by Bill Simon
All over Facebook there are people employed and paid under the table to offer arguments to rebut anything anyone says in opposition to their point of view. They put on masks and costumes of just being “regular parents” or long time “conservatives” when, in fact, they are either receiving direct renumeration for their efforts, OR, they work for some legislator who got paid with campaign contribution dollars to sponsor and support the amendment, OR, in the case of many others, their spouses and family members are getting paid for their work to help get the amendment passed.
In fact, the efforts to pass the charter school amendment are eerily similar to the tactics and strategies employed to pass T-SPLOST: Put a misleading Preamble on the ballot, and use the premise of that misleading Preamble to misdirect and mislead people into voting for something that they haven’t actually been told all the relevant facts about.
My job is to tell you the relevant facts about the charter school amendment, as well as other facts about charter schools that no one (especially ALEC and its die-hard worshippers) is going to tell you.
Now, to be open and honest here, I will tell you this: _I_ am not receiving any money (or benefit), directly or indirectly, nor is any member of my family, by anyone on the Anti-Charter School Amendment side.
I don’t have kids in public or private schools. All I am is a voter, a taxpayer, and…when I put my time and mind to it, a pretty good researcher and writer. Which is why you should pay attention to the facts I will present, as opposed to listening to some political prostitute who does not disclose to you that they might just have a financial interest in the outcome of this constitutional amendment.
Who is “ALEC?”
I mentioned the acronym ALEC by reference in the Introduction. Perhaps 5 to 10% of the 5000 or so readers of the Political Vine will actually know who ALEC is, so, let me inform the other 95% of who ALEC is so everyone will understand what’s what in the subject of this charter schools issue.
ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. From their own “About” section on the ALEC.org website, they are: “A nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty. Their vision and initiative resulted in the creation of a voluntary membership association for people who believed that government closest to the people was fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.”
So, let’s agree to the premise that ALEC is an organization whose sole focus is all about promoting conservative ideas, conservative philosophies, and conservative policies for government at all different levels in this country.
Since 2006, on a frequency of every two years, ALEC has compiled and issued a document titled “Report Card on American Education.”
In this Report (which totals an average of 140 pages per report) is a blizzard of mind-numbing tables and rankings of different elements of each state’s (and the District of Columbia’s) education policies and actual data on each state’s scholastic performance in relation to the other state jurisdictions.
Now, whatever methodology ALEC uses to “grade” or “score” or “rank” their results, I do not care (nor should you) as long as they stay consistent in what and how they rank states. Based on the results I saw in these reports, it appears they stuck with the same methodology of data collection and data scoring.
Which, while that may be unusual for a lot of organizations who have a tendency to “adjust” their methodology to change the outcome of their research to fit a certain result they wanted, the ALEC researchers (at least through this 2012 Report I will shortly present to you) did not employ that approach, which is a very good thing when we examine education performance in relation to education policy.
So, keep this in mind: All results are based on ALEC’s own data collection and own scoring methods. If you are currently an ALEC-worshipper (e.g., State Rep Jan Jones, State Rep Edward Lindsey, Governor Nathan Deal, State Senator Chip Rogers, et al.), the results are rather eye-opening.
The ALEC Education Report Cards
There are two key rankings in the ALEC reports that are the most important to examine: Education Performance Rank, and Education Policy Rank.
The Performance Rank is a state-by-state ranking of how well the each state’s primary and secondary public schools perform on national reading comprehension and math tests at Grades 4 and Grades 8, compared to other states (and the District of Columbia). The state ranked #1 is the state with the highest scores in reading comprehension and mathematics.
The Policy Rank is based on how “conservative” each state’s “education policy” is, with a heavy weight on the score being how “excellent” any state’s education policy is with regards to how much they embrace the charter school concept. The Policy Ranks are letter grades that are based on how ALEC numerically scored each state’s policies. An “A-” score is a high score (i.e., “good” when it comes to ALEC’s agenda) and “D+” is a very bad score for a state in ALEC’s construct.
In 2006, ALEC came out with their very first Report Card, covering the period 1983-1984 through 2004-2005. In that Report, the Top 10 states in the country for education performance were:
State Education Performance
3) New Hampshire
7) South Dakota
In 2006, ALEC did not appear to have Policy Ranks yet developed, but they do appear in the 2012 Report (which has the most interesting results).
The 2012 Report was issued in January 2012. On their main page, you can scroll down to the bottom section where they show “Performance Rank” on the left column and “Education Policy Grade” on the right column.
Now, these columns are not synchronized so that the “Education Policy” of, say, Massachusetts (which again achieves the #1 ranking in Performance) is the first value in the Policy column.
No, the first grade in the Policy column is Missouri with an impressive “A-” in Policy. They are #1 according to ALEC’s standards of “conservative education policy.” (Coke party and cupcakes for the State of Missouri for scoring the highest in “policy!!”)
But, in reality, who cares what the “policy” is unless it produces greater than average results in performance? Ah…that’s the kicker with the 2012 ALEC Report Card…that little kicker is covered-up by ALEC’s display on their website.
If you take the state performance rankings and match them up to each state’s education policy rankings, you come-up with an entirely different picture of how little (if any at all) a state’s degree of conservative education “policy” translates into actual education performance.
I did this (PDF copy available here) and this is what the 2012 Top 10 states in Performance looks like, and their corresponding Policy ranks:
2012 Performance/Policy Rank
1) Massachusetts / B-
2) Vermont / D+
3) New Jersey / B-
4) Colorado / B
5) Pennsylvania / C+
6) Rhode Island / C
7) North Carolina / C
8) Kansas / C-
9) New Hampshire / C+
10) New York / C-
Wow. Look at that. Massachusetts has a B- and is at #1…Vermont has a D+ at #2 on Education Performance. The rest of the Top 10 states have mostly C-averages in conservative education policy. Yet, their kids are smarter in reading comprehension and math than 41 other education jurisdictions in the United States.
And…how about Missouri? The state that scored the highest in education policy? Look down the page of this PDF to the light blue highlight near the bottom: 47th in Performance. Near dead last in 2012.
Another interesting observation is Minnesota, which was #2 in Performance in the 2006 ALEC Report Card, but has dropped out of the Top 10 states in 2012, and sunk to 18th in Performance…but, they have a B+ in Education Policy.
One final focus is Vermont. In 2010, Vermont proactively declined to participate in the Race to The Top federal program, and specified the reason to be that they did not want to adhere to the federal criteria for investing in charter schools in their state. They have no charter schools in Vermont.
They were so adamant against participating that they issued this press release that spells out their reasoning and, furthermore, what they intended to do to improve their public school education.
In coming to this decision to not participate in the federal Race to The Top program, the key thoughts in the minds of the Vermont education leaders were: “Our schools will improve, not by simply throwing money at the problem, not by blaming and shaming school leaders and their communities, but by a concerted and deliberate effort by school personnel to work together to systematically address areas of need. The 21st century demands that we have a curriculum that is wider than just math and reading: our students must be highly skilled, highly motivated and well-rounded in all curricular areas. The Race to the Top competition is a distraction from the real work that must be done by Vermont’s fine teachers and leaders.”
At the bottom of that press release from 2010, it adds this tiny little statement: “Vermont education officials noted that other states are also considering passing on the opportunity of applying for these particular funds. The Kansas State Board of Education voted last week 9-0 not to apply for the funds.”
AND…where is the State of Kansas in the 2012 Performance Rankings? At #8 in Performance and C- in Policy…kicking the crap out of Georgia (#27 in Performance and “B” in Policy) and Florida (#12 in Performance and B+ in Policy), who are both working on getting more charter schools stuffed into their state’s respective school system apparatus.
A reminder: The data is ALL straight from ALEC’s own research data. This is not a “liberal-organization”…this is not information from the AJC…or the New York Times…or the Pew Research Center.
This information comes directly from the conservative organization called ALEC.
SO…it is clear that ALEC is more concerned about continuing to promote charter schools in spite of their own research that shows NO better performance in reading and in math in the states that have charter schools when compared to the states that don’t have charter schools.
You might ask “Golly, why doesn’t ALEC point out these facts about charter-school states vs. non-charter school states?” Because ALEC is funded by private, for-profit companies that make a living in the charter school industry.
So, in effect, ALEC acts as a marketing arm of all the pro-charter school companies and organizations (i.e., the Gates Foundation and Walmart’s various entities who support charter school legislation)…and ALEC’s job is to fool voters, legislators, policy decision makers, educators, and everyone else involved in public school education.
NOW…IF, by chance, anyone at ALEC (or, anyone with any education policy think tank…or, heck, a graduate student looking for a good thesis subject) would really like to improve the USA’s education, they might consider a research project to find out answers to these questions:
What does Massachusetts do in their education “policy” that allows them to continue to be at the TOP of all states in education? Is it because their kids are just naturally smarter than all other states’ kids?
Does a state that is run by liberals mean their education is better? (Kinda looks like that with Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York, etc., all being in the Top 10)
How does a state like Vermont, which has no charter schools, continue to appear in the Top 5 of all states’ education performance in the ALEC rankings?
New Hampshire was #3 in performance in 2006, and now they are #9 in 2012’s performance. Did they slump on their own, or did 8 other states just do something vastly different?
If you are a “policy analyst” who sits around and reads 20 policy papers written by other analysts, all of whom have drunk from the Well of ALEC, maybe it’s time you actually went into the field to discover why these states that have low education policy grades via the “conservative policy prism”, but kick the living crap in actual performance results when compared to the states with the high marks in conservative education policy.
You know…If you actually want to demonstrate you have a mind of your own. If not…continue to slurp-up garbage from ALEC and have an education system no better in 20 years than it is today in Georgia.
As long as we have state legislative and policy leaders who refuse to think on their own (as opposed to thinking that whoever gives them campaign contributions must know what they’re talking about), this state’s education performance will continue to be lackluster…and no charter schools, state-controlled or local controlled, will ever result in anything but more failed policies that, while enriching the pockets of self-dealing politicians (e.g., State Rep. Alicia Thomas Morgan, and others in this state), will do nothing to improve public school education performance.