March 14, 2014


Tackling Student Debt and the Privatization of Education. Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) kicked off a new campaign called “Higher Ed, Not Debt” to tackle the nation’s staggering burden of student loan debt. The campaign will be fought by a broad coalition of unions and progressive groups including the Working Families Party, Progress Now and Jobs for Justice and a couple of think tanks, the Center for American Progress and Demos. The campaign has broad goals, including highlighting the role Wall Street has played in financializing student debt products. But Nelini Stamp, youth outreach director for Working Families, tells that it is part of a larger battle over education in America from pre-kindergarten up.  Bill Moyers

Public-Private Partnerships From Hell….[L]obbying efforts by the private prison industry seem to have been diverted recently. An analysis from the Associated Press last year found that the three major private prison corporations spent roughly $45 million over the past decade to influence state and federal government. CCA has its own PAC and a lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Geo Group exerts influence through donations to candidates’ PACs. Recently Senator Mark Rubio argued that “we need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.” Rubio received at $33,000 from the private prison industry. CounterPunch

The link between charter school expansion and increasing segregation. One thing that proponents of the broad expansion of charter schools never talk about is the evidence of how charters are leading to increasing segregation by race, ethnicity and income. Washington Post (blog)

NJ: Christie’s charter school nightmare: “White flight, and they’re bankrupting us”. As charters in the city have exploded in number and size, “they’re fostering white flight, and they’re bankrupting us,” the city’s school board head charged in a Wednesday interview. “We are creating separate but equal school systems,” warned Hoboken Board of Education president Leon Gold. (As Salon has reported, Christie-style ed reform has also sparked controversy in Newark.) Salon

NY: Gov. Cuomo Says Protecting Charter Schools Will Be Major Part Of Budget. Gov. Cuomo says the fight to protect charter schools will be one of he biggest issues in the upcoming state budget negotiations. In a slight jab at Mayor de Blasio, Cuomo said the charter school issue will trump the fight over prekindergarten expansion–declaring that latter battle over. New York Daily News

VT: Moratorium on school privatization goes to final Senate vote. S.91 aims to temporarily prevent municipalities from closing a public school only to reopen an independent school in the same physical property. The legislation, which now heads to a final Senate vote and potentially to the House, also would create a committee to study the constitutionality of such transitions. To date, two Vermont schools have transformed from public to private: Winhall in 1998 and North Bennington in 2013. Westford is now considering the same. Sen Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, said that looks like a trend, and it’s got the Senate Education committee worried.

OR: Conservationists Say They’ll Sue Over Privatization Of State Forest. The state of Oregon is in the process of selling almost 3,000 acres of public land in the Elliott State Forest. Conservation groups are afraid that timber companies will buy the land and log it. Much of the forest is home to the Marbled murrelet, a seabird that’s listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. “Our effort is to put the timber industry on notice and let them know that we are going to prosecute them for violation of the Endangered Species Act if they plan to clearcut these stands of marbled murrelet habitat,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. It’s one of three groups that has filed notice of intent to sue.  Jefferson Public Radio

GA: Documents Show Privatized Bus System Costs More Than City Operation. Augusta Commissioners privatized the bus system three years ago, with the promise it would save $400,000 a year. The city changed private companies in July, hiring McDonald Transit, but some Commissioners feel it’s the wrong route to take.  “We can’t afford to expand with it outsourced, because it costs too much money. So, what we need to do is bring it back in-house,” says Commissioner Bill Lockett. And, figures from the Augusta Finance Department seem to indicate that. Comparing the last six months the city ran the bus system, in 2011, to the last six months under the current company, the private company’s operation was about $500,000 more expensive than the city’s operation. “Is it more expensive to have the private contractor in there?” we asked. “Most certainly, it is more expensive plus it limits what you can do,” says Lockett.  WJBF-TV

OK: State Senate passes bill to privatize Medicaid. The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would privatize Medicaid in a pilot project at a yet-to-be-determined location in the state. . . Managed care for Medicaid was tried in the 1990s and failed miserably, said Wes Glinsmann, Oklahoma State Medical Association spokesman. “This isn’t about managed care,” he said. “It is about privatization. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is already one of the most efficient agencies in state government. Their administrative overhead is far less than what you would find with most private insurers and so for there to be any cost saving, it is going to be borne on the back of providers.”  Tulsa World

FL: Sierra Club latest to oppose toll road idea in south Pasco. Add another name to the list of opponents to the proposed toll road in south Pasco County: the Sierra Club Tampa Bay Group. The environmental organization’s Tampa chapter came out against the planned elevated highway that would span most of south Pasco, saying it would bring more sprawl and traffic. It urged policies promoting mass transit and blamed current traffic headaches on inadequate planning.