September 12, 2013


A Cautionary Tale on Privatizing Tax Collection…The power of tax collection should always be a power afforded to a government that’s answerable to We The People. It shouldn’t be a power that’s transferred to private corporations. But as The Washington Post brilliantly points out, that’s exactly what’s happened right here in our nation’s capital, in an experiment to privatize tax collection.  And not surprisingly, it’s an experiment that’s having disastrous effects. Just ask Bennie Coleman, a 76 year-old veteran who, thanks to D.C.’s tax lien privatization program, had his $197,000 house foreclosed and taken away from him, all because of a $134 property tax bill that hadn’t been paid. Truth-Out

Public Universities Ramp Up Aid for the Wealthy, Leaving the Poor Behind…It’s not just that colleges are continuously pushing up sticker prices. Public universities have also been shifting their aid, giving less to the poorest students and more to the wealthiest. A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants — as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts — to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend has continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest.  ProPublica

IL: Perspective: An ordinance to protect city taxpayers… The Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance will require a City Council committee hearing on any proposed public-private partnership to evaluate its full cost, weigh the benefits and determine whether the deal is in the best interest of the city. The ordinance also requires that any city department considering the privatization of any part of its operations must conduct a cost-effectiveness study, demonstrate greater than 10 percent projected cost savings, and show that the economic benefits of privatization outweigh the public’s interest in continued city operation of the service. We have learned from past privatization mistakes that transparency is the key to good decision-making and accountability is essential to good outcomes. The privatization ordinance will benefit taxpayers by requiring elected officials to undertake a thorough review process before attempts to outsource vital services or assets are put before the council for approval.  Chicago Tribune

NY: New York City Democrats embrace full speed reverse on education reform…. But advocates for traditional public education are jubilant that Bill de Blasio came out on top Tuesday in the Democratic mayoral race in New York City after a campaign in which he promised to yank support from charter schools, scale back high-stakes standardized testing and tax the wealthy to pay for universal preschool and more arts education. ….“De Blasio defined himself as the anti-Bloomberg, especially on education – anti-testing, anti-privatization and focused on listening to parents. Politico

MA: Charter schools dominate debate among mayoral candidates at Boston teachers union forum. Eleven mayoral candidates — many positioning themselves to be the next “education mayor” — ventured inside the Boston Teachers Union Hall Wednesday night where they pitched their ideas to overhaul the school system during a lively forum that at times put some candidates at odds with the city’s largest union.           

TX: Collin County Commissioners delay vote on privatizing pensions. After more than two hours of discussion, commissioners said they needed more information about the legality and financial risk of the idea. Called the “Employee Choice Plan,” the change would put a portion of retirees’ retirement savings into privately managed accounts, instead of placing it all in the Texas County and District Retirement System.

VA: U.Va. panel: Break state ties, operate more like a private school. A University of Virginia panel has proposed that the institution break many of its ties with the state government and operate more like a private school. Such an arrangement — which would need state lawmakers’ approval and likely would meet opposition — would allow Virginia’s flagship public school the freedom to more easily increase tuition and accept more top-tier students from across the country and the world. Although it could increase U.Va.’s prestige and shore up its finances, such a move could also make it more difficult for in-state students to win admission and could significantly raise their tuition.  Richmond Times Dispatch