Quoting from the late British Prime Minister Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently said that there is “no such thing” as society, trashed the federal government and hailed the spread of school “choice.” She was speaking at the annual conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and espoused a philosophy that mirrored that of the powerful conservative organization.
If you don’t know about ALEC, you should. It is a member organization of corporate lobbyists and conservative state legislators who craft “model legislation” on issues important to them and then help shepherd it through legislatures. It describes itself as being dedicated to promoting “limited government, free markets and federalism,” though the New York Times called it essentially a “stealth business lobbyist.”
When it comes to big education issues, there appears to be no light between DeVos and ALEC, so let’s take a look at how ALEC views individual states and their schools. Every year ALEC puts out an education “grades and school choice report card” that ranks states on principles important to the group. The latest report card was issued seven months ago, and it is highly revealing. The introduction says that the states were graded in six categories — “academic standards, charter schools, homeschool regulation burden, private school choice, teacher quality, and digital learning,” but it concedes that the most weight went to charters and vouchers “because they represent the parent-centered, choice-driven future of education in the 21st century.”
DeVos has also made clear that school choice is her priority and that “accountability” is more about offering parents private options than about how well those options provide services to students.
So, on ALEC’s report card, the state that comes in last — at No. 51, because ALEC apparently decided to make the District of Columbia a state for the sake of its ranking, even though it would not support legislation doing so — is Nebraska, where more than 45 percent of adults have some kind of college degree. Nebraska, however, does not allow any charter schools…