In 2012, I wrote an article titled “ALEC, Ed-Tech, and the Privatization of Education.” Although the American Legislative Exchange Council had been formed back in 1973 and had worked for decades to help shape legislation at the state level, it received a fair amount of attention in 2012 because of its support for “Stand Your Ground,” a law invoked by George Zimmerman to justify his shooting of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.
My article listed those education and ed-tech corporations that were part of its Education Task Force, which has a number of legislative goals including promoting “school choice,” expanding online charter schools, breaking teachers’ unions, and eliminating tenure.
Because of the negative press surrounding ALEC and “Stand Your Ground,” many companies publicly announced they were severing their ties with the organization. (And several contacted me to ask that I remove their name from my article.)
And yet… five years later, ALEC is still going strong, still influencing legislation. With Republicans’ control of almost all branches of government at the federal and state levels, we should expect to see even more ALEC activity. Indeed, as CNN reported today, one of the organization’s goals is a new Constitutional Convention in order to rewrite the US Constitution.
It’s not easy to find an accurate or complete list of ALEC members. (It does not list all its members or donors on its website, for example.) One of the organization’s hallmarks is its lack of transparency. (Wikipedia has a decent list, one that’s kept fairly up-to-date and that’s reviewed by its editors – that is, Wikipedia demands sources before designating someone a member.)
The chairs of the Education and Workforce Development Task Force:
- Utah State Senator Howard Stephenson
- Jonathan Butcher, Goldwater Institute
Corporate and non-profit members (from education and technology industries):
- Association for Competitive Technology
- Cato Institute
- Center for Digital Media Freedom
- Charter Communications
- CTIA – The Wireless Association
- Entertainment Software Association
- Foundation for Excellence in Education
- Heartland Institute
- Higher Education Research/Policy Center
- Koch Industries
- National Cable and Telecommunications Association
- News Corporation (parent company of Twentieth Century Fox, Wall Street Journal and Fox News)
- Pioneer Institute
- Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association
- Sprint Nextel
- Stop Child Predators
- Thomson Reuters
- Time Warner
- Wireless Generation
Among those companies from these industries that have left ALEC: Amazon. com, Google, Kaplan, Dell, the Lumina Foundation, Scantron, Reed Elsevier, SAP, and Yahoo.
But even with a formal thinning of the ranks, it would be a mistake to see that ALEC’s influence has waned, particularly regarding education and ed-tech. The Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization founded by Jeb Bush, remains a member and one of the most influential in shaping the narratives and the policies surrounding education. Bush has enthusiastically endorsed Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who in turn has funneled money to ALEC through her group the American Federation for Children which also offers “model legislation” to states. (DeVos served as the chairperson of the organization from 2009–2016. She was also on the board of directors for the Foundation for Excellence in Education from 2012 to 2016. You can read the disclosures she submitted to the Senate HELP Committee here.)