September 19, 2014

News

MI: Editorial: Hey, Gov. Snyder: Prison food contract is rotten. Disgusting. That’s the only word to describe the way Michigan has handled privatization of its prison food service. A $145-million, three-year contract awarded to Aramark Correctional Services is saving the State of Michigan about $12 million a year (at the cost of 370 state jobs). But here’s what Michigan taxpayers are buying: Maggots in food prep areas and near prisoners’ food; employees engaging in sex acts with inmates, and the services of two enterprising Aramark workers who smuggled in drugs — one brought 39 packages of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and tobacco into a prison. . . . Critics of privatization say the state’s guidelines focus on only one thing: Whether privatization will save the state at least 5%, with no focus on quality. They’re absolutely right. The problem is that as guardians of the public trust, state officials owe citizens a lot more. Considerations about how services are delivered matter. So do thoughtful analyses of whether a private contractor is sufficiently sensitive to the goal of the public service they’re seeking to provide.  Detroit Free Press

MI: Michigan Dems propose charter school moratorium, call for new oversight standards. Some Democrats in the state House are calling for a temporary moratorium on new charter schools in Michigan. . . . “Michigan has more for-profit charter schools than any other state in the nation,” said Roberts. “State law does not effectively prevent insider dealing and conflict of interest for those who operate charter schools, and yet they spend $1 billion of our taxpayer dollars every year.” The proposal comes in the wake of a Detroit Free Press series detailing instances of wasteful spending, conflicts of interest and poor academic performance by some charter schools, which receive public funding but are governed by different rules than traditional public schools. MLive.com

IN: Toll Road Operator Gets 90 Days To Prove It Can Pay Debts. The debt-ridden operators of the Indiana Toll Road have less than three months to prove they can meet financial obligations, according to state officials. Stephanie McFarland, a spokeswoman for the  government agency that oversees state-related debt, the Indiana Finance Authority, says the IFA sent a letter to the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. late last month requiring the company to demonstrate it can pay its debts. “We are aware that the ITRCC and its lenders are in the process of finalizing negotiations for a debt settlement,” said McFarland in an email. “We have issued a letter reminding ITRCC of its financial-performance responsibilities, and to demonstrate within 90 days that they are meeting those obligations with their lenders.” Indiana Public Media

Opinion: Actually, public education is getting better, not worse. Few consistent tools are available to measure the quality of U.S. education over time; the best we have is probably the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, first administered in 1971. And believe it or not, NAEP scores have been steadily improving, with most national measures now at or around all-time highs. The biggest gains have generally gone to nonwhite students, helping narrow — though not eliminate — the achievement gap. Other metrics, too, suggest that schools are improving. Dropout rates are at record lows, and the share of high school students who take higher-level courses such as calculus has risen.. . . Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, argues that the schools themselves are also being demonized, thanks to clear-eyed ideology rather than rose-colored nostalgia. “U.S. public education is the victim of a propaganda campaign to discredit it and promote privatization,” she says. She traces this back to the 1983 “A Nation at Risk” report from President Ronald Reagan’s education commission and argues that business leaders and politicians have increasingly used public schools since then as scapegoats for other societal ills. Washington Post

September 18, 2014

News

Panel urges transparency, caution for public-private partnerships
Public-private partnerships are neither a silver bullet nor a free lunch, a U.S. House panel has concluded in a final report to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The House Panel on Public-Private Partnerships published its report on Wednesday, Sept. 17, urging transparency and accountability to the public whenever a PPP, also known as a P3, is being considered. . . .The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee formed the PPP panel in January, asking for recommendations for balancing the need to generate more cash for infrastructure while protecting the public interest. Panelists, led by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, R-Tenn., said PPPs can provide needed funding but should be used with caution. . . . The report also acknowledges and celebrates a strong federal role in transportation infrastructure. Land Line Magazine

Are We Privatizing Public Universities?
“Public education is in crisis — and it has been for some time. The problem is, no one can agree on the problem, and when there is no agreement on the problem, developing solutions is nearly impossible.” Thus writes Matthew Lambert in his new book, Privatization and the Public Good: Public Universities in the Balance, an analysis of present-day public higher education, which is currently plagued by momentous challenges. HGSE News

MI: Judge pauses Detroit’s bankruptcy trial again
US. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ordered a week-long break in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial on Wednesday, giving the last major objector to the city’s restructuring plan time to rework its case. The hearing will be adjourned from Friday and reconvene on Sept. 29. It was also placed on hiatus last week for three days while the city applied finishing touches to a settlement with another creditor. . . Also on Wednesday, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan urged the city council to support a proposed Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA)that would allow the city to maintain control of its water and sewer services, while gaining $50 million a year for 40 years from leasing the systems to the new regional authority. Detroit and at least one of three southeast Michigan counties served by the city’s water and sewerage department must approve the deal by Oct. 10. Without an affirmative vote on Friday, Duggan said Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr could opt to privatize the system. Council President Brenda Jones raised concerns that Detroit must put the authority before voters under the city charter. But Duggan said there was no time for a vote, while his legal staff said Michigan law suspended Detroit’s charter as long as Orr is emergency manager. Reuters

IN: State asks private Indiana Toll Road operator for proof it’s meeting its debt obligations
The state agency that oversees the Indiana Toll Road has given the highway’s debt-saddled private operator until late November to prove that it’s meeting its debt obligations amid reports that the company is considering filing for bankruptcy and selling off its multi-billion-dollar toll road lease. . . . The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Granger, Indiana-based ITR Concession was weighing a possible bankruptcy filing as company officials work to reduce their roughly $6 billion debt load through a debt restructuring that could set the stage for it to sell its toll-road lease. The newspaper also reported that ITR Concession’s missed June debt interest payment spurred it to push ahead with debt restructuring talks with hedge funds that bought its bank debt for the tollway lease. The Republic

NJ: Employees protest the privatization of state group homes
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are hoping to raise awareness for what they say are the damaging affects of privatizing state group home.  ”What would happen is they would be out of work, some of them would be able to draw employment or bump other employees that would put them out of work,” said AFSCME Local 2215 president, Mattie Harrell.  NBC40

September 17, 2014

News

IN: Indiana Toll Road failing despite 176 percent toll increase for trucks. Reports out of Indiana suggest that the foreign operators of the Indiana Toll Road will soon be filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to restructure more $6 billion in debt. The announcement comes just eight years into the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co.’s 75-year lease of the roadway and despite a 176 percent toll increase on five-axle trucks. . . . Prior to the lease, a five-axle truck paid $14 to cross the state. That same truck currently pays $38.70 regardless of whether the toll is paid in cash or through E-ZPass. The lease agreement also contained a “non-compete” clause that prohibits the state of Indiana from fixing up nearby toll-free roads that compete with the Indiana Toll Road for traffic. . . . The effects of the lease will continue to compound over time. According to lease language, the operator of the toll road is guaranteed a 3-percent toll increase per year through the year 2081. That means the current $38.70 toll paid by trucks will project out to more than $280 by the time the lease expires. Land Line Magazine

IL: Rahm to Aramark: Clean up the schools or clean out your desks. Responding to reports of filthy conditions inside Chicago Public Schools after privatizing janitorial management, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Aramark could “clean out the schools or they can clean out their desks and get out.” . . . Emanuel said Board President David Vitale has been in contact with the private management firm. Vitale and other board members had voted earlier this year to give Aramark a $260 million contract to manage the district’s custodians and cleaning supplies. . . . Principals have complained in a survey conducted by AAPPLE, an activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, that since Aramark took over, schools have not been well cleaned, supplies are inadequate and that they and teachers spend more time than ever cleaning the schools. CPS, when presenting the Aramark proposal in February, said the district would save money, schools would be more thoroughly cleaned and principals would be freed from managing their janitors so they could focus on instruction. Chicago Sun-Times

CFPB Accuses Corinthian Colleges Of Cheating Students. For-profit education company Corinthian Colleges Inc. misled students into taking out unaffordable loans by falsely advertising job prospects, then used illegal debt collection tactics to force distressed students to pay up, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Corinthian owns Everest Institute, Everest College, WyoTech and Heald colleges, which collectively have more than 70,000 students and annually receive $1.4 billion in federal financial aid. The company is winding down all its operations in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education. Huffington Post

Likely bridges toll operator looking to grow in US. The company chosen Monday to operate the toll system for the Ohio River Bridges Project was formed nearly four years ago, when an Austrian firm bought a Canadian supplier of electronic toll equipment. . . . . Kapsch TrafficCom IVHS, whose parent company is headquartered in Austria, is known as an international toll road operator whose projects include European countries – such as the Czech Republic and Poland – and roads in Australia, Chile and India. One of its specialties is toll roads where tolls are assessed through license plates and transponders – the approach taken by Kentucky and Indiana. . . .[T]he company names North America as a region where it sees the “largest potential” in the tolling market, and where it has acquired several toll-related businesses since 2008. It also cites work with the E-ZPass system, which includes 24 agencies in 14 states and is planned for the Louisville bridges, and tolling software work on California’s Golden Gate Bridge. WDRB

 

 

September 16, 2014

News

NY: Lawsuit Targets Funding Gap for Charter Schools. A lawsuit filed by a group of charter-school supporters alleges that a chronic funding gap between charter schools and traditional public schools violates the state constitution and disproportionately hurts minority students. . . . The suit, filed late Monday in state Supreme Court on behalf of five families in Buffalo and Rochester, says charter students in Buffalo received around $9,800 less than their district-school counterparts in the 2011-12 school year, which they said was the largest disparity in the state. In Rochester, charter students received around $6,600 less, according to the suit. . . . “This lawsuit is simply another deceptive attempt for charter schools to divert even more money away from public schools,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group for public schools. Charter-school advocates acknowledged that a court battle could take years, but they hoped the lawsuit would pressure the state legislature to act. Wall Street Journal

IL: Chicago Public Schools chief tries to quell custodian controversy. Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Monday acknowledged the controversy surrounding the district’s move to outsource school cleaning but said contracted custodians will be held accountable for clean buildings. . . The dispute over school cleanliness continued over the weekend when district officials said nearly 480 custodians who work in CPS buildings will be laid off by a private company that manages school upkeep through a multimillion-dollar contract signed in March. A district spokesman later said terminating the district’s custodial contracts had not been discussed, but officials are meeting with school principals to determine their satisfaction with the work and if changes are needed. Karen Lewis, president of the city’s teacher’s union and a possible mayoral candidate, called for the district to terminate its custodial contracts with the private companies, which it has the authority to do. “This is a real problem,” Lewis told reporters after attending Byrd-Bennett’s speech. “This is what happens when you have a very short-sighted notion of what privatization can do.” Chicago Tribune 

IL: Could a new company soon be in charge of the Indiana Toll Road? The company that operates the Indiana Toll Road and its lenders are finalizing negotiations for a debt settlement, said Indiana’s Toll Road Oversight Director James McGoff with the Indiana Finance Authority. But the state would not comment on reports that the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company may soon file for bankruptcy or that the Toll Road could get a new operator. It’s all reaction to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that said the ITRCC is weighing a possible bankruptcy filing in the coming weeks. WSBT-TV 

Charter school enrollments increased by 13 percent nationally, Nationwide, about 2.5 million public school students were enrolled in charter schools last school year, up from 789,000 a decade earlier, according to the most recent enrollment estimates from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Last year, the number of students enrolled increased by 12.6 percent from the year before. . .  California, one of the most populous states, led the nation in charter school growth last year with 104 new schools. It also closed 39 schools. Arizona added 87 and closed 16, and Florida added 75 and closed 26. Washington Post

September 15, 2014

News 

Trade Deals Set Their Sights on Public Workers
For much of this decade, Tea Party-backed lawmakers have been at war with public sector employees across the country. They’ve tried, and in a few cases succeeded, in taking away public servants’ ability to collectively bargain. But now the battle is going abroad. Under the guise of crafting trade agreements, big business — which bankrolled many of those same elected officials — is looking to impose provisions across the globe that open up government services to the private sector. Other language would limit the ability of democratic governments to regulate in the public interest. Simply put, corporations are looking to put their interests above the public’s interests in an effort to further fatten their wallets. . . . While most people don’t think about public sector jobs when they hear about trade deals, such pacts have increasingly held sway in the services sector. Beginning with NAFTA, trade-in-services has been a part of the discussion. And it has only increased as the General Agreement on Trade in Services and then the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) came into force. Huffington Post

Public-Private Deals Spark Turmoil
Three years ago, Carlyle Group CG bought the pipes, pumps and water wells in Missoula, Mont., and several California communities in what the firm assumed was a relatively low-risk bet. . . .Carlyle finds itself fighting in court to retain control of the Montana water utility. Missoula officials are suing under eminent domain laws to take control, accusing one of the world’s largest private-equity firms of reneging on a handshake deal to sell the system to the city. One of the California locales is considering a similar takeover for its water system. The dispute highlights the difficulties in what seems like a natural fit: using private money to fix the nation’s leaky pipes, outdated airports and crumbling bridges. . . . An accommodating municipal-bond market has given local officials cheap access to cash for repairs and upgrades. Their constituents often are leery of investors profiting from basic resources such as water. Wall Street Journal

US poised to be world’s biggest public-private partnership market
The United States is poised to become the world’s biggest marketplace for public-private partnerships as infrastructure needs soar while traditional funding for bridges, courthouses and other projects wears thin, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday. The U.S. market is also less mature than most of the rest of the world. A number of large so-called P3 projects are in the pipeline now for U.S. transportation, and once those deals close a new wave of social infrastructure projects is expected, Moody’s said.  Reuters

IN: Indiana Toll Road Operator Weighs Bankruptcy Filing
The company that leases the Indiana Toll Road is considering filing for bankruptcy in the coming weeks. They’re in the process of working out a debt settlement. In 2005, the State of Indiana leased the Indiana Toll Road to Cintra-Macquarie for $3.8 billion. . . .Nearly all of the money’s been spent – most of it on road projects. Representative David Niezgodski was elected the year after Major Moves took place, and has been against it from the beginning. Niezgodski says the potential for bankruptcy is very concerning for the future of the state, being that the lease was intended to be for 75 years. He believes 75 years is not a lease, but rather a sale. Indiana Public Media

OH: Ohio to court: Privatizing prisons in budget legal
State lawyers tell the Ohio Supreme Court that using a budget bill to privatize state prisons didn’t violate a constitutional provision holding bills to a single subject. In a brief filed Monday, Ohio said the state’s budget involves both revenues and expenses — not just appropriations. The filing comes in a legal dispute with the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. The prison workers union sued over privatization in 2012, contending that lawmakers extended beyond the single-subject rule when they used the budget to sell a state prison and turn others over to private operators. An appellate court agreed, finding in October that there was no “rational relationship” between the privatization plan and state spending. Fort Worth Star Telegram

TX: State Stumbles Forward with Foster Care Privatization
The Department of Family and Protective Services continues to push forward on a plan to bring on more private companies—despite evidence that its effort to overhaul the state’s foster care system is faltering. Many advocates think recent turmoil with Providence Services Corporation, the first contractor tapped by the state to oversee a portion of the foster care system, suggests the experiment is already a failure. The next stage in “foster care redesign,” as the state calls it, is set to take effect this month when another private company takes over a seven-county North Texas region including Fort Worth. Instead, critics argue the Legislature should invest more money in a state-run system and work out the issues without the involvement of private companies. The Texas Observer

IL: Chicago Public Schools contractor to lay off 476 custodians
The move to lay off nearly 500 privately contracted custodial workers who clean Chicago Public Schools will make it harder to keep classrooms tidy, the union representing the custodians said Sunday. . . The cuts come after CPS officials agreed to a $260 million contract in March with the firm Aramark, which used subcontractors to employ the custodial workers, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Saturday. CPS principals have complained about school cleanliness since the district privatized the janitorial services, according to a survey by AAPPLE, a new activist group under the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.  Chicago Sun-Times

NJ: Toll collectors on Parkway, Turnpike gain privatization reprieve
The deadline for proposals to privatize toll collection on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway has been pushed from Tuesday to Oct. 8, giving 340 toll collectors a month-long reprieve before facing possible job or pay cuts. . . . The toll takers fear privatization could mean the loss of their jobs or, in the event they go to work for the private operator, cuts in pay and benefits.  The Star-Ledger

VT: End the privatization of public records – editorial
Vermonters have a right to be outraged over a long-standing practice by the Public Service Board that creates additional hurdles for anyone seeking transcripts of board proceedings, a public record. . . . The PSB, the state’s utility regulators, contracts a private company to produce transcripts of proceedings before the board. . .  .The contract gives the company the right to sell copies of the transcripts to the public, while reducing the cost of the transcription service to the board. The contract also prevents the board from allowing members of the public to make copies of the document available at the PSB office. . . . The problem is clear. The remedy is clear. The Public Service Board — as well as all of state government — must stop selling off the right to access public records to private contractors. Burlington Free Press

PA: PennDOT’s first public-private effort hits the road
Pennsylvania is rolling out its first public-private partnership since a 2012 law allowed such joint efforts for transportation infrastructure and services. A nearly 20-year-old highway safety truck service now has a private sponsor in State Farm, which is paying 11 percent of the annual $4 million cost for the roving patrols on highways in and around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and Harrisburg.  Newsworks.org

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