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ALEC goes to school

ALEC, corporate interests' tool for controlling state legislatures, turns its full attention to education this weekend with a conference on Florida's Amelia Island. (Islands are an excellent place to dodge the media and protesters.)

"There will be no students or teachers," reports Dustin Bielke on, "Instead, legislators, representatives from right-wing think tanks and for-profit education corporations will meet behind closed doors to channel their inner Milton Friedman and promote the radical transformation of the American education system into a private, for-profit enterprise."

Because its meetings are secret and its agenda unknown, the best clue to ALEC's education focus is its Report Card on American Education, released last week for national school choice week.

States are graded on the curve, to put it politely. Never mind those pesky achievement figures; states that engaged in union-busting excelled while the others lagged behind.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote the report's introduction, which should offer a clue as to how the Hoosier state fared:

Daniels wrote the report card's forward, lamenting how the unions in his state once had a voice in issues such as the length of the school day, academic freedom and, generally, the

content of their work, says his state has turned the corner. "Collective bargaining will now be limited to wages and benefits and will no longer stand in the way of effective school leadership or

student progress," Daniels writes.

Indiana's ALEC grade improved to a B from a C+ in 2010 even though its NAEP scores declined from 13th to 17th. Indiana did, however, pass several pieces of legislation in the last year that were influenced by

ALEC model bills, including the creation of a statewide voucher school program, merit pay and restricted collective bargaining rights for teachers, and deep budget cuts.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at