Schools nation-wide are considering bills promoting for-profit education, designed by corporate bill mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), at least 139 ALEC-designed education bills have been introduced across 43 states just within the last 6 months. Of those, 31 have become law.

The CMD report, “Cashing in on Kids,” states that programs designed to divert taxpayer money from public schools to private and religious schools have been spreading across the country for over two decades. Milwaukee became the first U.S. city to implement a school voucher program in 1990, under then-governor Tommy Thompson, who was closely involved with ALEC.

“For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools,” the report states.

The amount schools receive per student is even higher in some states. And the American Federation for Children reports that over 246,000 students will participate in “choice” programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia during the 2012-2013 school year, thereby depriving public schools of needed funds.

ALEC’s website boasts that it began promoting vouchers in 1983. In response to Reagan’s “A Nation at Risk” study, ALEC created “a two-part report on Education which laid the blame for the nation’s educational decline ‘squarely where it belonged’ – on centralization, declining values, and an increasingly liberal social agenda…” This report was the beginning of ALEC’s promotion of a voucher system as well as merit-based teacher salaries.

The for-profit education industry has significant political influence both at the state and federal level. The industry has spent over $40 million on lobbying Congress since 1998, according to The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

And education has not improved because of voucher programs. School vouchers do not increase student achievement, according to a Center on Education Policy review of research on the subject. “If vouchers are designed to create better educational outcomes, research has not borne out that result,” Julie Mead, chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin told CMD.

Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.

ALEC - school voucher