Controversial Policy Group Casts Long K-12 Shadow, Ed Week, 4/2012

posted Apr 20, 2012, 7:30 PM by Bill Duncan
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By Andrew Ujifusa 


In nearly 40 years of legislative advocacy, the American Legislative Exchange Council—a free-market, limited-government group now drawing intense scrutiny for its support of a controversial self-defense law—has had a significant influence in K-12 education through its model legislation and work with state lawmakers to promote such policies as private school vouchers and “parent trigger” laws.

“Education is one of the most important issues that we deal with in ALEC. ... We’ve been very busy in that field,” said Indiana state Rep. David Frizzell, a Republican and the national chairman of the Washington-based group, which boasts some 2,000 state legislator members and nearly 300 corporate and nonprofit financial supporters.

Now, liberal-leaning groups and other opponents see a chance to trim its influence. Their opening: ALEC’s role in promoting “Stand Your Ground” laws on self-defense, the center of debate after a Florida teenager’s shooting death.

ALEC opponents argue that in education and other areas, the group undermines states’ democratic process by letting corporate lobbyists vote on model legislation through vacation-type conferences attended by lawmakers who then use that legislation to shape their own bills.

“The ALEC method, or the ALEC game plan, literally turns these legislators into super-lobbyists,” said Doug Clopp, the deputy director of programs for Common Cause, a Washington-based advocacy group for open government.

The reality is far different, according to Adam Peshek, the director of ALEC’s education task force. He said a large part of ALEC’s role is to be a policy clearinghouse, channeling ideas from a particular state or individual to other states, in legislative form. The group says close to 1,000 bills each year based at least in part on its model legislation are introduced in statehouses, and that an average of about 20 percent become law.

“We’re pretty good at getting stuff on the cusp of when they’re new and innovative ideas,” said Mr. Peshek.

At the same time, ALEC officials argue it is just one policy group attempting to promote education policies that are especially popular in conservative and free-market circles.

..............more at the Link
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