Kaplan, a for-profit education, tutoring, and testing empire that is the largest division of the $4 billion Washington Post Company, recently told the Republic Report (RR) that Kaplan's for-profit college division "was a member of ALEC for a one year period, which ended in August 2011." Kaplan's membership in ALEC's Education Task Force is documented in task force agendas and materials obtained by Common Cause and publicly released yesterday.
The Education Task Force is currently co-chaired by Connections Academy, a for-profit education company, owned by Pearson (a British-based company that publishes Prentice Hall and Addison-Wesley textbooks as well as the Financial Times and Penguin Group imprints), that contracts with charter schools, school districts, or governmental entities to provide "online" lessons to students.
As the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported, ALEC's education agenda encompasses a 20 year effort to privatize public education through an ever-expanding network of school voucher systems, which divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools to private schools. ALEC bills also divert public funds into private charter schools or for-profit internet schools. ALEC bills also allow schools to loosen standards for teachers and administrators, exclude students with physical disabilities and special educational needs, escape the requirements of collective bargaining agreements and experiment with other pet causes like merit pay, single-sex education, school uniforms, and political and religious indoctrination of students. Learn more about ALEC's education agenda in The Nation.
As RR reports and Common Cause documents attest, the following for-profit education companies were also members of ALEC's Education Task Force in 2011:
- Bridgepoint Education (a for-profit education services holding company which owns for-profit, online and land-based Ashford University and University of the Rockies)
- Corinthian Colleges (owns and manages a collection of for-profit career-oriented colleges in the United States and Canada including Everest College and Everest University, Heald College and WyoTech)
- Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU, formerly the Career College Association, the for-profit schools trade association)
- K12, Inc. (the nation's largest provider of online charter schools)
- Insight Schools, Inc. (now a division of K12)
- National Heritage Academies (a for-profit charter school management organization headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a collection of 67 charter schools in the eight states and a separate network of college preparatory high schools)
- International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL, the online schools trade association)
Kaplan, Bridgepoint and Corinthian are all under investigation by multiple state Attorneys General for waste, fraud, and abuse. APSCU works on behalf of the industry to mitigate these investigations and keep federal funding flowing.
Kaplan is the 14th corporation to announce publicly that it has declined to renew its ALEC membership, joining Procter & Gamble, YUM! Brands, Blue Cross Blue Shield, American Traffice Solutions, Reed Elsevier, Arizona Public Service, Mars, Wendy's, McDonald's, Intuit, Kraft Foods, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. 28 legislators have also publicly cut ties with ALEC in recent weeks.
CMD, Color of Change, Common Cause and others are now asking Amazon, State Farm, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson to cut ties with ALEC.
This article was originally published by the Center for Media and Democracy at PRWatch.org. CMD also released the ALECexposed.org project in 2011, exposing the "model" legislation created behind closed doors by corporations working with state legislators in the American Legislative Exchange Council. This project has received the Sidney Award and the Izzy Award.
Rebekah Wilce has a degree in writing from the University of Arizona. She is the lead writer for CMD's Food Rights Network, with expertise in food and agriculture issues.