ALEC has their eye on your kids – Progress Michigan details ALEC’s role in “school reform”

You knew this was coming, right?

Progress Michigan released a report this week that outlines how the corporatist group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is working hard to turn our students into nice little profit centers by handing over their education to for-profit corporations. The report also shows how this pernicious campaign is playing out in other states, as well.

Michigan is home to nearly a quarter of the charter schools in the country and roughly 80% of our charter schools are run by for-profit businesses. What is their funding model? To funnel the taxes used for public education into their bank accounts. They do this by getting all sorts of breaks our traditional public schools do not get, including hiring non-unionized teachers.

ALEC, a corporate-funded group that produces a copious amount of model legislation for their corporatist legislative members to use in their state legislatures, has their eye on all of that sweet, sweet education money and their plans are playing out perfectly in Michigan.

From the report:

Since the 2010 elections, Michigan has rapidly undergone radical changes in education policy. 2011 and 2012 saw the passage of a package of legislation that included ALEC priorities, if not ALEC language. One part of the package included a tenfold increase in the cap of how many students could enroll in virtual schools. A separate part of the education package included charter school policy changes, including eliminating [geographical limits on] school authorizers, eliminating the cap on the number of charter school authorizers, and eliminating the property tax on charter schools. The charter school provisions are similar to the positions ALEC articulates in its Next Generation Charter Schools Act. The bill was not copied verbatim, but the ALEC model was enacted to “outline key elements” to follow, which the Michigan law certainly did.

This really doesn’t tell the full story. Have a look at what this legislation did when it was passed last year (from the legislative summary):

  • Delete numerical and geographical limits on the issuance of contracts for Public School Academies (PSAs), urban high school academies, and schools of excellence (SOEs).
  • Allow two or more authorizing bodies to issue a contract for a PSA or an SOE under an interlocal agreement.
  • Require educational goals to include demonstrated pupil academic achievement for all groups of pupils.
  • Permit contracts for the operation of the same configuration of age or grade levels at more than one site.
  • Delete requirements for a PSA or SOE to comply with a school district’s collective bargaining agreement.
  • Exempt property of a PSA, urban high school academy, or SOE from property taxes levied for school operating purposes, and from the
    State Education Tax.
  • Require a petition to be signed by at least 5%, rather than 15%, of the electors in a school district, in order to place the question of issuing a PSA or SOE contract on the ballot.
  • Revise provisions concerning the responsibilities of an authorizing body and the revocation of a contract.
  • Require a management agreement with an educational management organization to require the disclosure and posting of certain
    budgetary information.

No property taxes to pay. No unionized teachers and their pesky collective bargaining agreements to worry about. A scant 5% of the electors can put it on the ballot. No limits on how many there are.

This bill is a dream come true for those who make huge profits off the education of our kids.

Progress Michigan puts it this way:

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.

Outraged? You should be. Sign Progress Michigan’s petition to demand that the 26 Michigan legislators that belong to ALEC cut their ties immediately. And get involved NOW in the effort to vote these corporatist raiders out of our legislature in 2014. We don’t have a one minute to lose.

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