March 5, 2012

Headlines
ID: Does private prison save Idaho money? No one knows
FL: Jeb Bush’s foundation has shaped education policy in Florida
WI: Wisconsin education reform only ALEC could love
CA: On privatization and brutalizing campuses
NM: State gets tougher on private prisons
Should corporations bankroll national parks?

ID: Does private prison save Idaho money? No one knows
For more than a decade, Idaho leaders have promoted private prisons by telling taxpayers it’s cheaper for the state to outsource prison management. But an examination of comparative costs by The Associated Press shows that the state has never actually done the math, and there may be no cost savings at all. In fact, privatization could be costing the state more money than if the Idaho Department of Correction ran the lockups. Idaho officials will tell you that the state’s largest private prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, saves $12 per inmate, per day compared to a similar state prison. But adjusting for known system-wide expenses and the cost of overseeing the contract for the private lockup bring the per diems to just $5 apart. The comparable state prison also houses all of the sick and geriatric inmates, is the oldest facility in the state and spans multiple buildings on a 65-acre campus, requiring a high guard-to-inmate ratio to patrol. The private prison, meanwhile, is relatively new and compact and only accepts inmates without chronic medical or mental health needs, factors that allow it to operate with a lower staff-to-inmate ratio. Those factors make it likely that the state could operate the facility for no more than it pays the private company.  NECN

FL: Jeb Bush’s foundation has shaped education policy in Florida
..This session, Bush and his nonprofit organization, the Foundation for Florida’s Future, have helped to fast-track a stream of legislation that could reset the education equation in Florida. The bills, moving steadily through both the House and Senate, could gradually shift the financial and competitive advantage away from traditional public schools to private schools and charter schools, which are often managed by for-profit companies. Other proposals push virtual-learning initiatives….Critics, on the other hand, see targeted strikes meant to chip away at Florida’s traditional public schools by diverting more tax dollars to private corporations through voucher programs and charter schools.  “There is an attack on public education as we know it,” said Rep. Dwight Bullard, of Miami, the ranking House Democrat on education issues. “Corporations are looking at it as an opportunity to siphon off dollars.” There is little debate over the influence Bush and the foundation have had in driving the agenda. “They have huge sway in the Legislature, in part because of Jeb Bush and in part because they are almost the only game in town,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. Miami Herald

WI: Wisconsin education reform only ALEC could love
After months of talking about “reforming” Wisconsin’s public schools, Republican state legislators are starting to move on a number of proposals. The greatly anticipated bills bear the marks of having been poured through the filter of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s agenda for school reform before they were exposed to the light of day. This week, for instance, there is a hearing on a voucher bill for special needs children that appears to be modeled on the ALEC Special Needs Scholarship Program Act. Other measures are in the works to hold teachers “accountable” for the performance of their students, but not at voucher schools of the type supported by ALEC.  PR Watch

CA: On privatization and brutalizing campuses
Last November, a few days after videos of riot police beating Berkeley student protestors were blowing up on youtube, an article in the New York Times announced that UC-Berkeley’s Chancellor Robert Birgeneau had been travelling to establish a satellite campus within the intimate confines of Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park. Because Birgeneau had been in Asia during the entirety of the week leading up to and following the events of that day, he had had very little to say about what was happening on his campus, with the exception of two extremely tin-eared and downright offensive emails. We knew he was out of town while campus police were brutalizing their campus, but that’s all we knew. In retrospect, though, the chancellor’s junket is the perfect coincidence: he couldn’t have had anything to do with police violence against anti-privatization protesters because he was quite literally too busy advancing plans to privatize the university. But of course, police brutality and privatization are structurally interwoven: as anti-privatization protesters are fond of saying, behind every fee hike, a line of riot cops. “Privatization” describes the inexorable move away from any sort of education whose value can’t be immediately monetized, and so police violence reminds us that visions of public education which conflict with that of the administration will just as inexorably be suppressed by armed force, as surely as customers trying to break into a store after business hours.  The New Inquiry 

NM: State gets tougher on private prisons
New Mexico’s corrections agency has slapped Florida-based GEO Group Inc. with nearly $300,000 in penalties on top of $1.1 million in fines assessed last year for the company’s continued failure to adequately staff a prison in Hobbs. In addition, $11,800 in fines were assessed this week against New Mexico’s second-private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America….for inadequate staffing there and for its failure to release 15 female inmates on time. Some of the inmates were released more than 30 days past their release date, state documents show. The penalties against the companies point to a more aggressive tone that Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration has struck with the for-profit companies than her predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson.  Santa Fe New Mexican

Should corporations bankroll national parks?
‎The question has been debated over the years, with flare-ups around the time the Bush administration attempted to privatize parts of the park service back in 2003 and last fall when there was concern that Coca-Cola had interfered in a plan to stop selling disposable plastic water bottles in the parks….Most recently, the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility called attention to plans to fundraise for an endowment for the Park Service’s centennial anniversary from corporate and philanthropic partners. “Our national parks do not need a super PAC to flourish in the 21st century,” said Jeff Ruch, the group’s executive director. Ruch says it’s “not so much the corporate money, it’s the corporate influence” that he’s worried about. His group noted that agreement Coca-Cola had with the Park Foundation offered “special visitation opportunities, e.g., for executives and key customer hospitality, in the Parks,” “marketing support” and “promotional media.”…The National Park Foundation lists a variety of corporate partners, including Bank of America, Benadryl, J. Crew, and Macy’s. Weideman says the service insists on strict standards for what corporate partners are allowed to do, to ensure that there won’t be a giant “Brought to you buy Coke” sign draped over Mount Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty any time soon…PEER says it isn’t out to end all corporate donations for parks—it just wants assurance that there aren’t any strings attached, and that the donors aren’t granted special privileges in parks that other Americans don’t get. PEER is advocating for greater transparency from the National Park Foundation, including the public disclosure of any agreements reached with a corporate partner.  Mother Jones

Comments are closed.