Saturday, May 21, 2016

ALEC’s Links to Indiana Education

An open letter to the editors at NUVO

Posted By on Sat, May 21, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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By Gayle Cosby

(NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Gayle Cosby likes to write when she’s angry. You can find her random rants collected in a blog at Please note that she writes only to preserve the remnants of her own sanity, and does not intend to represent the views of any other entity or individual, alive or dead, fictional, fairy-tale, make-believe or otherwise. Namaste.)

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a sinister organization which charges corporations hefty sums in order to sit with conservative Republican legislators and influence the crafting of model bills to be passed into law all over the country. ALEC receives millions from billionaires the likes of the Koch brothers et. al, to the benefit of their corporate members. Some recent legislation includes: Phillip Morris USA (promoting fruit flavored tobacco products to youngsters WITH tax breaks); Prison privatization models from the Corrections Corporations of America which incentivize high incarceration rates through quotas; and advancing the privatization of public schools through influence from Connections Academy.

In fact, ALEC has already influenced Indiana law which makes privatizing public schools increasingly easier. ALEC authored the 2014 “Innovation Network Schools Act”, or 1321. This law essentially allows Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) to turn over the operations of any “failing” (according to the flawed ISTEP) IPS school to a charter school operator. This marked the realization of a dream for many free-market education reform groups and charter school companies in Indianapolis, who had collectively spent a decade salivating at the thought of somehow acquiring free building space and therefore increasing their net profits.

Although there are still a few homegrown Indy charter schools around doing good work, this ALEC legislation has made possible the abhorrent earnings of charter school CEO’s such as Charter Schools USA, a multi-million dollar for-profit charter school chain from Florida (essentially, McSchool) that currently operates in several former IPS schools, and Phalen Academy, a non-profit subsidiary of Entrepreneurial Ventures in Education, a Boston-based organization that earns its CEO roughly 33 percent more than the superintendent of IPS. It should be noted that Phalen Academy operates two schools, while the IPS superintendent oversees approximately 60 schools.

Indianapolis, enough is enough. It’s horrendous that we have arrived at a position where public schooling, the education of our citizenry, has become a profitable enterprise for some wealthy elites to increase their personal wealth on the backs of our children. We need to be asking hard questions, like: Why are charter schools located in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods? What role do charter schools play in the gentrification of the urban core? Why is it okay for charter school CEO’s to profit heavily from the education of Indianapolis children – children that they only see when they fly into town for a photo op? Why is it so hard to understand that schooling should not be profitable?

As a former teacher, I can assure you that there is always something that extra money can be spent on. To name a few examples, how about we offer more music, art, and extracurricular opportunities to broaden our kids’ horizons? Or, we could offer teachers a raise that amounts to more than an extra cup of coffee per week. Just sayin’. Those initiatives would yield better student performance (and overall happiness). The thought that chartering and privatizing our schools will magically result in better performance is just absurd – especially when resources are being skimmed to fatten CEO pockets.

We have a rare opportunity to let ALEC know how we feel about their intrusion on matters of public education, among others. ALEC has selected Indianapolis as the location for their 43rd annual meeting. They will be at the JW Marriott downtown July 27-29. Some concerned citizens have begun to organize a welcoming party on Facebook and social media sites…check them out. ALEC needs to know that Indianapolis residents don’t appreciate their corrupt influence on our lawmakers.

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