March 10, 2014


Fight the Privatization of Education: Oppose the Nomination of Ted Mitchell. In October, the Obama administration nominated Ted Mitchell, the chief executive of the NewSchools Venture Fund, to become Under Secretary of the Department of Education. While the nomination has flown largely under the radar, the choice represents an alarming sign that the administration is favoring greater privatization of public education. The Nation (blog)

CO: Toll roads causing problems, but Colorado says it’s immune. . . The apparent end of what that study calls the “driving boom” is causing problems for tolling projects from California to Texas, where reality is failing to match projections of growth in traffic and revenue. Some states, including Illinois and Indiana, are offering set payments to supplement toll projects. Colorado officials insist they’ve built in safeguards for taxpayers in case traffic revenue doesn’t meet expectations. The state’s recent 50-year agreement with Plenary Roads Denver — a six-company consortium — for the maintenance and tolling of U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder includes no contractual guarantee for a minimum level of revenue, say officials with the Colorado Department of Transportation. . . But credit agencies are taking USPIRG’s per capita numbers seriously, downgrading companies and issuing warnings to investors to be leery of toll roads because of anemic traffic numbers.  Denver Post

FL: Medicaid privatization talks weren’t in public view. . .The bid process for the contracts was “rigorous” and “competitive,” according to a news release announcing the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) celebration. What went unmentioned is that contracts covering every region in the state were, in part, the product of behind-the-scenes negotiations outside of the public view. In every region across the state, at least one losing company filed a complaint in administrative court challenging the winning company’s eligibility. Overall, 17 companies filed a total of 64 challenges. The agency ultimately signed final settlement agreements between feuding insurers, which are subject to state public records laws. How those companies overcame sometimes serious allegations to reach the settlements, though, isn’t a public record. Those talks could have included factors such as financial agreements or work share plans.

MD: Housing advocates seek details about plan to privatize public housing. Lawyers for three low-income advocacy groups have sent 34 questions to Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano about the city’s plans to sell off a large swath of Baltimore’s public housing projects. “The devil is in the details,” said Karen E. Wabeke, a staff attorney for the Homeless Persons Representation Project, about the proposed conversion of 4,000 of the city’s nearly 11,000 public housing units to private ownership. Wabeke said her group is worried that the promised renovation of the projects by developers may reduce the number of low-income units in the city and establish unrealistically high standards for future residents.  Baltimore Brew

NY: In Rent Plan for Charters, Mayor Faces a Hard Road. Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to charge rent to charter schools, but education experts say his proposal might be difficult to put into effect.  New York Times

AK: Public funds for private schools on Senate docket. A proposal to amend Alaska’s constitution to allow for public money to go to private or religious schools has been placed on the Senate calendar for Monday. The sponsor of SJR9, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, would not say Friday evening whether he had the votes for the measure to pass. “I have a pretty good sense, I’ll leave it at that,” the Wasilla Republican said. . . A similar measure is pending in the House.  Washington Times

VA: Editorial: Public money for private doors: Virginia’s ethics laws have long been predicated on the notion that transparency, rather than any cap on money or gifts, is sufficient and proper. But state lawmakers, at least in the House of Delegates, aren’t quite willing to let go of taxpayer subsidies that help fund their travel to conferences put on by special-interest groups that don’t share an affinity for disclosure. . . The Senate unanimously agreed. The measure sailed into the House, where it hit a brick wall in the Rules Committee this week. As The Pilot’s Bill Sizemore reported, members of that committee decided on an unrecorded “voice vote after less than three minutes of discussion” to kill the bill. . . The broad wording of the measure meant that it could apply to any qualifying group, but McEachin made no secret that he intended to target the American Legislative Exchange Council. Last year, about $20,000 in public funds were spent to cover Virginia lawmakers’ dues and travel to the council conference. ALEC is a legislative bill factory for conservative causes, and its members include roughly two dozen Republican Virginia lawmakers. One of them is Republican House Speaker Bill Howell, who also chairs the Republican-heavy Rules Committee.  The Virginian-Pilot