March 4, 2013


National Attention and Cash in Los Angeles School Vote. On Tuesday, voters in Los Angeles will go to the polls for a mayoral primary. But much of the attention will also be on the three races for the school board, a battle that involves the mayor, the teachers’ union and a host of advocates from across the country — including New York City’s billionaire mayor — who have poured millions of dollars into the races. The outcome of the political fight for the school board seats will have a profound impact on the direction of the nation’s second-largest school district. But the clash has also become a sort of test case for those who want to overhaul public education, weakening the power of the teachers’ union, pushing for more charter schools and changing the way teachers are hired and fired.  New York Times

NJ: NJ DEP: New privatized toxic-site-cleanup program clears cases faster. Since the state began in 2009 handing off day-to-day control of environmental cleanup to the private sector, the monthly rate of completed cases has risen almost 30 percent compared to the two years before the program began, according to data provided by the DEP. But as the process accelerates, environmentalists worry that without direct state oversight, lands on which people could one day live and play are not being cleaned up to state standards and could present a public health risk. Bill Wolfe, a former DEP official and frequent critic of the agency, said allowing environmental-cleanup firms, which are often paid by the polluters, to police themselves would inevitably lead to shortcuts. “They’re supposed to be the white hats protecting the public health and the environment, but at the same time, they’re answering to their clients,” he said. The theory that the cleanup professionals “would serve the public interest and do a straight job is ludicrously naive.” Philadelphia Inquirer

MI: Mich. won’t privatize prisons further. Michigan officials said this week they will not privatize nearly $350 million in prisoner health care and food costs, keeping intact nearly 1,700 state workers’ jobs but frustrating lawmakers who questioned the bidding process. State Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan told The Associated Press on Friday that none of three contracts out for bid would have achieved the necessary 5 percent savings as required by state rules. Sault Ste. Marie Evening News

KS: Kansas moves toward privatizing child support collections. Kansas officials are taking the first steps toward turning child support collections over to private contractors. The Kansas Department for Children and Families said Friday it has begun accepting proposals to privatize the system. The agency says contractors may bid to collect support payments in one, several or all of the state’s 31 judicial districts. Department Secretary Phyllis Gilmore says contracts are scheduled to be awarded in June and will go into effect in September. Houston Chronicle

NY: LIPA Trustee Calls Privatization ‘A Terrible Idea’ A Long Island Power Authority trustee has called the suggestion to privatize the agency a “terrible idea.” “I think privatization is a terrible idea, because what it would mean for Long Islanders is probably about a 20 percent rate increase,” Lewis said. “We also know that when LILCO was taken over by LIPA, they left the grid in terrible shape, and so it’s not just the cost. It’s also the fact that a private company, in order to drive up profits, does things to cut corners and doesn’t invest in the system.”  CBS Local

CA: Fresno council OKs election on trash privatization. The Fresno City Council voted Thursday evening to hold a special election in June and allow voters to decide whether residential solid waste services should be privatized or remain with the current city workers. The council had given a thumbs-up to privatizing the services through Mid-Valley Disposal on Dec. 20, but a subsequent union-led petition drive gathered enough signatures to force the council to meet anew and adopt one of three proposals.  Fresno Business Journal

WI: Privatizing Wisconsin’s Public Education System. Wisconsin’s voucher program is clearly a move to privatize education, support religious schools, and set up our community with a “winners” and “losers” school system.  The winners being the strongly supported private schools (religious and for profit), and the losers being the kids in the increasingly underfunded public schools (who pay not only for their education, but also subsidize the voucher system).  This is a competitive model that is well understood by business interests.  This works well for many things, but is exactly the wrong model for public education.  The best public education model recognizes that ALL children deserve an excellent education so that they may reach their full potential in life. This is a collaborative model where the goal is only “winners”.  Daily Kos