"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Update: "Who REALLY Writes Legislation"? The Civics Lesson for the Day Evolves into a Mystery?

Please reread this previous blogpost which asked the question, "Who Writes Legislation?" We were asking specifically about the legislation being drafted by the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) and Missouri School Boards' Association (MABA) entitled Vision for Missouri Public Education, questioning why DESE was not writing state legislation and instead, leaving such a proposal to be written by lobbying groups.

In researching this legislative writing practice, we linked to experts who were concerned the Department of Education's agenda was exactly the same as Bill Gates. They raised the question of who really was driving federal legislation. Lobbying groups and millionaires influencing and/or writing public policy is troubling and deserves scrutiny.

After reviewing "Educated Citizenry 2020", we began wondering if our state legislators crafted this language or if they received help from any outside groups. We wondered if one non-profit group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes charter schools, school choice, utilizing tests reflecting national standards, and pre and full kindergarten programs could have influenced the current educational legislative plan. Many of these same goals are listed in the Educated Citizenry 2020. This is a fair inquiry as ALEC has written "model" bills for state legislators to take back to their states in different areas such as education and health care.

Here is a story and transcript on ALEC from NPR aired in October 2010. Note this information from the story:

Much about ALEC is private. It does not disclose how it spends it money or who gives it to them. ALEC rarely grants interviews. Bowman won't even say which legislators are members.

Is it lobbying when private corporations pay money to sit in a room with state lawmakers to draft legislation that they then introduce back home? Bowman, a former lobbyist, says, "No, because we're not advocating any positions. We don't tell members to take these bills. We just expose best practices. All we're really doing is developing policies that are in model bill form."

At least one Missouri legislator involved in drafting the current education policy is a member of ALEC. The question we asked about the Vision for Missouri Public Education should also be asked about Educated Citizenry 2020: "Who Writes Legislation?" Has this legislation been crafted by our Missouri legislators or was it already modeled for the legislators? The goals of ALEC sound quite similar to those listed in Race to the Top and adhere to the use of common core standards, and these are the goals listed in our current state plan.

We don't know who authored this legislative educational plan. It might be prudent to ask those legislators listed as sponsors if they crafted this legislation and why. None of these goals create more local/state control or decreases spending. Parental choice is not expanded as the charter schools will be held under the same standards as public schools. Autonomy in curriculum and testing will not exist in the charter system.

Do you want to read about ALEC? The following information was taken from a pdf file as the website has disappeared and was still inoperable as of 10:50 PM EST. Perhaps this site will be back online soon:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the nation's largest nonpartisan,
individual membership organization of state legislators, with over 2,000 legislator members
from all fifty states, and 85 former members serving in the U.S. Congress. www.alec.org

1 comment:

  1. "...with over 2,000 legislator members from all fifty states, and 85 former members serving in the U.S. Congress..."

    Huh. An organization with legislators from all fifty states, and U.S. Congress to boot.
    Maybe I'm just too extreme, but there's a acronym which popped into my head when I read that: RICO.

    "The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly referred to as RICO Act or RICO) is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. RICO was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Pub.L. 91-452, 84 Stat. 922, enacted October 15, 1970). RICO is codified as Chapter 96 of Title 18 of the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. § 1961–1968. While its intended use was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its application has been more widespread."

    Seems to me this is one of those situation where the application of RICO needs to become more widespread.


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