by Max Brantley
More on ALEC's activities (Center for Media and Democracy). And I'd like to know if any worthy Arkansas legislators were in on this winter getaway to sunny Florida.
It's about a privacy-shrouded retreat for state legislators that began Feb. 2.
Today, hundreds of state legislators from across the nation will head out to an "island" resort on the coast of Florida to a unique "education academy" sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There will be no students or teachers. Instead, legislators, representatives from right-wing think tanks and for-profit education corporations will meet behind closed doors to channel their inner Milton Friedman and promote the radical transformation of the American education system into a private, for-profit enterprise. (ALEC has claimed no corporate reps will be there but it has refused to let the press attend to see this claim for itself.)
The Koch-financed school "choice" movement — the choice eventually to be at institutions the billionaires either own or their management corporations are paid to run — is already on the ground in Arkansas with paid operatives and busy social media outlets. Surely an Arkansas legislator or three got a ticket to Florida for this confab.
The Goldwater Institute, a promoter of Rapert's wacky notion to put him in charge of the federal budget, also promoted this closed-door education meet. You've seen some of the results already.
ALEC's education bills encompass more than 20 years of effort to privatize public education through an ever-expanding network of school voucher systems, which divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools to private schools, or the creation of new private charter schools with public funds, and even with private online schools (who needs actual teachers when you can have a virtual one?). The bills also allow schools to loosen standards for teachers and administrators, exclude students with physical disabilities and special educational needs, escape the requirements of collective bargaining agreements and experiment with other pet causes like merit pay, single-sex education, school uniforms, and political and religious indoctrination of students.
States where students score well on tests but where ALEC's legislative agenda around school choice, charters, merit pay, de-unionization and alternative certification have not yet taken hold get low grades. States where elected officials are gung-ho for ALEC's agenda but the students are not faring so well are still graded generously.