When Orlando Sentinel reporter Leslie Postal used a release from the Democrat Progressive Caucus to report that ALEC was sponsoring another education privatization indoctrination session for state legislators this weekend, a firestorm of coverage erupted. The Koch brothers-funded group doesn’t operate in the open as evidenced by this from Postal:
ALEC has been criticized for proposing “model” legislation — on lots of topics — and then pushing state lawmakers to file bills that closely follow the association’s blueprint.
And that’s what the Democratic caucus doesn’t like, calling ”this interference by outside interests” a “threat to our democracy” in a press release today.
“The secretive process of allowing corporate lobbyists and billionaires to write legislation, which they then pass off to Florida legislators, is a betrayal of the intent of representative government. The closed-door gathering of legislators is not government in the sunshine,” said Susan Smith, the caucus president.
An ALEC spokesman has not yet responded to a request for comment. There is no information that I could find about an Amelia Island event on its website.
I posted on the Amelia Island event in this January 24th post which featured the email that ALEC was sending out to state legislators. Events indicate that ALEC moved up their meeting this weekend as the email had the event scheduled for the 24th of February. The email was likely written last year as the person who sent the email left ALEC at the beginning of this year. Writes Dennis Bielke for PR Watch:
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.
Karen Francisco is the Indiana Journal Gazzette writes that ALEC’s first agenda is to eliminate teacher unions. Its how ALEC gauges success:
Because its meetings are secret and its agenda unknown, the best clue to ALEC’s education focus is its Report Card on American Education, released last week for national school choice week.
States are graded on the curve, to put it politely. Never mind those pesky achievement figures; states that engaged in union-busting excelled while the others lagged behind.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote the report’s introduction, which should offer a clue as to how the Hoosier state fared:
Daniels wrote the report card’s forward, lamenting how the unions in his state once had a voice in issues such as the length of the school day, academic freedom and, generally, the content of their work, says his state has turned the corner. “Collective bargaining will now be limited to wages and benefits and will no longer stand in the way of effective school leadership or student progress,” Daniels writes.
Indiana’s ALEC grade improved to a B from a C+ in 2010 even though its NAEP scores declined from 13th to 17th. Indiana did, however, pass several pieces of legislation in the last year that were influenced by ALEC model bills, including the creation of a statewide voucher school program, merit pay and restricted collective bargaining rights for teachers, and deep budget cuts.
There’s no word as yet as to whether or not any Florida legislators are attending the Amelia Island conference. But its clear that some republican legislators are still submitting ALEC written bills. In November, Rep. Rachel Burgin of Riverview had to quickly withdraw a bill which still had ALEC’s introductory clause in it. ALEC is also involved in advancing the privatization of state prison systems. A republican Florida state senator Mike Fasano who opposed prison privatization was removed from his committee chairmanship for being against the effort.
The breathtakingly bold ouster of Fasano was so out in the open that it reveals just how empowered the state’s republican leadership feels they are right now. Has ALEC helped promote such brazenness? The group’s history of promoting coercive legislation intended to eliminate opponents such as last session’s Paycheck Protection Act or this session’s demonstrably misleading Teacher Protection Act is well documented. Some Florida republican senators are even econsidering a secret path to privatization.
When does it get to the point when Florida’s republican’s are finally seen as tyrannical? And that ALEC is seen as the instrument of their tyranny?