Scantron Corporation, a $200 million for-profit educational testing and online tutoring company that makes, among other things, those ubiquitous scan forms for standardized tests (please make sure you fill in the bubble completely and clearly with a #2 pencil, etc.), joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) late in 2010, but a company spokesperson told CMD that it is no longer a member. Scantron’s departure makes it the 15th corporation to cut ties with ALEC.
Scantron was joined in its move by the non-profit Lumina Foundation for Education, a private foundation that says it is “committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college,” with “invested assets in excess of $1 billion,” which makes it “among the nation’s top 40 private foundations.” Lumina calls itself a “conversion foundation.” It was formerly the USA Group Foundation, the non-profit arm of the nation’s largest private guarantor and administrator of education loans, before the parent company of both, USA Group Inc., sold most of its assets to Sallie Mae, now the largest education finance company in the United States, in mid-2000. According to Lumina organizational documents, “USA Group, while retaining its nonprofit status, converted its tax-exempt classification from ‘public charity’ to ‘foundation.'” The foundation received $400 million in cash and $370 million in stock from Sallie Mae. It was renamed Lumina in early 2001. Its recent grantees include the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, the Aspen Institute, and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). A Lumina spokesperson told CMD that it is also no longer a member.
ALEC and Education
Both groups have been members of ALEC’s Education Task Force, which 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.
New members of ALEC’s Education Task Force as of the upcoming Spring Task Force meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina this month are Wireless Generation (a for-profit online education, software and testing corporation owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, whose executive vice president, Joel Klein, is the former New York City Schools Chancellor), the James Madison Institute (JMI) of Florida, and the Pioneer Institute of Massachusetts, both members of the Koch-funded State Policy Network of right wing state think tanks. JMI has partnered with the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), another ALEC member whose chairman is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. In 2008, FEE and JMI co-hosted a “national summit on education reform” in Florida focused on increased testing, school privatization, and charter schools.
For more information on ALEC’s Education Task Force, its corporate members, and its long term support for school privatization, see the SourceWatch article here, the education resource page of ALECexposed.org here, and a fact sheet on ALEC’s legislative agenda on education here.
The Rush to Dump ALEC
Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC in recent weeks include Kaplan Higher Education, Procter & Gamble, YUM! Brands, Blue Cross Blue Shield, American Traffic Solutions, Reed Elsevier, Arizona Public Service, Mars, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Intuit, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola. The addition of Scantron brings the total to 15. Lumina joins the Gates Foundation, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) in cutting ties with ALEC, totaling four non-profit organizations. 54 legislators have also publicly cut ties with ALEC in recent weeks.
Also seen in Common Dreams and Center for Media and Democracy