January 6, 2012

News summaries
WY: Poll: Wyo entrepreneurs against privatization of key services

Wyoming members of the National Federation of Independent Business don’t want key state services, such as public highways or the state-run workers’ compensation insurance, to be privatized, according to a recent poll. When asked if Wyoming should privatize some public highways, roads, tunnels and bridges, 76 percent said “no,” 14 percent replied “yes” and 10 percent were undecided. When asked if the Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division should be privatized, 62 percent said “no,” 16 percent said “yes” and 22 percent were undecided. Wyoming Business Report

NJ: NJ public-private schools bill clears legislative committees
A bill that paves a legal path toward new public-private schools in three cities — including Lanning Square Elementary School in Camden — passed two legislative committees Thursday. The Democratic-sponsored bill was amended to overcome Republicans objections, though a legal advocate for low-income students threatened to bring a lawsuit to stop the program if the bill becomes law. The Urban Hope Act would allow for up to four privately operated public schools to be authorized and built each in Newark, Trenton and Camden. Asbury Park Press

MI: Bedford residents angry about possible privatization
Diana Binkley believes the Bedford school community is under fire and pressures from privatization rumors are causing a riff. “You are driving a wedge in this community,” Ms. Binkley said during a school board meeting Thursday. “We need to work together and get back to the basics of educating our children.” Ms. Binkley, along with a dozen others, spoke out against one of the best practices Bedford Public Schools has met in order to receive more money from the state.  The district will likely be awarded an additional $100 per pupil for meeting four of five “best practices.” The practices include being the designated policy holder for medical benefits; develop and implement a service consolidation plan; provide on the district’s Web site information about financial and academic data. The practice that has fired up employees and community members alike is obtaining bids on non-instructional services such as custodial, food service and transportation. Connie Boyland is a media specialist from Traverse City who attended the meeting to speak specifically on the topic. “If you privatize, you will lose control over what you once had control over before,” Ms. Boyland said. “People trust you to do what is right. These people here care about your students and you should maintain their jobs.”Monroe News

Robert Reich: The decline of the American public good
Much of what’s called “public” is increasingly a private good paid for by users — ever-higher tolls on public highways and public bridges, higher tuitions at so-called public universities, higher admission fees at public parks and public museums.   Much of the rest of what’s considered “public” has become so shoddy that those who can afford to find private alternatives. As public schools deteriorate, the upper-middle class and wealthy send their kids to private ones. As public pools and playgrounds decay, they buy memberships in private tennis and swimming clubs. As public hospitals decline, they pay premium rates for private care. Gated communities and office parks now come with their own manicured lawns and walkways, security guards, and backup power systems. Why the decline of public institutions? The financial squeeze on government at all levels since 2008 explains only part of it. The slide really started more than three decades ago with so-called “tax revolts” by a middle class whose earnings had stopped advancing even though the economy continued to grow. Most families still wanted good public services and institutions but could no longer afford the tab.  From that time onward, almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top. But as the upper middle class and the rich began shifting to private institutions, they withdrew political support for public ones. In consequence, their marginal tax rates dropped — setting off a vicious cycle of diminishing revenues and deteriorating quality, spurring more flight from public institutions. Tax revenues from corporations also dropped as big companies went global — keeping their profits overseas and their tax bills to a minimum. Christian Science Monitor