ALEC, which stands for American Legislative Exchange Council, is the most influential corporate-funded political force operating in America today, one that has worked to dilute collective bargaining rights and privatize public education. Yet ALEC is more or less unknown in teacher circles. ALEC creates legislation for elected officials to introduce in their states as their own brainchildren. ALEC’s strategy: “spread the unions thin ‘by playing offense’ with decoy legislation.” Spreading the unions thin has resulted in radical changes to classroom teachers’ everyday lives.
I am baffled as to why Governor Kasich is in favor of increasing private school vouchers for nearly half of our school children in Ohio. Under Kasich’s new budget, 45% of our 1.8 million students will qualify for $5000 vouchers to attend private schools, even if they are currently attending a public school that is rated as “excellent.” The state already spends more than $100 million a year on vouchers for more than 20,000 students. Not to mention that taxpayers already subsidize private schools by virtue of their nonprofit status. Kasich’s voucher expansion plan is money poorly spent, especially when our public schools continue to be underfunded in his proposed new budget.
Who can keep it all straight? And yet, these acronyms represent things that will determine our teacher ratings and potentially our careers. When it came to determining how to implement these things, as it pertains to HB 555, there was no consultation with teachers. There was no “heads up” about the changes in this legislation. The only growth I can be sure will come from these changes is not student growth, but a growth of disenfranchisement from quality, hard-working teachers, who tried to get ahead of the changes coming in the fall, only to be tripped up by lawmakers.
The trend of blaming teachers for the problems in education probably won’t fall out of favor any time soon. During School Choice Week, so-called education “reformers” will do their best to scapegoat teachers instead of acknowledging the real systemic problems — such as school funding and poverty — that lead to poor performance and problems in education. For Rhee, and other so-called reformers, well-established facts confirming the correlation between poverty and the achievement gap don’t matter.