April 18, 2014

News

States Crack Down on For-Profit Colleges, Student Loan Industry. . .Thirty-two states are now working together under the leadership of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to investigate potential abuses in the for-profit college industry, which saw enrollment more than triple between 1998 and 2008, according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. One reason for the concern is the amount of taxpayer dollars involved: Some for-profit colleges receive 90 percent or more of their revenue from the federal and/or state governments in the form of student aid. “While some for-profit schools offer quality training and legitimate diplomas, we have found that this industry often markets subpar programs to veterans and low-income students who depend on federal aid,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “When students don’t receive the training they sign up for, or default on their loans, it not only greatly impacts their future but it also impacts taxpayers who have backed these loans in the first place.”  Stateline

IL: Environmental groups file suit to stop $1.3B Illiana toll road proposal. Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit today to block the proposed $1.3 billion Illiana toll road that would serve primarily as a trucking corridor linking interstates in Illinois and Indiana. The lawsuit challenges the Illinois Department of Transportation’s authority to build the toll road running through Will County, saying the Illiana’s approval violated state law.  The Illiana would be state’s first major public-private partnership, in which private investors would build and operate the highway.  Chicago Tribune

GA: Regents seeking bids to privatize student housing. The University System of Georgia is moving ahead with a student housing privatization initiative the General Assembly approved last month. . . . Georgia lawmakers passed a bill during the recently concluded legislative session aimed at encouraging privatization of student housing and other non-instructional campus construction by making projects financed and built through public-private partnerships eligible for a property tax break. Atlanta Business Chronicle (blog)

FL: Editorial: Good old days weren’t so good for education. . . As for pockets of low tests scores, they normally are connected with poverty and high concentrations of racial minorities. Ravitch says it would be more productive to do more about the root causes of poverty than to privatize the schools.  “Reformers in every era used the schools as punching bags,” she writes. Alternatives, such as charter schools or vouchers for private schools, are useful in providing competition, especially in areas where public schools have failed to provide quality education. But these options cannot and should not replace the mass education provided by public education. “When the public schools have appropriate policies, personnel, resources and vision to achieve attainable goals, they respond with positive achievement. “A citizen of a democratic society must be able to read critically, listen carefully, evaluate competing claims, weigh evidence and come to a thoughtful judgment.” We can do that in public schools. We must demand it.  The Florida Times Union

NJ: Opinion: Privatization rears its ugly head in NJ once again. This time, it’s at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, where the Christie administration is myopically seeking to lay off and privatize as many as 800 jobs. If one were to look at the history of failed privatizations in our state and others, it would be painfully apparent that it’s not the solution to all the state’s ills. Even worse, it can often cost taxpayers more money to eventually undo it. The most high-profile example here in New Jersey was the Department of Motor Vehicles fiasco. In 1995, New Jersey privatized the DMV. A state legislative report issued in 2002 said the DMV privatization resulted in “poor, disjointed and confused service delivery without consistency which has led to confusion and frustration in the minds of New Jersey citizens.” The report also noted that privatization “resulted in poorly paid employees who have received inadequate benefits, resulting in a high turnover rate at DMV agencies.” In 2003, New Jersey returned the DMV to state control, and today it is run much more efficiently.   The Times, Trenton

 

 

 

April 17, 2014

News

Bipartisan Plan to Privatize Tax Collection Hits Opposition. Part of the Tax Reform Act of 2014, written by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), would require the Treasury Department to contract with private collection agencies to pursue tax debts not addressed by the Internal Revenue Service. Now, Taxpayer Advocate Service and the National Treasury Employees Union are releasing findings and statements that run counter to the proposal. . . . . In a 2013 report on the IRS Private Debt Collection Program, Taxpayer Advocate Service found that the IRS collected about $53 million, or 62 percent, more over the course of two years than private collection agencies (PCAs). Also, the IRS collected a greater percentage of available dollars than private collection agencies, 9.2 percent to 5.4 percent. . . .[W]hile private collectors collected more tax dollars in the first six-month period than the IRS, over time IRS collections were more consistent. Private collection agencies had six months of success, before drastically decreasing the dollar amount and percentage of available taxpayer dollars collected.   InsideARM

“A self-fulfilling conflict of interest”: Charter schools, testing mania, and Arne Duncan. The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now [it’s] getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon. The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.” A condensed version of our conversation follows.  Salon

Thousands turn out for Labor Notes conference. In a major political development, over 2,000 trade union activists and friends attended the conference, which was geared toward helping unionists find ways to build coalitions and win struggles in today’s difficult political climate. Besides the Chicago Teacher’s Union, official union delegations, some quite large, were present from other teacher’s unions, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Teamsters, Steelworkers, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), both major longshore unions ILWU and ILA, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Union of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), food and commercial workers, farmworkers, nurses and others. Some delegations were sent directly from International leadership offices. “Our nation’s postal service was set by our nation’s revolution, with the guarantee, written into our constitution, that every American citizen be served equally, having access to our service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Those trying to privatize it and cut service to some are in violation of our nation’s constitution.”   People’s World

New article on criminal law enforcement privatization. Sharon Finegan of South Texas College of Law has an article in last year’s volume of the University of Massachusetts Law Review: Watching the Watchers: The Growing Privatization of Criminal Law Enforcement and the Need for Limits on Neighborhood Watch Associations. Here’s the abstract.  Washington Post

AZ: Bill would boost public money for private school. The Arizona Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would expand the state’s school voucher program and would increase the amount in public funds a student could receive to attend private school. The bill would expand Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts eligibility to siblings of students who are current or past recipients and to those who have not previously attended public school. Current rules require students to attend public school before being eligible.  WRAL.com

VA: Toll Road Rates Could Remain Flat–With Federal Money. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority today repeated its plan to hold tolls on the Dulles Toll Road at their current rate for the next five years–a plan that is predicated on federal money being issued for the Silver Line Metro project. Leesburg Today

VT: House freezes school privatization debate. The question of whether voters should be allowed to “flip” public schools into private entities has churned for months in Vermont. After lengthy debate on the House floor Wednesday, the issue has been tabled. For now. To date, two Vermont schools have gone from public to private. The Senate after much negotiation produced a study committee to look deeper into the constitutionality of both sides: “flipping” a school, as senators came to call it, and prohibiting the flips.  vtdigger.org

 

 

April 16, 2014

News

Congratulations! The Taxes You Just Paid Might Be On Their Way to a Private Prison. When you pay taxes, you assume they’ll be used to support education, health care, public transportation, and other programs that make your community stronger. That’s true, but so is this: some of your hard-earned dollars might be bundled into a massive payout to a private prison company that cares more about profits than public safety. That’s right, taxpayers: for-profit prison companies are skimming off the top of taxes you pay ostensibly to create safer communities. And no company benefits more than the largest private prison company out there: the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA.  ACLU

Postal Union Fights Staples Partnership: ‘A Big Step Toward Privatization’. . . Under the premise of a pilot program, a limited number of Staples locations are now offering most of the same services provided at post offices, to be handled by Staples employees rather than postal workers. “It’s just a big step toward privatization,” said Suchomel, who hopped a bus to the protest from the Labor Notes conference, a biannual gathering of labor activists held in Chicago. “I think it’s a terrible thing that the postmaster general would even think about this.” . . . Union representatives say the Staples program is proof agency management would be happy to spin off basic postal services to the private sector, further shrinking what’s long been a bastion of well-paying, public-sector union jobs. After a series of sporadic demonstrations against Staples in recent weeks, the American Postal Workers Union, which represents 220,000 postal employees, is planning protests from coast to coast on April 24, and it expects broad backing from other public-sector unions.  Huffington Post

Call to stop water privatization and strengthen public water systems. On the heels of the World Bank’s 2014 spring meetings, an international coalition of water rights groups from India and the United States issued a stern call for the institution to end its destructive promotion of water privatization under the guise of development. After a week of meetings, including high level events on water, no action has been taken to address the coalition’s concerns.  Media For Freedom

TX: Privatization of foster care to expand. Texas’ protective services chief said Tuesday that he intends to expand an ambitious privatization of foster care, despite warnings from some child advocates that he’s moving too fast. . . . It puts one super-vendor in charge of running all the other contractors in a region. It also incorporates into contracts financial incentives for better performance. . .  .Texans Care for Children, an advocacy group, urged Specia to “hit the pause button” on expanded outsourcing. In a report, the group referred to last year’s spike in foster care deaths from maltreatment. It said the state’s rush to expand the outsourcing approach could jeopardize foster children’s safety.  Dallas Morning News

TX: SAISD Board passes resolution against privatization. On Monday night, the school board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the privatizing of district custodial and support services and reaffirming its commitment to district custodial and support services employees. Rumors regarding privatization, or outsourcing, had been rampant for weeks.  Board member Debra Guerrero placed the resolution on the agenda so as to reassure employees that the district is not moving in the direction of privatization.  San Antonio Alliance

CA: In Plain Sight: The Rise of Corporate Democrats in California. . . The rise of what might be called the Corporate Democrat can only be partly explained by shrinking GOP delegations in Sacramento. It is also the product of redistricting and effects of the “top-two primary,” by which members of the same political party can win the top two primary positions and then face off in November. These two structural changes were approved by voters in, respectively, 2008 and 2010. Since then, powerful corporations, agricultural associations and other political high rollers have been turning away from their traditional Republican partners and placing more and more of their chips on the Democratic end of the table. . .  . Yet Dodd also boasts deep funding from individuals who, like David Crane, are influential advocates of cutting public employee pensions or, like Greg and Carrie Penner, are wealthy supporters of school privatization – views that run counter to longstanding Democratic Party positions.  Huffington Post

April 15, 2014

News

Inside the Private Prison Industry’s Alarming Spread Across America. On a recent Friday afternoon, with budget negotiations winding down, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh was racing against the clock. His position as House Appropriations Chairman afforded him the opportunity to stuff whatever minor extra provisions he wanted into the budget before it went to a vote the following Monday, and he only had a few hours left to do it. What was Kavanagh frantically trying to accomplish for his constituents at the last minute? Extra funding for education, since Arizona spends less on educating its children than all but three states? No, Rep. John Kavanagh was trying to secure an extra $900,000 gift for the GEO Group, the billion-dollar private prison corporation whose state lobbyists came to him at the last second begging with upturned hats. The $45 million already earmarked for the maintenance of low- and medium-security facilities wasn’t enough, they said.  AlterNet

Privatization of the US Prison System. The prison industry complex is one of the fastest growing industries in the US.  The system, which was established to ease the burden of overcrowding on state prisons, has become a lucrative business for many. The following infographic shows us how profitable the US prison industry is. “Between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion” dollars.  ArrestRecords.com

To toll or not to toll. . . Right now, the chief source of revenue for road construction projects is the federal fuel tax, which currently stands at 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents on diesel. But revenues from the tax, which has not been raised since 1993, no longer come close to meeting needs. Several organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Trucking Associations (ATA), have called for raising the federal fuel tax. But that won’t happen without a fight. Whenever the subject has been raised, it has sparked a political firestorm that Congress has been reluctant to walk into. That brings us to the question of tolls. Both President Obama and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx have recently made reference to “public/private” partnerships, which most consider to be code for “tolling our interstates.” That would be an abrupt reversal of course for this country. Congress banned tolls on all interstates when the 46,000-mile system was created in 1956, although a few exceptions have been made in recent years.  DC Velocity

IL: Chicago’s outsourcing habit has costly consequences. Chicagoans are all too familiar with the city’s parking meter privatization fiasco. The deal was rushed and reckless and sucked billions of tax dollars out of the local economy and into the coffers of a corporate consortium backed by Wall Street. Not to mention citizens’ loss of control over parking spaces and services for decades to come. Were these unintended consequences from hasty judgment calls at a time of fiscal crisis? The sad truth is that outsourcing deals often fail to address broader community impacts. Crain’s Chicago Business

FL: Most state building money now goes to charter schools Accompanied by local and state PTA officers and by state Rep. Mark Danish, a public school teacher on leave to serve in the Legislature, Castor charged that the Republican majority in the Legislature has diverted nearly all the money it allocates for school construction and renovation to charter schools, leaving none for public schools. “While we let our public schools decay, the charter schools get to play,” said Danish, who, like Castor, is a Tampa Democrat. Danish said legislators “simply want to hurt public schools. There’s a pattern — a constant stream of bills, and each one weakens public schools.” Legislative Republicans contend that traditional public schools have other sources for capital improvements that charter schools don’t have. Public school advocates replied that those sources are stretched and inadequate to serve the mandate to build schools when and where they’re needed — a mandate charter schools don’t face.  Tampa Tribune

TX: UT Faculty asks president to withdraw “privatization scheme”. In an April 8 letter addressed to UT-Austin President Bill Powers, three distinguished faculty members – joined by at least 108 others – asked Powers to withdraw support for the “Shared Services” plan to eliminate as many as 500 staff positions in order to improve “business productivity” on campus. Powers had endorsed the plan in a memo the previous week. . . It reads in part, “Implementation of the proposed shared services plan, whether touted as a series of “pilot” experiments or done wholesale, will inevitably endanger one of the foundations of this university’s greatness—the sense of community that joins together faculty, staff, and students.  Austin Chronicle

VA: Dulles Greenway toll rates rise again. Drivers on the Dulles Greenway can once again expect to pay higher tolls along the 14-mile, privately owned road. On Tuesday, the State Corporation Commission approved an annual toll rate increase on the road, raising rates by 10 to 20 cents for drivers in two-axle vehicles. During non-peak hours, the toll will rise from $4.10 to $4.25, with a maximum one-way toll of $5.10 during peak hours. . . . Loudoun commuters have complained for years about the high tolls along the road, as its operator, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, has continued to seek rate increases. Washington Post

MI: Detroit may end up privatizing water department. Talks between the city of Detroit and the suburbs over shared control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department have dried up. It’s a key issue in the city’s ongoing bankruptcy negotiations and it affects what metro Detroiters will pay for water. The city wants to put $47 million annually into the water department from suburban leaders in a proposed Regional Water Authority. Suburban leaders have said no to that amount of money. . . . “We are pursuing other options. We’re looking at private investors and private managers for this system,” said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. “  WDIV Detroit

OH: House and Senate in stalemate over budget for road projects. Whether tolls will be part of the Brent Spence plan, however, remained up in the air. Gov. Steve Beshear last Friday vetoed legislation to allow public-private partnerships because it had language that would ban tolls as a way to pay for a new Ohio River crossing.  Cincinnati.com

NC: NC DOT Announces First Public-Private Partnership Project to Improve I-77. The North Carolina Department of Transportation announces the apparent successful bidder for its first Public-Private-Partnership (P3) contract to improve the traffic flow along 26 miles of I-77 in the Charlotte area, one of the most congested roadways in the state. Following a required bidding process, and pending final review, it appears Cintra Infraestructures, S.A. will construct the I-77 project through a joint venture with F.A. Southeast, W.C. English, and the lead design firm of The Louis Berger Group. . . Cintra will invest the majority of that in return for toll revenue generated from the managed lanes. NCDOT will contribute $88 million for the project, which is significantly less than the $170 million it had projected. ForConstructionPros.com

 

 

April 14, 2014

News

Charter Schools: The Promise and the Peril: Two systems of public education go head-to-head in Chicago.  Since the first charter school was established in 1992 in St. Paul, Minn., the model has rapidly taken hold in cities across the United States. As of December 2011, about 5 percent of U.S. students attended the nation’s 5,300 charter schools. A charter school is a public school governed by a nonprofit organization under a contract—or charter—with a state or local government. This charter exempts the school from selected rules and regulations. In return for funding and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards as defined by its charter. Critics charge that charter schools are the first step toward education vouchers and, ultimately, the privatization of public education. A lot of public money is at stake. Rupert Murdoch has observed that K-to-12 education is “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” In These Times spoke with three Chicagoans who have strong opinions about the charter school movement .  In These Times

Do 72 percent of for-profit programs have graduates making less than high school dropouts?  “Of the for-profit gainful employment programs that our department could analyze, and which could be affected by our actions today, the majority — the significant majority, 72 percent — produce graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts.”– Education Secretary Arne Duncan, news conference at the White House, March 14, 2014. This was a surprising statistic uttered from the podium in the White House briefing room, offered when Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a proposed regulation that is designed to target what the Education Department contends are poor-performing career programs that burden students with unsustainable levels of debt. Could attending a for-profit institution actually result in a three-out-of-four-chance of earning less than a high school dropout?  Washington Post  Blog

US public-private partnerships in play. Across the United States, more state and local governments are tapping private dollars to build, repair and maintain public infrastructure. Here are some of the biggest and most-watched projects: *Pennsylvania is pushing to replace at least 500 bridges under a single contract in the next five years. On March 26 the state invited four construction teams to submit bids. Chicago Tribune

‘Privatization’ Is Not ‘Privacy’. America’s cultural turn in recent decades toward a glorification of the private and a denigration of the public has coexisted with what quite obviously is a deterioration in privacy. As individuals, we have dramatically less capacity than in earlier decades to control information about even the most personal aspects of our lives. This is not just historical coincidence. The cultural turn to the “private” has actually hurt privacy.  Huffington Post

TX: Lawmakers told public-private partnership law not working. An estimated 400,000 people are moving to Texas each year expecting to find the schools, roads, water systems and other infrastructure to support them. So far, the state’s controversial public-private partnership law isn’t helping fill those needs or contributing to the state’s economy, the Texas House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development was told this week. Houston Chronicle

TX: Wendy Davis: Senate votes didn’t conflict with clients. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis voted for bills in the Texas Senate that affected her clients and sought federal money while in office for a transportation project being handled by her Fort Worth law firm, a newspaper reported Sunday. . .Voting records reviewed by the newspaper show Davis supported legislation governing a toll road project for which the North Texas Tollway Authority hired her law firm, Newby Davis, which she started with former Perry chief of staff Brian Newby. Davis backed changes surrounding the collection of unpaid tolls that preceded a program in which law firms — including Davis’ — were chosen to carry out the collections.  SFGate

MI: Amid crisis, Detroit urged to outsource more. Detroit has made progress in contracting with private firms for certain services, such as garbage collection and electricity, but outsourcing advocates say there are more opportunities yet unexplored. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s office is considering outsourcing other services, including the water department, to cut costs and an estimated $18 billion in debt.  The Detroit News

LA: Analysis: Questions on La. hospital deals linger. A year after Gov. Bobby Jindal started turning over the operations of Louisiana’s university-run hospital system to outside companies, lawmakers are complaining that they have unanswered questions about the deals. Over the past week, state senators have asked why federal officials haven’t signed off on the financing arrangements, what happens if federal approval never comes, and how the state will compensate other hospitals now dealing with a rush of uninsured patients. Jindal chose to impose most of the reduction of federal Medicaid financing on the LSU charity hospital system. Privatization contracts were pushed by the Republican governor. Kansas City Star

IL: Chicago Public Library launches redesigned website. The $1 million web redesign was paid with a grant from the Chicago Public Library Foundation, which allowed the hiring of software company BiblioCommons to research, design and maintain the new site for the next three years. BiblioCommons was behind the redesign of dozens of other library websites around the country, Lednicer said. Chicago Tribune

 

April 11, 2014

News

NY: NYC Parents Vs. Wall Street-Backed Charter Schools. Parents and public school advocates staged a dramatic protest outside the New York City Department of Education on Tuesday against a bid, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and financed by Wall Street lobbyists, to evict special needs students in order to make room for charter school expansion. The demonstration is the most recent development in the battle against corporate education reform in the city, where ”strong-arm” tactics by Cuomo and the charter school lobby have overriden an attempt by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to curb the growth of privately-funded charters. Mint Press News

LA: Money could be delayed during review of LSU deals. Federal officials have warned Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration that they will withhold $307 million in Medicaid money from the state if no agreement is soon reached on whether the state’s financing plans for the privatized LSU hospitals meet federal guidelines. . .  Most of LSU’s charity hospitals were turned over to private managers, but federal officials haven’t decided yet whether they’ll agree to the money arrangements used to pay the new hospital operators.  Chron.com

FL: Column: Educate before debate on private toll road. It is insufficient for the county to be angering residents by holding a series of what it erroneously labels town hall meetings, and then limiting debate on how to address traffic along the 33-mile corridor between Zephyrhills and U.S. 19. At a March 10 public meeting, county officials ignored what should have been the main subject: all 18 options they say were reviewed for addressing what is expected to be a massive increase in corridor traffic in the next 20 years. Officials focused solely on the elevated toll road option, even though we won’t know if its a viable option until next month when its finances and general design are available for review.  Tampabay.com

WI: Privatizing Wisconsin schools is no answer – Opinion. . . For the past 20 years, we have been messing around with Milwaukee’s school system through a series of charter and voucher schemes that have not been proven to have better outcomes than public schools. Despite it being part of their intended purpose, these schools have done nothing to close the achievement gap between African-American and white students. Yet the Wisconsin Legislature continues to work to dismantle public education through a series of new laws to further expand charter and voucher schools statewide. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

April 10, 2014

News

IL: Charter-School Fight Flares Up in Illinois.  The Illinois Legislature is considering 11 bills that would, among other things, limit where charter schools can be located, ban them from marketing themselves to students, and abolish a commission that has the power to overrule local school boards and grant charter licenses. The skirmish follows recent charter flare-ups in Massachusetts, Tennessee and New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio got into a standoff over the schools.  Wall Street Journal

NY: Charter School Refugees –Op ed. LAST week, the New York State Legislature struck a deal ensuring that charter schools in New York City would have access to space, either in already crowded public school buildings or in rented spaces largely paid for by the city. Over the next few years, charters are expected to serve an increasing proportion of city students — perhaps as much as 10 percent. Which brings up the question: Is there a point at which fostering charter schools undermines traditional public schools and the children they serve? The experience of Harlem, where nearly a quarter of students are enrolled in charter schools, suggests that the answer is yes. High-quality charters can be very effective at improving test scores and graduation rates. However, they often serve fewer poorer students and children with special needs.  New York Times

LA: La. Senate backs Jindal’s plan to close LSU hospital in Pineville, part of privatization deal. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to shutter the LSU public hospital in Pineville and shift its services to two private hospitals in central Louisiana received support Tuesday from the state Senate. Jindal wants to close the university-run Huey P. Long Medical Center and move its services to CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital and Rapides Regional Medical Center. It would be the Republican governor’s ninth and final privatization deal for the LSU public hospital system.  AFSCME Privatization Update

LA: City Planning Commission nixes privatization of Newcomb Boulevard. Newcomb Boulevard cannot become a privately owned street, the City Planning Commission decided Tuesday (April 8). The 7-1 decision derailed a group of residents hoping to buy that four-block stretch of Uptown from the city and keep in place a large fence that has prevented traffic from traveling through it for the last eight years.  The Times-Picayune

Postal Workers Union to Protest ‘Privatization of U.S. Postal Service’ this Week. According to the American Postal Workers Union, Staples has a deal to operate postal counters at more than 80 of its office-supply stores. They also say the U.S. Postmaster General would like to expand this plan to a total of 1,500 stores. Last month, Staples announced it will close 225 North American stores in 2015 amid declining sales. Union President Mark Simondstein said in a statement, “This proves, more than ever that it’s a bad idea to turn public services over to a private company that can close stores at will, with no public input and no public comment. Patch.com

April 9, 2014

News

Corporate Cash Alters University Curricula. The University of Maryland has had to tighten its belt, cutting seven varsity sports teams and forcing faculty and staff to take furlough days. But in a corner of the campus, construction workers are building a dormitory specifically designed for a new academic program. Many of the students who live there will be enrolled in a cybersecurity concentration funded in part by Northrop Grumman Corp. . . .Though these partnerships have been around at the graduate level and among the nation’s polytechnic schools and community colleges, they are now migrating into traditional undergraduate programs. The emerging model is a “new form of the university,” said Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland. “What we are seeing is a federal-grant university that is increasingly corporate and increasingly reliant on private philanthropy.”  The Wall Street Journal

Privatization of public housing. The mother of three says that if she loses her home in the Western Addition, she’ll have nowhere to go. It’s been a tough, four-year battle against her landlord — a St. Louis-based development company called McCormack Baron — and its law firm, Bornstein & Bornstein. That’s the same law firm that gained notoriety for holding an “eviction boot camp” last November to teach landlords how to do Ellis Act evictions and sweep tenants out of rent-controlled housing. . . US Department Housing and Urban Development is rolling out a new program to privatize public housing. The San Francisco Housing Authority is one of 340 housing projects in the nation to be chosen for the competitive program. The city is now starting to implement the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. When it’s done, 75 percent of the city’s public housing properties will be privatized.   San Francisco Bay Guardian

WV: Regulators order W.Va. American Water to continue participating in local water projects. State regulators on Monday ordered West Virginia American Water Company to continue participating in a series of water extension projects, rejecting the company’s argument that it was not legally obligated to do so. The ruling by the Public Service Commission came on a complaint filed by five public service districts and several other local agencies. The complaint alleged that in 2011, West Virginia American Water improperly withdrew from partnerships with them to extend water service to new customers in various areas of the state. The Republic

NM: Santa Fe City Council will consider measure to shine light on privatization. Two city councilors are introducing a resolution aimed at making privatization more public, at least as it relates to city government. The resolution will be considered for adoption at Wednesday’s (April 9) city council meeting.m“What it’s intended to do is provide the public with more transparency and accountability,” said Carmichael Dominguez, who is co-sponsoring the resolution with Councilor Chris Rivera. “The idea is to help taxpayers regain control of our democracy. It’s making sure we provide the public with access to books and records from privatized groups the same way city government does. It’s about protecting taxpayers and using common sense to promote accountability and accountability.”  Albuquerque Journal

CA: OC tollway cancels enviro studies for controversial extension. Orange County’s largest tollway operation announced Tuesday that it has canceled environmental studies for a controversial extension project that was widely criticized and ultimately rejected by the California Coastal Commission in 2008. . . The TCA planned to build the Foothill South through the eastern portion of popular San Onofre State Beach — and Trestles, the surfing mecca. The proposal generated loud opposition from environmentalists, park supporters and surfers.  Los Angeles Times

 

 

April 8, 2014

News

GA: Why Is Georgia About to Pass a Law That Will Make It Easier to Send Poor to Prison. . . Vigorous lobbying by the private probation industry helped shape the bill. Originally conceived as an attempt to clarify the state’s approach to private probation, the bill instead pumps new energy into the system, by, among other things, allowing judges to extend probation terms for years and forcing low-level offenders to pay the daily costs of electronic monitoring. “This is not your run of the mill housekeeping bill,” said Kathryn Hamoudah of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which has long advocated for reform in the burgeoning industry. “It is a gift to the private probation companies, giving them unprecedented authority to act as law enforcement.”  The Nation

CA: Assembly Passes Anti-Outsourcing Resolution. On Thursday the California State Assembly passed House Resolution 29 (Gomez, D-Los Angeles), a piece of legislation denouncing the practice of outsourcing of government services to private contractors and pledging legislators to oppose all future “outsourcing of public services and assets.” HR 29 has drawn fire from local government agencies across the state for its restrictive language and heated opposition toward the autonomous management of city services and functions. The resolution was first read on the Assembly floor on Thursday, April 3. HR 29 was subsequently amended and passed the very same day on a party-line vote, with several Democrats refusing to vote.  PublicCEO.com

LA: Hospital privatization fallout questioned. Community hospitals in areas with LSU hospital privatization deals are seeing increasing numbers of uninsured patients, putting strains on their finances, state senators complained Monday. “Those nonpartnership hospitals in those communities are clearly getting slammed,” state Sen. Sherri Buffington, R-Keithville, said. State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, said patients are going to the emergency rooms of two hospitals in the Lake Charles area that are not part of any partnership arrangement with the state now that the public W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center has closed. “Those hospitals are not being compensated one penny for those coming in,” Johns said. State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said the same thing is happening in Baton Rouge where Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center is now LSU’s partner.  The Advocate

IL: Emanuel avoids direct answer on charter school performance. Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not want to comment on a Chicago Sun-Times analysis showing that charter school students don’t perform better on standardized tests than students at traditional public schools in the city. Chicago Sun-Times

 IL: Springfield rally today over raft of charter school bills. Feeling challenged by about a dozen bills under consideration in Springfield, advocates of privately run but publicly funded charter schools are set to descend on the state Capitol for a Tuesday rally. Chicago Tribune

 

 

April 7, 2014

News

NC: The good, the bad, and the odd about the latest Commerce privatization proposal. . .But the committee also included provisions that change the North Carolina economic development partnership plan for the worse. Perhaps most critically, the updated legislation does not fully address the problems arising from pay-to-play incentive granting. Rather than explicitly eliminating pay-to-play by prohibiting businesses that donate to the new partnership from receiving state incentive grants, the legislation simply “encourages the nonprofit corporation to seek private funds from businesses and entities that are unlikely to seek economic development incentives or contacts with the state.” Although a step in the right direction, this “encouragement” is far too weak to adequately protect taxpayer dollars from companies that donate to the partnership solely to influence recommendations over incentive-granting. The Department of Commerce may well make the final determination over whether the company receives the incentives, but it appears unlikely that Commerce would ignore the recommendations of the partnership. As a result, the opportunity for pay-to-play remains intact.  The Progressive Pulse

FL: Records show emails between Orlando toll-road board member, developer. A board member of Orlando’s expressway authority offered to introduce possible investors to the managing partner of a billion-dollar development pegged to a toll road the agency is building, records reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel reveal. The documents indicate Scott Batterson of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority helped connect three companies with Maitland attorney Jim Palmer, who heads Kelly Park Crossing, which would be constructed around the sole interchange of the Wekiva Parkway for nearly 15 miles.  Orlando Sentinel

OH: Why are charters in Ohio are very different from those in some other states?  Charters in Ohio collect $900 million yearly from taxpayers, but there are important questions they will not answer.  .  .“Who runs the building? “Who is that person’s supervisor? “Who is the management company in charge? “How does one contact the school board? “When does the board meet? “Only 1 in 4 Ohio Charter Schools answered these five basic questions. That’s right. Only 1 in 4 Charters told members of the public, who pay $900 million a year for these schools, when the school board meets. And these schools are called “public schools” throughout the Ohio Revised Code. Perhaps this is why courts around the country are finding that Charter Schools aren’t actually public schools? Because they act like private schools? DianeRavitch

GA: Georgia universities could become biggest test for privatizing college housing. Georgia is on course to become one of the nation’s largest experiments in privatized college dorms, but it’s unclear whether the changes will lower students’ bills at a time when university costs are soaring. The new arrangements would lease to private companies the future revenue streams from the dorms — essentially student rent. In exchange, companies would oversee maintenance, and also take on responsibility for any existing debt on leased properties.  The Republic

MI: Editorial: What we’d lose by privatizing Detroit’s water system. . . Make no mistake: All of the dire outcomes suburban leaders foretell will come to pass, regardless of who is in control the region’s water system. But private management will take the public’s voice out of the process. It’s a classic case of shortsighted politics taking precedence over sound policy, and that’s exactly what holds the region back from broader cooperation. Detroit Free Press

LA: Public-private partnerships growing in Louisiana. The concept of using public dollars to assist or attract private development is nothing new. Louisiana has long used tax increment financing (TIF) and other financial tools to help private companies offset initial investments or build faciltites that create jobs and serve a public interest. And those partnerships are becoming more prevalent in Northwest Louisiana.  Shreveport Times

FL: Privatize school buses? No way, says their union. The Hillsborough County school district is the county’s single biggest employer, and that includes more than 1,300 people in the transportation department. Their pay ranges from just under $8,000 for the aides who assist the special-needs children to between $70,000 and $104 for the top-level managers. Now the “P” word is being spoken: Privatize. . .  The suggestion comes as dozens of drivers turn out at community meetings to complain about their equipment, work conditions and the way the department is run. Not surprisingly, the idea did not sit well with their union, the Hillsborough Service Employees Federation.  Tampa Bay Times

CT: Plan to privatize Southington transfer station would limit resident access. A proposal for a local recycling company to operate the town’s bulky waste transfer station could save the town as much as $200,000 but reduce the number of free trips for residents. . . . Town Manager Garry Brumback said the company proposed limiting trips to the station to two per resident every six months. Residents would also have to separate waste or pay a fee to dump unsorted waste. . . In HQ’s presentation, Champagne said, the company overestimated how much the town spends on running the station, throwing off savings projections. “I don’t think they realized we’re that efficient,” said Champagne, a Republican.  Meriden Record-Journal