Here lies public education

Hogan recently stated, “We’re going to do everything we can to expand the use of charter schools. It’s a great idea.”  Currently, local school systems bear the cost of charter schools, so approving them means increasing spending or cutting funds for existing schools.

“I don’t see new schools being able to open,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, a national charter school advocacy group that is pushing for Hogan’s bill to remain intact.  Let’s take a look at Center for Education Reform. It’s funded by notable corporations and billionaires including the deadly reform triad: Gates, Broad and Walton.

Hogan is creating a financial incentive: tax benefits of up to $200,000 for businesses that donate to private and public schools.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked Maryland last among states with alternative school programs. Of course they did. ALEC cannot get his claws into MD unless they alter existing laws protecting public education from privatizers.

Don’t look to Maryland Public Policy Institute for help. They tack on heavy layers of pro charter studies and reports to promote an ideology of privatization. Despite their desire to identify as “non partisan” we must note they received the 2006 Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation Innovation in Promoting School Choice Award. Their academic advisory board includes individuals who worked as senior research manager of the President’s Commission on Privatization, and two worked for the far right CATO institute. Where’s the non partisan piece of this?

Jason Botel, founder of KIPP Baltimore and founding member of MDCAN also has a stake in colonization.

MDCAN is also funded by Gates, Broad and Walton.

Botel has been busy. He was part of a meeting in March 2015 hosted by The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers which “featured a rich discussion about ways that members of the philanthropic community might advocate for restoring funding for public schools.” A RICH discussion indeed. This should work swimmingly for corporation taking advantage of Hogan’s new tax incentive for private donations to fund charters.

Also worth examining the list of 2012 Maryland Charter School Task Force members.

Their “recommendations” rely heavily on research from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. So it’s not surprising how much their recommendation “mirror” ALEC model legislation.  They are members of the ALEC education task force.

NACSA receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Robertson Foundation

Finally, it is critical that Marylanders and Baltimore City parents in particular understand the real reasons for the push behind the pro charter narrative. Read the “make money now!” description of a recent conference hosted by Baltimore based Camden Partners.

Here are some of the headlines in the promotional flyer they used to promote interest:

Here are 7 important reasons you should register to attend this encore conference, “Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education Companies” —

Learn how to benefit from today’s huge industry shift, with so many education companies revising their business models.
Understand why much of the industry is pursuing certification training for its huge cost benefit over degree programs.
Discover which skill-based training programs are becoming commodities and which have pent-up demand.
Recognize the ramifications of commercial textbook publishers and educational software vendors being eclipsed by new online players.
Hear why companies providing resources and technical support for MOOCs are flourishing, and why the MOOC trend shows no sign of abating.
Realize how game-based learning is finding its way into more and more K-12 classrooms, and why game designers are becoming part of the educational team.

So major corporations and policy makers driven by an ideology of privatization are shaping the public narrative for education in Maryland. The connections between Hogan, the agenda to privatize public education and corporate interests run far deeper than what I have posted here. But unless the general voters, educators, and parents of Maryland are aware of how the narrative of public education, equity, and choice have been hijacked we will be stunned to awake one morning to find the fundamental core of our democracy: public education, has been sold out from under our feet. At some point, the blame must rest not with privatizers, but with ourselves for not doing anything to stop it.

This has been brewing for years. Also Read:


A young girl was trudging along a mountain path, trying to reach her grandmother’s house.
It was bitter cold, and the wind cut like a knife.
When she was within sight of her destination, she heard a rustle at her feet.

Looking down, she saw a snake.
Before she could move, the snake spoke to her.
He said, “I am about to die.
It is too cold for me up here, and I am freezing.
There is no food in these mountains, and I am starving.
Please put me under your coat and take me with you.”

“No,” replied the girl. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake.
If I pick you up, you will bite me, and your bite is poisonous.”

“No, no,” said the snake. “If you help me, you will be my best friend.
I will treat you differently.”

The little girl sat down on a rock for a moment to rest and think things over.
She looked at the beautiful markings on the snake and had to admit that it was the most beautiful snake she had ever seen.

Suddenly, she said, “I believe you. I will save you.
All living things deserve to be treated with kindness.”

The little girl reached over, put the snake gently under her coat and proceeded toward her grandmother’s house.

Within a moment, she felt a sharp pain in her side.
The snake had bitten her.

“How could you do this to me?” she cried.
“You promised that you would not bite me, and I trusted you!”

“You knew what I was when you picked me up,” hissed the snake as he slithered away.

what if

Yes, we all know that corporations “own” politicians and sway legislation. ALEC has gamed that system for decades. But what if that corporate-driven system of manipulating public governance “behind closed doors” to serve corporate interests could take it …one…step…further? What if there was an international TRIBUNAL of corporations that was able to TRUMP national governance, and enforce protection of corporate profits at the expense of human well-being? You’d have the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

I’ll take a giant leap here, as Don Bunger did (who alerted me first to this possibility) and suggest that Pearson (a corporation centered in the United Kingdom), the world’s largest producer of education tests and textbooks has its eye on (and hands in) the Trans Pacific Partnership. Pearson has enormous global power and reach.

What is TPP

According to Robert Reich:

“It would be the largest trade deal in history — involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy – yet it’s been devised in secret … The TPP also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation’s legal system, who can order compensation for any “unjust expropriation” of foreign assets … Even better for global companies, the tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations. Philip Morris is using a similar provision against Uruguay (the provision appears in a bilateral trade treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland), claiming that Uruguay’s strong anti-smoking regulations unfairly diminish the company’s profits … The foreign subsidiaries of U.S.-based corporations could just as easily challenge any U.S. government regulation they claim unfairly diminishes their profits.”

For example, if Uruguay can be penalized by Phillip Morris for creating an anti-smoking campaign what would stop Pearson from suing the United States for reducing (dare I hope….eliminating) standardized k-12 testing? The TPP agreement would give big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits.

Proponents of TPP want ‘‘more international protection when it comes to their intellectual property and other assets,’’ yet also seek ‘‘less protection of consumers, workers, small investors, and the environment, because they interfere with their profits.’’

Blogger Ken Previti had TPP on his radar in 2013 pointing out, “So, if we pass a law that requires our state to ‘Buy American’ or a law which regulates emissions of greenhouse gas, protects water supplies, or a law which protects workers’ rights, or consumer health, a corporation based in Korea or Australia could sue to collect damages.”

Let’s postulate for a moment that TPP (currently in its final phases of negotiations between the US, the EU, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries) actually holds water (under public radar and in secrecy….which it is) and the testing refusal movement continues to grow in the United States. Just as we are nearing a tipping point and as states, one by one, are crafting legislation to roll back testing, we might foresee Pearson FORCING states to REVISE their legislation and SUE the United States into maintaining Pearson contracts for all testing.

How can they do this?

Don Bunger, WA BAT suggests, “If Pearson can make the case to TPP’s Tribunal for a quasi breach of contract that will harm foreign companies and subcontractors, then this means that TPP will be the book end to the damage that POTUS and Duncan have set up … It will be the rule of the land backed up by a foreign corporate tribunal that will not give the democratic elected school boards, nearly 15,000 of them, a say as to who will do the testing in their school district.”

Bunger also points out that: “Under the NAFTA–Trans Pacific Partnership Tribunal which will run by and staffed only by Corporations, neither the Supreme Court of the US, the House and Senate in DC, POTUS  and no state legislature will be able to refuse Pearson being able to be the de facto test preparer for every state, a status that it now enjoys.”

How does TPP work? For starters, “500 corporations and banks sit on advisory committees with access to various chapters.”

ALEC has crafted model legislation asking legislators to “fast track” TPP, see here.

Here is Don’s full letters to his state senators:

Dear Senators Murray and Cantwell:
I am writing you to request a copy of the draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The TPP would be the most significant international commercial agreement since the World Trade Organization with broad implications for U.S. jobs, food safety, financial regulation, medicine prices and more.

Here is my urgent concern. Pearson LLC has 40,000 employees in 80 countries, many of which are in TPP locations. Should a school board, state or the DOE in Washington D.C. decide to cancel a Pearson PreK-12 testing contract it would, as I understand it, be possible for Pearson through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement System to take the contract cancellation up with a corporate run tribunal. This could result in overturning the wishes of a school board, state or federal DOE without any formal oversight by our state or federal legislatures or the Supreme Court. Thus, Pearson or any other foreign corporation who had operations in a TPP location could, with the aid of the TPP Tribunal become the de facto corporation in charge of public school testing in America. Please send me a copy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership draft texts, and information about your leadership to represent the public interest throughout this process.”

Corporate lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Republican leaders in Congress strongly support the deal, while congressional Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed. TPP’s backers say the final deal will boost economic growth, while critics argue that it could exacerbate income inequality and undermine key financial and environmental regulations. So if the “TPP investment chapter (can) grant multinational companies the political power to challenge domestic laws and regulations before an international tribunal” what would stop global Pearson from challenging anti-testing regulations?

(As a side note here) Another issue that warrants further investigation beyond this one post is the effect TPP may have on the colonization of public education by international privately managed charter schools. New Zealand Post Primarary Teacher’s Association seemed concerned enough about this to include it in their recommendations:

“That the Select Committee seek to provide New Zealanders with assurances that a future sovereign government will not be prevented by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement from closing a charter school, should voters determine to end the experiment.”

A book by Jane Kelsey also notes how, “foreign firms running privatized public services such as charter schools … would enjoy special protection.”

According to Wiki Leaks:

“The Investment Chapter highlights the intent of the TPP negotiating parties, led by the United States, to increase the power of global corporations by creating a supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can “sue” states and obtain taxpayer compensation for “expected future profits”. These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems. ISDS tribunals introduce a mechanism by which multinational corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country’s laws or policies affect the company’s claimed future profits. In return, states hope that multinationals will invest more. Similar mechanisms have already been used. For example, US tobacco company Phillip Morris used one such tribunal to sue Australia (June 2011 – ongoing) for mandating plain packaging of tobacco products on public health grounds; and by the oil giant Chevron against Ecuador in an attempt to evade a multi-billion-dollar compensation ruling for polluting the environment. The threat of future lawsuits chilled environmental and other legislation in Canada after it was sued by pesticide companies in 2008/9. ISDS tribunals are often held in secret, have no appeal mechanism, do not subordinate themselves to human rights laws or the public interest, and have few means by which other affected parties can make representations.”

Yes. I know. Some of this may sound far-fetched. But then again, ten years ago if you had told me that children with severe physical and cognitive delays would forcefully have a pencil placed in their hands in order to take a test when they cannot even write their own name, that Pearson could and would spy on students Twitter accounts, and that teachers would be sentenced to 20 years in prison on “racketeering” for erasing bubble dots, I would have said that was all far-fetched too. Nothing that Pearson can or will do should be underestimated by us ever again. If you needed yet another reason to reject a test-driven system of public education…this might be it.


An Activist’s Handbook for the Education Revolution

United Opt Out has crafted a book accessible to parents, teachers, and activists. What can you expect? An “Education Reform 101″ for those looking for a comprehensive history of how public education got here, a personal narrative from our organizers describing our journey to build a movement, research-driven explanations about how test-driven “reform” is designed to destroy public education, and a brilliant Forward by Ricaro Rosa… But wait! There’s More!  Each chapter includes an “Activist Workbook” to help readers build their own local efforts.

The scales are tipping and we CAN dismantle harmful corporate-driven policies that: 1) use high stakes testing as the cornerstone to privatize public education, 2) treat children like data bites, 3) bilk tax payer dollars as their personal saving account,  and 4) re-segregate and colonize urban communities in the name of “choice”. They have millions of marketing dollars — but if you want the facts, you can find them here.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“Today, as we face this redistribution of wealth firmly rooted in neo-liberalism and facilitated by the bi-partisan political attack on public education and collective bargaining, it is right to fear for the future of both. What has been passed off as a friendly and symbiotic merging of public and private is actually a hostile take- over by a systemic force that has never acted in the best interest of people of color, women, or laborers. The use of the achievement gap between non-whites and the impoverished and their white counterparts coupled with this pseudo-philanthropic market-based reform effort utilized to take over public education completely via the erroneous notions of ‘accountability’ and ‘choice,’ is driven by them.”

-Ceresta Smith

“Data is a power and a weapon that is being used again public education. However, the administrators of UOO say that the absence of data is also power. It is also the one weapon that we can use against our ed reform opponents.”

-Laurie Murphy

“When reformers claim that opt out is only against testing they are trying to set the boundaries of the debate.  The same is true for those who critique opt out for not offering an “alternative.”   What they are trying to do is maintain ownership over the conversation.  In their world, it is simply a conversation about anti-testing and pro-testing; this makes opt out a non-nuanced position against testing with no alternative—nothing to replace the standardized tests.  This is crap!   They frame the debate as only two positions and to try to paint opt out as a single dimensional, anti-testing movement. ”

Tim Slekar

“I firmly believe that the decision to teach (at a subconscious level) is a choice to pursue social justice, to inspire children to find their passion, to make a small difference in the world, and to nurture children’s ability to become a part of this democratic society. Did we all know that we would be fighting for resources not only for the schools in which we taught but for all schools? Absolutely. Did we all know there were glaring inequities in the system to which we were committing ourselves? Without a doubt. Did we understand that this incredibly challenging and rewarding job would be difficult? Definitely. Did we ever believe in our wildest imaginations that a few individuals would change the landscape of teaching so dramatically that we would be called to become what some would call “radical” in order to defend authentic assessment, teacher autonomy, equitably funded neighborhood public schools, and a positive and appropriate learning environment? Unequivocally, no.”

-Rosemarie Jensen

“We also share this book in the hopes of showing the human side of this work. Corporate reform has no human side – they have only greed, ego and power.  Our side – the ethical side – is one of humanity – we have heart, we make mistakes, we play, we work hard, we care for others – we care very much about our country, our public schools, and America’s children. We care so deeply, that at times, we are driven to do things that place us in harm’s way. But, our relationships with one another carry us through these difficult times – and that is what activists must always do for one another. Hold hands tightly – together – we can lift one another up.”

Peggy Robertson

“If the amount of money that has gone into the hands of the testing industry complex had instead gone to answer the needs of  deprived schools in the urban districts, MA would indeed be living up to the reputation of being number one. Massachusetts has the opportunity to return to the policies that helped the state established itself as the leader in education by abandoning the corporate agenda.  It can be the voice that cries out in defense of all the children by denouncing the measures  that are creating a dual system of schooling. ”

Ruth Rodriguez 

For more, visit the publisher website.

A guest post by Don Bunger of Washington BATS:

Corporations Have Struck Gold at Your Local Public School!
Welcome to the new gold rush, a rigorous U.S. and international corporate sprint for educational gold (in the form of your kid’s data) at all public schools. Authors David Spring and Elizabeth Hansen tour clever, stealthy, political, and corporate moves, mostly unreported in the mainstream press with their back story that greases the takeover of all public schools by as early as 2030 according to 2010 white papers from the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education at the Hoover Institute. The ones and zeroes of test score data make up new digital gold panned from 50 million kids aged Pre-K to 22.
Got kids? Planning on kids? Grandkids? Do you teach in public schools? Concerned that school boards may become extinct? Expand your understanding of our public education crisis with Weapons of Mass Deception How Billionaires Plan to Destroy our Public Schools (and what you can do to stop them) by David Spring and Elizabeth Hanson with easy to understand graphics and many links for clarification. Start a dialog with neighbors or interact with the authors, they’ve included their email address. Available for sale at Amazon.
See more vital posts, facts, and memes at the authors’ website:

(thanks to Ken Derstine for alerting me to this study via Bloggers Network)

My, my… the charter spin doctors are working overtime. It was CREDO who in 2008 provided a study that is widely cited because it documented that, “Thirty‐seven percent of the charters in this study produce learning gains that are significantly worse than what equivalent.”

I guess they needed to produce a counter-narrative to cover their tracks?

But who does the research for this new CREDO study? Perchance do they have ulterior motives for promoting a pro charter study?

Let’s start with the funders. Walton is a familiar name to us all by now. CREDO receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation.

Ravitch also covers the inside workings of CREDO in this report, as does Crazy Crawfish.

And Who Does CREDO Employ?

Margaret Macke Raymond is the Director or CREDO. She is also a fellow at Hoover Institute. According to her bio there:

“In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design.”

Meg Mazzola is the Manager of Federal Projects. Her bio at CREDO states: “Prior to joining CREDO in 2007, Meg served as Deputy Director of School Relations for the Education Assessment and Charter School Accreditation Program with the American Academy for Liberal Education.  Previously, she was Outreach Coordinator with The Center for Education Reform.”

For more about The Center for Education Reform (CER) see my last post but to sum it up again here, CER is an active member of ALEC working diligently to serve their goal of privatizing public education.

According to Substance News, Maribel Gonzalez, the Program Manager for CREDO was “featured on the ‘Parent Revolution’ website on October 9, 2012, at the time Parent Revolution was beginning its road show.”

Universities like Stanford have apparently been bought out by the billionaire charter narrative. In 2013 they promoted another pro-charter report (via press release). That study was funded by the Robertson Foundation who according to one 2010 report: “(I)s also among the largest contributors to Education Reform Now, the aggressive pro-charter school organization, and is one of the main funders of the NYC Charter Center, on whose board Joel Klein sits. The head of the board of the NYC Charter Center is Phoebe Boyer, the Executive Director of the Tiger Foundation and Interim Executive Director of Robertson Foundation.”

Why else stock a “sound research” program that is disguising itself as providing unbiased grounded data with people who have a clear motive to make the charter enterprise out to be things that it is not: effective, sustainable, democratic, ethical, equitable, caring …or public. CREDO’s studies are the equivalent of Phillip Morris’ studies that smoking does not cause cancer. Like the Tobacco Industry, the Charter Industry has to find any means by which to protect it’s own interests.

Crazy Crawfish sums it up this way: “CREDO has violated that informal compact between citizens and universities by producing poorly reasoned, fallaciously propagandized, rubbish.”

 Here lies public education

The Center for Education Reform sent a piece of tripe to Baltimore area charter school administrators recently. I’ve said it numerous time now, here   1) and here,


and here,


and here,


and here,


those were all just a forecast.

NOW privatization of public education is making landfall in Baltimore. That the Center for Education Reform (CER) is sending letters to school personnel should be a loud warning siren to Baltimore teachers and public schools.Center for education reform letter to bcpss charter teacherscopy (1)

CER is powerful. They have money. And they know how to spin a message. Make sure that every teacher, parent and administrator you know has the facts. And ignore CER“spin” as demonstrated in their letter.  IT IS NOT GROUNDED IN FACT. IT IS NOT GROUNDED IN RESEARCH. Hell, IT’S NOT EVEN GROUNDED IN REALITY.

But if we won’t make noise and push back, we will herald the destruction of our local unions, our teachers, and our public schools.

What you Need to Know about Center for Education Reform

What’s their motive? They are active members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose goal is to completely eliminate public education and teachers unions.


From mothercrusader:

Jeanne Allen, who founded CER, claimed credit for writing the ALEC proposal for the parent trigger. CER works closely with any other organization that opposes public education and supports privatization. Allen refers to the traditional public school system as “The Blob.”  Jeanne Allen, has an agenda, and that agenda is choice not achievement.  And like Macke Raymond from CREDO, Allen sees the reform agenda as a war.

According to PR Watch: Charter Schools USA and Apex Learning, are corporations that are part of trade groups that are members/funders of ALEC, such as iNACOL, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (a former ALEC member), and the Center for Education Reform (a current ALEC member and the employer of ALEC’s former press secretary Raegen Weber), which have participated in ALEC’s Education Task Force where legislators and private sector members vote on bills to benefit these industries.

The Vermont Political Observer summarizes CER this way:

They work on four fronts: School choice, charter schools, online learning, and teacher quality.

The only form of parental “input” recognized by CER is whether parents can choose their kids’ schools … If your idea of “parental input” is limited to one single act of choice, not unlike going to Walmart to buy a new microwave, then I feel sorry for your children. 

“Teacher quality” isn’t a measurement of, oh, the actual quality of a state’s teachers. It amounts to this: Are there state-mandated annual teacher evaluations? Are tenure and retention tied to those evaluations? In other words, have the teachers’ unions been whipped into subservience?

As for “online learning,” CER advocates the availability of “a full-time online caseload.” Which is great, if you want your kid’s education supplied by the University of Phoenix or some other for-profit scam artist.

In short, this CER report is pure ALEC-style horse hockey. 

Source Watch documents CER’s role in crafting ALEC model charter school legislation:

2002 ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit Substantive Agenda

According to a February 2005 archive of ALEC’s website:

“The Task Force had a very successful meeting as the guest speakers addressed a standing-room-only crowd. Jeanne Allen from the Center for Education Reform spoke on the need for charter school options and how state legislators must pass laws to give these schools the autonomy they need to be successful. Ron Packard, CEO and Founder of K12, shared the overwhelming positive results of his virtual charter school program. 

Some Things to Consider and Share:

Forced privatization is not choice. Many, many schools are forced to close or co-locate with a charter, against the desires and struggles of the communities they serve.

Children as young as six in charter-lands like New Orleans are forced to often take 2 hour bus rides each way across town to attend the charter school that would take them.

The choice rests with the charter schools who can expel or “counsel out” students they don’t want to educate or cherry pick the students they will serve. KIPP for example has enormous attrition rates. But all they show the public are their test scores. Poor test takers are “removed” and left to fall between the cracks.

Charter schools have increased segregation in cities all over the country.

A  study in 2009 from CREDO at Stanford University found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed their counterparts, 37 percent underperformed and 46 percent were not significantly different.

There are too many charter school scandals to note. But with less accountability, and profit motive to private companies receiving our tax dollars, it is clear that quality education to our children is not their main goal.

This new legislation will destroy teachers unions. It’s all clear in the ALEC model legislation.

The Producers (1967) Poster

No, this is not a contentious and offensive analogy between Common Core, testing and Nazi Germany. It’s a post about how a movement can be co-opted. And how to fight back. It’s about strategy co-optation and “ideological camouflage” in which one agenda can be disguised as something else. In this instance it’s about corporate players camouflaging private interests as a public good, and then pointing the blame elsewhere as a distraction. These strategies (listed here) are not top secret. Anyone who has taken marketing or advertising 101 knows how public perception can be manipulated by media and “research.” Because something is not common knolwedge does not make it conspiracy. It just makes the public susceptible to ideological manipulation. I reference here a few historical and fictional examples of how such strategies have been used, and how the American Legislative Exchange Commission’s (ALEC’s) agenda to corporatize, profit from and privatize our public schools eerily mirror these tactics.

The title of this blog is a reference to the movie The Producers (1967). The premise of the movie is that the two main characters, a theater producer for Broadway (played by Zero Mostel) and a meek accountant (Gene Wilder) are both in a slump and they are in need of money. It occurs to Gene Wilder that they’d make more money with a flop than a hit because they can collect the insurance when it goes belly up. So they create a Broadway musical they believe will flop, basing it on a screen play written by an old post-war Nazi nut. There’s the infamous scene where the audience sits in shock and horror while the singers and dancers on stage all croon, “Its springtime for Hitler and Germany.”

So what if…just what if… you were an organization that intended to privatize public education? Given how deep seated our democracy is with the ideal of public education, such a proposal would not win over very many except the most die-hard followers of Milton Freidman. Perhaps you’d get more people to adopt your agenda if first you created systematic “reforms” intended to be a flop. And then when the reforms “fail” you could cash in on your real agenda?

The goal of ALEC is to craft model legislation behind closed doors to create state level policies which serve the interests of their corporate partners. They are a powerful private-public partnership devoted (to a fault) with Milton Freidman’s notions of private enterprise at the expense of the public good.  Many of the polices we are seeing promulgated right now can be traced to model education legislation bills which can be seen etched carefully into state-level policies that call for:

-more (corporate led, hedge fund invested) charter schools,

-more vouchers draining the funds greatly needed by starving public schools into the pockets of “venture philanthropists,”

-the call for new teacher evaluations (rolling out the red carpet for union busting TFA faux teachers, and Pearson’s domination of the educational/testing system),

-replacing brick and mortar schools with online classrooms,

-obsessive amounts of data collection via the new tests, lobbying efforts led by Pearson, and political push by billionaires, and “research” done by big data gurus McKinsey and Co.

So does ALEC have a blue print for this nutty proposal? You bet.

Paul Weyrich is a co-founder of ALEC.  Eric Heubeck, Weyrich’s protégé, proposes a transition to the new elite domination of society … into a political force that can move the New Traditionalists into the position of ultimate power in our society.  Heubeck lays out a three-step process:

There will be three main stages in the unfolding of this movement. The first stage will be devoted to the development of a highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities. The second stage will be devoted to the development of institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses. The third stage will involve changing the overall character of American popular culture.

Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions.

We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime. We will take advantage of every available opportunity to spread the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the existing state of affairs. For example, we could have every member of the movement put a bumper sticker on his car that says something to the effect ofPublic Education is Rotten; Homeschool Your Kids.’ This will change nobody’s mind immediately; no one will choose to stop sending his children to public schools immediately after seeing such a bumper sticker; but it will raise awareness and consciousness that there is a problem. Most of all, it will contribute to a vague sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction with existing society. We need this if we hope to start picking people off and bringing them over to our side. We need to break down before we can build up. We must first clear away the flotsam of a decayed culture.

In terms of our long term prospects, because we will be seen as a purely defensive movement, not interested in imposing our views on anyone, only interested in being left alone, we will surely gain the sympathy of the public … Sympathy from the American people will increase as our opponents try to persecute us, which means our strength will increase at an accelerating rate due to more defections–and the enemy will collapse as a result.

So, how can you tell if co- optation is happening? There are three tenets to examine: message, funding, and motive. Messaging is the equivalent of marketing or advertising. It’s what you see on the shiny brochures or classy websites. It’s the sound bites. They may often promote similar goals and values. Or at least claim to. This is where they get folks on board. So it’s important to examine the funding and motive to see if your movement is being co-opted. Funding includes a deep examination of who is funding the organization. Though the messaging alone will not make evident your own goals are being cop opted, those who pull the purse strings pull the real agenda. The funding reveals the true motives. So what does it mean if an opt out group or an anti-Common Core group is funded by corporations? It means that the goals of those politicians, ideological agenda, or corporations funding the group are the true motives. It means co-opting is taking place. Message: Support Opt Out. Funded by: Corporations X,Y and Z. Motive? Take tips from Paul Weyrich — Opt out because “public schools are rotten. Promote privately run charter schools.” This is not the message of United Opt Out nor part of our motive! Co-optation is a way to use the energies of genuine activists and redirect them without even realizing its happening.

If you were looking to co-opt a movement, perhaps you’d take notes from post war Communist Russia. According to a story by 99% Invisible Radio, after Warsaw was destroyed in WWII the Communists decided to “rebuild” it, according to its original historical conditions. However, after reconstruction, things were not as they seemed. While the Communist developers gave the illusion of nostalgic accuracy… in fact things were constructed only on the surface to resemble Warsaw’s Old Town. Behind the veneer, inside the new buildings were completely in “communist style: fast, cheap, and big.”

The radio report says, “They wanted to send the message that the Old Town—and Warsaw as a whole—would be better than it was before the war.  Second, they didn’t want Poles to long for this lost part of the city. By recreating Old Town, the past could stop being such a distraction, and they could get to work on a drastic overhaul of the country.”

So via charter schools and 21st century curricula (aka Common Core), reformers create in the “illusion” of “public” schools, of supporting opportunity, of caring for kids: but beneath the surface something else entirely is being built; it is an ideological bait and switch toward privatization. And their strategy (from the playbook of Weyrich) is to build a narrative that will make public education “forgettable.” With the new faux “reforms” and enough time passing, people will cease to long for what they’re missing. It worked in Warsaw. Why not for ALEC and education?

It also works for organizations that “appear” to be in support of the testing/reform resistance. These co-opt actions are more subtle. It could merely be that politics have trumped ethics. Money talks. While some groups appear to support what we support, when you get past the “messaging” and find the funding connections, you can find the real motive. Make sure it’s one you share before endorsing partnerships with anyone. See Peggy Robertson’s blog post about The Education Commission of the States, a so-called “bi-partisan” non profit organization that claims to provide all the go-to resources any policy maker might need. They took the time to discredit United Opt Out state guides, and to offer their own version of opt out guidelines according to each state.  Old Warsaw? New Warsaw? As Peggy Robertson writes regarding Education Commission of the States:

ECS recently came out with an “opt out” document …to let folks know the legalities around opt out … This document allows folks to jump on the Opt Out Bandwagon, while defeating the main reason we have been successful as a social movement. We are successful because we recognize opt out as an act of civil disobedience. When folks share this document, while ignoring the social movement constituents – we are looking at a co-optation. 

Check out their funding: It’s a veritable Who’s Who of ALEC membership.

ALEC and the tentacles of its myriad reform legislation has also learned much from the film Promised Land (2013) as well.

In this film about Fracking in a small town, John Krasinski plays a guy pretending to work for an environmental company who wins the hearts and trust of the townspeople. But then later he is exposed for lying to them about something. So, they turn to Matt Damon who works for Global (the fracking company) who they had disliked previously. In one of the final scenes however, Damon, feeling he’d just made a major win for Global at the expense of Krasinski the environmentalist who failed, says that, by lying to the townspeople, “You just guaranteed we’d win.” Krasinki then confesses he’s working undercover for Global, unbeknownst to Damon this entire time. He had set it up so that disguised as an environmentalist, he’d win and then lose the trust of the people. Damon says, “Jesus Christ. You’re with Global” to which Krasinski replies:

Did you really think they were gonna
leave something like this in your hands?
After you let them bring it to a vote?
Steve, companies like Global, they don’t
rely on anyone. That’s how they win.
They win by controlling every outcome.
And they do that by playing both sides.

Anyone who follows policy is aware that the American Legislative Exchange Council rides both side of the “reform” fence. In a nut shell, there are two “teams.” First there’s Team Heritage Foundation (also created by Paul Weyrich)  and includes those members of ALEC who articulate an anti- Common Core and anti testing stance. Their claim is that federal overreach is an affront to “state’s rights” and local control. Not that we disagree with them on this. But Heritage Foundation has a very different motive and agenda than we do. Heritage and many other ALEC sponsored education front groups like Freedom Works are front and center in the efforts to lobby at state and federal levels for more privately- run publicly funded charter schools, including online education delivery systems (K12 Inc was the ALEC education sub-committee chair for years).

Then there’s Team Jeb, (aka Jeb Bush) -those members of ALEC who support Common Core and its tentacles of reform including standardized testing, school closures and new teacher evaluations. If you examine closely the corporations who funded the development and implementation of Common Core and the new PARCC and SBAC testing regimes, you’ll find many of them are members of ALEC. See a full blown set of connections here.

But…why? Why, if you are an organization dedicated to privatizing public education would you fund a “reform” policy for public schools which claims to “build 21st century career and college readiness” to rebuild public education? You wouldn’t. Unless… you knew it would be a flop. What if you knew you could help create a system so unbelievably bad, so offensive to parents, so harmful to teachers and schools (and quite profitable along the way), that you could generate a mentality which begins to hate public education itself? Then my friend, you’d have a hit.

It’s “Springtime for ALEC”-the “flop” that enables them to win big. The cost? Public education. And our children.