Charter School Bill. Coincidence or Collusion?

The legislative supermajority in Montgomery would have us believe that each time they conjure up education policy like the Alabama Accountability Act or the charter school bill they retreat to a darkened room with their Ouija board and magically re-appear with ideas they alone thought up.

But evidence increasingly shows this tale is as plausible as telling us that every night an army of fairies flutters across Alabama exchanging money for teeth first-graders leave under their pillow.

Case in point–the similarities between the charter school bill recently rejected by the state of Washington Supreme Court as unconstitutional, “model” charter legislation churned out the American Legislative Exchange Council and Alabama Senate Bill 45 passed last spring.

The American Legislative Exchange Council–better known as ALEC–was founded in 1973 and has come under fire because it blurs the line between corporate well-being and public well-being. It has been described as a “corporate bill mill” which supplies state lawmakers model legislation strongly supported by ALEC corporate funders.

One of their nine task forces deals with education policy. They support voucher programs like the Alabama Accountability Act, tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools and charters schools. In short, anything that results in more education privatization.

Senator Greg Reed of Jasper and Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur are the state ALEC chairs for the Senate and House. Collins chairs the House Education Policy Committee. Both Reed and Collins voted for the accountability act and charter schools.

So what is the connection between Washington state, Alabama and ALEC?

The Alabama charter bill sets up a politically-appointed Public Charter School Commission that has authority to approve charter school applications, or to over-rule local charter authorizers who may deny an application. Both Washington and ALEC legislation create charter governing commissions. All give appointments to the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House.

What are the duties of this Commission in Alabama?

The appointing authorities of the commission members shall strive to select individuals that collectively possess strong experience and expertise in public and nonprofit governance, strategic planning, management and finance, public school leadership, assessment, curriculum and instruction, and public education law. Each member of the commission shall have demonstrated understanding of and commitment to charter schooling as a tool for strengthening public education

Here they are in Washington:

Members appointed to the commission shall collectively possess strong experience and expertise in public and nonprofit governance; management and finance; public school leadership, assessment, curriculum, and instruction; and public education law. All members shall have demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to charter schooling as a strategy for strengthening public education.”

And the ALEC model bill:

 Members appointed to the Commission shall collectively possess strong experience and expertise in public and nonprofit governance, management and finance, public school leadership, assessment, and curriculum and instruction, and public education law. All members of the Commission shall have demonstrated understanding of and commitment to charter schooling as a strategy for strengthening public education.”

And we are supposed to believe all of this common language is coincidental?

Wayne Au is an associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell and has followed this issue closely. ” ALEC advocates that charter schools be governed by appointed boards with little-to-no accountability or oversight by the public because this establishes a chain of logic central to privatization,” he says. “Once we agree that public tax dollars can follow the child into educational institutions not governed by the public, then we have accepted the basic premise for voucher programs that use our tax dollars to pay for private schools. This has been a major goal of ALEC and other free-market conservatives who seek to dismantle public education and profit off our kids.”

Alabama charter proponents say they drafted SB 45 by taking the best of charter legislation in many states. But given the ties some legislators have to ALEC, as well as their track record of supporting bills Alabama educators oppose, one can’t help but question this claim.

We also must ask, if the Supreme Court in Washington says charter schools set up by a politically-appointed commission and governed by a local board that does not answer to taxpayers are not entitled to public funds, how does Alabama differ?

And, why do Alabama legislators think people outside the state know more than our own professional educators do?

Since when did “Alabama values” mean that we ignore the people of Alabama?

 

 

4 Responses to Charter School Bill. Coincidence or Collusion?

  1. Innovative education programs (copied and brought to Alabama) haven’t worked in other states and Alabama legislators have not stopped long enough to ask any questions about the outcome whether positive or negative of each “new” program they have introduced. When will educators go to Montgomery and demand to be included in the discussion about what works for students and teachers? When confronted about all the bills and laws passed since 2010, none of them can carry on a conversation about how, why, or when they will improve the academic standing and the ranking of education compared to other states. Alabama still ranks #41 in funding education and #48 in academics…

  2. “if the Supreme Court in Washington says charter schools set up by a politically-appointed commission and governed by a local board that does not answer to taxpayers are not entitled to public funds, how does Alabama differ?”
    There is one big way that the state of Washington and Alabama differ. That is their constitutions. Ballotpedia says “The Washington State Constitution describes the fundamental structure and function of the state’s government. It consists of a preamble and 32 articles.” and has been “amended 107 times since its adoption in 1889.” Also our current 1901 constitution “is the sixth constitution that the state has had” Washington state has had but one constitution. Whereas we all know “The Alabama Constitution has been amended more than 800 times since 1901 and is the longest constitution in the world.” IN THE WORLD! Meaning it is a gargantuan task to know what is constitutional in Alabama.
    These conditions seem to be the ideal situation to make it easier to hide collusion or any other form of corruption, since we are the most corrupt state in the Union by the most recent study and have ranged near the top in all past studies I’ve seen. Despite Article1, (Declaration of Rights) Section 2 of Alabama’s constitution that states “That all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit; and that, therefore, they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to change their form of government in such manner as they may deem expedient.” The people have no mechanism with which to enact change on their own. The last time the people had significant number of allies for change in the legislature was 1983, as far as I can see.
    Recent legislation makes it harder for teachers since they are ultimately employees of the state to lobby for anything without fear of losing their jobs. Even without that, it can’t be teachers alone responsibility to step up to change Alabama’s governance. We are all teachers of children by our action-example by default whether we like it or not.
    Watch for #TakingIt Back on Facebook and Twitter to join others that want to change in Alabama. Contribute your ideas on strategy and tactics. Most importantly- vote! Vote out the current greedy bunch and elect people that care about the people.

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