May 14, 2012

Headlines
IN: Next Indiana governor won’t see much toll road money 
NY: MTA eyes privatization at Grand Central
FL: How a city of 65,000, gets by on 9 employees
FL: Scott’s chief of staff resigns amid scrutiny of state contracts
FL: Debate rages: Do charter students perform better than others?
AZ: Gov sides with traffic camera companies
AZ: Phoenix eases process for building permits
PA: The end of public education in Philadelphia – opinion
NH: A proposal to privatize NH’s prisons raises concerns
IL: Privatizing work comp considered
Privatizing education
Private prison firm fights more disclosure on abuse

IN: Next Indiana governor won’t see much toll road money   

The $3.8 billion that Indiana netted in 2006 from leasing the Indiana Toll Road to a foreign consortium will be mostly spent or allocated by the time the state’s next governor takes office in January, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reported Sunday…Jack Basso, director of Program Finance and Management at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said Indiana will soon be as cash-strapped as other states and with few options on the table…By the time Daniels’ successor—Republican Mike Pence, Democrat John Gregg or Libertarian Rupert Boneham—takes office in January, some of the toll road money will still be earning interest. But it all will be virtually awarded, via contract, for ongoing major highway projects slated to finish in the next two years.  Indianapolis Business Journal

NY: MTA eyes privatization at Grand Central

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering outsourcing the management and operations of the tunnels and 360,000-square-foot station being built to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal under the East Side Access project.  The authority paid Scottsdale, Ariz.-based InfraConsult $600,000 to determine the feasibility of outsourcing the operations of the concourse, 90 feet under Grand Central. The company completed its report in February. It has not yet been publicly released…A British trade journal, PPP Bulletin, reported last week that the MTA was considering a public-private partnership at the site. The spokesman told Insider Subscription Needed: Crain’s Insider Thursday that the privatization would be limited to the operations of the station, not the new tunnels, which will be run by the MTA. But the consultant on the project on Friday said the report examined privatizing both the station as well as the tunnels’ operations and maintenance. Crain’s New York Business

FL: How a city of 65,000, gets by on 9 employees
Weston, Fla., an affluent suburb 25 miles northwest of Miami, has one of the most unusual charters of any city: it specifically discourages the city from hiring employees…Since its inception, the city has used contractors to fulfill virtually every city function. Today, the city of 65,000 has a budget of $121 million — and just nine of its own employees. “I see no reason why we’d ever have to increase the number of employees,” says Mayor Eric Hersh, who’s led the city for over 10 years..Jonas Prager, an economic professor at NYU who has studied the city, says Weston is “a curious example, rather than an example that can be easily emulated.” It would be politically challenging — and in some cases legally difficult as well — for a long-standing city to replace public workers on a large-scale basis with contract employees. Governing

FL: Scott’s chief of staff resigns amid scrutiny of state contracts
Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff Steve MacNamara resigned Saturday afternoon, ending what has been a tumultuous week of news reports about his steering no-bid contracts to friends and interfering in staffing and decisions throughout state government…In the Senate, MacNamara steered a $5.5 million contract with Spider Data Systems for a software platform to improve public access to state budgets. The developer of the patented system, Anna Mattson, was a partner of lobbyist Jim Eaton, also a close friend of MacNamara’s. He also handed over a project to shift the Senate’s computer system from mainframe computers to another longtime acquaintance, Abe Uccello, at a cost of $380,000. Governing

FL: Debate rages: Do charter students perform better than others?
Florida’s education leaders have been fanning out across the state to celebrate National Charter School Week, visiting schools and touting the benefits of these independently run campuses…But some critics question the state’s seemingly unconditional support for these schools that run on taxpayer money but are free from some state education rules. They note charters earned a disproportionate share of F’s on Florida’s 2011 school report card and accounted for most of the 10 worst elementary schools on Gov. Rick Scott’s new school rankings. They also cite the nearly 200 that have closed since Florida’s first charters opened in 1996.  A University of Central Florida professor was so bothered by the state’s April report — released under a headline that said charter students “excel across the board” — that he did his own analysis of charter-school performance. He took into account the percentage of poor children enrolled, which he said the state largely ignored. “Does Governor Scott, the Republicans, the DOE have a charter-school bias? I think most people would say yes,” said Stanley Smith, a UCF finance professor. “This almost seems like an infomercial for the charters.” Children from low-income families typically lag behind those from wealthier homes on standardized tests. The percentage of poor kids in charters is 45 percent compared with 55 percent at traditional public schools. Orlando Sentinel

AZ: Gov sides with traffic camera companies
Gov. Jan BrewerGovernor Jan Brewer (R) on Wednesday vetoed a measure that would have brought Arizona’s definition of an intersection into compliance with federal law…The prospect of losing hundreds of thousands in revenue upset the top two players in the red light camera industry, American Traffic Solutions and Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia which both have offices in the Phoenix area. It also upset the city of Phoenix, which dispatched Walter Olsen, the officer in charge of the photo ticketing program, to complain about the proposal to lawmakers.  Brewer also has significant connections with the photo enforcement industry. In 2008, she put Jay Heiler in charge of hiring personnel to fill administration jobs during the transition. At the time, Heiler was a lobbyist for Redflex. TheNewspaper

AZ: Phoenix eases process for building permits
DiCiccio wanted to privatize the process further, but he was overruled by other council members, and he agreed to compromise on the question. “I’m glad we don’t have to look at privatizing inspections,” Planning Director Debra Stark said. Arizona Republic

PA: The end of public education in Philadelphia – opinion
If the School Reform Commission and Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen have their way, we may witness the end of public education in Philadelphia. A five-year plan proposed…calls for the overhaul of virtually every element of the system — from finances to academics to central management. These drastic changes suggest to many that the district is intent on expediting the privatization of its schools, despite its promises to stay the traditional route and invest in neighborhoods and communities. This plan mandates: The closing of 64 neighborhood schools in the next five years. The movement of thousands of students from traditional neighborhood schools to charter schools with 40 percent of all Philadelphia students attending charters by 2017. Philadelphia Inquirer

NH: A proposal to privatize NH’s prisons raises concerns
A legislative committee is simultaneously drafting a plan for privatization, an idea Gov. John Lynch has supported looking into as a possible option to meet the state’s future correctional needs…The head-scratcher in this reasoning is that for prison companies to make money it’s in their best interests for more people to be locked up for longer periods of time. And the lower companies keep operational costs such as security, employee salaries and rehabilitative programs, the higher their profit margins. Opponents claim private management raises the risk of prison riots and jailbreaks. Others still say that when incarceration rates were climbing steadily several years ago, private prison companies created a prison building boom by swooping into western states promising tax revenue and jobs — only to skip out when nationwide anti-recidivism efforts quelled the rising number of prisoners. Thirty states have private prisons. The Keene Sentinel

IL: Privatizing work comp considered
The State of Illinois may hand over its much-maligned workers’ compensation system to a private company. Alton Daily News

Privatizing education
I recently learned that teacher credentialing in some states is being turned over to Pearson, a large educational publisher.  In cahoots with Stanford, prospective teachers will, for a fee, take a 40 page test, which they will submit to Pearson, along with two 20 minute video tapes of themselves teaching a lesson.  About 5-7 states have already signed on to this program for certification of their teachers. How have teachers been credentialed?  The predominant method has been for the accredited university from which they earned their teaching degree..This is a thinly veiled move to increase the financial burden of earning a teaching credential while siphoning a heretofore nonexistant income stream out of the pockets of aspiring teachers and channeling it toward a corporation that is already sucking $millions or $billions from our public educational systems. It perhaps additionally encourages gaining entry to teaching via alternative routes like Teach For America. ThomHartman

Private prison firm fights more disclosure on abuse
The debate over private prisons spilled into Corrections Corporation of America’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, with critics urging greater transparency by the Nashville-based prison owner and operator. The company rebuffed the parallel efforts, one led by the American Civil Liberties Union and the other by an activist shareholder. Stockholders rejected a proposal that would have required CCA to file twice-annual reports on the number of rapes and sexual assaults occurring within its facilities, and show steps the company was taking to combat the problem. The proposal was filed by Alex Friedmann, a former prisoner who now leads the Private Corrections Institute, an advocacy group that opposes prison privatization. The company fought the proposal, asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to kill it. The company argued it already planned to make such information available annually and that Friedmann’s proposal was part of a personal vendetta. The SEC declined to strike the resolution, so the company included a lengthy rebuttal in proxy materials urging shareholders to vote against it…Also, the ACLU delivered a letter to CCA asking Damon Hininger, the company’s chief executive officer, to a public debate on the merits of privatizing prisons. The Tennessean

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