A Lesson in Systemic Racism, Part II: ALEC, School Closures, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The previous post, entitled “A Lesson in Systematic Racism: Stand Your Ground, the NRA, and the American Legislative Council (ALEC),” examined the connection between the untimely death of Trayvon Martin and the powerful lobbying groups that made laws like “Stand Your Ground” possible. This post expands on the previous one by highlighting ALEC’s connection to school closures and the privatization of education.

Arlington, VA – On Thursday, July 18, 2013, a coalition of faith, labor, education and anti-gun violence groups staged a rally at the newly relocated headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC gained notoriety last year after the revelation that it was instrumental in writing the “Stand Your Ground” law used in Florida and other discriminatory legislation. In light of the recent not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, the protesters demanded the repeal of Stand Your Ground (aka “kill at will”) in Florida, aiming to change the system that killed Trayvon Martin.

In addition to seeking justice for Trayvon, speakers at the event drew attention to the corporate influence ALEC has on government. By bringing together business leaders and state lawmakers to write laws before they are even passed, ALEC ensures the advancement of a corporate agenda at the state level. This affects everything from worker’s rights to safety net programs. Speakers at the event talked about how ALEC’s laws perpetuate school closures, low wage jobs, and gun violence.

Josh Horwitz, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

1. Josh Horwitz     

“With the George Zimmerman trial we saw that now what was once murder is no more. Saving human life is not valued. That’s not Virginia values, that’s not American values, and that’s not legal values. Instead of sitting upstairs and drinking wine and eating snacks and celebrating their move to Virginia, ALEC and the corporations that support it should humble themselves and work as hard as they can to repeal the stand your ground laws before one more kid is killed.”

Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy (publisher of ALECexposed.org):

2. Brendan Fischer     

“This is much more than ‘Stand your ground.’ It includes efforts to push voter ID to make it harder to vote. Efforts to prohibit cities from banning ammunition or banning dangerous machine guns. They’ve also pushed harsh sentencing laws like ‘three strikes you’re out.” At the same time that they were pushing private prisons, which, as more people were flowing into prison, the profits were increasing for private prison industries like Correction Corporation of America, which just happen to be ALEC members. Not surprisingly, these bills do have a disproportionate impact on people of color.  And you are probably not surprised to know that many of the people who are in these ALEC meetings deciding to adopt these bills and spread them around the country, are White.”

Sabrina Stevens, American Federation of Teachers (AFT):

3. Sabrina Stevens     

“When we look at organizations like ALEC, especially what they have done to our entire society, that comes into classrooms every day. So, whether it’s children who are tired because they are struggling to find a place to live with their parents who don’t get paid enough, whether it’s people who because of the three strikes laws and other that they’ve helped to pass that make it easier to incarcerate people than to let them vote. All of those things show up in our classrooms. And then, they exploit that perception of failure to create even more excuses to profitize and privatize schools. Those schools in turn don’t hold teachers or the companies accountable for actually tracking students, keeping track of where they are. They do make a lot of profit. And we end up with undereducated children who are fed right into the school to prison pipeline. We have to say no. We have to stand up to this.”

ALECexposed.org lists detailed information about how ALEC has led the fight to de-fund public schools and privatize education:

“Through ALEC, corporations, ideologues, and their politician allies voted to spend public tax dollars to subsidize private K-12 education and attack professional teachers and teachers’ unions by…promoting voucher programs…segregating students with disabilities…setting up low-income students for failure in college…[and] undermining teacher’s unions.”

We’ve seen this at the local level here in DC through past and current public school closures. At the national level, school closures are happening across the country in major cities like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York. It’s clear there is a concerted effort from the right to end public schools as we know them. It’s clear that ALEC is instrumental in these efforts. And it’s clear that these policies disproportionately affect low-income students and families, particularly communities of color.

DCPS School Closure by Racial/Ethnic Make-up of Affected Neighborhood

Discrimination can happen on a variety of levels; from personal, interpersonal, to structural or systemic. Structural violence is defined as an “avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs.” By advocating policies that systematically disenfranchise communities of color (i.e. education, healthcare, nutrition), ALEC perpetuates structural violence and systemic racism. Like the map above illustrates all too well, today’s racism comes in the insidious form of policies that target traditionally oppressed communities.

The murder of Trayvon Martin shows how children are often the casualties of the laws promoted by ALEC. Not only that, kids are not getting access to the education they deserve because of the laws that ALEC advocates. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967 “The United States is the biggest purveyor of violence in the world today.” In 2013, the U.S. remains as violent as ever, both at home and abroad. It may be true that ALEC is the biggest purveyor of structural violence in the US today. It has to stop.

Visit ALECexposed.org to learn more about the fight against ALEC, and register for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington to realize Dr. King’s dream for the future.

2 comments to A Lesson in Systemic Racism, Part II: ALEC, School Closures, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

  • BJ

    ALL are about MONEY -Making money by pimping Black and Latino children. ONE of the biggest groups of PIMPS- charter schools and their non-profit and for- profit supporters. Charter schools with uncertified, unqualified staff, they stay for 2-3years(if that many) and leave. Teach for America uncertified, unqualified “children” stick around for 2 years get some of their school loans forgiven and leave – What do they leave behind- under-educated children.
    Under- funded,under- staffed public schools WHY-MONEY – for political and financial gains for politicians and unqualified school leaders.
    EXPERIENCE MATTERS – Change across the country teacher qualifications – ALL must have a degree in Education – in the area they will teach – NOT just “I went to school so I can teach” >>> The road to prison

    EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS > WITH qualified staff – adequate funding -adequate resources -well equipped
    and staff buildings

  • Little Black Duck

    Here’s the thing that gets my goat. Well one of the many things. I have a sister who’s a public school teacher. She got her bachelor’s degree in, guess what, education. When she graduated she spent a full year as a student teacher under a veteran teacher learning how to teach before she was allowed in a classroom on her own. What do so many of these Teach for America teachers get? Six weeks in a summer program with no students. What the frick is that?! I know that some or maybe all of the traditional public schools make them student teach if they hire them, but my understanding is that most of the charters just throw them straight in the classroom. A recipe for disaster. BJ you hit the nail on the head–public schools, qualified staff, adequate funding, adequate resources and well-equipped staff and buildings. Recipe for success! How hard is that?!