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Arizona educators, progressives confront ALEC summit and Betsy DeVos

By Jim Byrne |
December 8, 2019
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Protest against ALEC
Protest against ALEC (Fight Back! News/staff)

Tucson, AZ - On December 4, a coalition of union educators, immigrant rights, police crimes, and climate change activists confronted the agenda of corporations like UPS and energy industry giants and billionaires like Charles Koch and Sheldon Achelson. At its height the crowd numbered around 200 with signs reading: “ALEC: Oligarchy in progress” and “Privatization, criminalization, incarceration, climate change, imperialism: #ALECisBehindIt.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a notorious organization of hardcore conservatives, was holding its States and Nation Policy Summit in Arizona. ALEC hosted Trump cabinet members Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, and Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education. DeVos draws serious ire from educators because of her push for privatization of public schools and the detrimental voucher program that drains much-needed funding for public schools.

DeVos and Republican legislators from Arizona think vouchers are the solution to the crisis in public education. DeVos is attending ALEC to push her plan to use $5 billion to fund vouchers for students to attend private schools. These ideas largely come from a group like ALEC, which hosts, wines, and dines state lawmakers to push their members’ agenda. Many Republican-dominated states have a high rate of ALEC membership. In fact, 41% of the Arizona state legislature are ALEC members.

ALEC was also instrumental in the creation of the viciously racist SB070 law that legalized racial and national profiling. The subsequent collaboration between state and local law enforcement with ICE turned every badge into an immigration officer. The raids of homes and workplaces in Phoenix fed up undocumented immigrants into the wicked arms of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The group that led the organized resistance using political education and Barrio Defense Committees was Puente Human Rights Organization.

Sandra Solis, an organizer with Puente, connected ALEC to the oppression of immigrants as well as Chicanx and African-American communities. “Corporations would not be part of ALEC if they didn’t have specific investments and they weren’t profiting off the criminalization of our communities and the privatization of our education system,” Solis stated.

Speaking on the significance of the action for state politics, educator Katie Nash said “Corporations flock to Arizona where it is a land of milk and honey for tax breaks, truly a wild west when it comes to tax structure and wealth. But that all ends today. We demand that our state legislators, like Karen Fann and Rusty Bowers, JD Mesnard and John Allen, cancel their membership with ALEC, and we call on Arizona voters to vote out all legislators who refuse to do so.”

The coalition consists of Arizona Educators United, Puente Human Rights Movement, Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance, No More Deaths Phoenix, Food Not Bombs Phoenix, Sunrise Movement Phoenix, Arizona for Bernie Sanders, Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America, Kochs Off Campus Tucson and their national affiliate UnKoch My Campus, Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro, Extinction Rebellion, Progressive Democrats of America, ProgressNow Arizona, and AZ Resist.

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