February 11, 2014


Come Up With the Money or Go to Jail: The Evils of Privatizing Probation. A new report I wrote for Human Rights Watch shows how widespread this kind of privatization is—and how much hardship it is causing. Slate Magazine

Food & Water Watch Exposes USDA Inspection Staffing Shortages… “We believe that the USDA has put food safety in jeopardy by this reckless personnel policy,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “This policy was hatched so the agency could implement its Filthy Chicken Rule, which deregulates poultry inspections—a move so fraught with controversy that it has yet to be finalized. What the USDA has done is put the entire meat and poultry inspection system on the brink of collapse.”  eNews Park Forest

GA: Senate committee approves privatization of Georgia’s child services. Opponents say privatization will replace a part of the system that’s not broken and usher in a new set of problems and expenses. Atlanta Journal Constitution

TX: TxDOT Has $2.6B of Bonds Coming Soon…In lieu of funding for public roads, TxDOT has turned increasingly to toll roads financed by European banks and operated by private companies. Bond Buyer

CO: Contentious public-private US 36 deal to get public airing this week…. Colorado Department of Transportation officials will address a growing chorus of concern that the agency is forging a deal with Plenary Roads Denver that hands a disproportionate amount of power and control over the Boulder-to-Denver highway to the private entity. Daily Camera

PA: Ex-charter school head sentenced to 3 years in prison…Skief, 32, pleaded guilty last year to stealing $88,000 from the West Philadelphia charter school and its related nonprofit, the Harambee Institute, both founded by his father, the late John Skief. Philly.com




February 10, 2014


‘Public-Private Partnerships’ Sound Great, But Private Investment Requires Public Accountability – Donald Cohen….. Most importantly, many governments have overlooked the opportunity to use these arrangements to alleviate income inequality. To help state and local officials make sure that private investment in our public infrastructure protects and advances our public needs and remains solidly in public control,, In the Public Interest has assembled a new backgrounder, entitled “Infrastructure Justice: Building Equity into Infrastructure Financing.” Huffingtn Post

The disastrous idea for privatizing Fannie and Freddie – Dean Baker…. Instead, Corker-Warner would replace Fannie and Freddie with a new a system in which private financial institutions could issue mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) that carry a government guarantee. In the event that a large number of mortgages in the MBS market went bad, the investors would be on the hook for losses up to 10 percent of their value, after which the government would cover the rest. If you think that sounds like a reasonable system, then you must have already forgotten the housing crash and ensuing financial crisis. Al Jazeera America

PA: Pa. to privatize bridges; what will it mean? A 2012 law authorizing “public-private partnerships” will enable PennDOT to team up with a private-sector partner that will finance, design, build and maintain the 500 bridges for up to 35 years. The state won’t have to borrow to build the bridges — the private partner will do that, and be repaid over the lifetime of the contract….The law explicitly permits “user fees” — tolls — on new or rebuilt roads or bridges, though PennDOT officials stress none of the 500 bridges in the rapid replacement project will be tolled. But, down the line, motorists could see more toll booths, or EZ Pass restrictions.  Lancaster Newspapers

NV: Nevada County Will Charge Inmates For Their Meals And Medical Care. The Elko County Commission, which oversees the jail in that Nevada county, approved a plan on Wednesday to levy a $6 daily fee on inmates for meals, a $10 fee for visits to the doctor, and $5 fee for getting booked. People in jail for less than 24 hours and people who get jobs in the jail will be exempt, and those who are in jail but are later found innocent will be reimbursed. The scheme is the brainchild of Sheriff Jim Pitts, who argues that the government shouldn’t have to foot the cost of jailing people.  ThinkProgress

CO: Colorado public-private partnership in spotlight…. In calling the meeting, the advocacy group Drive Sunshine Institute had alleged a “sweeping 10-year effort by corporate lobbyists from the world’s largest toll road developers to create a Colorado state highway privatization board.” At stake, said the group, was not just U.S. 36 but then C-470, Interstate 70 and who U.S. 36knows where it would end. Fourteen state legislators in Colorado also saw shadows. A letter issued the day before by Matt Jones, a state senator from nearby Louisville, and 13 of his Democratic colleagues had called for a 60-day review before “entering into a secret 50-year toll lane contract” for managed express lanes on U.S. 36. The added time, the letter explained, was necessary so that legislators and citizens alike could understand restrictions on carpools, toll maximums and other provisions of the contract. Mountain Town News

CO: Denver Direct: US 36 Privatization 50-Year Contract to be Signed Day before Senate briefing by CDOT. Nine Colorado public highways being sold to foreign toll road firms over the next 12 months starting with US 36. I-70 in downtown Denver. Round trip from Denver to Boulder will cost $28 in the express lane during rush hour. Toll cost is indexed to inflation and will rise much higher over the next half century. Denver Direct

GA: Involuntary servitude: Editorial. In theory, shifting oversight of probationers from courts to for-profit corporations would reduce government bureaucracy and save taxpayers money. And if that were the only measure of success, privatized probation services would be a smash hit. The reality, unfortunately, is that privatization has created a perverse system in which companies operating outside the purview of the courts are shaking down folks, including some of society’s most marginalized. For what? Exorbitant “supervision” fees and extended probation terms under threat of jail time. The business euphemistically is referred to as “pay only” or “offender-funded” probation. “State-sanctioned indentured servitude” may be more accurate. The Augusta Chronicle

GA: University System’s push to privatize dorms moves forward. The University System of Georgia is seeking the tax break for companies as part of a plan to help reduce the system’s $3.8 billion in debt by privatizing student housing on its campuses. Extending the exemption to the companies would require a statewide referendum. Atlanta Journal Constitution

OH: Ohio Charter Schools – What Is Our Investment Buying?  The truth is that across the state, charter schools are not performing as well as our local public schools.  To follow our car analogy, not only aren’t the charters performing like that Volvo S80, very few charters are even performing as good as our little Fiat.  In fact, most of Ohio’s charter schools are performing more like an AMC Pacer from the late 70s. Plunderbund

WI: Opinion: Plan unveiled to gradually privatize public schools. “If I was going to write a bill to privatize public schools,” the Senate staffer told our small group, “this is what it would look like. Winona Daily News

IL: Redflex Faces Employment Discrimination Lawsuit. Redflex Traffic Systems is in the news for the alleged use of bribes to land contracts in a scandal that has spread to a dozen states. The firm’s woes have taken a toll in the form of lost contracts, including that of Chicago, Illinois, cutting business by 25 percent of its business. The company is also defending against an ongoing employment lawsuit claiming the Redflex office in the US harbors anti-Australian bias. TheNewspaper.com


February 7, 2014


Feds Probe For-Profit College Accused Of Creating Fake Jobs. The Obama administration has launched a probe into job placement rates advertised by Corinthian Colleges Inc., a major for-profit college operator, suggesting there are “systemic deficiencies” in the company’s operations… The request follows a HuffPost investigation published in December into inflated job placement rates, including evidence that some Corinthian campuses paid employers to temporarily hire graduates as a way to boost official job placement data. Documents and interviews with former Corinthian career services employees in six states revealed a culture of data manipulation intended to satisfy collegiate accrediting bodies, enabling the company to tap into billions of dollars in federal student aid funds. The for-profit college operator has taken in nearly $10 billion in federal student loan and grant money over the last decade, more than 80 percent of the company’s total revenue.  Huffington Post

Ravitch: The ‘White House’s obsession with data is sick’. Education historian and activist Diane Ravitch has been blasting the Obama administration for a long time for education policies that have expanded the importance of standardized tests and promoted the privatization of public education. She was just in Washington to talk with U.S. legislators about the dangers of corporate-influenced school reform and she made some of her strongest statements yet, according to my colleague Lyndsey Layton. Washington Post (blog)

TX: Video: City Manager AC Gonzalez says he’s exploring privatizing Dallas streets construction and maintenance. The new Dallas city manager who was hired with a mandate for change said this afternoon that he’s looking into the idea of privatizing street construction and maintenance. “We’ve been having some conversations with a company about privatizing our streets,” Gonzalez told City Council members. “Just sell the streets.” Gonzalez said later that he didn’t actually mean the city would sell any streets — just the costly services for them. Dallas Morning News

TX: SH 130 toll traffic plunges, are taxpayer bailouts ahead? The facts don’t lie, even if the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) does. Recently released traffic data for the privately-operated southern leg of SH 130 shows traffic dipping anywhere from 10%-15% year over year or even from month to month. Moody’s downgraded the bonds held by Spain-based Cintra to junk bond status as the SH 130 Concession Company depleted its cash reserves to make bond payments last year, predicting default as soon as June if a significant uptick in traffic doesn’t arrive — and fast. San Antonio Express (blog)

CA: Lifeguards rally against outsourcing idea. Part-time lifeguards in Newport Beach are canvassing neighborhoods, handing out signs and promoting a petition as they push back against a city proposal that could outsource some of their jobs as a cost-saving measure. Daily Pilot

SD: South Dakota House Near Unanimous On Photo Ticketing Ban. South Dakota House votes 69-1 in favor of prohibiting speed and red light cameras. Rep. Peggy GibsonIn the South Dakota House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: They do not want red light cameras or speed cameras operating in the state. By a vote of 69 to 1 on Wednesday, lower chamber lawmakers gave final approval to a photo ticketing ban that leaves no room for private companies to mail citations to residents. TheNewspaper.com

AZ: ADOT requests information on possible private partnership for new freeway in Phoenix area. State transportation officials want input from industry on a possible public-private partnership to build a new freeway in the Phoenix. The Republic

GA: University System’s push to privatize dorms moves forward. A House committee on Thursday approved a bill that could ultimately allow for a property tax exemption currently on state college property to be extended to private companies selected to operate dorms. The University System of Georgia is seeking the tax break for companies as part of a plan to help reduce the system’s $3.8 billion in debt by privatizing student housing on its campuses.  Atlanta Journal Constitution


February 5, 2014


MI: Did The Privatization Of Food Service In Michigan Prisons Contribute To Prison Break? Some lawmakers are saying the prison escape from the Ionia Correctional Facility happened due to budget cuts in the system. Senator Glenn Anderson says scaling back perimeter patrols was “foolish” — security is weaker because food services have been privatized. Michael Elliot escaped wearing a kitchen uniform.…. Sen. Anderson said that Democrats warned state Republicans that privatizing the food service in prisons would lead to weakened security: “We warned the Republicans that some of the steps they were taking could endanger the citizens of Michigan and I believe it has come into fruition,” added Anderson.  CBS Local

FL: Pasco toll road project sees opposition organizing…..Connors, however, pictures blight — homes and businesses losing value because they sit under the shadow of an imposing and noisy 33-mile overpass stretching the length of State Road 54.… Along with about 20 like-minded citizens who call themselves Pasco Fiasco, a derisive reference to the project, Connors says he’s trying to spread the word. So far, he says, the group has reached about 150 people, mostly in Longleaf.…Privately financed and overseen by the state’s transportation department, the project will not move forward unless Pasco commissioners back it. Department Secretary Ananth Prasad has said the department will not allow the project to proceed if Pasco does not support it.  Tampabay.com

TX: Terri Hall: Donna Campbell’s double-cross on toll roads…..But by far the biggest problem for Campbell is her betrayal of the folks who elected her on the toll road issue. Campbell was clearly on defense on the toll road questions, struggling to defend her record, having ran on an anti-toll platform then voting pro-toll 4 out of 5 times in her freshman session. San Marcos Mercury

LA: The Student-Led Backlash Against New Orleans’s Charter Schools….. But many of the charter schools that have made these improvements rely on rigid discipline policies that can sometimes feel at odds with the city’s culture. In a city known for second lines—freewheeling street parades that feature brass bands, costumed dancers, and whoever else cares to join—it’s common for schools to put tape lines on the floor and expect students—including middle- and high-schoolers—to walk in silent, single-file lines at all times. Many schools have strictly enforced policies on how students sit at their desks, how they raise their hands, and how they greet teachers in the morning. At a time when the Obama administration is urging schools to treat suspensions “as a last resort,” 11 New Orleans charter schools (including the three Collegiate schools) suspended at least a quarter of their student body during the last school year.  The Atlantic

NY: De Blasio names charter schools advocate as deputy mayor. Mayor de Blasio tapped Children’s Aid Society CEO Richard Buery Jr. as his fourth and final deputy mayor Tuesday – even as City Hall mulls booting the group’s charter school from a public building. New York Post

CA: East Palo Alto City Council drops any idea of outsourcing police service. East Palo Alto won’t outsource its police service. The city council voted 4-1 Tuesday night not to pursue the idea after an agitated crowd of more than 100 residents made it clear they wouldn’t go for it. San Jose Mercury News

VA: How to Fix I-66? Several private-sector firms expressed interest in developing and operating toll lanes along I-66, and some wanted to construct – but not operate – a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the Corridor. Virginia Connection Newspapers

February 4, 2014


Republicans Propose New Privatization Scheme That Would Destroy Public Schools. There has been a concerted effort to transform America’s public education system to a taxpayer-funded private religious school scam, and last week many Americans missed a Republican proposal to destroy the public school system because they were awaiting President Obama’s State of the Union address.  However, if they listened carefully to two of the Republican responses, they would have noticed the drumbeat to school privatization Republicans claimed is “all about the children.” PoliticusUSA

The Curse of Privatization. “Obamacare,” the felicitous handle to disguise corporate pre-emption of the ideological-political-structural ground which deals with what should be viewed as a justifiable, humane entitlement affecting all people: health insurance as a basic, non-negotiable right integral to the constitutional foundation of the State. I capitalize “State,” not as an appeal to isms at either pole of the spectrum, but to signify “All-of-us,” the nation as its people, not as, and in contrast to the supposed legitimacy of, its ruling class. By firmly endowing health care, i.e., institutionalizing it, with privatization as the antecedent condition, we place our lives at the mercy of the centers of profit and the structure reinforcing them.  CounterPunch

The Public School Advantage’: the numbers add up: book review. In “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools,” Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, both of whom are professors of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, add to an emerging scholarly consensus that the free market model isn’t the panacea promised by its advocates. Their data-driven argument is a valuable contribution to a vitally important topic. The Oregonian

TX: Payday lender to collect El Paso tolls. At a time when payday lenders are under scrutiny in El Paso and Texas, the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority which is charged with implementing the area’s first toll road is partnering with an organization that uses a payday lender to help collect tolls. As of right now, ACE Cash Express — a payday lender — is the only place in El Paso a person can walk into to buy a toll tag or pay a toll to use the toll lanes on the César Chávez Border Highway. People can also pay the toll by phone, online or mail. El Paso Times

GA: Bill filed to privatize Ga. child welfare services. The bill calls for the Division of Family and Children Services to submit a plan by Jan. 1, with it being phased in over two years beginning in July 2015. The bill requires the division to monitor program operations, including performance standards. The division has been under scrutiny recently for the handling of cases involving two children who later died. WRCB-TV

AZ: New charter-school push in Phoenix core. A new group is investing $2.5 million toward an ambitious goal: Its leaders want to open 25 new A-rated charter schools in Phoenix’s urban core by 2020. The New Schools for Phoenix group is a spinoff of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, a non-profit organization that has long helped new charters open across the state through various programs. Though they share many of the same staff members, New Schools for Phoenix operates as a separate non-profit. Unlike the association’s previous efforts in helping open charter schools, New Schools for Phoenix is zeroing in on Phoenix’s urban core — specifically, the 220 square miles of the Phoenix Union High School District.  Arizona Republic

NY: De Blasio says he won’t allow co-locations for charter schools. Just days after Mayor de Blasio’s Department of Education proposed slashing $210 million from a charter-school construction fund, he said he also won’t allow charters to share space in public-school buildings going forward. New York Post

ME: Online charter school backers promise local control, quality. State education officials pressed board members of a proposed virtual charter school Monday on details of their 500-plus-page application, particularly how they will attract and retain dual-certified teachers on a $35,000 salary and retain local control with a large national company providing most education services.  Press Herald


February 3, 2014


Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Coming to a Post Office Near You: Loans You Can Trust?….. In the same remarkable report this week, the OIG explored the possibility of the USPS offering basic banking services — bill paying, check cashing, small loans — to its customers. With post offices and postal workers already on the ground, USPS could partner with banks to make a critical difference for millions of Americans who don’t have basic banking services because there are almost no banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods….If the Postal Service offered basic banking services — nothing fancy, just basic bill paying, check cashing and small dollar loans — then it could provide affordable financial services for underserved families, and, at the same time, shore up its own financial footing. (The postal services in many other countries, it turns out, have taken steps in this direction and seen their earnings increase dramatically.) Huffington Post

Pearlstein: The federal outsourcing boom and why it’s failing Americans….So, too, the fiasco with HealthCare.gov, which despite the bleating of Republicans has almost nothing to do with the wisdom of the new health-care law and everything to do with the way the government and its outside contractors set about implementing it. While several of the contractors failed to perform as promised, in hindsight it appears the government also made a crucial mistake in deciding to rely on the IT staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to manage the contractors and oversee the final integration of the new system. Free-market ideologues will reflexively see in this failure further evidence of the inherent inferiority of public-sector workers. In truth, it is evidence of how outdated civil service rules and ill-conceived caps on the size and pay of the federal workforce have eroded the government’s ability to perform even essential government tasks.  Washington Post

Video: Weather Forecasting and Public-Private Partnerships. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker spoke with reporters about the public-private partnership in weather forecasting…Senator Mikulski announced a new federal investment in weather technology. C-Span

TX: Toll road use fluctuates, dropped recently. Texas Department of Transportation officials maintain that the privately run section of Texas 130 is increasingly alleviating traffic on the oft-clogged lanes of Interstate 35 despite data that indicates use of the highway has fluctuated and recently dropped. San Antonio Express

TX: Houston Toll Road Taps Investors for Congestion Relief. Builders of a toll road around Houston return to the $3.7 trillion municipal market this week to finance the project serving the fourth-biggest U.S. city….The roadway connects seven Texas counties and circles the Houston metropolitan region, where the population of 6.2 million is expected to swell to 9.6 million by 2035, the documents show.  Bloomberg

GA: University of North Georgia part of plan to privatize dorms. Officials plan to have a partnership in place by the end of 2014 that would privatize dorm rooms in universities and colleges across Georgia. Gainesville Times

LA: 8th LSU hospital ready to go private… The charity hospital also gets a new name — Our Lady of Angels Hospital — as the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health Center System take over. The hospital becomes the eighth of LSU’s 10 hospitals to undergo privatization under the Jindal administration.  The Advocate

IN: House Bill Would Halt Public Employee Pension Outsourcing. House lawmakers approved legislation on Thursday that would halt the Indiana Public Retirement System Board’s plans to outsource management of public employee pensions….The interest rate would be considerably lower under private management, which uses market rates….The bill unanimously passed the House.  It now heads to the Senate. WFIU Local News Podcast

IN: Opinion: Vouchers a distraction from public education needs….Students using vouchers to attend private schools represent less than 2 percent of Indiana’s K-12 students, yet the legislature concentrates on this small group at the expense of the vast majority of public school students. It is as if our policy makers have given up on public education in favor of private education, but such a strategy will never be able to address the needs of the public school students. Indianapolis Star

PA: Prison board drops privatization. The Lawrence County Prison Board agreed Wednesday to stop considering proposals for privatizing the jail for the three-year term of the new jail workers’ contract. The employees’ union agreed to concessions in a new contract, which covers the 2014, 2015 and 2016 calendar years. New Castle News

OH: Trumbull County Superintendents hosting public meeting on privatizing education. Local superintendents will present information about the consequences of privatizing public education and how privatizing impacts their districts. The program will include a presentation from William L. Phillis, executive director of Ohio’s Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding; he will speak about the impact of the privatization movement on public schools in Ohio.  Youngstown Vindicator

IA: Davenport Council says no to privatizing, selling golf courses. Faced with declining play at Davenport’s three municipal golf courses, aldermen on Saturday decried the possibility of privatizing or even selling any of them…. “We don’t want to sell our parks, and there’s no interest in selling the courses,” Mayor Bill Gluba said, echoing the calls of aldermen. Aldermen also showed disinterest in selling the city’s sewer system.  Quad City Times

AZ: McClellan: Libertarian march continues toward privatization of public institutions….[N]ow our privatizers want to create a statewide voucher system, one similar to a county’s in Colorado…..Of course, there are some problems with this, not the least of which is accountability, given that existing voucher plans in Arizona have no private school accountability measures in place, either academically or financially. That is, we have no idea how voucher money is spent by private schools in Arizona, nor do we know how those kids who attend private schools do academically in comparison with their public school counterparts. But we do know that the current variety of voucher plans in this state have done little for the poor, largely because poor parents don’t access the vouchers or don’t have the money to pay for the rest of the tuition private schools charge. Those concerns don’t seem to pop up on proponents’ radar. Ahwatukee Foothills News