ALECs Extreme Legislative Agenda for 2014

We have written about ALEC, and their anti-public education agenda numerous times, see here and here. They are set to meet in Washington, DC this week for its "States and Nation Policy Summit," which is one of the ways ALEC crafts and pushes its legislative agenda for the coming year. As for their agenda, according to reports from PR Watch, here's what they have in store for public Ed.

Undermining Public Education and Lining the Pockets of For-Profit School Companies:

  • Two bills to take advantage of concern for young students at risk of not learning to read in order to enrich computer software companies, called the "Early Intervention Program Act" (PDF, p. 6) and the "K-1 Technology-Based Reading Intervention for English Learners Act" (PDF, p. 8). The former appears to be based on Utah's 2012 HB 513, which since its passage has enriched at least one ALEC corporation, Imagine Learning, to the tune of almost $2 million. Since Imagine did not offer test scores for the beginning and ending of the use of its software in the 2012-2013 school year, little is know of what benefits there may (or may not) have been to students enrolled in the new program, even as it diverted tax dollars from public schools to private corporations.
  • Another related bill, ALEC's "Student Achievement Backpack Act," also appears to be based on a Utah bill, 2013 SB 82, which provides access to student data in a "cloud-based" electronic portal format. According to Ed Week, it was inspired by a publication by Digital Learning Now!, a project of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, which has ties to ALEC and is funded in part by Pearson, an international media company that bought out Connections Education, formerly a very active member of ALEC's Education Task Force.
  • Another school privatization bill called the "Course Choice Program Act" (PDF, p. 17), which appears to be based on Louisiana's "course choice," or mini-voucher, program. It lets high school students take free online classes if their regular school does not offer it, or if their school had been rated a C, D or F by the state, and began enrollment in 2013. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled its initial funding mechanism from the state's "Minimum Foundation Program" unconstitutional. The state's voucher program has been challenged by the U.S. Justice Department on the grounds that it might promote segregation. A federal judge ruled this month that the federal government has the right to examine voucher assignments in order to make sure that's not happening, according to The Times-Picayune.

Of course, their agenda doesn't stop there, it also continues to include attacks on working people and their rights.

Undermining Workers' Rights:

  • Another bill to undermine unions, masquerading as "employee choice," called the "Public Employee Choice Act" (PDF, p. 6), is effectively "right to work" for public employees, and undermines collective bargaining by allowing workers to freeload off the benefits of union negotiations without paying the costs of union representation. The bill appears to be based on an Oregon 2014 ballot initiative, Initiative 9. It is similar to so-called "right to work," only for public employees, and its euphemistic use of the word "choice" has been appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court. The "Public Employee Choice Act Committee" has so far taken in over $52,000 and spent over $36,000 as of November 25, according to campaign finance records filed with the Oregon Secretary of State, which doesn't track the money spent and raised on dark money "issue ads.
  • Further efforts to eliminate occupational licensing for any profession, which help ensure that people who want to call themselves doctors, long-haul truckers, accountants, or barbers meet basic standards of training and expertise to guarantee that consumers are safe and get what they pay for. This extreme bill, called the "Private Certification Act" (PDF, p. 11), swims against the current of what most people want, which are to be treated by professionals who meet standards for competence or safety that have been established by law through the democratic process.

For a full rundown of some of the policies you might see pursued in Ohio in the coming months and beyond, check out the link.