The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - funded by large corporations - drafts model legislation that state legislators can quickly turn into legislation. The laws typically support those corporations, often at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Americans.
For more on ALEC, read our discussion.
Related IssuesALEC (Who is ALEC?)
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South Dakota taxpayers support legislators' ALEC memberships
Though policies advocated by the corporation-run American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) typically work against the interests of most Americans, state lawmakers in South Dakota have voted to use taxpayer money to pay their ALEC membership dues. South Dakota taxpayers also will pay for them to attend out-of-state ALEC meetings.
For more, read the ThinkProgress.org report.
ALEC expands push for taxpayer funding of private schools
|2013-Apr-07||By: Rob Dennis|
At least seven states have passed bills over the past two years introducing or expanding vouchers and tax credits so children can attend private schools.
Much of that legislation has a common source: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
ALEC - funded largely by large corporations - writes bills that favor those corporations. They often come at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Americans.
Model bills that ALEC writes usually are introduced by conservative state lawmakers. The legislation is drafted behind closed doors and introduced in state legislatures, sometimes nearly word-for-word, without disclosing the source.
One of those model bills is the Indiana Education Reform Package, based on Indiana's school voucher program, passed in 2011, which itself had been inspired by other ALEC proposals.
"This act incorporates several of the key reforms the Indiana Legislature passed, some of which are similar to existing ALEC model legislation, including Charter Schools Act, School Scholarships Act, and Early Graduation Scholarship Act," according to ALEC's summary of the model bill.
Indiana Rep. Robert Behning, who introduced the bill in the state Legislature, was ALEC's state chairman from 1996 to 2004. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who signed the bill into law, spoke at an ALEC policy summit and wrote the foreword to the organization's 2012 Report Card on American Education.
In March 2013, Alabama passed legislation offering tax credits to individuals or businesses that help move students out of Alabama's failing schools. While parts of the Alabama Accountability Act are unique, others have appeared nearly word-for-word in ALEC model bills as well as in legislation proposed in other states.
Rep. Chad Fincher, the bill's sponsor, is an ALEC member.
Such tax credit programs are designed to sidestep state constitutional bans on using public money to pay for private religious schools.
Virginia last year passed a tax credit program for those who donate private-school tuition to poor, middle-class and disabled students. The state has spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars sending lawmakers to ALEC conferences since 2001, according to this study by the advocacy group ProgressVA.
The final tax credit bill consisted of three proposals, two of which were put forward by ALEC members, Sen. Mark Obenshain and Delegate Jimmie Massie. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill in the state Senate, spent more than $5,000 of taxpayer money to attend ALEC conferences as a state senator.
In 2012, Arizona, Louisiana and Pennsylvania expanded their school tax credit programs. In all, 17 states now offer 33 such programs, according to the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has pushed repeatedly but unsuccessfully for a school voucher program, attempted to tack $2 million onto the state budget to provide for a pilot program to provide vouchers to poor students. A Newark Star-Ledger investigation found "a pattern of similarities" between ALEC proposals and measures championed by the Christie administration.
Still, in a 2012 article in Education Week, ALEC officials argue the group is just one of many promoting conservative educational policies at the state level. For example, officials in New Hampshire, which passed a scholarship tax credit program last year, talked with the conservative Goldwater Institute several times about implementation, Jonathan Butcher, the institute's education director, said in the story.
ALEC is a different case, though. While many other groups promote school choice, they don't put state lawmakers together with corporate lobbyists, sometimes at taxpayer expense, to write bills in secret.
And the line between ALEC and other conservative groups is blurry (or nonexistent). Butcher, representing the Goldwater Institute, now is the private chair of ALEC's education task force.
You can read more about the effectiveness of voucher programs in this Lobby99 story
For more on New Jersey's links to ALEC, read this New Jersey Star-Ledger report.
For more on ALEC's impact on K-12 education, read this Education Week story.