What is ALEC and how do they influence education "reform?"

If you have been reading or watching any news over the past few years, you have probably heard the name ALEC. Who or what is ALEC and why are they so interested in education “reform” in Pennsylvania and across the country?

ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. This organization has an 8 million dollar annual budget that they use to write a “library” of sample bills that they want passed in as many states as they can influence. Outlets like the Center for Media and Democracy rightly call them a “corporate bill mill”.

Even if you are not quite sure what ALEC is, you have likely heard of some of their most popular legislation: “Stand Your Ground” laws, “Parent Trigger” bills, and voter ID requirements are some of ALEC’s most wide-spread and anti-democratic offerings. 

These bills have been made law in many states, and some are currently rearing their ugly heads in Pennsylvania.

Education advocates believe that ALEC is now interested in the “reforming” of public education because there is much money to be made for private businesses as more schools are turned over to management companies and for-profit businesses receive tax breaks for funding private schools (through vouchers and tax credits).

The parent trigger bills, for example, allow a small part of a community to vote to turn-over its public school to a for-profit operator—most of these bills allow 180 days to undo a public institution that has served a community for many years.

Philadelphia’s own State Senator (and possible Philadelphia mayoral candidate) Anthony Hardy Williams—a williams_1.jpgcharter school proponent, and also a failed charter-school operator--has sponsored just such a bill in Pennsylvania

Another way to make sure public schools are turned over to private companies is to ease the charter school authorizing rules and regulations. In these ALEC-sponsored bills, authority to approve new charters is removed from local agencies such as school boards and school districts and given to the state itself, or other institutions such as universities. This forces districts to pay for schools they did not authorize and cannot afford and steals much-needed funding from true public schools.

Unfortunately, many Pennsylvania politicians have been taken in by ALEC’s anti-democratic agenda. Some are receiving campaign contributions from ALEC-sponsored PACs in order to bring ALEC’s agenda to our state, and some are members of ALEC or are simply sponsoring ALEC’s bills. What follows is a short list of ALEC-influenced politicians and their organizational allies in Pennsylvania. Some of these politicians have accepted tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from ALEC-affiliated groups.

  • Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30)
  • Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-13)
  • Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157)
  • Sen. Anthony Williams (D-8)
  • Rep. Fred Keller (R-85)
  • Rep. Garth Everett (R-84)
  • Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12)
  • Re. Matt Baker (R-68)
  • Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-34)
  • Rep. Scott Perry (R-4)

Additionally, here's a list of ALEC-influenced power players in Pennsylvania:

  • Charter school guru and big Corbett contributor Vahan Gureghian
  • Cyber Schools (especially K-12, Inc.)
  • American Federation of Children and Students First PACs
  • The Commonwealth Foundation
  • Susquehanna International Group

Thanks to the Center for Media and Democracy for its extensive and interesting report.  We suggest you read the whole report for a comprehensive understanding of ALEC's reach in Pennsylvania.