An organization which crafts model legislation for states is catching blame for education policies it has supported around the country.
The American Legislative Exchange Council – better known as ALEC – describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan organization that focuses on policy relating to “free markets, limited government and constitutional division of powers between the federal and state governments.”
Former Gov. Jeb Bush describes ALEC as “a group of reform-minded center-right legislators that convene. They have a policy focus.”
ALEC is in the cross hairs of nine left-of-center groups that put together a report detailing its “damaging influence” on public education policy.
Their feelings are clear in the report’s title – ALEC v. Kids: ALEC’s Assault On Public Education.
So what do these groups believe ALEC has done wrong?
Progress Florida political director Damien Filer issued this statement:
ALEC provides Florida members with “issue alerts,” “talking points,” and “press release templates” expressing support or opposition to state legislation, despite its claims that “ALEC does not lobby in any state.”
The organization also tracks the status of its model bills in legislatures and bills it does not like, and sends its employees to testify in support of its bills in state houses across the country. ALEC model legislation has been introduced in Florida’s legislature, at times word for word.
Despite claims to the contrary, ALEC’s agenda is not based upon ideology, but rather upon financial rewards for its corporate funders.
The report notes that ALEC’s “corporate members pay $7,000 to $25,000 to join, and have opportunities for greater sponsorship.”
Among the report’s findings:
- The Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, intended to reform education. ALEC listed FEE as a member in 2011. Both FEE and ALEC share funders, including ALEC members K12 Inc., Amplify, State Farm Insurance, and Microsoft.
- FEE’s board and staff have deep ties to ALEC. FEE’s research received a “Bunkum Award” from the National Education Policy Center for consistently using false and deceptive ‘research’ work to promote former Bush’s policies.
- ALEC’s model ‘Special Needs Scholarship Program Act’ is based on the Florida McKay scholarships, which are wrought with problems. There is no mechanism in Florida law to measure the academic achievement of students using the scholarships. For more than a decade, Florida has spent millions on the scholarships, without any mechanism to assess the efficacy of the program.
“Floridians need to know who is representing, and how cozy their lawmakers are with, the for-profit education industrial complex,” said Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida. “We will continue to shine a bright light on ALEC and the lawmakers doing their dirty work for as long as their assault on our neighborhood public schools continues.”
We’ve asked the folks at ALEC for their opinion about the report. We’ll post their comments when we get them.
UPDATE: ALEC and the Foundation for Excellence in Education have responded. Read them here.
In addition, a spokesman for a group named in the report says his group is not affiliated with ALEC. “Amplify has never been a member of ALEC,” Amplify spokesman Justin Hamilton told StateImpact Florida. Wireless Generation was a member of ALEC in 2009, and it was bought and folded into a new company – called Amplify. Hamilton says the new company has no connection to ALEC.