September 1, 2014

News 

Reason Foundation comes unhinged at populist revolt against tolls
Bob Poole of the Reason Foundation has decided to pick a fight he can’t win. He just published an article personally attacking anti-toll group leaders across the nation, and he had a extra special below-the-belt attack saved just for yours truly. He’s responding to the populist anti-toll revolt taking place in America, and he can’t help but go on the attack because these grassroots efforts are finally making progress. He’s lashing out in response to a 5-page cover story in the Weekly Standard that slammed the new rage among transportation think tanks like Reason, called HOT lanes. It stands for High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. Sometimes they convert existing HOV lanes into toll lanes, other times they’re new lanes but only open to carpoolers and those who pay tolls.
mySanAntonio.com (blog)

OH: Inmates seek food outside cafeteria
Junk food and cell-made meals cobbled together with commissary items appear to be the preferred bill of fare for some Ohio inmates with distaste for the prison-provided food. Purchases at prison commissaries have jumped since Aramark Correctional Services took over meal service last fall, with some prisoners complaining about food quality and quantity. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has fined Aramark $272,300 in ordering it to fix problems while accepting shared responsibility for the presence of maggots in some food-service area.  A Dispatch analysis of commissary food-sales figures suggests that some inmates are using their limited pocketbooks to vote on the desirability of prison meals that Aramark provides at a cost of $3.61 a day per inmate.  Columbus Dispatch

MI: Poll: Don’t open new charter schools until review
The state should place a moratorium on opening any new charter schools until the Michigan Department of Education and the state Legislature conduct a full review of the charter school system, a majority of respondents in a new poll say. . . . The poll comes as state schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan awaits responses from 11 of the state’s 40 charter authorizers on why he shouldn’t suspend their ability to open new schools. The authorizers were put on an “at risk” list for reasons that include academic performance, significant financial deficiencies in their 2013 audit, or if one or more of their schools had charter contracts that failed to meet certain requirements by MDE. It also comes on the heels of an investigation by the Detroit Free Press into charter schools. The eight-day State of Charter Schools series showed that Michigan charters receive nearly $1 billion per year in taxpayer money from the state, often with little accountability, transparency or academic achievement.  Livingston Daily

LA: Analysis: Strife emerges in LSU privatization deal
. . . LSU claims it’s owed more than $25 million for services rendered as part of the 10-month-old management transfer, and the new operator of the hospitals, the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, is accusing LSU of having mismanaged its clinics. A flurry of back-and-forth letters from lawyers and health care officials seems to contradict claims that the hospital “partnership” is going well. Critics of the privatization deals, who note they were approved by LSU’s governing board with blank pages in contracts, say the disintegrating relationship between the university system and the foundation known as BRF was inevitable because the deal was sketchy from the start. Washington Time

MS: Democrats Blast Child Support Privatization
. . . House Minority Leader Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said privatization would not result in lower taxes. Anyone who attempts to convince you this is shrinking government is being disingenuous. Citizens will only see the transfer of their state tax dollars that paid the salaries of these fifty soon to be displaced workers to lawyers in Jackson that are the beneficiaries of the privatization,” Moak in a press release. It is purely a transfer of money to those savvy enough to lobby enough votes in the legislature and governors office to make it happen for them. It is the same plan that transfers money from the state treasury to ‘certain individuals’ that we have seen during the entire time this administration has been in control of state government.”  Jackson Free Press

August 29, 2014

News

TX: Texas To Vote On Toll-Free Road Funding Amendment. Voters in Texas will decide on November 4 whether they want highway funds to go only to general purpose roads and not to bicycle paths and infrastructure for foreign-owned tolling companies. Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry announced last week that Proposition 1 had qualified for the ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would reflect a major reversal from Governor Rick Perry’s push for tolling that included plans for a massive Trans Texas Corridor toll road that stalled after stirring widespread opposition. The proposition would create a temporary constitutional amendment drawing about $1 billion per year from the state’s “rainy day fund” through 2018 and depositing the cash in the highway fund for the sole use of building and repairing new roads that are free for use by all residents. The rainy day fund currently has $6.2 billion from state oil production tax. . . . As in most states, Texas frequently diverts “transportation funds” to projects that have nothing to do with transportation, such as building a park. The group Empower Texans recently criticized the Texas Department of Transportation for requesting $50 million for research into “drones, jetpacks, a hyperloop and hover cars.” TheNewspaper.com

CA: ‘Sharing Economy’ Stopped from Privatizing SF Public Parking Spaces. Following today’s close-of-business deadline that City Attorney Dennis Herrera imposed on mobile app companies seeking to facilitate sales or auctions of the city’s on-street public parking spaces, all three businesses involved in the practice have confirmed in writing that their apps are currently on hiatus in San Francisco. Herrera issued the first cease-and-desist demand to Monkey Parking on June 23, noting that the service violated state and local law, put drivers on the hook for $300 fines, and risked steep civil penalties of up to $2,500 per transaction for the company. The announcement named two other startups whose businesses similarly violated the law with mobile app-enabled schemes intended to illegally monetize San Francisco’s public parking spaces.  Capital and Main

PA: Pa. Lottery outsourcing critics say Illinois’ failed privatization could have played out here. After three years of revenues falling short of expectation, Illinois is parting ways with the private management firm it hired in 2010 to run its state lottery. The news of Illinois’ decision to divorce Northstar Lottery Group announced on Friday struck a chord with a Pennsylvania labor union official and others who had been critical of a similar pursuit by Gov. Tom Corbett to hand over the reins of the Pennsylvania Lottery to a private management firm.  The Patriot-New

MO: Petitions sufficient to challenge KC ambulance billing outsourcing. A group opposed to the Kansas City Council’s decision to outsource ambulance billing has gathered enough petition signatures to force a referendum. . . . The City Council voted 7-4 on June 19 to privatize Kansas City’s medical billing for ambulance calls, a function currently handled by Fire Department employees. The council authorized the fire chief to enter into a five-year contract with Advanced Data Processing Inc., a subsidiary of Intermedix Corp. . . . But opponents cited several cities that had serious problems with Intermedix’s customer service and failure to meet collections. They also objected to privatizing good-paying municipal jobs. Kansas City Star

Fox Still Working To Privatize The Post Office. Fox News’ Cashin’ In show used the U.S. Postal Service’s default on a $5.7 billion payment recently as little more than a pretext to bang the drum of privatization again. Jonathan Hoenig got the privatization ball rolling. “We should follow Europe in this case and privatize it just like postal industries in England, in Denmark, and in Germany.” News Hounds

Private ‘Sponsorships’ For Roadways To Fund Infrastructure?. . . We’ve see this kind of sponsorship on non-toll-roads too, in the form of a so-called “safety patrol” sponsored by State Farm. These trucks operate in metro areas to help stranded motorists with flat tires, or stalled vehicles.  Ideastream’s Tony Ganzer spoke more about these creative funding sources with Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Faulkner.  ideastream

 

 

 

August 25, 2014

News

Sparks Fly on Privatizing Air-Traffic Control

. . . Now, nearly 20 years after the last major push for the concept in the U.S. was spurned, experts and aviation trade groups again are revving up efforts to uncouple air-traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration. Rising impatience with the agency’s fiscal situation and slow, troubled rollout of modernization initiatives have sparked the latest activity, much it focused on analyzing the Canadian system. . . To that end, corporate groups such as the Business Roundtable, the nonpartisan Eno Center for Transportation and airline trade group Airlines for America are evaluating the options. Some hope they can reach a consensus before the FAA’s next reauthorization bill goes before Congress in September of next year, although others concede it is bound to take longer. . . . Some critics in the U.S. say Nav Canada isn’t applicable because the U.S. has much busier, more complex airspace. FlightAware.com estimates that more than 9,000 flights a day operate in Canada.  Wall Street Journal

In A Victory for Public Education Judge Says NC School Vouchers Are Unconstitutional
. . . Republicans believe America’s first four Presidents were completely wrong and in several states are regularly taking government money intended for public education and handing it directly to private Christian schools under the guise of vouchers for “charter schools,” a clear violation of the Constitution. In North Carolina last week, a judge finally struck down a Republican school voucher scam to transfer public school funding directly to private religious schools as patently unconstitutional, and elucidated why vouchers, charter schools, and private religious schools fail constitutional muster.  PoliticusUSA

Recent toll road poll proves nothing; private financing of public roads is still a bad idea
. . . As I have written before in this space, the private funding of public infrastructure is a bad idea, a giant money grab by the big banks and politically connected mega-construction companies. Many of these companies are in fact international consortiums, accountable to nobody but their bondholders. And as the defeat by voters of the Trans-Texas Corridor  proved, most citizens of the Lone Star State don’t want to pay money to Spain for the right to use their own roads.  Equipment World

TX: Big Dallas Plunder: Open Door to Wholesale School Privatization
. . .Since 2011, Educate Dallas, a PAC backed by the Dallas Regional Chamber (the local Chamber of Commerce), has raised $661,953 in cash on hand for its school board war chest, and the Dallas-based education reform PAC Kids First, led by millionaire tech CEO Ken Barth, has raised $661,616. . . What made white businessmen from Dallas’ segregated northern enclaves, who typically donate to their children’s private academies, start caring about the plight of a low-income district?. . . Charters have been expanding in Dallas over the past 15 years, especially in the wake of the closure of 11 public schools in early 2012. And the Chamber boasts a number of charter-school operators among its members, including longtime affiliates Uplift Education and Texans CAN Academies, two of the city’s largest charter chains.  Truth-Out

TX: Sounding Off: Rockwall-Rowlett readers tell us if Blacklands Corridor toll road is needed
. . . Mary Grimaldo, Garland: Why in the world would Texas allow a private corporation to build a toll road to be used by the public? That will just greatly increase the cost of the road to taxpayers who ultimately pay for this. Can the state not just improve and widen the existing highway? That will cost much less than paying a corporation to build a toll road, which will ultimately cost taxpayers much more over the years. I think it is an awful idea.  Dallas Morning New

LA: Hospital manager says it paid nearly $7M for debt tied to privatization of LSU hospitals
. . . The research foundation took control of the two hospitals in October 2013 and operates them as University Health System, as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system. The foundation had never previously run a patient facility. In a letter sent this week, LSU accused the foundation of using it like a “personal piggy bank” and said it was owed $25.3 million in unpaid debts, money that the university system said it needed for the medical school operations in Shreveport. LSU claimed the foundation also hasn’t completed a list of ancillary agreements related to hospital operations. . . . The angry exchange of letters comes only a year after the privatization deal was reached. At the time, the Jindal administration and university leaders championed the contract as a way to improve health care for the poor and uninsured who rely on the hospitals for care and to bolster the medical training programs that use the facilities. The foundation’s president, John George, is a Jindal campaign contributor who was one of the Republican governor’s appointees to the LSU Board of Supervisors at the time the privatization contract was crafted.   Greenfield Daily Reporter

August 22, 2014

News 

We Must Protect Taxpayers in Public-Private Partnerships
But using P3s – which insert private interests into the development of public infrastructure – has proven to be difficult and even counterproductive when adequate care isn’t taken to protect the public interest and include equity considerations and standards. Governments often fail to fully consider the direct and indirect policy implications of these arrangements, the economic and fiscal impacts of long-term contracts, and fail to seize opportunities to create family-supporting jobs and alleviate poverty.  Huffington Post (blog)

NC: Judge rules state voucher program unconstitutional
. . . Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled that it is unconstitutional for tax dollars to go to privately run schools. Hobgood also said because the vouchers were going to schools that are not required to meet state curriculum requirements, the program violated the state constitution’s guarantee of a sound basic education. . . . The case centered on what state lawmakers call the opportunity scholarships program. It provides up to $4,200 to parents who meet income requirements and want to send a child to private school. To be eligible, students have to live in a household there they would qualify for free or reduced price lunch. That’s about $44,000 for a family of four. . . . “They (the vouchers) were truly unconstitutional, and they also did not have the welfare of all students at heart,” said Sandra Byrd, who taught education at UNC Asheville before she retired. Byrd was one of six local plaintiffs who took part in the one of the lawsuits. Asheville Citizen-Times

OH: Editorial: Public beware
Texas State Highway 130 was a private toll road, but toll revenues did not live up to expectations and private investors defaulted on bank loans. The South Bay Expressway in San Diego went bankrupt and was resold. After Chicago turned its parking meters over to a private company, rates increased dramatically. . . . States such as Ohio must learn from the mistakes of others. It seems that the more governments lose control of their core duties for long periods, the more trouble they invite. Everybody beware. Toledo Blade

AZ: Schools, Society And Snake Oil Salesmen – Opinion
. . . However, some people deny this fundamental correlation between family income and educational achievement. In fact, leaders of the Education Reform/Privatization movement have spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars purposely, systematically, repeatedly denying the connection, or at least minimizing its importance. Low achievement by students from low income families isn’t about poverty, they maintain. It’s about failing schools, bad teachers — and, of course, teachers unions which pamper their members and ignore the needs of the students. “Stop making excuses!” they shout to people who acknowledge that low income schools tend to have low performing students. “Students will do great things if you just give them great teachers with high expectations!”  Tucson Weekly

August 21, 2014

News

NLRB slams Postal Service for Staples privatization deal
Providing yet more  evidence that U.S. Postal Service management is headed in the wrong direction – at least where its workers are concerned – a National Labor Relatios Board official slammed its scheme to subcontract services to Staples stores. And half the U.S. Senate now opposes management’s plan to close 82 more distribution centers. . . .  NLRB Administrative Law Judge Eric Fine dealt the legal blow. He ruled that, since last November, USPS broke labor law in refusing to provide requested materials, e-mails and memos about the Staples deal to APWU. That includes Staples’ uncensored contract with the USPS and financial details. The Postal Service called the Staples scheme a “pilot project.” The political slam was the bipartisan letter from 50 senators. They asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to insert language any money bill that affects the Postal Service banning USPS from closing more distribution centers nationwide. They also asked their colleagues to preserve 6-day pickup and delivery.  People’s World

FBI Tracks Charter Schools
There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country. From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments. . . . What’s going on here? Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education’s inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.  PR Watch

OH: Ohio Turnpike says sponsorships, ads OK, but not naming rights to tollway
. . . They’ve given the go-ahead to selling advertising and sponsorships on dozens of other turnpike assets, from first responder emergency vehicles to pet walking zones and trucker lounges. Even snowplows, salt domes and vending machines can be advertising venues, according to Legends Sales & Marketing,  which sized up the turnpike and its assets. Turnpike spokesman Adam Greenslade said a Legends sales team is in the field now, drumming up clients in an advertising push that could generate “several million dollars” a year. Monetizing the turnpike is part of a larger effort by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration to address transportation budget shortfalls. Turnpike and state highway departments scattered nationwide are trying the same thing, though few if any are pursuing it as actively as the Ohio Turnpike, said Neil Gray, government affairs director at the International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association.  The Plain Dealer

LA: Feds pose new questions about University Medical Center deal
Federal regulators are seeking more information on Louisiana’s deal with LCMC Health to lease and operate University Medical Center. The hospital is under construction in New Orleans’ Mid-City and on schedule to open next year, but the latest request seems likely to cause a further delay in the federal government’s decision on whether to approve the state’s plans. . . . The methodology for determining minimum financial performance “appears to be overly dependent on Medicaid revenues,” agency official Bill Brooks wrote in a letter Tuesday to Ruth Kennedy, the state’s Medicaid director. That means funding levels from the federal health insurance program could determine the amount of rent LCMC pays, Brooks wrote. . . . His letter provides new insight into his agency’s concerns with the lease deal, one of six that the state has confected to privatize its hospitals. Those deals relied on amendments to the state’s Medicaid plan, but the amendments were submitted last summer — after the leases were inked.  The Times-Picayune

August 20, 2014

News 

LA: Hope, Resentment in New Charter School Landscape
Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The majority of public school students will attend charter schools established by a state-run school district created in the aftermath of the storm. . . . Still, most charter schools overseen by the RSD rate no better than a “C” grade in the state accountability system, while a half-dozen schools still run by the school board get an “A.” More than half of the RSD’s third-through-eighth-grade students have basic “fundamental” knowledge and skill in subjects like reading and math, up from 23 percent seven years ago, according to the state education department. Still, only 12 percent display “mastery” of subject matter.  ABC News 

MD: “Consultant” contract prompts concerns that the city may privatize its troubled waterworks
. . . “Project 1224, Procurement of Consultant Services: Water and Wastewater Plants Efficiency Study,” was advertised in early summer, drawing two “letters of interest,” the first step in determining who gets the contract. A French company, Veolia, and PA Consulting of the United Kingdom were the companies that submitted letters. Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based nonprofit that has been bird-dogging water-privatization schemes around the world for 10 years, asked to see the letters and emailed local media to pitch the story. The group believes the city contract is the first step in a water-privatization scheme, and means to stop it.   Baltimore City Paper

WI: Exclusive: Milwaukee County Zoo Food, Catering and Retail Concessions May Be Privatized
With no public discussion, the Milwaukee County Zoo offered a request for proposals (RFP) to operate and manage its lucrative food service, catering and retail operations from interested private vendors. The timeline is tight. The RFPs were sent out on July 18, on-site visits were scheduled for July 30 and 31, and bids were due last Friday, Aug. 15. . . . But you’d have to be an insider to know about this fast-tracked privatization plan. The matter never came before the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, nor was it included in last year’s budget. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele doesn’t appear to have talked about it in public, either, and his aides wouldn’t respond to the Shepherd’s request to comment for this article. Express Milwaukee

AL: Editorial: City not as eager as state for toll road
. . .This proposed bridge and toll road, ultimately, are another gift to big business, just like tax breaks, free property and infrastructure that go in incentive packages. It will decrease traffic on the Hudson bridge, at least to some degree, but at a cost. That cost will be either in the form of a toll, for commuters who choose to pay it, or a delay in reaching their destination because of the slow service road. Therefore, it will in fact do little to make the free route north of the city more time and cost efficient.  The Decatur Daily

Skanska’s U.S. Chief Sees More Public-Private Infrastructure to Come
. . . . Skanska, a global colossus with $21 billion of revenue last year. . . Mr. Cavallaro said such partnerships will become more common as federal funding for infrastructure projects remains harder to obtain. “It’s a trend that will continue,” he said Tuesday in an interview. “The private industry can deliver these projects more efficiently. Even if (federal) funding returned in a really consistent way, I still think there’s a place for public-private partnerships.” Wall Street Journal (blog)

August 19, 2014

News 

Fake Security Screener Highlights a Concern

. . . Passenger screening at the San Francisco airport is performed not by the T.S.A. but by a private company, Covenant Aviation Security, under the Screening Partnership Program, which was mandated by Congress to allow airports to choose private contractors to perform passenger screening, rather than the T.S.A. Including San Francisco, which is by far the largest, 18 American airports use private screening contractors. The T.S.A. oversees them. Mr. Pistole said it was unacceptable that an impostor was able to take women into a private room in a security area at the airport. “We are dealing with the vendor,” he said. New York Times

LA: Auditor questions data used in health department review of Medicaid privatization program
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal’s privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.  The Republic

NV: State dumps public-private financing for massive I-15 project
. . . . The partnership would have used private equity to design, build, operate and maintain a stretch of I-15 near the Spaghetti Bowl for 35 years. The state would have made payments to the private company, similar to a home mortgage. But since the public-private partnership was approved in June 2013, changes to the project’s scope and uncertainty in the financial markets made it a less attractive option. “The ground has shifted beneath our feet in terms of interest rates and the best delivery method,” Sandoval said. Department of Transportation documents show the projected cost of Project Neon under the public-private partnership has increased from $602 million to $740 million over the last year. The biggest drivers of the price jump are higher interest rates, an expanded project scope and increased maintenance costs. Las Vegas Sun

IN: Illinois dumps private lottery manager, raising questions in Indiana
The Illinois Lottery is dumping its private management company after it failed to meet profit goals for the third year in a row, renewing questions about the privatization of the Hoosier Lottery. Hoosier Lottery commissioners took a big gamble in 2012 when they followed Illinois’ example and hired GTECH to manage the lottery on a day-to-day basis. The company promised to boost revenue dramatically over the next five years and to bring in $256 million during its first year, which ended last month. Lottery officials previously said that GTECH topped $1 billion in sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s a record. But officials acknowledged that GTECH likely would fall short of the $256 million it promised to the state when it won the second-in-the-nation private management contract in October 2012. Indianapolis Star

OK: Proposed new Tulsa charter schools could require change in state law
The Tulsa school board learned Monday that a new kind of partnership with three newly proposed charter schools could require a state attorney general’s opinion or change in law and involve co-locating some of the schools in traditional public school facilities. . . . “If we do a contract, we are entering into new territory,” Superintendent Keith Ballard told the board. “We would have to secure an AG’s opinion or a change in law to go forward with charter-contracts. … The contracts could extend into co-locations. That’s where we got the concept — from charter-contract co-locations in Spring Branch, Texas.”  Tulsa World

MS: Public hearing set for reef fish regulations in Gulfport
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing for the Reef Fish Amendment 40 Sector Separation proposal on August 19 in Gulfport. Among other things, the amendment proposes the separation of recreational angling into two components – private and federal for-hire. Criticism has come from both the Coastal Conservation Association and the Mississppi Charter Boat Captains Association. . . “CCA is strongly opposed to the privatization of our fisheries, and the concept of giving a public resource to private entities. Clarion Ledger

NY: Lawsuit challenges tenure laws
A group calling itself the Partnership for Educational Justice, led by former CNN anchor and student education crusader Campbell Brown, has filed a lawsuit in Albany County Supreme Court challenging teacher tenure laws in New York state. . . . Magee called the lawsuit a dressed up attack on working people and said the groups behind it should be fighting for more resources for public schools, rather than fighting against tenure. “Those bankrolling this assault on teachers and reasonable protections against injustice have no interest in providing every child with a quality public school education. If they did, they long ago would have joined parents, teachers and unions in fighting for the resources all children need,” Magee said. “This suit is just another attack on public education and on working people by wealthy elitists who stand to profit from privatizing public schools. It is telling that Brown refuses to identify her donors.” LegislativeGazette.com

MI: Building civic capacity in Detroit: Inspiration from Zagreb, Croatia
. . . . Their members have been active in promoting the “right to the city” campaign against the gentrification of downtown Zagreb, as well as a campaign against the privatization of the state highway system. One group coming out of Mama protested the sale of undeveloped public land on the Adriatic coast for a golf course, which triggered a public referendum on the issue.  . . . In Detroit, we need more community organizations fostering a collaborative spirit where we share best practices and resources. We need to expand the resources available to build creative and relevant businesses, and we need more funders to invest in community organizing  infrastructure that builds the capacity of residents to be leaders in development and revitalization. Model D

August 18, 2014

News 

Public dollars, private rules: The charter school calculus
The phenomenal growth of charter schools nationwide has been aided by a canny legal strategy in which the schools claim to be public for the purpose of taking in tax dollars but private for the purpose of evading government oversight, according to Preston Green, John and Carla Klein Professor of Urban Education at UConn’s Neag School of Education.  “They’re picking and choosing whether they’re going to be public for one purpose or private for another,” says Green, who is also a professor of educational leadership and law at UConn.  Phys.Org

Editorial: A caution on P3s: Let elected officials and the public beware
When it comes to public-private partnerships, so-called “P3s,” the old adage — let the buyer beware — needs to be updated for governments planning to join with private companies to do public work or assume a public function. Let the public deal-maker beware. Let the public beware, too. Those P3 deals that look great in theory can be bad in reality. So demonstrated the report by the Post-Gazette’s Len Boselovic, who took a detailed look at the practice in a four-part series, “The P3 Dilemma,” that debuted last Sunday.  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Opinion: Teaching Is Not a Business
. . .Charter schools have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools. Vouchers are also supposed to increase competition by giving parents direct say over the schools their children attend, but the students haven’t benefited. For the past generation, Milwaukee has run a voucher experiment, with much-debated outcomes that to me show no real academic improvement. While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education — bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum — goes undiscussed. The New York Times

White House Initiative to Expand Public-Private Partnerships
In a formal memorandum to the heads of Federal departments and agencies, President Obama directed a series of actions that are designed to enhance the use of P3s and to encourage awareness of a variety of federal financing tools. The memorandum states that it is the “policy of the Federal Government” to “facilitate, as appropriate, greater public and private partnership and collaboration, including with international investors and companies” for infrastructure projects. In order to promote the heightened use of P3s, the memorandum directs the following specific actions. The National Law Review

IL: Gov. fires private manager of Illinois Lottery amid mismanagement
In the wake of Gov. Pat Quinn’s firing of the private firm operating the Illinois lottery, further evidence has come to light that the state’s choice of the company, Northstar, was out of compliance with Illinois law in the first place. An investigation over the past several months by The Chronicle has shown that since the privatization of the Illinois Lottery in 2011, Northstar has failed to produce projected profits and has not held required Lottery Control Board meetings since assuming control of the state lottery’s daily operations.  The Columbia Chronicle

SC: Privatization of SC’s welfare to work program questioned
. . . In this case, a move by DSS to contract with the private firms at a total cost of $13.7 million since 2012 is being questioned. By DSS’s own standards, the program appeared to be doing well before the companies came aboard. . . In 2012 and part of 2013, DSS referred 9,468 people on or applying to welfare-to-jobs, which is a nearly 10-year low, according to DSS data. It’s also down from fiscal 2011, when the department helped almost 14,000 welfare recipients gain employment, a department best over the nearly 10-year span. “If this is Gov. Haley’s definition of success, she has very little to be proud of,” said Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia.  Charleston Post Courier

August 15, 2014

News 

CA: Orange County Fairgrounds Preservationists Seek Jerry Brown Veto of Privatization Bill
. . . The group is urging those who oppose privatization to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to veto Assembly Bill 2490, which is characterized as the first step in removing public fairgrounds from state oversight in California “so they can be handed over to private corporations.” “No member of the public ever asked for this bill to be written–lobbyists for groups wanting to take our public fairgrounds away from us and turn them into private property wrote the bill,” states an Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society email to supporters. “When our fairgrounds are handed over to a private corporation, we all lose.” OC Weekly (blog)

MD: Is Baltimore City’s Water Supply Up For Privatization?
City Hall denies the charge, but workers and advocates say an upcoming water contract could be a foot in the door for privatization. The Real News Network

IL: Redflex Officials Charged With Bribery, Fraud, Conspiracy
Karen FinleyThe former head of US operations for Redflex Traffic Systems was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury. Karen Finley, 54, was charged with nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to use bribes to win and expand a lucrative red light camera contract with Chicago, Illinois worth $124 million. . . . In May, federal prosecutors indicted John Bills, Chicago’s deputy transportation commissioner, for accepting $643,000 worth of cash and benefits from Redflex in return for his providing essential insider information on how to win the lucrative contract for what became the world’s largest municipal red light camera program. TheNewspaper.com

Transportation to federalize some IT contractors
The Transportation Department will be federalizing some of its IT contractor workforce in order to save money and invest in new programs, according to its chief information officer Richard McKinney. He said at the 2014 Federal Forum in Washington Aug. 13 that there are about 50 federal employees and 250 contractors running its shared services and common operating environment platforms, and that contractors cost significantly more money . . . “We did an exhaustive analysis and the long and short of it is we were spending a lot more. Just let me say the number was eye-popping,” McKinney said. He said he sat down with agency employees to decide which jobs should be federal and which should remain contractors.  Federal Times

August 14, 2014

News

MA: Water company lobbyist admits pulling fire alarm at Oxford town meeting
A lobbyist for the company that owns the water system and who was accused of pulling a fire alarm during discussion of a controversial article at the May town meeting admitted to the act during a closed-door hearing, according to an email from Police Chief Michael Hassett to Selectman Chairman John G. Saad.  William F. Malloy Jr., of 31 Wildcat Lane in Norwell, had been charged with a false fire alarm violation and disturbing a public assembly.  Mr. Malloy’s alleged motive was to prevent an early-morning re-vote that might have resulted in the town’s takeover of the company. Telegram

MD: Protesters question city water system study
About 50 protesters rallied Wednesday outside Baltimore City Hall to object to a proposed study of the water system, a step they fear could eventually put the system in private hands. The group, led by labor organizers and the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International, is worried that a $500,000 consultant’s study could lead to the private management of the water system. Baltimore Sun

IN: Lawsuit: Virtual charter school owes $600K for services
Indiana Cyber Charter School, a virtual charter with locations in Fort Wayne and Avon, is accused of not paying Pennsylvania-based National Network of Digital Schools for contracted services and not following through with an additional repayment plan agreement. National Network filed the lawsuit July 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.. . . The school listed 200 students enrolled for 2013-14 academic year, according to state data. Passage rate for this spring’s ISTEP exam was 54.4 percent — 20 percentage points lower than the state average.  Indianapolis Star

NJ: NJEA decries ‘massive corporate takeover’ of Camden schools
. . . The New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union, jumped on the announcement and issued a scathing critique of the bill as an expansion of the “privatization” of the district. The NJEA supported the original law, passed in 2012, but said the amended bill would allow charter-school expansion that ran counter to the original intent of the legislation.  Newsworks.org

The Law-School Scam
. . . There are only a small number of for-profit law schools nationwide. But a close look at them reveals that the perverse financial incentives under which they operate are merely extreme versions of those that afflict contemporary American higher education in general. And these broader systemic dysfunctions have potentially devastating consequences for a vast number of young people—and for higher education as a whole.  The Atlantic