Republicans propose right-wing education bills in Connecticut

The American Legislative Exchange Council is the right-wing, Koch Brothers funded advocacy group that is behind many of the ultra-conservative proposals that have been sweeping state legislatures across the nation.

Here in Connecticut, at least two new ALEC bills have been introduced this session.

One has been introduced by Republican State Representative Candelora (R-86th District) who was one of only two Connecticut state legislators to sign a recent letter in support of Secretary of Education designate Betsy DeVos.

Candelora is pushing an ALEC bill to set up virtual on-line schools in Connecticut despite the overwhelming evidence that on-line virtual schools have been an unmitigated disaster in every state that has adopted the concept.  See https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06794-R00-HB.htm).

Meanwhile, another Republican legislator, State Representative Rosa Rebimbas  (R-70th District) is pushing another ALEC concept, School Vouchers, which are designed to shift scarce public funds away from public schools and give the dollars to private and parochial schools.  The legislation, House Bill 6814 would set up a system of Education Savings Accounts, a form of school vouchers. See https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06814-R00-HB.htm

As for ALEC, the Center for Media and Democracy has been tracking their activities for years. They report,

More than a quarter of all the state legislators in the country belong to ALEC, although the secretive group does not disclose its list of more than 2000 legislative members. ALEC gets 98 percent of its funding from corporations and sources like the Koch family foundations, and it acts as a conduit for special interest influence in state legislatures. ALEC convenes legislators, corporate lobbyists, and right-wing think tanks to vote as equals, behind closed doors, on “model bills” that benefit ALEC’s corporate members, industry funders, and right-wing allies. These bills are then introduced, often word for word, in state legislatures around the country.

ALEC’s long-term agenda is reflected in the current crop of bills now being filed in state houses. They undermine action on climate change and environmental protections; promote school privatization; defund unions and stop progressive wage and benefits policies; and, among other things, call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to restrict the federal budget.

ALEC is also the force behind the increased use of “preemption” laws designed to strip local governments of their power to ban fracking, pass minimum wage hikes, and enact earned sick day laws. ALEC is pushing bills to stop cities from banning plastic bags, made from derivatives of oil refining. ALEC is funded by some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world, like Koch.

Over the last three years, 109 corporations–from Ford to Google–have dumped ALEC after the public learned more about this shadowy group, particularly its role pushing national model bills like the “Stand Your Ground” law cited for exonerating Trayvon Martin’s killer, along with bills that make it harder for Americans to vote and peddling extreme climate change denial.

It is more than a little disturbing that there are Connecticut legislators pushing ALEC’s ultra-right wing agenda here in the Constitution State.

Koch Brother’s American Legislative Exchange Council pushing for more charter schools

Thanks in no small part to Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the right-wing, corporate-funded, pro-privatization, anti-public education, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is meeting this week in Indianapolis.

At the top of their privatization agenda — More unaccountable charter schools.

The Center for Media and Democracy reports that at the meeting, “where corporate lobbyists sit side-by-side with state legislators in luxury hotels to vote as equals on ‘model bills’ that then get pushed to become law in states across the country,” a key issue will be the continued expansion of charter schools.  CMD explains;

The for-profit education companies that help fund ALEC, like K12, Inc., have a track record of poor results that tends to result in a high rate of school closures. K12, which was founded in part by junk bond fraudster felon Michael Milken, has a seat and a vote on ALEC’s corporate board.

Two new bills being considered by what ALEC now dubs its “Education and Workforce Development Task Force” could help poorly performing charters stay open without having to improve.

Under the Assessment Choice Act, instead of using a uniform assessment for students statewide, charters’ authorizers would take their pick from a “menu” of tests, unlike traditional public schools.

If propping up test scores isn’t enough to save a charter from closure, the “Student and Family Fair Notice and Impact Statement Act” promises to add new hurdles. Before closing or restructuring a charter school, this act would not just require that families be notified. It would also create a public hearing process in which parents, teachers, and “experts” could give testimony about the school, and the charter board would be allowed to suggest a response plan.

So, the corporate education reformers who taught standardized testing as the mechanism to rank order children, teachers and schools is now proposing legislation that would allow charter schools to exempt themselves from the use of the Common Core testing scheme.

Meanwhile, Trump’s running mate, one of the most anti-public education, anti-teacher governors in the nation is ALEC’s keynote speaker and was also scheduled to speak at an evening reception on school “reform” hosted by some of the biggest names in the corporate education reform industry.

While Hillary Clinton has unfortunately been a major supporter of the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies, Trump-Pence are proving, yet again, that they would be a hundred times worse for the students, parents, teachers and public school of the nation.

In Tampa it was Jeb Bush, in Bridgeport it is Bill Finch

Bill Finch sponsors a preview of the movie, “Won’t Back Down.”

I know Bill Finch, and once again…I’m left wondering,

Does he just not know the facts?

Is it yet another example of bad staff support?

Or worse, does he know and does it anyway?

At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, it was Jeb Bush and “education reformer” Michelle Rhee who sponsored the screening of the anti-teacher, anti-union movie “Won’t Back Down.”

In Charlotte it was Rhee and the conservative group Democrats for Education Reform.

And this coming, Tuesday, September 25, 2012, it is Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who is inviting supporters to a special VIP showing of the movie at Bridgeport’s Showcase Cinemas.

In case his staff failed to brief him, the movie is a coordinated attack on teachers and public education.

It is a dramatic portrayal of what is called the Parent Trigger,” a system that allows education reform groups to take over a public school, fire the teachers and turns the school over to a charter school management company.

The concept arose in California, but was soon adopted by two very controversial right-wing groups, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.

Other issues that ALEC, the group funded by the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers, pushes includes Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, Florida’s “stand your ground law,” that seeks to protect people who shoot “suspicious individuals,” and the flurry of laws aimed at suppressing Latino and African-American voters.  ALEC is so out of control that over the past six months, 40 major companies, such as Coca-Cola, Amazon, CVS, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and others have withdrawn from ALEC because of their conservative orientation.

The Heartland Institute, another major force behind the new movie, recently lost public credibility when it engaged in a billboard campaign that claimed that those who believe in the science of global warming are like the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

Won’t Back Down has been produced by Philip Anschutz, the right-wing billionaire who funded the movie “Waiting for Superman” and is a major contributor to the effort to force schools to teach “creationism?”

And as far as the movie itself goes, Won’t Back Down is an attempt to portray these Parent Trigger laws as a simple way for parents to take over their schools.

In this case, one of the lead characters organizes a petition drive that ends with her taking control of the school and everyone living happily ever after.

Although the promoters of the movie claim it is, “inspired by true events,’ nothing could be further from the truth.

There are no actual cases where parent trigger laws have been used to improve schools.  There have, to date, been two attempts to use a parent trigger law to take-over a school.

In one case, a charter school paid individuals to collect signatures, as a way to force a community to turn their school over to that company.  The courts threw out the petitions

In another case, parents who signed the petition then asked to have their names removed when they discovered the real impact the plan would have on their children.

Why Mayor Bill Finch would not only support such a movie, but sponsor a screening in his community, is a mystery.

Did Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s $229,000, part-time, superintendent of schools, ask him to do this?  Vallas, who ran the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina, turned more than 80 percent of that City’s schools into charter schools, we he obviously is a big fan of charters.

Or was it Excel Bridgeport, or Michelle Rhee, or Jeb Bush.

Just last week, Jeb Bush was in Connecticut speaking before former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s “think-tank.”  Readers will recall that Bush used the opportunity to say, “I don’t think there should be public unions, period…”

So, if anyone seems Mayor Finch, do ask him…

As a Democratic and someone who is looking forward to a statewide career in Connecticut politics, what the hell was he thinking associating his name with a movie which seeks to denigrate teachers, destroy unions and undermine public control of public education?