Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

May 29, 2015

Nation Watching Wisconsin’s Education Debacle

Filed under: ALEC,Education Policy,Republicans — millerlf @ 10:57 am

Valerie Strauss Washington Post Education Blog May 28,2015

What is the Wisconsin Legislature trying to do to public education in Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s state?

State Superintendent Tony Evers has gone on record accusing lawmakers of moving toward new legislation “that erodes the basic foundation of Wisconsin’s public school system.” How? By legislature efforts that include refusing to spend more money on public education for the first time in more than 20 years while while giving millions of dollars more to expand a private voucher program, slashing higher education funding, and weakening licensing rules for teachers.

Evers said in a statement:
“Wisconsin is nationally renowned for its quality public schools. We are a leader among the states in graduation rates, Advanced Placement participation, and ACT scores because of our highly trained educators and the support of families and local communities. The citizens of Wisconsin — measured by budget hearings, local advocacy, and recent polls — voiced their overwhelming support for our public schools and increasing funding in this budget.

“I am troubled that the Joint Finance Committee spent its time and effort designing a plan that erodes the basic foundation of Wisconsin’s public school system. If we want all students to achieve, we cannot continue to ask our public schools to do more with less. The eventual outcome of that exercise will be two systems of public schools: those in local communities that can afford to provide a quality education through referendum and those that cannot.”

Education proposals by the Joint Committee on Finance largely reflect the broad agenda set by Walker, who is considered a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Lawmakers have expanded on some of the more general language in his budget proposal (such as by spelling out how teacher licensure should be changed) and added a few things of their own.

Walker, in fact, had proposed a $127 million cut in K-12 funding and lawmakers restored the cut in their proposal — though they are not giving more money to public school districts for the first time in more than 20 years next year while at the same time spending millions more to expand to expand a school voucher program that uses public money to fund private education. The plan includes a voucher program for special-needs students, which critics say would reduce resources that public schools have for special-needs students.

It is worth noting that for the current school year, 75 percent of the applications to the voucher program were already in private school, according to the education department, and for the 2015-16 school year, 79.9 percent. Doesn’t that sound like a subsidy for the private school population?

There’s more: Lawmakers are pushing for budget cuts in the University of Wisconsin higher education system — possibly $150 million for each of the next two years. That makes Wisconsin one of only six states that have approved or are considering reducing higher education funding for the next fiscal year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The paper notes that Wisconsin now spends less on higher education than all of its neighbors: Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

[Wisconsin Gov. Walker sued for withholding public documents on secret bid to change university’s mission]

What is on the education agenda of the Joint Committee on Finance of the state legislature?
From the Department of Public Instruction:
•For the first time ever, there is no increase in state imposed revenue limits over the next two school years, while voucher and independent charter school payments are increased in each year.
•State general equalization aid to public schools is cut in the first year to pay for voucher expansion and increased independent charter school payments. This leaves public schools with less state general aid than in 2010.
•Continues the freeze on state special education aid for what will be the eighth consecutive year, covering roughly a quarter of district special education costs while creating a new voucher program that drains funds from public schools.
•Essentially eliminates teacher licensing standards by allowing public and private schools to hire anyone to teach, even those without a bachelor’s degree, planting Wisconsin at the bottom nationally, below states with the lowest student achievement levels.
•Imposes a new state test on today’s 10th-graders in all public schools and private school students receiving vouchers that they must pass to graduate in two years.

Here’s part of a May 27 news release from the department on proposed changes to he way teachers are licensed:

Major changes to teacher licensing voted into the 2015-17 state budget, without a hearing, puts Wisconsin on a path toward the bottom, compared to the nation, for standards required of those who teach at the middle and high school level.

Adopted as a K-12 omnibus motion by the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), the education package deregulates licensing standards for middle and high school teachers across the state. The legislation being rolled into the biennial budget would require the Department of Public Instruction to license anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject to teach English, social studies, mathematics, and science. The only requirement is that a public school or school district or a private choice school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in each subject they teach. Traditional licensure requires educators in middle and high school to have a bachelor’s degree and a major or minor in the subject they teach, plus completion of intensive training on skills required to be a teacher, and successful passage of skills and subject content assessments.

That’s not all. The proposal would require the education department to issue a teaching permit to people who have not — repeat have not — earned a bachelor’s degree, or potentially a high school diploma, to teach in any subject area, excluding the core subjects of mathematics, English, science, and social studies. “The only requirement would be that the public school or district or private voucher school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in the subject they intend to teach. And, the department would not be permitted to add requirements.

Evers is quoted as saying:
“We are sliding toward the bottom in standards for those who teach our students. It doesn’t make sense. We have spent years developing licensing standards to improve the quality of the teacher in the classroom, which is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Now we’re throwing out those standards.”

Meanwhile, Walker hasn’t said anything publicly that would make anyone think he doesn’t agree with the education path on which the legislature has embarked.

Walker was recently sued by a nonprofit watchdog group alleging that he is refusing to make public documents relating to an effort by his office to change the mission of the University of Wisconsin that is embedded in state law. Earlier this year, Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the “Wisconsin Idea” and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

If the language had become law, it would have created a fundamental change in the University of Wisconsin. The traditional mission is to broadly educate students to be active, productive citizens in the U.S. democracy, while Walker’s language would have turned the school into more of a training ground for workers to populate the American work force. Walker failed to mention the suggested change in a speech he gave about the budget, but after it was discovered by the nonprofit Madison- -based Center for Media and Democracy, the governor withdrew the language and said it was a “drafting error.” The center tried to get documents related to the episode under the Freedom of Information Act and sued when Walker’s administration refused to release some of them, claiming they are protected by “deliberative process privilege.”
(Correction: The Center for Media and Democracy is based in Madison, not Washington, as an earlier version said.)

December 4, 2013

Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model

Filed under: ALEC,Vouchers — millerlf @ 10:08 am

by Brendan Fischer [1] — July 16, 2013 – 7:55am

 

Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org [7]. Thirty-one have become law.

 

ALEC Vouchers Transfer Taxpayer Money to Private and Religious Schools

 

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 [8] 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.

 

ALEC Cash For KidsIn 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 [9] 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 [10] 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 funnelling 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 Education Bills Undermine Free, Universal Public Education

 

ALEC-influenced bills introduced in 2013 include legislation to:

 

  • Create or expand taxpayer-funded voucher programs, using bills such as the “Parental Choice Scholarship Act” (introduced in three states). Under many state constitutions, the use of public dollars to fund religious institutions has been rejected on separation-of-powers grounds, but the ALEC Great Schools Tax Credit Act, introduced in ten states in 2013, bypasses state constitutional provisions and offers a form of private school tuition tax credits that funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools with even less public accountability than with regular vouchers.

 

  • Carve-out vouchers for students with special needs, regardless of family income, through the “Special Needs Scholarship Program Act” (introduced in twelve states), which sends vulnerable children to for-profit schools not bound by federal and state legal requirements to meet a student’s special needs, as public schools must. A proposal in Wisconsin would have allocated up to $14,658 to a for-profit school for each special needs student.

 

  • Send taxpayer dollars to unaccountable online school providers through the “Virtual Schools Act,” introduced in three states, where a single teacher remotely teaches a “class” of hundreds of isolated students working from home. The low overhead for virtual schools certainly raises company profits, but it is a model few educators think is a appropriate for young children.

 

  • Offer teaching credentials to individuals with subject-matter experience but no education background with the Alternative Certification Act, introduced in seven states. The bill is part of ALEC’s ongoing effort to undermine unionized workers and promote a race to the bottom in wages and benefits for American workers.

 

  • Require that educators “teach the controversy” when it comes to topics like climate change — where the only disagreement is political, not scientific — through the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act, introduced in five states.

 

  • Create opportunities to privatize public schools or fire teachers and principals via referendum with the controversial Parent Trigger Act (glorified in the flop film [11] “Won’t Back Down”), introduced in twelve states. First passed in California, a modified Parent Trigger bill was brought to ALEC in 2010 by the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, which is perhaps best known for controversial billboards comparing people who believe in climate change to mass murderers like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

 

  • Create an appointed, state-level charter school authorizing board through the Next Generation Charter Schools Act, introduced in seven states, which effectively shields charters from democratic accountability. The legislation “would wrest control from school boards, and likewise from the community that elects those school boards,” Mead says, since it takes away their power to authorize charters in the community.

 

ALEC Corporations Reap the Rewards

 

Some of the for-profit corporations profiting from the ALEC Education privatization agenda include:

 

“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 [12] in 2011, 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 [13], 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 [14] in city bonds, just 25% of students found jobs [15] 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 [16] 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.

 

Ideological Interests Lift the ALEC Agenda

 

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 Children, 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 [17] 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 [18] 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 [19]). Jensen represents the organization [20] on the ALEC Education Task Force and has brought AFC bills to ALEC [21] for adoption as “model” legislation. AFC spent at least $7 million [22] electing privatization-friendly state legislators across the country in 2012, but reported far less [23] 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 [24] 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 [25] the groups that laid the groundwork. When the plan was challenged in Wisconsin courts, Bradley funded [25] its legal defense, which included hiring Kenneth Starr — later known for pursuing Bill Clinton over Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky — to represent the state.

 

Average Americans Pay the Price

 

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 [26]. “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 [27] 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.

 

http://www.prwatch.org/files/images/looking-at-certificate-1024x682.jpgTrinity Fitzer. (WI Center for Investigative Journalism)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 [28] 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 [29]. “The only reason that mediocrity is accepted is because of the race of the children being served.“

 

Privatizing Schools and Other Government Services

 

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 commmunity 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 goverment 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 [30].

 

ALEC Education Bills, 2013 [30]

 

State

ALEC Bill

State Bill

AL

Founding Principles Act [31]

SB 443 [32]

AL

The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act [33]

HB 84 [34]

AK

Founding Principles Act [31]

HB 31 [35]

AZ

District and School Freedom Act [36]

HB 2496 [37]

AZ

Environmental Literacy Improvement Act [38]

SB 1213 [39]

AZ

Parent Trigger Act [40]

SB 1409 [41]

AZ

Founding Principles Act [31]

SB 1212 [42]

AZ

Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits [43]

HB 2617 [44]

AZ

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

HB 2617 [44]

AZ

The Next Generation Charter Schools Act [46]

HB 2494 [47]

AZ

The Virtual Public Schools Act [48]

HB 2493 [49]

AR

Founding Principles Act [31]

SB 1017 [50]

AR

Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits [43]

SB 740 [51]

AR

The Foster Child Scholarship Program Act [52]

HB 1788 [53]

AR

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

SB 740 [51]

AR

The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act [33]

SB 66 [54]

AR

The Next Generation Charter Schools Act [46]

HB 1040 [55]

AR

The Open Enrollment Act [56]

HB 1507 [57]

AR

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

HB 1897 [59], HB 2260 [60]

CA

The Open Enrollment Act [56]

AB 1279 [61]

CO

Environmental Literacy Improvement Act [38]

HB 13-1089 [62]

CT

The Lifelong Learning Accounts Act [63]

SB 769 [64]

DE

The Charter Schools Act [65]

HB 165 [66]

DC

The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act [67]

B 20-0310 [68]

FL

Alternative Certification Act [69]

SB 1664 [70], SB 1238 [71]

FL

Education Savings Account [21]

HB 1251 [72]

FL

The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act [33]

SB 1390 [73]

FL

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

SB 172 [74]

FL

Parent Trigger Act [40]

HB 867 [75], SB 862 [76]

ID

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

HB 227 [77], HB 286 [78]

IL

Alternative Certification Act [69]

HB 513 [79], HB 1868 [80]

IN

Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act [81]

HB 1003 [82], HB 1001 [83]

IN

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

SB 332 [85]

IN

The Smart Start Scholarship Program [86]

HB 1003 [87]

IN

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

HB 1003 [87]

IA

Parent Trigger Act [88]

SF 2 [89]

IA

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

HB 225 [90]

KS

Environmental Literacy Improvement Act [38]

HB 2306 [91]

KS

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

HR 6010 [92]

KS

Public Employee Freedom Act [93]

HB 2123 [94]

KS

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

HB 2400 [95]

KS

The Next Generation Charter Schools Act [96]

SB 196 [97]

KS

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

HB 2263 [98]

KY

Environmental Literacy Improvement Act [99]

HB 269 [100]

KY

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

HB 66 [101]

KY

The Next Generation Charter Schools Act [96]

HB 76 [102]

KY

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

HB 155 [103]

LA

Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act [81]

HB 597 [104]

ME

Alternative Certification Act [105]

SP 461 [106]

ME

The Next Generation Charter Schools Act [46]

HP 967 [107]

ME

The Virtual Public Schools Act [48]

HP 331 [108], SP 391 [109]

MD

Parent Trigger Act [88]

HB 875 [110]

MA

Alternative Certification Act [105]

H 418 [111]

MA

Founding Principles Act [112]

H 513 [113]

MA

Parent Trigger Act [40]

H 429 [114]

MI

Founding Principles Act [31]

SB 121 [115]

MI

The Virtual Public Schools Act [48]

HB 4228 [116], SB 182 [117]

MN

The Charter Schools Act [65]

SF 978 [118]

MS

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

HC 90 [119], HC 96 [120], HB 496 [121]

MS

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

SB 2132 [122], HB 1095 [123]

MS

The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act [33]

SB 2716 [124], HB 118 [125], HB 787 [126]

MS

The Next Generation Charter Schools Act [96]

SB 2189 [127]

MS

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

HB 1004 [128]

MO

Parent Trigger Act [88]

SB 311 [129]

MO

Teacher Choice Compensation Act [130]

SB 408 [131]

MO

The Next Generation Charter Schools Act [46]

HB 315 [132]

MT

Resolution Calling for Greater Productivity in American Higher Education [133]

SJ 13 [134]

MT

Education Savings Account Act [135]

HB 357 [136]

MT

The Charter Schools Act [65]

SB 374 [137], HB 315 [138]

MT

The Great Schools Tax Credit (Scholarship Tax Credit) Act [45]

HB 213 [139]

MT

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

HB 390 [140]

NE

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

LR 42 [141]

NV

Founding Principles Act [112]

SB 163 [142]

NV

Great Teachers and Leaders Act [143]

SB 407 [144]

NV

Parent Trigger Act [40]

AB 254 [145]

NV

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

SB 314 [146]

NV

The Charter Schools Act [65]

AB 205 [147]

NJ

The Charter Schools Act [65]

A 4177 [148]

NJ

The Family Education Savings Account Act [135]

A 3959 [149]

NM

Local Government Transparency Act [150]

SB 63 [151]

NY

Common Sense in Medication Students Act [152]

A 2972 [153]

NY

Founding Principles Act [31]

S 2134 [154]

NY

Parent Trigger Act [40]

A 3826 [155]

NY

Quality Education and Teacher and Principal Protection Act [156]

A 3110 [157]

NY

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

S 788 [158]

NC

Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act [81]

HB 944 [159]

NC

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

H 711 [160]

NC

The 140 Credit Hour Act [161]

HB 255 [162]

NC

The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act [67]

H 960 [163]

OH

Founding Principles Act [31]

SB 96 [164]

OK

Alternative Certification Act [105]

SB 877 [165]

OK

Environmental Literacy Improvement Act [38]

HB 1674 [166]

OK

Founding Principles Act [31]

SB 154 [167]

OK

Parent Trigger Act [40]

HB 1385 [168]

OK

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

HB 1384 [169]

OR

Parent Trigger Act [40]

HB 2881 [170]

PA

The Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act (Scholarship Tax Credits) [45]

SB 51 [171]

RI

The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act [58]

H6131 [172]

SC

Parent Trigger Act [88]

S 556 [173]

SC

Parental Rights Amendment [84]

S 628 [174]

SC

The Charter Schools Act [65]

S 3853 [175]

SC

The Open Enrollment Act [56]

S 313 [176]

SD

Founding Principles Act [31]

SCR 2 [177]

TN

Founding Principles Act [31]

HB 1129 [178]

TN

Local Government Transparency Act [179]

SB 2832 [180]

TN

Parent Trigger Act [40]

HB 77 [181]

TN

September 21, 2012

“Won’t Back Down” Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal

Filed under: ALEC,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:45 am
by Mary Bottari and Sara Jerving — September 19, 2012 PR Watch, Center for Media and Democracy

Well-funded advocates of privatizing the nation’s education system are employing a new strategy this fall to enlist support for the cause. The emotionally engaging Hollywood film “Won’t Back Down” — set for release September 28 — portrays so-called “Parent Trigger” laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. But the film’s distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting Parent Trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system.

While Parent Trigger was first promoted by a small charter school operator in California, it was taken up and launched into hyperdrive by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.

ALEC brings together major American corporations and right-wing legislators to craft and vote on “model” bills behind closed doors. These bills include extreme gun laws, like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law implicated in the Trayvon Martin shooting, union-busting legislation, Arizona style anti-immigrant legislation and voter suppression laws that have sparked lawsuits across the nation. The organization’s agenda is so extreme that in the last few months 40 major U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and General Motors, have severed ties with ALEC.

Similarly, the Heartland Institute recently suffered an exodus of corporate sponsors after it launched a billboard comparing those who believe in the science behind global warming to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

As the movie’s stars take to the airwaves this week to promote the film, it is unlikely they will discuss the agenda of the film’s billionaire backers or the right-wing politicians and for-profit firms who are promoting the Parent Trigger idea, the purpose of which is to promote the transformation of the American public school system into a for-profit enterprise. We provide a primer below.

Hollywood Fiction vs. the Facts on Parent Trigger

What is a Parent Trigger law? The proposals have varied from state to state, but they generally allow parents at any failing school, defined by standardized testing, to sign a petition to radically transform the school using any of four “triggers.” Parents can petition to: 1) fire the principal, 2) fire half of the teachers, 3) close the school and let parents find another option, or 4) convert the school into a charter school. While the details of how the school can be “restructured” vary from state to state, the charter school option is always present. Charter schools are privately managed, taxpayer-funded public schools which are granted greater autonomy from regulations applicable to other public schools, ostensibly in exchange for greater accountability for results, but they have been criticized for uneven and mediocre track records.

The film, starring Oscar nominee Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, reportedly portrays the struggle of a teacher and a parent who work to transform a low-performing Pennsylvania school, despite resistance from the local union — cast as the enemy of reform. Together, the African American teacher and the white, single mom unite to overcome hurdles and go door-to-door convincing parents to sign a petition to trigger a transformation.

(more…)

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

By MIKE McINTIRE

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”

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/04/11468/hang-paycheck-alec-sharpens-focus-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.

April 16, 2012

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 PRwatch.org

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 PRWatch.org and ALECexposed.org, 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.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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 NRA.org.” 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.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.