Teachers, RTW, and the ALEC Agenda in Minnesota
Yes, they're out to get us, but at least we can guess what's coming next. Minnesota 2020 and others have already looked at the connection between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the current fightabout teacher tenure. They racked up some wins prior to this and have laid the groundwork for future fights. Thanks to some digging from the folks at Phi Delta Kappa, we can get a decent feel for what to expect if conservatives win the current fight about teacher retention.
Synthesizing several reports and investigations, we now have a decent list of top ALEC priorities in education. Here's a sample:
- Alternative teacher certification
- Increase student testing
- Use charter schools to weaken school districts
- Link teacher evaluation to standardized testing
- Use test-linked teacher evaluations to govern layoffs
- Undermine all unions via so-called “right to work” legislation
- Use test-linked teacher evaluations to govern all teacher pay and retention decisions
- Wisconsin-style abolition of collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public workers
- Pursue privatization through vouchers, for-profit charters, and any other means possible
Items in bold have already been achieved in Minnesota (though most are more complicated than just being ALEC initiatives). They're meant to lay the groundwork for the later items. Those in italics are active topics in Minnesota's state government right now, and the items at the end are the to-do list for future sessions.
ALEC has done a superlative job coordinating a multi-front campaign against public education as we know it. They see teachers' unions as their biggest political obstacles, so they introduce legislation that undermines the legitimacy of the teaching profession and frames teachers as a suspect class by invoking questionable myths and anecdotes. They mistrust public investment, so they set up as many alternatives to traditional public schools as possible via charter schools and vouchers. They then emphasize a set of unreliable tests to further muddy the image of teachers and public schools in the eyes of the public.
The worst part is, they've been winning, in no small part by dialing up the right rhetoric to win over some progressives who genuinely care about closing the achievement gap and doing right by all kids. The contradiction should be obvious: Universal educational equity can't be achieved by destroying the one institution providing universal educational access.