January 19, 2012

News summaries
FL: Florida Senate bill would allow privatization to be secret

A Senate committee, bucking a decades-long trend of open government in Florida, formally introduced two bills today aimed at allowing the secret privatization of prisons. But the measures also would make secret the outsourcing of other state agency functions, which has raised concerns from open government advocates. The Senate rules committee introduced the first bill (PCB 7170), which essentially means that an agency would not have to report its privatization of a program or service until after the contract is signed..The bills’ opponents, which include the First Amendment Foundation, have said the bills would keep the public in the dark about the costs of outsourcing any government service, not just prisons. Tampa Bay Online

FL: Return of prison privatization sets off a furor
Rebuffed by a court, the Legislature is again pushing to privatize more than two dozen South Florida prisons, and the plan appears more controversial than ever because of a new layer of secrecy. Before a standing-room-only crowd, the Senate Rules Committee voted Wednesday to introduce bills (now numbered SB 2036 and SB 2038) directing the prison system to hire a for-profit vendor to run prisons in 18 counties by July 1. A second bill (2036) would eliminate a requirement that the prison system do a cost benefit analysis and develop a “business case” to justify privatization. The new bill does not require those steps until after a contractor is hired. But the choice is subject to approval by a panel of legislators…Current and former correctional officers testified in opposition to no avail. Reshae Cherry, 27, an officer at Charlotte Correctional on Florida’s southwest coast, pleaded for senators not to jeopardize her future. “I want to keep food on my table. I want a good doctor for my children,” she testified…Two Democratic senators voted against introducing the two bills: Sens. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and Gwen Margolis of Aventura, who said the secrecy language was “very disturbing.”  Miami Herald

AZ: Trouble in Arizona’s charter school paradise?

Arizona has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, and has no charter cap.  If Arne Duncan is to be believed, Arizona – with so much charter school “innovation” and “courage” – ought to be the best possible place for your child to get an education. Let’s see how that looks in NAEP achievement and other factors:  Arizona’s class size average is second highest in the nation, with an average of 24.2 students per class, compared to a national average of 15.3. Arizona is one of only four states in the nation that have increased class sizes over the last ten years.    Oh, yes, and Every national ranking of per pupil funding consistently shows Arizona at or near the bottom of the 50 states… State officials are now taking unprecedented steps to weed out the worst of the schools. They put a third of the operators on probation and denied new contracts to four more. Two charter operators did not reapply, and one surrendered its contract. This effort marks a stark difference from the years when politicians and school-choice advocates pushed rapid growth of charter schools above all else, viewing them as game-changing innovations. Pure