Two groups of educators in Ohio have been standing up against the ALEC-driven agenda to hurt public schools in order to privatize and profiteer off of education: Public Education Partners and the Ohio BATs (Badass Teachers).
ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch-funded enterprise that writes copy-and-paste legislation to benefit corporations that state legislators turn into law. ALEC has received funding from AT&T, Allergan, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company among many other profit-driven enterprises.
They have produced model bills on a broad range of issues including reducing business regulation and corporate taxation, loosening environmental regulations, tightening voter identification rules, weakening labor unions, and opposing gun control. One of their most wicked agendas has been to privatize public education to turn it into a $500 billion per year profit center.
You know the Third Grade Reading Guarantee that has now caused thousands of would-be fourth graders to be retained because of their scores on these unnecessary, unproductive high-stakes tests? Yeah, that legislation was copy-and-pasted from ALEC. They don’t care who they hurt as long as the cash rolls into their pockets. As ECOT founder Bill Lager put it, “It’s not about the (expletive) kids… it’s about the money.”
Teachers in Ohio are having none of it. Jeanne Melvin is a grandmother of three, a former teacher of 36 years retired from Hilliard schools who is a founder and current president of Public Education Partners and a members of Ohio BATs. Melvin said Friday that she cannot stand by and watch profiteers destroy public school districts and the children and families that they serve.
In July, Melvin wrote a letter to the Columbus Dispatch noting that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would be a featured speaker at ALEC’s Denver conference this year. DeVos is a well-known enemy to public education and friend to and funder of the privatize-and-profiteer movement.
“For those who have never heard of ALEC, it’s a covert organization that writes cookie-cutter laws to facilitate privatization,” Melvin wrote in her letter. “Privatizing our public schools is a primary objective, and at its meetings, education companies, lobbyists, and ALEC politicians come together to discuss initiatives that revolve around subsidizing private K-12 education.”
ALEC is responsible for creating multiple schemes to label public schools “educationally bankrupt” to rationalize giving tax dollars to less-regulated charter and private schools, Melvin noted. ALEC promotes state-mandated high-stakes testing for children and their school districts; it advocates for charter schools and school-voucher programs that subsidize for-profit schools and religious schools, she wrote.
ALEC has created a variety of ways to further using public monies for school privatization in Ohio, she said.
ALEC corporations provide funding to cover the annual conference and to subsidize the activities of the legislators who are part of ALEC, she wrote, noting that more than 65 of Ohio’s legislators are ALEC members, and some of them request reimbursement whenever they attend an ALEC Conference to learn about privatization.
Who funds those trips to ALEC meetings, and what do they expect in return, Melvin questioned.
Then she went out and got some answers. Melvin emailed over 50 ALEC legislators to see if they attended the recent ALEC Conference and, if so, who paid their way.
“I received 11 replies,” she said in an email Friday. “Should I assume that those who did not answer have something to hide?”
Melvin listed the replies she received:
State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati – “I did attend the conference. ALEC, not the taxpayers, paid for my attendance. The General Assembly is currently in summer recess so no official legislative business is now being conducted in Columbus.”
State Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima – Sen. Huffman “did attend the ALEC conference in July. Members who attend the conference pay the costs of attendance, including registration, travel, and lodging up front. Travel costs are then reimbursed up to a certain amount by ALEC.”
Melvin sent this message to Sen. Huffman’s office: “Thank you for the response – I appreciate you taking the time to reply. My question is this: If ALEC reimburses Senator Huffman for travel costs, won’t that organization expect something from him in return? Doesn’t he know that the American Legislative Exchange Council heavily promotes school vouchers?”
Huffman has introduced legislation to expand the use of vouchers in Ohio.
While at least 39 Ohio state legislators who belong to ALEC didn’t have the guts to respond to Melvin, seven others said they didn’t attend. These include ALEC members state Rep. Steve Hambley, R-Brunswick, state Rep. Sarah LaTourette, state Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley, state Rep. Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, state Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, state Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, and state Rep. Anne Gonzales, R-Westerville.
The other two responses Melvin said she received came from state Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Genoa Township, and state Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard, neither of whom are ALEC members and both of whom said they did not attend.
Melvin said that she thinks people are starting to catch on to the destructive aims of ALEC and that many state legislators are trying to downplay their relationship with the group.