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News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has called public education a “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” But this “transformation” of public education — from an institution that serves the public into one that serves private for-profit interests — has been in progress for decades, thanks in large part to ALEC.
ALEC boasts on the “history” section of its website  that it first started promoting “such ‘radical’ ideas as a [educational] voucher system” in 1983 — the same year as the Reagan administration’s “Nation At Risk” report — taking up ideas first articulated decades earlier by ALEC supporter Milton Friedman.
In 1990, Milwaukee was the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, under then-governor (and ALEC alum) Tommy Thompson. ALEC quickly embraced  the legislation, and that same year offered model bills based on the Wisconsin plan. For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools. The “pricetag” for students in other states is even higher.
In the years since, programs to divert taxpayer money from public to private schools have spread across the country. In the 2012-2013 school year, it is estimated  that nearly 246,000 students will participate in various iterations of so-called “choice” programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia — draining the public school system of critically-needed funds, and in some cases covering private school tuition for students whose parents are able and willing to pay.
But promised improvements in educational outcomes have not followed. “If vouchers are designed to create better educational outcomes, research has not borne out that result,” says Julie Mead, chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin. “If vouchers are such a great idea,” after twenty years in effect, “they would have borne fruit by now.”
The ALEC education agenda also fits into the organization’s broader attack on unions: by lowering teacher certification standards and funneling public money to non-unionized private schools, ALEC undermines teachers unions, which guarantee fair wages and working conditions and are a major political force that have traditionally backed the Democratic Party.
ALEC-influenced bills introduced in 2013 include legislation to:
“Amplify,” the newly-created education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, parent company of Fox News. News Corp is on the ALEC Education Task Force. In 2010, News Corp hired former New York City chancellor Joel Klein to run its education division, which includes the for-profit education company formerly known as Wireless Generation. The firm has big plans for a specialized “Amplify Tablet” that would provide lesson plans, textbooks and testing to cash-in on new “Common Core” required state standards.
K12 Inc., the nation’s largest provider of online charter schools, where low-paid teachers manage as many as 250 students  at a time and communicate with their pupils only through email and phone. The corporation, whose CEO Ron Packard received $5 million in total compensation  in 2011 (and owns around $24 million in shares ), is on the ALEC Education Task Force and its lobbyist Lisa Gillis has Chaired ALEC’s Special Needs Subcommittee. According to a report in the New York Times , students in K12, Inc. schools often perform very poorly, and some K12 teachers claim that they have been encouraged to pass failing students so that the company can receive more reimbursement from states. K12 receives an average of between $5,500 and $6,000 for every student on its rosters — the same amount that would be spent for students attending a brick-and-mortar school, despite K12 not having to pay for cafeteria, gyms, busing, or heat and air conditioning — and much of K12’s profits are spent on advertising targeted at increasing enrollment, rather than on investments in education. At K12’s Agora Cyber Charter School, which produces more than 10% of the company’s revenue, nearly 60% of students are behind grade level in math, nearly 50% are behind in reading, and a third do not graduate on time.
Corinthian Colleges is a for-profit college chain that operates campuses under names like Everest, Heald, and WyoTech, in addition to offering degrees online. It has become notorious for aggressive recruiting practices and leaving students unprepared for the job market and saddled with massive student loan debts. In Milwaukee, for example, where a Corinthian Everest campus was financed with $11 million  in city bonds, just 25% of students found jobs  and over half dropped out; the campus closed two years after it opened. Nationally, over 40 percent of Corinthian’s students default on their loans, and only 60% of students complete their coursework. In June, Corinthian disclosed  that it is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and has been subpoenaed by California’s Attorney General for its recruiting practices and financial responsibility.
An array of right-wing nonprofits also promote the school privatization agenda in ALEC.
The 501(c)(4) American Federation for Children and its 501(c)(3) wing the Alliance for School Choice, for example, have brought an array of privatization bills to ALEC and promoted the legislation across the country. The groups were organized and are funded  by the billionaire DeVos family (heirs to the Amway fortune); Richard DeVos has received the ALEC “Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award.” AFC’s top lobbyist is disgraced former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who was convicted  of three felonies for misuse of his office for political purposes and banned from the state Capitol for five years (though the charges were later reversed and dropped as part of a plea agreement ). Jensen represents the organization  on the ALEC Education Task Force and has brought AFC bills to ALEC  for adoption as “model” legislation. AFC spent at least $7 million  electing privatization-friendly state legislators across the country in 2012, but reported far less  to state election authorities.
In addition to the DeVos family foundations, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is one of the top school privatization funders in the country, spending over $31 million over the past eleven years promoting “school choice” nationwide, according to  One Wisconsin Now; for decades, Bradley has also been a major ALEC funder. The foundation has over $600 million in assets and is headed by Michael Grebe, Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair.
Before Milwaukee became the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, Bradley bankrolled  the groups that laid the groundwork. When the plan was challenged in Wisconsin courts, Bradley funded  its legal defense, which included hiring Kenneth Starr — later known for pursuing Bill Clinton over Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky — to represent the state.
Originally promoted as a program for Milwaukee’s low-income students of color to have access to private education, the initial voucher program gained support from some African-American leaders and was pushed by State Representative Polly Williams, a Milwaukee Democrat. But last session, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker broadened vouchers to families with higher incomes, and in the 2013-2015 budget further expanded the program. “They have hijacked the program,” Williams says . “As soon as the doors open for the low income children, they’re trampled by the high income,” she said. “Now the upper crust have taken over.”
The laws have been sold to poor and minority communities as a way to close achievement gaps, but there is little evidence of success: in Wisconsin, data shows that students receiving vouchers perform no better, and in some cases worse  than those attending public schools. Cash-for-kids programs have shown similar results in school districts across the country.
Reports have also emerged in Milwaukee and elsewhere of for-profit schools registering students, keeping them in class until just after the date where enrollment is counted for funding purposes, and then sending them back to public schools. In many cases those students have special needs the voucher schools claimed they could not satisfy.
Six-year-old Trinity Fitzer, who has anxiety and gastrointentinal problems, was attending Milwaukee’s Northwestern Catholic School in the 2011-2012 term on a voucher. After a few months, Northwestern Catholic informed Trinity’s mother that she was being “withdrawn” from the school for “continuing behavioral issues.” The school claimed  that “withdrawal is the decision of the parent,” but Trinity’s mother said it was not her decision and “she didn’t have an option.”
Jane Audette, a social worker at Hawthorne Elementary, a public school in Milwaukee, said the school receives several “cast-off” students every year from private schools like Northwestern Catholic. “What has happened over and over with Milwaukee’s Northwest Catholic is they will tell a parent, ‘Your child needs more than we can give your child, so we suggest you go down the street to Hawthorne.'”
And vouchers, testing, and school privatization have in many cases been offered as a substitute for grappling with the persistent structural issues that perpetuate achievement gaps.
“What has been forced on our communities is not reform at all: they are mediocre interventions,” said Jitu Brown, an education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization who spoke at Netroots Nation in June . “The only reason that mediocrity is accepted is because of the race of the children being served.”
Brown puts the education reforms in the context of broader community disinvestment and austerity measures: cutting social programs and closing schools, police stations, hospitals, and other institutions that serve as community anchors, while cherry picking and selling off the better institutions to private players.
And ALEC has played a key role in promoting this agenda. ALEC has sought to shrink the size of government by starving states of revenue, voucherizing critical programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and privatizing all aspects of government, from education to foster care to pensions to prisons.
When the ALEC’s cash-for-kids model is put before the voters, it is resoundingly rejected. In 27 statewide referenda on the topic, voters rejected vouchers on average 2-1. But as long as ALEC “models” continue to garner bipartisan support facilitated by corporate campaign contributions or are slipped into state budgets in the dead of night — ALEC will have continued success with the “transformation” of the American educational system into a profit-driven enterprise.
The ALEC Education agenda not only “converts a public good into something private,” says Mead, but private schools “don’t have the same responsibility [as public schools] to serve everybody, which diminishes public access, oversight and accountability.”
“There is that saying, ‘democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.’ The public school system is the same way,” Mead says. “It has problems, and can be better, but has served us pretty well for 150 years.”
View the full list of 2013 ALEC education bills here .
|State||ALEC Bill||State Bill|
|AL||Founding Principles Act ||SB 443 |
|AL||The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act ||HB 84 |
|AK||Founding Principles Act ||HB 31 |
|AZ||District and School Freedom Act ||HB 2496 |
|AZ||Environmental Literacy Improvement Act ||SB 1213 |
|AZ||Parent Trigger Act ||SB 1409 |
|AZ||Founding Principles Act ||SB 1212 |
|AZ||Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits ||HB 2617 |
|AZ||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||HB 2617 |
|AZ||The Next Generation Charter Schools Act ||HB 2494 |
|AZ||The Virtual Public Schools Act ||HB 2493 |
|AR||Founding Principles Act ||SB 1017 |
|AR||Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits ||SB 740 |
|AR||The Foster Child Scholarship Program Act ||HB 1788 |
|AR||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||SB 740 |
|AR||The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act ||SB 66 |
|AR||The Next Generation Charter Schools Act ||HB 1040 |
|AR||The Open Enrollment Act ||HB 1507 |
|AR||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||HB 1897 , HB 2260 |
|CA||The Open Enrollment Act ||AB 1279 |
|CO||Environmental Literacy Improvement Act ||HB 13-1089 |
|CT||The Lifelong Learning Accounts Act ||SB 769 |
|DE||The Charter Schools Act ||HB 165 |
|DC||The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act ||B 20-0310 |
|FL||Alternative Certification Act ||SB 1664 , SB 1238 |
|FL||Education Savings Account ||HB 1251 |
|FL||The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act ||SB 1390 |
|FL||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||SB 172 |
|FL||Parent Trigger Act ||HB 867 , SB 862 |
|ID||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||HB 227 , HB 286 |
|IL||Alternative Certification Act ||HB 513 , HB 1868 |
|IN||Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act ||HB 1003 , HB 1001 |
|IN||Parental Rights Amendment ||SB 332 |
|IN||The Smart Start Scholarship Program ||HB 1003 |
|IN||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||HB 1003 |
|IA||Parent Trigger Act ||SF 2 |
|IA||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||HB 225 |
|KS||Environmental Literacy Improvement Act ||HB 2306 |
|KS||Parental Rights Amendment ||HR 6010 |
|KS||Public Employee Freedom Act ||HB 2123 |
|KS||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||HB 2400 |
|KS||The Next Generation Charter Schools Act ||SB 196 |
|KS||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||HB 2263 |
|KY||Environmental Literacy Improvement Act ||HB 269 |
|KY||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||HB 66 |
|KY||The Next Generation Charter Schools Act ||HB 76 |
|KY||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||HB 155 |
|LA||Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act ||HB 597 |
|ME||Alternative Certification Act ||SP 461 |
|ME||The Next Generation Charter Schools Act ||HP 967 |
|ME||The Virtual Public Schools Act ||HP 331 , SP 391 |
|MD||Parent Trigger Act ||HB 875 |
|MA||Alternative Certification Act ||H 418 |
|MA||Founding Principles Act ||H 513 |
|MA||Parent Trigger Act ||H 429 |
|MI||Founding Principles Act ||SB 121 |
|MI||The Virtual Public Schools Act ||HB 4228 , SB 182 |
|MN||The Charter Schools Act ||SF 978 |
|MS||Parental Rights Amendment ||HC 90 , HC 96 , HB 496 |
|MS||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||SB 2132 , HB 1095 |
|MS||The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act ||SB 2716 , HB 118 , HB 787 |
|MS||The Next Generation Charter Schools Act ||SB 2189 |
|MS||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||HB 1004 |
|MO||Parent Trigger Act ||SB 311 |
|MO||Teacher Choice Compensation Act ||SB 408 |
|MO||The Next Generation Charter Schools Act ||HB 315 |
|MT||Resolution Calling for Greater Productivity in American Higher Education ||SJ 13 |
|MT||Education Savings Account Act ||HB 357 |
|MT||The Charter Schools Act ||SB 374 , HB 315 |
|MT||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||HB 213 |
|MT||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||HB 390 |
|NE||Parental Rights Amendment ||LR 42 |
|NV||Founding Principles Act ||SB 163 |
|NV||Great Teachers and Leaders Act ||SB 407 |
|NV||Parent Trigger Act ||AB 254 |
|NV||Parental Rights Amendment ||SB 314 |
|NV||The Charter Schools Act ||AB 205 |
|NJ||The Charter Schools Act ||A 4177 |
|NJ||The Family Education Savings Account Act ||A 3959 |
|NM||Local Government Transparency Act ||SB 63 |
|NY||Common Sense in Medication Students Act ||A 2972 |
|NY||Founding Principles Act ||S 2134 |
|NY||Parent Trigger Act ||A 3826 |
|NY||Quality Education and Teacher and Principal Protection Act ||A 3110 |
|NY||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||S 788 |
|NC||Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act ||HB 944 |
|NC||Parental Rights Amendment ||H 711 |
|NC||The 140 Credit Hour Act ||HB 255 |
|NC||The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act ||H 960 |
|OH||Founding Principles Act ||SB 96 |
|OK||Alternative Certification Act ||SB 877 |
|OK||Environmental Literacy Improvement Act ||HB 1674 |
|OK||Founding Principles Act ||SB 154 |
|OK||Parent Trigger Act ||HB 1385 |
|OK||Parental Rights Amendment ||HB 1384 |
|OR||Parent Trigger Act ||HB 2881 |
|PA||The Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act (Scholarship Tax Credits) ||SB 51 |
|RI||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||H6131 |
|SC||Parent Trigger Act ||S 556 |
|SC||Parental Rights Amendment ||S 628 |
|SC||The Charter Schools Act ||S 3853 |
|SC||The Open Enrollment Act ||S 313 |
|SD||Founding Principles Act ||SCR 2 |
|TN||Founding Principles Act ||HB 1129 |
|TN||Local Government Transparency Act ||SB 2832 |
|TN||Parent Trigger Act ||HB 77 |
|TN||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||HB 387 , SB 486 |
|TX||Parental Rights Amendment ||HCR 38 |
|TX||Statewide Online Education Act ||SB 1298 |
|TX||Taxpayers Savings Grants Act ||SB 29 |
|TX||The Education Enterprise Zone Act ||HB 300 |
|TX||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||SB 17 |
|VA||Parental Rights Amendment ||HB 1642 , SB 908 |
|VA||Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits ||SB 1227 , HB 1996 |
|VA||The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act ||HB 1996 , SB 1227 |
|WA||A-Plus Literacy Act ||SB 5328 |
|WV||The Charter Schools Act ||HB 2808 |
|WV||Alternative Certification Act ||SB 359 |
|WV||Resolution Adopting the 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning ||SB 37 |
|WV||Founding Principles Act ||HB 2594 |
|WI||The Family Education Savings Account Act ||SB 111 |
|WI||The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act ||AB 40 |
In the book, “The Secret of Chanel No. 5,” a history of her iconic perfume, author Tilar Mazzeo recounts how Jewish brothers Paul and Pierre Wertheimer, who had partnered with Gabriel “Coco” Chanel to form Les Parfums Chanel, were forced to flee France as the German army closed in.
Chanel’s attempt to take over the company was foiled by the Wertheimer brothers, who, before leaving Paris had passed their stake to industrialist Felix Amiot, who’d agreed to maintain it for them during the occupation to prevent it from being seized.
The company is still majority owned by the Wertheimer family — now brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, who are two of the richest men on the planet, with a combined fortune estimated at $19.2 billion.
Chanel’s iniquity should come as no surprise. In an article in the New York Times in 2011, she was referred to as “a wretched human being” not least of all because of her collaboration with the Nazi regime, which included a well documented affair with a Nazi officer. A 2011 book, “Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War,” even argued convincingly that she worked as a Nazi intelligence operative.
October 18-20, 2013
But it was clear over the course of a five minute interview at the Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia on Saturday that Morrisey would likely not recommend that the legislature put pseudoephedrine products on prescription as a way to get control of the burgeoning meth lab problem in the state.
Mississippi and Oregon recently have effectively crippled their meth lab problems by putting pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient used to make methamphetamine — on prescription.
According to West Virginia State Police statistics, there were 332 meth lab incidents through August 6 — on pace to hit 570 by the end of the year — more than double the 284 incidents from 2012.
While Morrisey repeatedly said during the interview that he was “open minded” to the idea of joining Mississippi and Oregon and putting the drugs on prescription, he kept repeating pharmaceutical industry buzz words — like “regulatory costs” — to signal that he’s going to toe the industry line — and preserve the hundreds of millions of dollars in industry profits from stuffy nose medications like Sudafed (Johnson & Johnson), Advil Cold & Sinus (Pfizer), Allegra D (Sanofi), and Claritin D (Johnson & Johnson).
“At the end of the day, you have to not stop one problem and create another,” Morrisey said.
When asked to identify what problem he would create if the state put pseudoephedrine products on prescription, he refused to do so.
But the pharmaceutical industry has weighed in with it’s own detailed reports that the Attorney General will likely use to justify his decision, including one from Matrix Global Advisors in Washington, D.C. titled An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Requiring Prescriptions for Pseudoephedrine Products.
The report finds that putting pseudoephedrine products on prescription “would force high social and economic costs on consumers” including “extra doctors visits, more absenteeism and lost work productivity, higher prices for pseudoephedrine products, increased health insurance premiums, and a loss of state tax revenues.”
The report finds that eliminating the state’s meth problem by putting pseudoephedrine products on prescription does not seem “worth the cost.”
The industry’s view is countered by most law enforcement and public health officials in West Virginia and around the country.
They argue safer alternatives to pseudoephedrine products are readily available — and that the costs politicians like Morrisey truly care about are the hundreds of millions of dollars of pharmaceutical industry profits that will be lost if West Virginia and the country moves to put pseudoephedrine products on prescription.
While Morrisey said that he wants “to make sure I talk with the right people in the legislature who want to be constructive to solve this problem,” the “right people” apparently don’t include the heads of the House and Senate health committees — Delegate Don Perdue and Senator Ron Stollings.
In 2011, West Virginia sought to pass legislation that would put pseudoephedrine products back on prescription.
But the pharmaceutical industry — represented by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association — attacked the legislation and it was defeated.
The legislation was introduced by Perdue, a retired pharmacist and 16 year member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Perdue is chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
“It was extraordinary,” Perdue told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview earlier this year. “It passed out of my committee on a voice vote. There maybe was one dissenting vote. It passed out of the Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. Then it passed on the floor of the House of Delegates by a substantial majority — 77 to 23.”
“Then it went to the Senate. It passed the Senate Health Committee and then went straight to the floor. It was the last day of the session. When it came up for a vote, the Senate tied 16 to 16. On a tie vote, the legislation failed.”
Perdue says that pseudoephedrine is a $3 billion a year product — and estimates are that 50 percent to 80 percent of that product is used to make meth.
Putting pseudoephedrine on prescription would cost the industry anywhere from $1.5 billion to $2 billion in lost sales.
Perdue says that’s the reason his bill didn’t pass the legislature — industry profits.
“It’s positively all about profit,” Perdue said. “It has nothing to do with public health. It’s all about protecting their profits. It’s not about individual freedoms. It’s not about whether or not somebody has the ability to access cold medications. It’s not about that.”
Perdue plans to reintroduce the legislation in early 2014.
Before running for Attorney General, Morrisey was a partner at the Washington, D.C. corporate law firm of Sidley & Austin — and he has close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
On the same day that Morrisey was at the Apple Butter Festival, the Charleston Gazette ran an article detailing Morrisey’s connection to Cardinal Health, a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical and medical device distribution company.
Morrisey’s predecessor — Darrell McGraw — sued Cardinal Health, alleging that the company helped fuel southern West Virginia’s problem with prescription drug abuse by shipping excessive numbers of pain pills to the region, according to the Gazette.
The Gazette reported that earlier this year, Attorney General Morrisey was in on meetings with Cardinal Health about the lawsuit, even though he had promised to recuse himself from the case.
The paper reported that Cardinal Health paid Morrisey’s wife’s lobbying firm, Capitol Counsel, $400,000 last year, and another $210,00 between January and June 30, according to lobbying disclosure forms.
Since 2001, Cardinal Health has paid $3.7 million to lobbying firms that his wife — Denise Henry — has worked for or owned, the Gazette reported.
Russell Mokhiber edits Morgan County, USA.