Education Highlighted at ALEC Annual Meeting

Published October 1, 2005

Education policy topped the agenda at the 32nd annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Grapevine, Texas in early August. More than 2,000 state legislators, business leaders, and public policy experts gathered at the Gaylord Texan hotel to participate in the conference.

In addition to a meeting of the Education Task Force, meal sessions and workshops throughout the three-day conference highlighted education reform.

President Calls for Results

On August 3, President George W. Bush accepted ALEC’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award, given annually to an individual who has established an exemplary record of accomplishment in advancing free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.

In his acceptance speech, Bush touched on issues ranging from national security to domestic policy, stating, “the role of government is not to create wealth; the role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit can flourish.” The president praised ALEC and its work on results-oriented education policies.

“When we spend money [on education] at the federal level, I expect people who are spending that money to show the taxpayers results,” Bush said. He encouraged state lawmakers to question their local educators and school board members about their districts’ academic achievement rates, noting, “you can’t correct a problem until you diagnose the problem.”

Ed Secretary Emphasizes Achievement

The following morning, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings spoke to conference attendees about federal education policy and her commitment to raising student achievement with the support of results-oriented state policies.

Spellings noted rising test scores and a narrowing achievement gap between the United States and other developed nations, as evidenced by the results of the 2004 Long-Term Trend Assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress–the “nation’s report card”–released July 14.

With nine-year-olds making more gains in the past five years than from 1971 through 1999, and nine- and 13-year-olds’ math scores at all-time highs, Spellings said, “High standards and accountability make a lot of sense and for good reasons. We now have proof that those concepts are really helping students achieve their dreams.”

Competition Creates Choices

With the educational options provided for by the No Child Left Behind Act–including student tutoring and the ability to transfer to a better-performing school–and the creation of school vouchers in the District of Columbia, the federal government has made significant progress in promoting parental involvement in education, Spellings said.

“Parents today have more choices than ever before–public schools, charter schools, private schools, parochial schools, cyber schools, and home schools,” Spellings said. “And the competition is driving everyone to improve.”

The National Council of Education Providers sponsored an ALEC workshop titled “Charter Schools and Beyond,” specifically addressing the benefits of educational competition. Leaders of some of the nation’s most successful charter school ventures and representatives of the Center for Education Reform, Connections Academy, Mosaica Education, and Edison Schools shared their experiences.

Choices Drive Improvement

Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, noted that in the 14 years since the charter school movement began, national experts have had the chance to analyze state laws and find those that allow charter schools to best serve students. She lauded legislators for their interest in reform.

“Legislators are the key to creating sound education policy,” Allen said. “Thanks in no small part to ALEC members, we today have 41 charter school laws” in 40 states and the District of Columbia. More than one million children are being educated in charter schools, Allen said.

“The emerging lessons learned show that sometimes even strong-sounding language can have an unintended consequence on the health and growth of charter schools,” Allen noted. “Strong laws ensure multiple paths to having charters approved, streamlined and equitable funding, and freedom from copious education rules. The key to the next generation of charter schools is to ensure that these tenets are firmly implanted in law.”

Lori Drummer ([email protected]) is director of ALEC’s Education Task Force.

For more information …

Model school choice legislation prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council, as well as bills proposed in states across the country, is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and select the topic/subtopic combination Education/Model Legislation.