January 17, 2012

News summaries
FL: For-profit schools coming – opinion

Make no mistake, there is a determined, coordinated effort to dismantle public schools….The plan is to allow venture capitalists to step in with for-profit virtual schools, cut the costs of traditional public schools, and make bundles of cash …education on the cheap at the expense of children’s education. Who cares that these virtual schools may have a poor or non-existent track record, or that virtual school teachers often have hundreds of students each? While “attending” virtual school, many students have no adult supervision. Profit, not educational excellence, is the motive. The Florida Legislature in the past two sessions has passed a flurry of bills to distract educators and parents by requiring every student to take and pass a college prep curriculum to graduate high school, eliminating teacher tenure, requiring end-of-course exams for every subject taught (without providing funding), and requiring every student to take at least one virtual school class to graduate. This on top of a 30 percent cut in per pupil state funding for local public schools; a reduction of $1,400 per student over the last four years. While public schools are scrambling to comply, privatization schemes continue apace without much public awareness. At the same time the Legislature is handing down these unfunded mandates for public schools, it is expanding a system of corporate vouchers for private schools. Taxpayer money is used to give corporations tax breaks if they will give an equal amount in scholarships for students to attend private schools; an end run around the Florida Supreme Court ruling outlawing vouchers. Gainesville Sun
FL: Augusta considers outsouring human resources services
A company that opened a $40 million Solution Center in Augusta three years ago is offering to solve some of city government’s budget woes, but the solution comes at a price of city jobs. The move will likely spell the end of most, but not all, city human resources jobs, Russell said. The department requested about $1 million from the general fund for salaries and benefits this year. In a year when Russell has asked the commission to trim more than $5 million to balance the city budget and eliminate at least 34 jobs, the human resources department is budgeted more than $1 million for its employee salaries.
The department has dwindled in size in the past few months but had 11 employees in December, according to a roster of all personnel obtained from the department. It has been without a permanent director since the August retirement of Rod Powell, although Powell remains on the payroll as a consultant. Augusta Chronicle

Privatizing the war on terror: Military contractors

…According to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States can no longer conduct large or sustained military operations or respond to major disasters without heavy support from contractors. As a result, the U.S. employs at a minimum one contractor to support every soldier deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq (that number increases dramatically when U.S. troop numbers decrease). For those signing on for contractor work, many of whom are hired by private contracting firms after serving stints in the military, it is a lucrative, albeit dangerous, career path (private contractors are 2.75 times more likely to die than troops). Incredibly, while base pay for an American soldier hovers somewhere around $19,000 per year, contractors are reportedly pulling in between $150,000 – $250,000 per year. NJ Today

Renewed push for community radio stations
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to start taking applications for the new stations sometime this fall. Philadelphia-based Prometheus Radio Project, which advocates for community stations, is raising awareness of the opportunity and what it believes is the need for more low-power stations that serve narrow audiences, often just neighborhoods. Governing