University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Julie Underwood and Julie Mead are expressing concern over the growing corporate influence on public education in an article published Monday.
In particular, they are highly critical of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects conservative state legislators with like-minded think tanks, corporations and foundations to develop "model legislation" that can be enacted at the state level.
Underwood is the dean of UW-Madison's School of Education, while Mead chairs the ed school's department of educational leadership and policy analysis. The two make their opinions known in an article they co-authored for the March issue of Phi Delta Kappan magazine, which serves members of the PDK professional organization for educators.
Underwood says much of the information in the article is an outgrowth of research she conducted while helping get the ALECexposed.org website up and running last summer.
"At that time I was looking at a lot of (ALEC) model legislation that had been leaked and I've continued to look at this kind of legislation since then," she says. "So this (article) is my research."
Underwood and Mead start their piece by noting the range of similar bills proposed in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio early in 2011 that "sought sweeping changes to each state's collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions." Each state is headed by Republican governors and has Republican-controlled state legislatures.
"What was going on?" Underwood and Mead write. "How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?"
The answer, they argue, is ALEC. And the UW-Madison professors are no fans of the organization's motives, writing that "ALEC's positions on various education issues make it clear that the organization seeks to undermine public education by systematically defunding and ultimately destroying public education as we know it."