ALEC is at it again.
It isn’t enough that the American Legislative Exchange Council is funded by corporate membership fees ranging from $7,000 to $25,000 yearly, receives millions of dollars in direct grants from these corporations, and receives huge grants from corporate CEO-funded foundations such as the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
This time, top corporate sponsors of this year’s ALEC annual meeting last month in Indianapolis included Exxon Mobil (creator of bills to protect the interests of coal, oil and gas and a major climate-change denier) and AARP, which this year was a "Trustee Level" sponsor and gave out free AARP-branded USB power packs to legislators and others at registration.
You’d think ALEC and its sponsors, with its focus on "model legislation," would spend more time improving legislator knowledge of democracy and responsiveness to the real needs and interests of the people in their districts.
If the above paragraph sounds vaguely familiar, I have used Rep. David Wolkins’ sentence structure and style from his editorial "Lesson to be learned" in the July 27 Journal Gazette, in which he lambastes, without reason, the Indiana State Teachers Association.
Wolkins is not only blinded by his ideology, but he seems to be putting blind faith in ALEC, a group of corporate lobbyists and state legislators who "vote as equals on ‘model bills’ to change our rights that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense," according to www.alecexposed.org.
Wolkins asks, "What message are we sending to our kids when teachers choose to protest, rather than debate, the ideas and people with which they disagree?"
Were teachers invited to the ALEC annual meeting? Are teachers invited to any of the meetings where this so-called "model" legislation is being crafted? The for-profit, corporate education company Connections Academy has a seat at the table; where are the public school representatives? How can teachers – and the average citizen – offer valuable ideas to the so-called "debate" when they are not invited to the meetings?
Who really benefits from ALEC legislation? Had Wolkins been paying attention, he would have noticed more than ISTA members protesting the ALEC annual meeting. There were members of the UAW, AFT, National Letter Carriers Union, Indiana Moral Mondays, Central Labor Council and more.
These groups represent and speak for thousands more of us "average citizens" who are seriously concerned about legislation that threatens the public good. When we’re not asked for our input and opinions, we protest.
What happened to Rep. Wolkins’ Hoosier common sense? Did he lose it on one of his all-expense-paid luxury trips from ALEC? And he crabs about ISTA members getting a free T-shirt!
Whether we label ourselves "conservative" or "liberal" matters little when our state legislators succumb to the paternalistic "behind-the-scene" machinations of ALEC. With ALEC, state lawmakers and business people have a "voice and a vote." But what about the rest of us?
Wolkins says of ISTA that "they are all for the students, so long as students’ interests don’t conflict with those of ISTA members." We could say the same about Wolkins: Rep. David Wolkins is all for the citizens of his district in Indiana, so long as his constituents’ interests don’t conflict with ALEC and its corporate members.
Michelle Bandor is a Fort Wayne resident and a member of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.