The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that has been leading recent coordinated attempts to move state laws rightward, has some busy minions in the New Hampshire state legislature. In the past week, they introduced seven pieces of ALEC’s model legislation.
These include bills that are plainly counterproductive, such as an act to eliminate payments for additional children of parents on welfare. According to Granite Progress, “This legislation would eliminate support services for newborn children whose parents are utilizing TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).” How that will break the cycle of the poverty or give the disadvantaged children of poor people a more fair shot at becoming productive citizens is unclear. It seems to proceed from the false premise that people decide whether to have children on the basis on minuscule increases in aid they may receive. In any case, it punishes children for the perceived sins of their parents.
Some of the other proposals are just doctrinaire right-wing ideology, such as instituting a tax credit to divert money from public education to private school vouchers.
The farthest-reaching proposal would impede the people of New Hampshire from tossing out the Republican legislative majority that is trying to impose this agenda. That’s a bill to require voters to present photo identification at the polling place. Such laws are designed to combat a non-existent problem of in-person voter impersonation. But they are very effective at disenfranchising poor people, young people and people of color. In other words, it’s a partisan scheme to stop Democrats from voting.
It’s similar to the South Carolina law that the Department of Justice denied pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act. New Hampshire is not subject to pre-clearance under the VRA. But New Hampshire is a key swing state. In 2000 Al Gore would have won if he had carried it.
Meanwhile ALEC is pumping out reports to justify its agenda, and ignoring the contradictions between the facts and their preconceived notions. On Tuesday ALEC released a “Report Card on American Education.” In ranking the fifty states and Washington, DC, some interesting trends emerge. Blue states tend to outperform red states. Based on standardized test scores, these are the top five states: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, Colorado and Pennsylvania. Numbers forty-seven to fifty-one: Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The other funny thing about ALEC’s education report card is that they grade each state on whether they’ve adopted ALEC’s education reform agenda but are unconcerned with how their reforms affect outcomes. Some of the states with the highest marks for reform rank in the bottom half on their performance, such as Missouri, California and Arizona.
I e-mailed ALEC and asked whether this demonstrates that their reform agenda is not necessarily the right solution for every state, but they did not respond.