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Learning Curve

  • An F for transparency
    “Look at this shiny thing over here!” – Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, Oct. 14, 2014.

ALEC's best friend: The Indiana General Assembly

How much does ALEC love Indiana, and vice versa? So much that the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-controlled group that writes model legislation, has an omnibus bill named in honor of the Indiana legislature's dubious achievement, "The Indiana Education Reform Package."

"The Indiana Education Reform Package is inspired by their comprehensive set of K–12 education reforms adopted by the Indiana Legislature in the spring of 2011 and signed by Governor Mitch Daniels," reads the summary posted on ALEC's web site. "The components in this Act have created the nation's largest school voucher program, among other reforms."

It goes on to note that it is presented as an omnibus act, but some lawmakers "may prefer to introduce separate measures depending upon legislative dynamics." In other words, if you have total political control, you can ram it through in a single bill; otherwise; you may have to pass it one bill at a time.

And lest you think ALEC gives all of the credit to the Indiana Republicans who carried the bills, the summary notes the "key reforms" include some that "are similar to existing ALEC model legislation, including Charter Schools Act, School Scholarships Act, and the Early Graduation Scholarship Act." In Indiana, the latter is named for former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The seven-chapter act represents a playbook of corporate education reform, all of it passed with relative ease by Indiana's GOP-controlled General Assembly.

ALEC itself is seeking a name change, however. Clearly stung by the bad publicity it has garnered through its damaging legislation, including the stand-your-ground law, ALEC's top flack sent an email to members:

"You may have noticed we are limiting the use of the acronym 'ALEC,'" wrote Bill Meierling, senior director of public affairs in a March 13 email sent to ALEC members and obtained through an open records request by the Center for Media and Democracy.

"Over the past year, the word 'ALEC' has been used to conjure up images of a distant, mysterious, Washington alphabet organization of unknown intentions," Meierling wrote. "The organization has refocused on the words 'Exchange' and 'Council' to emphasize our goal of a broad exchange of ideas to make government work better and more efficiently."

By any name, ALEC's handiwork continues to be seen in legislation approved by the Indiana General Assembly. Look for it to continue until the "legislative dynamics" change here.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at