Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why ALEC is not for the average South Dakotan

There has been a lot of news about ALEC and South Dakota citizens paying for the legislators membership dues.  While I stand in firm agreement with various newspapers like the Argus Leader, Pierre Capital JournalAberdeen NewsVermillion Plain Talk, and several others that have reported why our tax dollars should not pay for partisan gatherings.  Not one single Democrat in state government is a member of ALEC.  ALEC is not needed to "help" legislators with writing bills.  There are actual non-partisian organizations that many members in South Dakota belong like National Conference of State Legislatures.  While all of that signals that our money should not be used to pay for the Republican members to belong to ALEC (the Democrats have asked no money be used to pay for their dues to an organization that they choose not to belong), there is a bigger problem with ALEC influencing our state.

ALEC is clearly a right-wing leaning organization (The group clearly stresses "Limited Government, Free Market, Federalism" on their website.) that maintains most of its funding from private companies.    ALEC is very successful in pushing its agenda that may sound familiar.  Here is one such bill that is being purposed by ALEC.  This legislation is titled the Education Enterprise Zone Act and this is the summary of the legislation:

The Education Enterprise Zone Act creates and provides for parental choice of schools within an educational enterprise zone (EEZ). All public and private schools within a designated zone. Any elementary or secondary student who is eligible for participation in a free lunch program may attend any school within the zone, provided the school has space and the student meets admission requirements.
The legislation further provides that if the student attends a private school, the state shall issue to the parent a voucher valued in an amount equal to the average amount of per pupil funding allocated to that school system, or the full amount of the private school’s tuition and fees, whichever is less.
This bill enables a school district to adopt and offer higher education scholarships for high school pupils to any high school pupil who graduates high school early and who achieves a score in the “proficient” range or above on all subjects tested in the statewide assessment. The scholarship would be equivalent to 1/2 of the total per-pupil expenditure for high school pupils in such school district to be used to defray tuition costs at any public or private institution of higher education within or outside of [state].
We called the bill the Jumpstart Bill:  Here is the bill summary as it was assigned into law:
 Section 1. That chapter 13-55 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
    There is hereby established the jump start scholarship program to be administered by the Board of Regents. The purpose of the program is to allow a student who graduates from a public high school in three years or less to receive a scholarship funded with a portion of the money saved by the state in state aid to education funding pursuant to chapter 13-13 as a result of the student's early graduation if the student enrolls at any college, university, or technical school accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that provides instruction from a campus located in South Dakota.

In 2005, ALEC proposed that states implement the The Virtual Public Schools Act to be passed and in 2006 we passed the HB 1236.

These are just a few examples.  It make me wonder exactly how much influence ALEC has had on our laws.

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