Have you heard about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? ALEC is funded by big corporations who draft legislation, then hand it to lawmakers to introduce as their own. ALEC is the driving force behind Michigan’s recent taste for privatizing public education through voucher, charter, and cyber schools. They’ve even got a special department devoted to privatizing our education system: their Education Task Force.
2011 and 2012 saw the passage of legislation that included ALEC priorities and profits, instead of benefiting Michigan’s kids. One part of the package included a tenfold increase in the cap of how many students could enroll in virtual schools, which perform worse than traditional public schools. This is unacceptable. Sign our petition – demand that lawmakers in Lansing stop ALEC’s assault on public education!
Looking for more information on ALEC? Read our short synopsis below and check out our report at the end of this post!
What is ALEC? ALEC is a secretive “bill mill.” Its members are corporations and right-wing extremist advocacy groups, who meet behind closed doors to write laws that directly benefit their bottom line. Then they hand these “model bills” to right-wing elected officials, who pay their membership dues using our tax dollars.
How many Michigan lawmakers are ALEC members? Last year, 26 Michigan lawmakers and Snyder Administration officials were ALEC members. This year that number is down to 21, after Reps. Horn, Agema, and Gilbert were forced out of office by Michigan’s term limits law. Sen. Rick Jones announced last year he’d no longer be paying dues to keep up his ALEC membership. Former Sen. Patricia Birkholz left the Snyder Administration last year to take a post with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
How does ALEC influence education policy? ALEC’s Education Task Force combines private corporations that seek to profit off public education with radical right-wing advocacy groups seeking to siphon funding from community public schools or entirely privatize public education. ALEC’s Education Task Force includes the cyber school company K12 Inc., for-profit charter school operator National Heritage Academies, and the Mackinac Center’s parent organization, the State Policy Network. It’s little surprise, then, that ALEC’s Education Task Force prioritizes profits over results, secrecy over accountability, and corporations over kids.
What does that mean to states? The model legislation and policies pushed by ALEC are often advanced and enacted in states around the country with little to no alteration. Predictably, from cookie cutter bills come cookie cutter results. Our report seeks to draw lines directly from the corporations that sit on ALEC’s Education Task Force, to the bills passed that allow them to pad their profits with taxpayer dollars siphoned away from community public schools.
What does that mean to Michigan? Since Lansing politicians successfully passed an ALEC bill allowing unchecked expansion of privately-run charter and cyber schools in the state, for-profit cyber school operator K12 Inc. announced 2012 revenues of more than $700 million. While K12 Inc. makes massive profits off taxpayer dollars, they provide an inferior product: the on-time graduation rate for K12 Inc. schools is 49.1%, compared to 79.4% for all students in states in which K12 Inc. operates. National Heritage Academies, a Grand Rapids-based for-profit charter school operator founded by Republican donor J.C. Huizenga, has seen 17.5% growth since the passage of the ALEC model bill allowing unchecked expansion of privately-run charters. Huizenga has said his involvement in the charter school industry is because he believes “privatizing public education was not only practical but also desperately needed.” For-profit corporations manage about 80% of all charters in Michigan.