It’s no secret that ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, has an education agenda. The templates for policy can be accessed at ALEC EXPOSED. However, transforming a template to policy doesn’t happen instantaneously. How does the ideology translate into law? Could it be with a little help from Teach for America? Bear with me while I connect the dots.
Last summer, quite by accident, I met a group of about six young adults on the MAX here in Portland who were traveling from the airport to train for their new jobs. They were talking about having just finished their teaching jobs and how happy they were to be done with it. Being an unemployed teacher myself, I listened for a while and then struck up a conversation. They identified themselves as Teach for America corps members who had just completed their obligatory two year stints in the classroom. They were headed to the Stand for Children offices to be trained in writing education policy. Most had been hired to work as legislative assistants in state houses around the country. I asked a few probing questions about their education expertise, especially in policy. Turns our none of them had any education credentials. Some had worked on their masters degrees during teaching, but none had studied education or education policy. They really didn’t get my point. The arrogance was palpable. I finally asked one of them point blank, “Don’t you think you should have some education and experience before writing education policy?” They assured me that over the next two weeks (I think, anyway, short time) they would be trained to do it.
I hadn’t thought about that encounter much since. But when I read Diane Ravitch’s latest article in the Answer Sheet, Ravitch: A Primer on the Group Driving School Reform, it occurred to me that Stand for Children could be the conduit to the uniformity in education legislation using Teach for America “leaders” as the delivery system. Last summer ALEC was barely a blip on my radar so I hadn’t make a connection back then.
Could Stand for Children be training former Teach for America corps members to write ALEC policy for state legislatures? I know Oregon legislators aren’t savvy enough to develop language and coordinate ideas that mesh with those in other states, but their Teach for America, Stand for Children trained assistants may well be. With a little help from a persistent friend, this is what I found out.
Leadership for Education Equity (LEE) is the political leg of Teach for America.
Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) is a 501(c) (4) nonprofit organization that was launched in 2007 to inspire, train and support Teach For America alumni and corps members to pursue public leadership by providing or connecting them to high impact volunteer and career opportunities in politics, policy, advocacy, and elected office. Over the years, Teach For America alumni and corps members expressed a growing desire to engage more with the policy and political contexts that so impacted what they saw happening at the school and classroom level. Recognizing that Teach For America’s ability to engage in or to support advocacy and political work is quite limited as a traditional 501(c)(3) organization, LEE was born.
Translation: Legally, Teach for America can’t write or influence education policy, but by creating a faux nonprofit, it can.
On the LEE home page, a job posting for ALEC is listed.
Education Task Force Director
Company: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Type of Position: Full-time; Non-Profit
Location: Washington, DC
After an exhaustive search no financial records for this organization were found. Funding sources are also scarce.
Teach for America’s influence reaches far beyond the damage its recruits do in the classroom. It produces “leaders” whose mission is to privatize public education under the guise of astroturf organizations like LEE and many others that only give lip service to education equity. Through this seemingly innocuous network, TFA has been able to infiltrate every facet of education by placing former corps members in positions of power. With an infrastructure like that, it’s no that wonder ALEC has been so successful in moving its education agenda forward.