June 26, 2012

Headlines
Public Universities See Familiar Fight at Virginia
Kucinich lends moral support to postal hunger strike
GA: A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private
NY: For City Parents, Frustration Over Rising Cost of Public School
VA: Va. approaches decision on privatizing sex offender program
NV: State mulls plan for toll road system
LA: Outsider shakes things up at Algiers charter schools

Public Universities See Familiar Fight at Virginia
The tumult at the University of Virginia — with the sudden ouster of President Teresa Sullivan on June 10, and the widespread anticipation that she will be reinstated on Tuesday — reflects a low-grade panic now spreading through much of public higher education…Across the nation, it has been a rocky year for public university presidents: Richard W. Lariviere, the president of the University of Oregon, was fired in November, despite strong faculty support, after pushing aggressively for more independence from the state. Amid similar strains — but voluntarily — Carolyn Martin left the University of Wisconsin to become president of the far smaller Amherst College. At the University of Illinois, a faculty mutiny helped spur President Michael Hogan’s resignation after less than two years on the job. And at the University of Texas this spring, there were rumblings that President Bill Powers was in danger after a clash with the board and the governor over his request for a tuition increase. “Each situation is a little different, but the trend is apparent,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “The staggering reduction in financial support from the state puts a lot of pressure on campus. There’s increasing politicization of governance. And there are rising expectations that universities will transform themselves very quickly, if not overnight. Somehow, they’re supposed to achieve dramatic improvement in learning productivity and at the same time reduce costs by using educational technology.”  New York Times

Kucinich lends moral support to postal hunger strike
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on Monday helped kick off a hunger strike of postal workers protesting what they say is an effort to privatize and dismantle the cash-strapped United States Postal Service. The strike — which includes 10 postal workers, union activists and supporters, but not Kucinich himself — is the latest in a long saga of efforts to reform the postal service as it faces a dim financial future. While lawmakers generally agree that postal reform is necessary, they disagree on the specifics. “Make no mistake about it, this is an effort to try to privatize even more postal services,” Kucinich said in reference to GOP efforts. The strikers focused on a requirement they say mandates that the postal service pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, drawing scarce revenues the postal service needs to evolve. “The postal service has adapted to the change in the volume of mail,” said Jamie Partridge, a national coordinator of Communities and Postal Workers United. “That’s not what’s killing the postal service. Not the Internet. Not private competition. Not even the recession. It’s this prefunded mandate.” Kucinich argued that Republicans, by seeking to dismantle the postal service, compromise its effectiveness. That in turn allows conservative critics to point to it as an example of government waste and ineffectiveness, Kucinich said. Politico

GA: A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private
Cities across the United States have dabbled for years with various levels of privatization, but few have taken the idea as far as Sandy Springs, Ga…Applying for a business license? Speak to a woman with Severn Trent, a multinational company based in Coventry, England. Want to build a new deck on your house? Chat with an employee of Collaborative Consulting, based in Burlington, Mass. Need a word with people who oversee trash collection? That would be the URS Corporation, based in San Francisco.  Even the city’s court, which is in session on this May afternoon, next to the revenue division, is handled by a private company, the Jacobs Engineering Group of Pasadena, Calif. The company’s staff is in charge of all administrative work, though the judge, Lawrence Young, is essentially a legal temp, paid a flat rate of $100 an hour. “I think of it as being a baby judge,” says Mr. Young, who spends most of his time drafting trusts as a lawyer in a private practice, “because we don’t have to deal with the terrible things that you find in Superior Court.” With public employee unions under attack in states like Wisconsin, and with cities across the country looking to trim budgets, behold a town built almost entirely on a series of public-private partnerships — a system that leaders around here refer to, simply, as “the model.”  New York Times

NY: For City Parents, Frustration Over Rising Cost of Public School
Despite the long-held ideal that public education should be free, parents in New York City are finding themselves paying for an increasing number of things, like class trips and basic supplies. New York Times

VA: Va. approaches decision on privatizing sex offender program
The nation’s second-largest private prison company says it expects Virginia to make a decision by next month on its bid to expand and operate the.state’s detention facility for sexually violent predators who have completed their prison terms…The detention and treatment of sex offenders represents a growing business opportunity for GEO and its competitors, who hope to score lucrative contracts from state officials looking to keep predators off the streets. The American Independent

NV: State mulls plan for toll road system
Allowing a toll road system in Nevada got a cool reception from the state Board of Transportation on Monday. Gov. Brian Sandoval said the state must look at all possibilities for paying for future road construction, but he and other board members said they wanted to see more financial details. A proposal for toll roads was rejected by the 2011 Legislature. The state uses gasoline and special fuel taxes and federal funds to pay for the road building. The state Transportation Department outlined a proposal from a Florida company called ACS to design, build and maintain improvements such as added lanes in Clark County on Interstate 15 from Sahara Avenue to Rancho Drive at an estimated cost of $400-$500 million. The company would be able to add toll roads but there would still be free lanes. Las Vegas Sun

LA: Outsider shakes things up at Algiers charter schools
Give Aamir Raza this: He’s aware of what a fearful reputation he’s getting. Having taken the reins at one of the city’s biggest charter school operators — the Algiers Charter Schools Association, a group that runs eight schools on the West Bank with more than 5,000 students — Raza has gone about turning the organization inside out. In less than four weeks on the job he has fired central office staff, informed the group’s high-performing principals that they’ll be reassigned to lower-performing schools, stumbled into a legal skirmish with the School Board and inspired protest from community members…What people are making Raza out to be is a hatchet man — an outsider from New York in a town that is wary of outsiders, to say nothing of outsiders who start ordering around some of the city’s most widely respected school leaders. He seems to have been unprepared for the political realities of Algiers.  The Times-Picayune

Comments are closed.