. In fact, they do.

In 2011, ALEC designed a model bill on virtual charter schools. This bill was leaked to The Nation and appears on the website “ALEC Exposed.” The bill of course is very long but interestingly they include a “simple version” apparently for those of us who attended real public schools. The simple version reads like this:  

“Nothing in this bill shall preclude the use of computer- and
Internet-based instruction for students in a virtual or remote setting.”

That sounds pretty harmless. In one short sentence, ALEC advocates for virtual or cyber charter schools. Not a big deal, they have several advocates. 

But wait, maybe it is a big deal. According to PolicyMic.com, our good friends at Pearson co chair the Education Task Force of ALEC. Pearson of course is the operator of Connections Academy, one of the largest networks of virtual charter schools in the country. Isn’t that like drafting a bill requiring every school to hire a juggling clown and your new son-in-law just graduated from clown college. Talk about buttering your own bread. 

Oh, that’s not enough to get your panties in a bunch. How about this? According to SourceWatch, Lisa Gillis of K12, Inc. is the Private Sector Chair ALEC’s Education Task Force’s Special Needs Subcommittee. K12, Inc.is another for profit education company with cyber or virtual charters in every state that claims they are the same as “brick and mortar” charters. This would include two of the largest cybers in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School and Agora Cyber Charter.

So why should you care? ALEC is a very powerful organization. They create model bills that benefit the corporations that align with ALEC and then throw money behind their legislators when they support the Models when they become realities. If you think that it is alright to sell out our students to the highest bidder then this article wasn’t written for you. If, on the other hand, you believe that a public school is not one that is listed on the NYSE (K12,Inc. and Connections Academy) you should read and be wary.

The issue goes deeper than using state subsidy to fund cybercharters too. When a student in Pennsylvania enrolls in a cybercharter, more than the state subsidy attached to that student is billed to the district. There is even a larger gap when the student has an individualized education plan. That means that some of the money going to our cyber friends is local money. Also, in Pennsylvania, the three largest cyber schools received almost $4 million in Title I funds. For those of you who don’t know, that’s federal money. I’m not sure how PDE allocates so much to a system that encompasses no real district, but I’m working on it.

If your legislators are affiliated with ALEC, I urge you to contact them and let them know that you support public education. If you want to know where your legislators stand, here’s a handy guide: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Pennsylvania_ALEC_Politicians. There is also a list of corporations: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Corporations and non-profits: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_Non-Profits

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