Education

Wisconsin Education Reform Only ALEC Could Love

After months of talking about "reforming" Wisconsin's public schools, Republican state legislators are starting to move on a number of proposals. The greatly anticipated bills bear the marks of having been poured through the filter of the American Legislative Exchange Council's agenda for school reform before they were exposed to the light of day.

ALEC Exposed - A project of CMDThis week, for instance, there is a hearing on a voucher bill for special needs children that appears to be modeled on the ALEC Special Needs Scholarship Program Act. Other measures are in the works to hold teachers "accountable" for the performance of their students, but not at voucher schools of the type supported by ALEC.

Students and Teachers Rally on Anniversary of Wisconsin Uprising

A student holding and "I still *heart* UW sign in front of the State Capitol.With two rallies on Valentine's Day, students and teachers commemorated the first anniversary of Wisconsin's historic struggle against Governor Scott Walker's attack on the state's 50-year tradition of peaceful collective bargaining.

Walker introduced his proposal to end collective bargaining for most state workers on Feb. 11, 2011. On Feb. 14, 2011 the Teacher's Assistants Association, the graduate student union at UW-Madison, organized a march from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to the Wisconsin State Capitol to deliver thousands of Valentine's to Walker to protest the measure and planned cuts to the UW system.

ALEC Education "Academy" Launches on Island Resort

Today, hundreds of state legislators from across the nation will head out to an "island" resort on the coast of Florida to a unique "education academy" sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There will be no students or teachers. Instead, legislators, representatives from right-wing think tanks and for-profit education corporations will meet behind closed doors to channel their inner Milton Friedman and promote the radical transformation of the American education system into a private, for-profit enterprise. (ALEC has claimed no corporate reps will be there but it has refused to let the press attend to see this claim for itself.)

What is ALEC Scoring on Its Education "Report Card?"

ALEC Exposed - A project of CMDLittle is known about the agenda of the ALEC education meeting taking place at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island. The meeting is not open to the public and recently even the press has been kicked out of meetings and barred from attendance. So to understand the ALEC agenda with regard to education, it is important to examine ALEC's education "scorecard."

Imagine getting a report card from your teacher and finding out that you were graded not on how well you understood the course material or scored on the tests and assignments, but rather on to what extent you agreed with your teacher's strange public policy positions. That is the best way to understand the American Legislative Exchange Council's 17th Report Card on American Education released last week.

Walker Team Launches Ads Claiming Teachers and Kids Matter Most

As efforts to gather enough signatures to recall Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker got underway, the Walker administration appears to be changing its tune on some issues. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who is also a target of the recall efforts, released an ad this week on her campaign YouTube channel, "RebeccaForReal," where she discourages viewers from signing a recall petition so that the state can avoid the cost of a special election. The Lt. Governor argues that the money ($7.7 million is her estimate) should be spent on "what matters most," like school books for kids, health care for the poor, and raises for teachers.

No

Wisconsin Legislature Holds Hearings on Affirmative Action: Students Criticize Priorities

MADISON -- Wisconsin legislators heard Monday from the president of a group alleging the University of Wisconsin's admissions policies discriminates against whites. Students had protested when the group's report was first released in September, but on Monday they stayed out of the Assembly hearing to communicate to legislators there are more important issues facing the state.

Plastic Bag Manufacturers Edit California Textbooks

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a lobbying group representing plastic bag manufacturers, successfully convinced the California Department of Education to rewrite its environmental textbooks and teachers' guides to include positive statements about plastic grocery bags. ACC wrote a letter to education department officials that said in part, "To counteract what is perceived as an exclusively negative positioning of plastic bag issues, we recommend adding a section here entitled 'Benefits of Plastic Shopping Bags.'" The state's final document was, in fact, edited to contain a new section titled "Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags."

No

Wealthy Families, Corporate-Backed Foundations Behind Push for School Vouchers

L-R: Karl Rove, Dick DeVos, Betsy DeVos, Darby RoveThe sudden, rapid push for school voucher programs nationwide is not due to any public outcry or grassroots uprising for these programs. For decades these programs have been a hard-sell with the American public. Instead, a small group of wealthy individuals and corporate-backed, private foundations have been behind these efforts to divert public taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools. Among them is the son of the billionaire co-founder of Amway, Richard "Dick" DeVos, Sr., who advocates dropping the term "public schools" in favor of the term "government schools" and who has poured millions of dollars into groups that advocate "school choice," the term often used to refer to voucher programs. Dick DeVos's wife, Betsy DeVos, who is also the sister of Erik Prince of Xe, the private mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater, has been even more aggressive than her husband at promoting voucher programs. She launched the pro-voucher group "All Children Matter" in 2003, which spent $7.6 million in its first year alone to promote the adoption of state voucher programs. Betsy DeVos also founded The American Federation for Children in 2010. A PAC of the same name spent $820,000 on Wisconsin state legislative races to elect pro-voucher candidates. The Alliance for School Choice is another DeVos-funded group that promotes vouchers. The Walton Family Foundation (of Wal-Mart fame) has also given millions to push school voucher programs. These are just a small sample of the private, corporate-backed forces working to undermine public schools.

No

Charles G. Koch Foundation Hires and Fires Economists at Public University

According to news reports, the Charles G. Koch Foundation has bought "the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university." Kris Hundley of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the elder Koch brother's foundation "pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting 'political economy and free enterprise.'"

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