Educate All Students, Support Public Education

April 23, 2012

ALEC Exposed as Lobby Group With 501(C) (3) “Public Charity” Status

Filed under: ALEC — millerlf @ 6:28 pm

Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist


NYTimes Published: April 21, 2012

ALEC’s members include corporations and nearly 2,000 lawmakers. Kraft Foods, Intuit and Coca-Cola left the group amid a policy controversy.

AT&T, Reynolds American and Pfizer each gave $130,000 to $398,000 to the group, its 2010 tax returns show.

It was quickly flagged at the Washington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that views such “false claims” laws as encouraging frivolous lawsuits. ALEC’s membership includes not only corporations, but nearly 2,000 state legislators across the country — including dozens who would vote on the Ohio bill.

One of them, Bill Seitz, a prominent Republican state senator, wrote to a fellow senior lawmaker to relay ALEC’s concerns about “the recent upsurge” in false-claims legislation nationwide. “While this is understandable, as states are broke, the considered advice from our friends at ALEC was that such legislation is not well taken and should not be approved,” he said in a private memorandum.

The legislation was reworked to ease some of ALEC’s concerns, making it one of many bills the group has influenced by mobilizing its lawmaker members, a vast majority of them Republicans.

Despite its generally low profile, ALEC has drawn scrutiny recently for promoting gun rights policies like the Stand Your Ground law at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting case in Florida, as well as bills to weaken labor unions and tighten voter identification rules. Amid the controversies, several companies, including Coca-Cola, Intuit and Kraft Foods, have left the group.

Most of the attention has focused on ALEC’s role in creating model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that broadly advance a pro-business, socially conservative agenda. But a review of internal ALEC documents shows that this is only one facet of a sophisticated operation for shaping public policy at a state-by-state level. The records offer a glimpse of how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.

The documents — hundreds of pages of minutes of private meetings, member e-mail alerts and correspondence — were obtained by the watchdog group Common Cause and shared with The New York Times. Common Cause, which said it got some of the documents from a whistle-blower and others from public record requests in state legislatures, is using the files to support an Internal Revenue Service complaint asserting that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status, something ALEC denies.

“We know its mission is to bring together corporations and state legislators to draft profit-driven, anti-public-interest legislation, and then help those elected officials pass the bills in statehouses from coast to coast,” said the president of Common Cause, Bob Edgar. “If that’s not lobbying, what is?”

ALEC argues that it provides a forum for lawmakers to network and to hear from constituencies that share an interest in promoting free-market, limited-government policies. Lobbying laws differ by state, and ALEC maintains that if any of its members’ interactions with one another happen to qualify as lobbying in a particular state, that does not mean ALEC, as an organization, lobbies.

Mr. Seitz, who sits on ALEC’s governing board, said he believed that liberal groups like Common Cause are attacking the organization out of frustration that “they don’t have a comparable group that is as effective as ALEC in enacting policies into law.” He said that ALEC was not much different from other professional associations that represent state legislators, and that members were free to ignore or disagree with the group’s policy positions.

“This concept that private companies are writing the bills and handing them to gullible legislators to trundle off and pass is false,” Mr. Seitz said. “There is nothing new, surprising or sinister about private-sector organizations coming together with legislators to share ideas and learn from each other.”

Even so, the effectiveness of ALEC’s bill-production system is a major part of the group’s appeal to businesses. A membership brochure last year boasted that ALEC lawmakers typically introduced more than 1,000 bills based on model legislation each year and passed about 17 percent of them. A members-only newsletter from 1995, found in an online archive of tobacco company documents, bluntly characterized that success ratio as “a good investment.”

“Nowhere else can you get a return that high,” it said.

ALEC, which is registered as a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, traces its roots to 1973, when the conservative activist Paul M. Weyrich and several other Republicans sought to create a state-level clearinghouse for conservative ideas. Although its board is made up of legislators, who pay $50 a year to belong, ALEC is primarily financed by more than 200 private-sector members, whose annual dues of $7,000 to $25,000 accounted for most of its $7 million budget in 2010.

Some companies give much more, all of it tax deductible: AT&T, Pfizer and Reynolds American each contributed $130,000 to $398,000, according to a copy of ALEC’s 2010 tax returns, obtained by The Times, that included donors’ names, which are normally withheld from public inspection. The returns show that corporate members pay stipends — it calls them “scholarships” — for lawmakers to travel to annual conferences, including a four-day retreat where ALEC spends as much as $250,000 on child care for members’ families.

At the conferences, internal records show, representatives of corporations sit with legislators on eight task forces dealing with issues like telecommunications, health care and product liability. (ALEC announced last week that it was disbanding a ninth task force on public safety and elections, which was the focus of much of the recent scrutiny of the group.) Each task force is led by a legislator and someone from the private sector. Corporate members in recent years have included Bank of America, Walmart, Verizon, Microsoft and Connections Education, an online learning company.

The task forces develop model bills that legislators then introduce in their home states. The provenance of those bills is not always apparent to those being asked to vote on them. But minutes of task force meetings, not available to the public, show how some of the bills were produced and who within ALEC sponsored them.

Last December, ALEC adopted model legislation, based on a Texas law, addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The ALEC legislation, which has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states, has been promoted as a victory for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants.

A close reading of the bill, however, reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets. Most telling, perhaps, the bill was sponsored within ALEC by ExxonMobil, one of the largest practitioners of fracking — something not explained when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.

ALEC says that its lawmaker members have the ultimate say over its policy deliberations, and that no model bills are adopted unless its governing board, made up entirely of legislators, approves it. But the organization’s rules give corporations a great deal of influence on the task forces, where model legislation must first clear a preliminary vote before going to the board. As a result, meeting minutes show, draft bills that are preferred by a majority of lawmakers are sometimes killed by the corporate members at the table.

In August, the telecommunications task force met and considered a model resolution regarding online piracy that had been introduced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Although AT&T, Verizon and AOL could not agree on the details, the lawmakers present overwhelmingly supported the resolution in a 17-to-1 vote. However, because the corporate members deadlocked 8 to 8, the bill failed.

ALEC’s bylaws also grant its corporate members greater power over task force appointments. They say lawmakers can be removed from a task force leadership position for any reason, while private-sector members can be removed only “with cause,” like nonpayment of dues.

Beyond creating model bills, ALEC keeps careful track of state legislation, as well as national issues, and tries to mobilize its lawmaker members to take action. Aides on ALEC task forces keep detailed, color-coded spreadsheets on “good bills” and “problematic bills” in all 50 states, and they regularly send e-mails to alert legislators about ones that ALEC opposes or supports.

ALEC also sends talking points to its lawmakers to use when speaking publicly about issues like President Obama’s health care law. Last month, on the day that Supreme Court arguments on the law began, ALEC sent an e-mail to legislators with a bullet-point list of criticisms of it, to be used “in your next radio interview, town hall meeting, op-ed or letter to the editor.”

Alan P. Dye, a lawyer for ALEC, acknowledged that the group’s practice of communicating with lawmakers about specific bills could meet the federal definition of lobbying, if not for an exception that he said applied when such interactions were a result of “nonpartisan research and analysis.” ALEC simply offers independently produced material for elected officials to consider, Mr. Dye said.

“If you look at the ALEC method of operating, it’s all based on nonpartisan research and analysis,” he said. “They have consensus building, pros and cons, everyone has a say.”

Critics dismiss that argument as misleading. Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which teamed up with The Nation magazine to publicize a cache of 800 ALEC model bills last year, said that as of last August, all but one of 104 leadership positions within the organization were filled by Republicans and that the policies ALEC promoted were almost uniformly conservative.

“They talk a good game about being bipartisan,” Ms. Graves said, “but the record shows the opposite.”

Mr. Seitz, the Ohio state senator, said concerns about partisanship, lobbying and the shaping of model bills were beside the point, because whatever emerged from the ALEC process would be subjected to “endless public vetting” in legislatures before becoming law.

As for his decision to write a memo raising objections to the Ohio false-claims bill, Mr. Seitz, a lawyer and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that occurred after he attended an ALEC task force meeting and talked about it with his co-chairman, a Washington lawyer and lobbyist who represents the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other businesses. He said he learned that the bill, as originally written, would have been “a trial lawyer’s bonanza,” and so he has been working with the state attorney general to draft legislation more acceptable to himself — and to ALEC.

“I expect there could be hearings on it within the next month,” Mr. Seitz said.


April 19, 2012

Shut ALEC Down Now!

Filed under: ALEC,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 4:09 pm

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has lobbied to crush voting rights for potentially millions of people. This has been pushed back because of the great work done by ColorOfChange and other progressive groups.

A number of large corporations have been influenced to pull back from endorsing ALEC. Now ALEC says it is pulling back from voting rights lobbying, along with pulling back from lobbying for “Stand Your Ground” legislation and the “Castle Doctrine.” They are pulling back now that the damage has been done in well over 30 states that have enacted these violent and ultra – right policies.

Following is a blog that spells out how dangerous ALEC continues to be. Our efforts must be to oppose ALEC at every step whether concerning democratic rights or economic rights.

Shut ALEC down now. An immediate demand must be to put an end to the nonprofit “charity” tax status enjoyed by ALEC.

CMD: Hang onto that Paycheck! ALEC “Sharpens Focus on Jobs”

by Mary Bottari — April 19, 2012

This week the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) announced that it would disband its controversial “Public Safety and Elections Task Force” to “Sharpen its Focus on Jobs, Free Markets and Growth.” The disbanding of the source of a few of its more extreme proposals on voter ID, “Stand Your Ground/Shoot to Kill,” and AZ SB1070 will do little to clean up ALEC’s reputation. Each of ALEC’s nine task forces is a little shop of horrors of legislative proposals that only Milton Friedman could love.

Focus on jobs, you say? The Center for Media and Democracy’s archive of over 800 ALEC “model bills” has exposed a jobs agenda that is nothing less than a ruthless race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.

ALEC’s Race to the Bottom in Wages for American Workers

The “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act” would repeal and then ban local “living wage” ordinances like the ones in some 140 cities that provide a higher minimum for city workers/contractors — enough to maintain a safe, decent standard of living in a community. Similarly, the ALEC “Starting (Minimum) Wage Repeal Act” would preempt the ability of localities to pay a minimum wage higher than the federal level. Some 22 states allow starting wages, but ALEC objects to the policy as an “unfunded mandate.”

The ALEC “Prevailing Wage Repeal Act” would get rid of all state prevailing wage laws that give workers engaged in public works contracts a regional, average salary in an attempt to prevent contractors from entering into a race to the bottom in worker wages to win contract bids.

Not satisfied by pulling down workers’ wages in every imaginable domestic scenario, ALEC also supports a radical free trade agenda that pits U.S. workers against foreign workers making a fraction of their wage and facilitates the off-shoring of U.S. jobs. From China Free Trade in 2000 to Korea Free Trade today, ALEC has supported shipping jobs overseas.

Where is the bottom in ALEC’s race to the bottom? Why, prison labor of course. ALEC promotes the privatization of prisons and prison industries that do not have to abide by minimum wage rules.

Perhaps in an oversight, the ALEC archive does not contain bills rolling back child labor laws.

Benefits and Working Conditions

There’s more. ALEC wants to deter injured employees from making worker’s compensation claims by, for example, giving employers wider access to workers’ medical records. ALEC wants to privatize public pension plans by transferring the management of pension funds to for-profit Wall Street firms. What could go wrong?

And where to begin on the health care agenda? When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a law preempting a modest ordinance granting Milwaukee’s restaurant workers a few paid sick days a year, a largely female work force earning poverty wages, ALEC eagerly took up the issue in its “Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee” at the ALEC 2011 meeting in New Orleans. The committee has been co-chaired by YUM! Brands, owners of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and other fast food chains.

Yum, who wants flu with their burger or taco? Today, YUM Brands was the 12th company to announce that it was pulling out of ALEC.

Crushing Unions

ALEC has a sweeping anti-union agenda that would cripple labor’s ability to serve as an effective counterweight to corporate CEOs. Let’s start with decades of support for “Right to Work” and “Paycheck Protection” legislation, and other measures to disempower and defund unions.

On collective bargaining, ALEC’s “Public Employee Freedom Act” declares that “an employee should be able to contract on their own terms” and “mandatory collective bargaining laws violate this freedom.” This ALEC bill and the “Public Employer Payroll Deduction Policy Act” prohibit automatic payroll deductions for union dues, a key aspect of Walker’s collective bargaining bill struck down by a federal court judge.

These bills are designed to financially cripple the most significant organized voice for working families. The co-chair of ALEC’s “Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force” currently is State Farm Insurance. Other committee members include Macquarie Capital and Cintra USA. These foreign firms have rushed to purchase bridges, toll roads, and other public assets of financially stressed state and local governments so they can provide formerly public services on a for-profit basis. They have a lot to gain from ALEC’s expansive agenda to privatize public services.

Apparently, ALEC and the corporations funding ALEC’s operations like State Farm, Johnson and Johnson, and AT&T would like to turn back the clock to those good old days when there were no unions and no minimum wage. They must not be allowed to succeed.

The full list of ALEC anti-worker and anti-consumer bills can be accessed here.

Teaching About the Environment: Where is the Urgency in Education About the Climate Crisis?

Filed under: Curriculum and Instruction,Environment — millerlf @ 2:37 pm

Changing the Climate in School

Posted: 04/17/2012  Bill Bigelow and Bill McKibben

Maybe you’ve heard. We are facing a climate crisis that threatens life on our planet. Climate scientists are unequivocal: We are changing the world in deep, measurable, dangerous ways — and the pace of this change will accelerate dramatically in the decades to come.

Then again, if you’ve been a middle school or high school student recently, you may not know this.

That’s because the gap between our climate emergency and the attention paid to climate change in the school curriculum is immense. Individual teachers around the country are doing outstanding work, but the educational establishment is not. Look at our textbooks. The widely used Pearson/Prentice Hall text, Physical Science: Concepts in Action, waits until page 782 to tell high school students about climate change, but then only in four oh-by-the-way paragraphs. A photo of a bustling city includes the caption: “Carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, and other sources may contribute to global warming.” Or they may not, the book seems to suggest.

IAT’s Coordinated Science: Physical, Earth and Space Science devotes several pages late in the book to climate change, and concludes with this doubt-soaked passage:

Some people take the position that the increase in carbon dioxide should be reversed. They believe this is necessary even though the size of the contribution to global warming is not certain. It is their belief that the consequences would be very difficult to handle. Other people take a different position. They consider that it would be unwise to disrupt the world’s present economy. They consider the future danger to be questionable. The big problem is that no one is certain that rapid global warming will take place. If it does, it may be too late to do anything about it!

The danger of climate change as “questionable”? ExxonMobil itself could not have produced a more skeptical approach.

These textbooks are not mere egregious outliers; they are typical of commercially produced science and social studies teaching materials. In fact, a partnership between the American Coal Foundation and Scholastic to create a propagandistic 4th grade curriculum was ended only last year, when educators and environmentalists exposed the lessons’ absurd pro-industry biases. Scholastic’s curriculum, The United States of Energy, was distributed free to tens of thousands of elementary teachers. It showed gleaming piles of coal, along with many of its alleged benefits. Students didn’t learn of a single problem, including coal’s huge contribution to climate change.

But as state legislatures get into the business of writing school curricula, things may go from awful to worse. Take Tennessee. It just became the fourth state — following Louisiana, Texas, and South Dakota — to pass a law that requires global warming to be taught as one of a number of “scientific controversies.”

The fact that Tennessee is home of the infamous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial makes the new law ironic, but not funny. As the American Association for the Advancement of Science explains, “Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.”


April 18, 2012

Questions Concerning Howard Fuller Charter Proposal to Milwaukee Common Council

Filed under: Charter Schools,MMAC — millerlf @ 7:49 pm


The Milwaukee Common Council is reviewing a proposal by Dr. Howard Fuller and the Institute for the Transformation of Learning to create three new charter schools. The Institute is proposing to become a charter management organization, following in the footsteps of other national charter management organizations such as Rocketship and KIPP. The new schools, intended to be contracted by the City of Milwaukee, will be called Quest.

Acceptance of charter plans cannot be based on political ties, favors to political allies or just a well-written document, even if the proposal draws on the most current education terminology or suggests that it will use the most current practices in education. Whenever possible, the awarding of contracts should take into account past school and student performance of schools run by the applicant.

MPS is constantly scrutinized under a magnifying glass, correctly so. But the same should be true for the City of Milwaukee charter school district, UW charter school district and voucher schools.

In the case of this proposal, it would be valuable to look at Dr. Fuller’s results with specific schools. He is the board chair of CEO Leadership Academy, previously a voucher school and presently a city charter school. Dr. Fuller has worked  closely with that school for a number of years.

What is the data on CEO Leadership Academy? The WKCE results from the Fall of 2010 show the following:

Grade # Students Tested Subject % Proficient and Advanced MPS % Proficient and Advanced
10 42 Reading 21% 40.2%
10 42 Math 12% 31.6%
10 42 Language Arts 4% 35.7%
10 42 Science 12% 33.1%
10 42 Social Studies 23% 46.8%

The WKCE results from the Fall of 2011 show the following:

Grade # Students Tested Subject % Proficient and Advanced MPS % Proficient and Advanced
10 8 Reading 25% 47.9%
10 8 Math 0% 33.1%
10 8 Language Arts 12.5% 37.7%
10 8 Science 25% 32.2%
10 8 Social Studies 25% 41.7%

Among the questions that need to be raised :

Why were only eight students tested this year, when there were 42 students tested last year? Are students intentionally being withheld from taking the test?

Is there a public explanation for the low test results?

What accountability measures are in place to demand improvement for the performance of students at CEO?

How is the Common Council ensuring improvement?

How can the Common Council accept a whole new proposal from ITL and Dr. Fuller when the results at CEO are so unsuccessful?

Is there not a conflict of interest with Dr. Fuller being the director of ITL, which oversees the City’s chartering process, and also the board chair for CEO high school?

Report on New York City School District: “A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City”

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today,Education Policy — millerlf @ 8:29 am

Schott Foundation report April 2012

The New York City public school system is the largest in the country, with responsibility for educat­ing more than 1 million children.

The ability of the New York City public schools to meet that responsibility holds national signifi­cance. The high national profile of the city’s education reforms in recent years, and the much-echoed calls for replication in other cities, offer strong evidence of this.

Unfortunately, the city’s public school system is failing to meet its responsibilities for most of its stu­dents — particularly for Black and Latino students, and for students from low-income families. While New York will claim increases in graduation rates, yet less than 18 percent of black and brown students are proficient in reading on the National Assessment test and over two-thirds of those who graduate must pay thousands of dollars in higher education classes because they are need of remediation.

America’s urban hubs must ensure that all students have a fair and substantive opportunity to learn and achieve at high levels. In New York, few Black, Latino and impoverished students have that op­portunity.

The lack of opportunity that is at the root of this failure is tragic for hundreds of thousands of New York students and is a major contributor to the persistent failures of other school systems across the state and nation.

A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City is one of a series of Opportunity to Learn reports from the Schott Foundation. This report compiles and analyzes data for New York City and highlights existing intra-district inequities. It is useful to parents, youth, teachers, researchers, political leaders, media and other advocates interested in educational opportunity — specifically in New York City’s schools.

To view the executive summary go to:

NY Schools Redlining Report-exec-summary April 2012

April 17, 2012

Howard Fuller Proposal for Creating New City Charter Schools Critiqued by Community Group

Filed under: Charter Schools,Women Committed to an Informed Community — millerlf @ 4:15 pm


Women Committed to an Informed Community

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

April 4, 2012

City of Milwaukee Common Council c/o The Milwaukee Charter

School Review Committee

200 E. Wells Street

Milwaukee, WI 53202

Forwarded to Email Addresses of Committee Members

Regarding: Charter School Application for Quest-Milwaukee, Inc.

as submitted by Edgar T. Russell, Executive Director for Quest Institute for the Transformation of Learning, Marquette University 750 N. 18th Street, Milwaukee WI 53233 – (414) 288-3055 – v

Dear Chairman Ingram:

The undersigned individuals, on behalf of the Education Forum of the Women Committed to an Informed Community (Women Committed), ask that the Committee consider the following information in finalizing your review of the Charter School Application submitted on February 3, 2012 by Quest-Milwaukee, Inc. Individuals with Women Committed gave testimony during the public hearing (March 2012) for Charter School Applications. We have taken into consideration the defense of the School’s representation at the Hearing and the actual Application Packet from which your written reviews will be made.

The Education Forum of Women Committed to an Informed Community strongly encourages the Charter School Review Committee to defer approval of the Quest-Milwaukee Charter School Application at its April 4, 2012 session. The deferment would allow the entity to either invoke the Appeals process available in the City Ordinance Chapter 330 (typically 30-45 days) or to re-apply during the next application cycle. Deferment would allow the applicant to appropriately respond to missing and incomplete information that is critical in making an informed approval of the proposed network of Quest-Milwaukee schools.


Please note that the following items are listed in no specific order. 1.0 Required Contracts and Collaborations

1.1 It will be necessary for Quest-Milwaukee to secure thorough and ongoing contractual relationships with EdVision as outlined in the Application. This contractual agreement is not identified as either in process or completed. EdVision is the only true model that is similar in nature to the ‘variation’ of education delivery. An alternate plan is not identified should EdVision refuse to contract with Quest-Milwaukee or cancels its contract with the school.

1.2 It will be necessary for Quest-Milwaukee to secure thorough and ongoing contractual relationships with Microsoft / Google Chrome as outlined in the Application. This contractual agreement is not identified as either in process or completed. Is this contract predicated on the existing Microsoft Agreement with Wisconsin Department of Public Institutions? An alternate plan is not identified should Microsoft / Google Chrome refuse to contract with Quest-Milwaukee or cancel its contract with the school.

2.0 Staffing and Class Size

2.1 Too few appropriately certified teachers:

2.1.1 Entity lists only one teacher per location per discipline for as many as 475

Students with no back-up process when the ‘one teacher’ is not yet hired or

resigns. These start-up schools are known for high levels of staff turnover. 2.1.2 Unlicensed paraprofessionals will provide the daily interactions that are

reserved for licensed teachers in the EdVision model.

2.1.3 The EdVision model is designed for use in a small-school environment. Quest-Milwaukee’s use of this model will greatly exceed the desired staff/pupil ratios.

  • Grouping (class size) in the EdVision Model is 20 students to 1 licensed teacher;
  • Grouping in the Quest-Milwaukee Model is 22 students to 1 unlicensed paraprofessional with 475 students to 1 licensed teacher.
  • A similar model previously existed in Milwaukee (under the name of Phoenix Charter High School with Grades 9-12) under contract with EdVision but without the support and on-going direction of EdVision. This school had extreme challenges in implementing this education variation model in an urban environment.
  • Open-concept classroom or whole school model is in place at Bradley Tech High School (Milwaukee). Implementation and safety is an extreme challenge for the more mature students (grades 9-12). The Forum has extreme reservations with inclusion of grades 6 -7 into the model with very limited teacher/paraprofessional physical oversight.

 Applicant does not provide data to demonstrate that this will be

of benefit as it relates to the learning process.


2.1.3 Students will be chosen and grouped to include same-sex students of all grades-6th through 12th. Students will be provided online ‘communities for this grouping’ with no indication of on-going monitoring by the paraprofessional (teacher not included in the model). A typical makeup of the physical and online community can include students as young as 11year olds and as mature as 21 year olds. Under normal circumstances, this grouping poses a threat of safety.

2.1.4 Computer technicians are under staffed with one individual slotted to float between multiple buildings for a 100% computer-based delivery system.

2.2 Many of the key school leadership will not be hired and prepared in advance of student enrollment. A pro-active hiring will allow staff to become acclimated to the teaching environment prior to inclusion of students in the areas of responsibilities.

2.3 Students will not have access to training information outside of the physical school plant—specifically because the material will be housed on an intranet. If this is a true intranet, it is not clearly explained how students/parents will approach homework and extracurricular work.

2.4 The Center for Support is a critical element of the organizational resources. The Center for Support will is not scheduled for staffing until School-Year #Three.

3.0 Curriculum

3.1 Each student will develop and implement an individual learning plan. Application does not indicate at what point the teacher or paraprofessional (advisor) will be responsible to amend the individual learning plan to reflect realistic goals for either the learning disabled or the over-achiever.

3.1.1 In the EdVision model, the development and amendments are reserved for the licensed teacher.

3.1.2 Teacher-student evaluations are replaced with student-student evaluations.

3.2 Absent of an existing contract with EdVision (Carpe Diem or other similar models), no actual data is provided in school’s application to indicate success/fail/correction rates. The “extensive research and development” is only mentioned but not included in the Application Packet. EdVision has been implemented in the small-school environment for more than seven years. (Our Education Forum found EdVision implementation data that dates back to 1994 in a Minnesota school.)

3.2.1 No indication that the small-school training model can be transferred

successfully to the whole-school model as identified by Quest-Milwaukee.

3.3 It is not clear what an ‘average’ school day will look like for students. Some show only 2 hours of school-based subject-matter instruction while others show as much as 7 hours of actual main subject instruction. The school day is not clearly defined and only briefly discussed.


3.3.1 The Quest-Milwaukee school year will not lend well to older students who desire/need to work and/or complete community service hours outside of the school. The proposed year extends for 8 weeks beyond the traditional parochial high school. Many, if not all, of the reasonable positions that are available to the age group will be taken.

4.0 Employment Arrangements

4.1 It is not clear in the Application Packet why this Wisconsin employer seeks hiring practices that exceed Wisconsin law. Statutes that are in place at the time of this application submission do not allow for barring of all types of felony convictions.

This greatly exceeds existing law and should be explained. This should be addressed for compliance.

4.2 Health benefits are slotted for only 70% employer share during the first year. Any percentages less that 80% qualifies the employee to be identified as uninsured and eligible to apply for Wisconsin Medicaid for lack of insurance. The Education Forum does not believe that it is the intent of Quest-Milwaukee to place its instructors and staff onto the Medicaid roles. This should be addressed for compliance.

4.3 The proposed school intends to implement a $250 penalty for unexcused absences. There is no clear financial template to indicate that the employee arrangement will not violate federal/state minimum wage hours. Ultimately, the deduction of $250 from a 3-day pay week may not leave enough compensation equivalent to $7.25 for actual hours worked. This should be addressed for compliance.

5.0 Financials

5.1 Non-profit [501(c)3] approval not in place by original application time. Conversation during Public Hearing referenced a recent approval. Documentation, however, was not provided for inclusion into the Application Packet—which is a matter of public record.

5.2 Conversation during Public Hearing referenced a recent approval by the Executive Board to increase the per-student tuition rate from $7,777 to $11,000. No additional explanation was offered verbally. Documentation, however, was not provided for

inclusion into the Application Packet—which is a matter of public record.

  • The Application Packet, along with any modification should be made

available as a matter of public record. The process of amending an

Application Packet may by a CSRC process that does not currently

lend well to public inspection.


  • The Education Forum’s recommendation is to amend the

responsibilities of the Committee Clerk to include tracking with update notification to all parties requesting release of the public documents, namely submitted Charter School Application Packets. A reasonable timeframe to provide the update notification is within 3 calendar days of receipt from applicant entity.

5.3 Three-year projections included in the Application Packet itemize the expenses of a
preparation year with a fiscal start date of July 1. Missing from the Packet is an

itemization of the expenses for the prior years of preparation. The standard itemization is addressed with a voluntary statement: “Note: This is a new school and does not have prior school year financial information.” To the contrary, the actual operation of Quest-Milwaukee (with Edgar T. Russell identified as Executive Director for Quest) is referenced in petitions to elected officials as far back as January 2011. This would account for two prior school years if the July-June fiscal year is applied as identified by the applicant.

5.4 Use of the Wisconsin Planning Grant ($200,000) is not identified as being a part of

the 2012-13 planning year but was briefly mentioned in the Public Hearing.

6.0 Senior Management and Executive Board Structure

6.1 The discussion of the Executive Board structure for Quest-Milwaukee indicated a composite of eight members. The Application Packet submitted for review, however, only list three members—only two of which were available for the public hearing.

  • Questions regarding the Executive Board members not yet identified were addressed by the Board Treasurer as ‘not enough time to identify prior to the public hearing.” Deferment would allow for additional time to secure and evaluate individuals who will the significant makeup of this decision-making body.
  • It is a serious question of the Education Forum whether a true 2/3 majority can be obtained with the current Executive Board structure given that two of the Members are a husband/wife team.
  • Current Executive Board Chair is also the Chair of another entity that is applying for Charter School approval during this March 2012 approval cycle.
  •  The Education Forum finds is extremely odd that the Application Packet of the second entity was significantly deficient and is encouraged by the CSRC to re-submit for
  • approval in September 2012.
  • The Application references two different Executive Board Chairs in different areas of the Packet. It is not clear if this is an oversight and when the structural changes were made because two of the documents where authored/signed within days of each other.


7.0 Miscellaneous

7.1              The Education Forum would ask the applicant to review and adjust the document

to exclude overly repetitive documentation. Entire sections are repeated throughout the document—with no added value—as much as three times.

7.2             The Education Forum believes that it is a challenging feat—possibly a conflict of
interest—for CSRC Members who are also long-term and life members of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) organization to also take responsibility for approval of an entity that is the product of the organizations founding members. The Education Forum’s opposition here, however, will take a back seat if the remaining items are addressed to the public’s satisfaction.

The Education Forum and the Women Committed feel that it is necessary to express that these requests are from Milwaukee residents who are working to see the achievable school options are available to our children. Those who join us in the Education Forum have worked and volunteered in the Milwaukee Public School system, as well as, private/choice schools at varying grade levels. We do not require our members to express opposition to choice schools. To the contrary, individuals who have recently made application for review as a Charter School through the City of Milwaukee have previously met with the Education Forum.

If you have additional questions during your serious review of this material and its application to your decision-making process, contact information for Education Forum Leaders is provided below.



Harriet Callier, Associate Chair Education Forum


Gail Hicks, Chair Education Forum 414-358-1042

Marva Herndon, Chair

Women Committed to an Informed Community 414-350-3027


April 16, 2012

Democrats Running for Governor Need to Fully Support Public Education

Filed under: Elections,Public Education,Recall — millerlf @ 6:21 pm

Removing the Walker regime is within the grasp of Wisconsin voters. Walker’s policies, if allowed to continue, will make pain and suffering the order of the day for many people, while corporations and the wealthy will flourish.

As an advocate of public education, working for over 80,000 Milwaukee students, my goal is to steer education policy and funding away from privatization, and toward teaching all students with equity in funding and resources.

The past two years have seen education used as a political football to advance schemes that have nothing to do with improving the lives of all Wisconsin’s children. There was an attempt to take over Milwaukee Public Schools. With the new legislature coming to office in 2011, private school vouchers have been expanded, along with a move toward universal vouchers. The charter movement is working to flood the Milwaukee education market with so-called “miracle” schools.

Democrats should support public education at all levels because –

  1. An educated population is the cornerstone of democracy. This nation’s well-being depends on the decisions of its educated, informed citizens.
  2. Education reduces costs to taxpayers. For every dollar spent to keep a child in school, the future costs of welfare, prison, and intervention services are reduced. It can cost less to educate a child now than to support a teenage parent or a repeat offender in the future. Education monies help to secure the future of all citizens.
  3. Public schools are the only schools that must meet the needs of all students. They do not turn children or families away. Public schools serve children with physical, emotional, and mental disabilities, those who are extremely gifted and those who are learning challenged, right along with children without special needs.
  4.  Public schools foster interactions and understanding among people of different ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  5. “Education is the best provision for old age”– Aristotle. The future support of our aging population depends on strong public schools.
  6. More than 95 percent of our future jobs will require at least a high school education. There is no question about the need for an educated work force.
  7. The nation pays a high price for poorly educated workers. When retraining and remediation are needed to prepare a worker to do even simple tasks, the cost is paid by both employers and consumers.
  8. The cost of dropouts affects us all. This nation loses more than $240 billion per year in earnings and taxes that dropouts would have generated over their lifetimes. Well-supported public schools can engage all students in learning and graduate productive and competent citizens.
  9. Children are our nation’s future. Their development affects all of us. Good education is not cheap, but ignorance costs far more.
  10. Public education is a worthy investment for public funds. We can invest now, or we can pay later.

Stop the War on Mothers by Ellen Bravo

Filed under: General,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 6:17 pm

(View Ellen Bravo taking a stand against the “big boys” of the right-wing on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC: )

By Ellen Bravo

I love the image of conservatives hiding behind the flag of motherhood to protect themselves against charges of gender insensitivity. It’s like kids who move the couch to cover up a stain and hope no one will notice.

By all means, let’s talk about the importance of motherhood.

We can start with the right to stay home after giving birth. Rush Limbaugh recently ranted that women have much more flexibility at work than men.

Unlike Rush, I like to begin with the facts.

The United States is one of only four countries in the world that doesn’t ensure new mothers can afford to stay home even for the briefest of times after they have a baby. Not surprisingly, millions of American mothers who’ve given birth go back to work before the six weeks needed just for healing. The majority of new mothers return before 12 weeks.

Why? For many, because they’ll lose their job otherwise. We have two laws protecting new mothers. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says an employer can’t fire someone for being pregnant but doesn’t have to hold her job for her while she recovers from birth.


The other, the Family and Medical Leave Act, does protect the jobs of mothers and fathers who take leave to care for a newborn– but it excludes half the workforce because they work for a company with fewer than 50 employees, haven’t been on the job long enough or work part time.

And did I mention the leave is unpaid?

In fact, nearly half of employed mothers receive no pay whatsoever for the time they’re out on maternity leave. Of those who do draw some pay, most are using time they’ve accrued, like vacation.

As anyone with a newborn knows, having a baby is a great joy, but it is definitely not a vacation.

And what about when a child falls ill? More than two-fifths of all workers, three-quarters of low-wage workers, don’t have a single paid sick day. Nearly half of those who do can’t use the time to care for a sick child.

In other words, when the school calls and says your child just threw up and you must come pick him up, women all over the country risk losing a day’s pay — or worse, their job — for being a good mom. Many of those women work for multi-billion dollar restaurant or nursing home chains, home health care agencies or child care centers.

Because when women do for a living the work that mothers do in the home – feeding people, taking care of the sick or the elderly or the very young – they’re usually paid very little and provided few if any benefits.

Ask those guardians of motherhood why the workers who care for our young children earn less than those who care for our cars or our pets; and why domestic workers and home health care workers are excluded from protection of most labor laws.

Conservatives oppose every policy to correct these injustices – family leave, paid sick days, expanding labor law protection, equal pay laws.

If you really want to know how conservatives feel about motherhood, take a look at what they say when women who happen to be poor want to stay home to take care of their kids. Right-wing pundits and politicians blast these mothers as lazy and irresponsible people who refuse to work and should be forced to do so, no matter what job, what pay, what shift.

“We should ask that all adults participate in work activities to their fullest ability,” Governor Romney has said.

And by “work,” he doesn’t mean feeding or cuddling or playing with their young ones.

I’m all for honoring mothers. Let’s start by making sure they’re not punished for doing that job well, and that the fathers of those children are allowed to share in the joy, and work, of caring for them.



NRA Awards Scott Walker For Pushing Concealed Guns And The ALEC-Related ‘Castle Doctrine’ (Shoot First) Laws

Filed under: ALEC,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 4:52 pm

April 15, 2012

By Brendan Fischer – Originally posted on the Center for
Media and Democracy’s

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker asked members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) for “help” and “support” in his upcoming recall election in a speech at the organization’s annual meeting on April 13, where he received an award for signing into law two controversial bills: Concealed Carry legislation, which allows people to be armed with concealed guns almost anywhere in the state, and what the NRA calls the Castle Doctrine, but what is more widely known as Stand Your Ground or Shoot First or Kill at Will bills. The NRA has been under fire in recent weeks for conceiving the Florida Shoot First law, which had been cited to prevent the arrest of the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Legislators and corporate lobbyists at a task force meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted that law as a “model” bill for other states at the urging of the NRA’s lobbyist. Walker is an ALEC alumni.

Walker is facing a June 5 recall election after approximately 46 percent of the Wisconsin electorate petitioned for his removal.

Walker’s take on the recall effort was that “the advocates of big government view me as a threat. They want to take me out, because I stand in their way of getting their hands on money and power.” He did not mention his push to limit collective bargaining, which brought hundreds of thousands of protestors to the Capitol throughout February and March of 2011, and once again claimed that protestors were bussed in from out-of-state.

“If I fail in June, it sets us back at least a decade, if not a generation,” he said.

The Wisconsin governor was one of a handful of conservative leaders, including Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who spoke at the meeting in St. Louis. Walker received standing ovations before and after his speech.

The NRA gave Walker the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award, honoring him for signing versions of Castle Doctrine (Shoot First) and concealed-carry laws in 2011.

Carter is credited for turning the NRA from a hunter’s group into a right-wing political machine.

The so-called “Castle Doctrine” (Shoot First) law that Walker was praised for signing has been a hot issue for the NRA in recent weeks, as the original version of that law had been cited by police and others as an excuse for not arresting the man who killed Florida high school student Trayvon Martin. Wisconsin’s version of the law has recently by cited to give immunity to a man who shot-and-killed a young man trying to hide from police after attending an underage drinking party.

As the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer helped draft a law called the Florida bill in 2005. The NRA’s bill went far beyond the traditional right to claim self-defense by establishing a legal presumption of criminal and civil immunity when a shooter claims they were threatened, whether in the home or in a public place. Hammer reportedly ”stared down legislators as they voted” and stood behind Governor Jeb Bush as he signed the bill into law.

As CMD has documented on and, just a few months later, Hammer presented the bil as a model for other statesl to ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force (now known as the Public Safety and Elections Task Force), and the NRA boasted that “[h]er talk was well-received.” The corporations and state legislators on the Task Force — which was chaired by Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer of long guns — voted unanimously to approve the bill as an ALEC model. Since becoming an ALEC model it has become law in dozens of other states, and the number of homicides classified as “justifiable” has dramatically increased.

Scott Walker was a proud ALEC member when he was a state legislator between 1993 and 2002. During that period, he introduced several ALEC-inspired bills, including ALEC’s so-called “truth in sentencing” law that has helped prison populations explode, as well as efforts to try to privatize state prison operations.

After becoming governor, Walker signed into law a version of theALEC/NRA bill that includes provisions that create a legal presumption of immunity for the use of deadly force in one’s home, vehicle, and business.

On March 3 of this year, 20-year-old Bo Morrison, who had graduated technical college and enrolled in the Marines, was shot and killed by a homeowner in Slinger, Wisconsin as the young man hid from police on a porch after attending an underage drinking party. Because of the new law, no charges will be filed in the shooting.

Meanwhile, Walker’s push for concealed carry has produced a bumper crop of new signs on windows of businesses across the state informing customers that they are not allowed to be armed inside numerous establishments. However, people are now allowed to carry concealed guns into the Wisconsin capitol, at the same time that ordinary citizens are no longer allowed to openly carry and use cameras based on new rules passed by Walker allies.

NRA president Wayne LaPierre also spoke at the April 13 event. He attacked the media for covering victims of gun violence, claiming they are “manufactur[ing] controversy for ratings.”


April 7, 2012

NRA and ALEC Behind “Stand Your Ground” Law

Filed under: ALEC,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 5:16 pm

NRA expands its role from fight for gun rights to conservative causes

By Libby Lewis, CNN Fri April 6, 2012

In late March, protesters gather at the Georgia State Capitol to protest the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
In late March, protesters gather at the Georgia State Capitol to protest the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.


  • American Legislative Executive Council getting attention for pushing conservative legislation
  • Group was behind the spread of “stand your ground” laws
  • This week, Coca-Cola and Kraft say they are pulling corporate memberships from group
  • The group has ties to the NRA, which has extended its reach beyond gun rights advocacy

Washington (CNN) — This week, Coca-Cola and Kraft announced they are pulling their corporate memberships from a conservative group that was behind the spread of “stand your ground” laws like the one highlighted in Florida by the Trayvon Martin case.

The American Legislative Executive Council, also known as ALEC, is getting attention lately for its behind the scenes work pushing conservative legislation in the states.

The group has gotten even more attention since a neighborhood watch volunteer shot and killed unarmed teenager Martin last month.

The man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, said he acted in self-defense. Police haven’t charged him and legal experts say Florida’s “stand your ground” law may shield Zimmerman from prosecution.

The National Rifle Association worked with ALEC to spread similar laws that are on the books in at least 25 states.

Those laws grow directly out of the Second Amendment ethos the NRA has championed: “the ethos of individualism, of having a gun, of individuals taking the initiative,” said Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Cortland and at Cornell University who has studied and written about the NRA for decades.

Opinion: When soda pop and politics don’t mix

Less well known is that the NRA has also helped ALEC spread other conservative laws that have nothing to do with gun rights.

ALEC drafts and shares model bills with state legislators to promote corporation-friendly and conservative social policy.

A watchdog group called the Center for Media and Democracy first documented the NRA’s role in these bills with ALEC.

An NRA lobbyist, Tara Mica, helped shepherd a model bill that requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Many conservatives have pushed voter ID laws to prevent election fraud. Many liberals say these laws inhibit voting by minorities.

Mica also helped preside over ALEC’s passage of the model bill that became the basis of Arizona’s immigration law. That’s the law that requires police to arrest anyone who cannot prove when asked that they entered the United States legally.

The NRA and Mica wouldn’t talk with CNN, so it’s not known whether Mica consulted with other NRA officials about the bills on voter ID and immigration.

ALEC also declined to answer questions.

Lisa Graves with the Center for Media and Democracy said the way ALEC works, “We know a bill cannot be approved as a model bill if the private sector members, like the NRA or Walmart, don’t want it to become a model bill.”

Josh Horwitz heads an advocacy group called the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He said the NRA’s role with ALEC cements his view that the NRA is really a base for the conservative movement.

“People think the NRA is just a gun group. It’s really not.” Horwitz said.

Horwitz’s group has created a cheeky website, “Meet the” It lists the NRA’s board of directors, and it has a rolling information bar that features some of their more colorful statements.

The NRA’s board includes Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and David Keene, former chairman of the American Conservative Union. The board also includes Robert Brown, creator of Soldier of Fortune magazine, and rock guitarist Ted Nugent.

Spitzer said the NRA has gotten involved in some other non-gun issues.

For instance, he said, the NRA fought hard against campaign finance reform in the days of McCain-Feingold. “They were taking a very much free-enterprise, government-hands-off-the-campaign-process (approach),” he said.

But Spitzer said the NRA will always be primarily about guns and what they stand for in the individualist American mythology.

He said the NRA’s work is cut out for it, because gun ownership is on the decline in America.

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