March 13, 2014


Say goodbye to public schools: Diane Ravitch warns Salon some cities will soon have none.  In a wide-ranging conversation last week, Ravitch spoke with Salon about new data touted by charter school supporters, progressive divisions over Common Core, and Chris Christie’s ed agenda. “There are cities where there’s not going to be public education 10 years from now,” Ravitch warned. A condensed version of our conversation follows. Salon

Unions fear a ‘New Deal’ sell-off. Labor unions are going on the attack against a proposal buried deep in President Obama’s budget that they charge is a move to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  Established in 1933 and still owned by the federal government, the TVA is one of the lasting legacies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” providing electricity to more than 9 million people in seven Southern states. But while the utility is now self-financing, the government could pocket a hefty profit by selling its stake. Obama proposed studying that option in his last two budgets, angering a trio of major labor unions that have thousands of members at TVA facilities.  The Hill

Public Transit Use in the U.S. is Now Higher Than Private Vehicle Use. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans took 10.7 billion public transit trips in 2013, making it the highest ridership figure since 1956. Overall, the use of public transportation went up 1.1% in the last year, outpacing both population growth and private vehicle use. “There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA president Michael Melaniphy. PolicyMic

MI: Michigan fines Aramark $98,000 for prison food rule violations. A food service provider, already under fire for its handling of food and dealing with inmates, has been fined $98,000 for violating its contract, according to two state Department of Corrections letters released Tuesday. Aramark Corp., which took over Michigan prison food service operations late last year that eliminated union jobs, was fined after not getting approval to make meal substitutions 52 times, failing to make the appropriate number of meals 240 times and allowing 12 instances of poor staff conduct, according to two state letters addressed to the company dated March 6.  AFSCME Privatization Update

CA: Charter schools dealt setback by San Jose court ruling. The South Bay movement to fast-track the opening of charter schools has been dealt a setback, with a court ruling that county school boards can’t override local ordinances while deciding where to place campuses. San Jose Mercury News

PA: CLEAR Coalition Opposes Push to Privatize PASSHE. Legislation to allow some PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) institutions to privatize could cost thousands of Pennsylvania families access to a high quality, affordable college education, leaders of the CLEAR Coalition said today. The legislation would permit PASSHE universities with more than 7,000 students to leave the state system under certain prescribed conditions.  The universities would then be considered “state-related” which would result in skyrocketing tuition costs. “So many middle class and working families are struggling to make ends meet and pay college tuition bills. This legislation would make it that much more difficult for these hard-working Pennsylvania families,” said Dave Fillman, Executive Director of  the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13 and Chair of the CLEAR Coalition.  PR Newswire

GA: Unlikely twins: Foster care bill may be merged with Medicaid expansion. A Senate-based bid to privatize Georgia’s child welfare system on Thursday may be joined to a high-profile House effort to give the Legislature say-so over Medicaid expansion. . . . SB 350 passed the Senate last month with a 31-18 vote, and would require the Division of Family and Children Services to bid out primary functions such as case management, family preservation and independent living. . . .The House Judiciary Committee passed a scaled-down version, calling instead for a two-year pilot program. Unterman decried the “pared down” version and disputed critics who have said the state was moving too fast.  .  .  .So Unterman intends to merge her foster care bill with HB 990, which is backed by the House’s top leadership. Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)


March 12, 2014


The Postal Service is Outsourcing Itself to a Company Doing Almost as Badly as the Postal Service. In November, the United States Postal Service launched a big partnership with Staples under which 84 of the office-supply retailer’s stores, in four states, would start offering nearly comprehensive postal services, staffed by Staples employees. If this year-long pilot program succeeds, postal officials said, it could well expand to hundreds more Staples stores around the country. Meanwhile, last week, Staples announced that it is closing 225 of its stores—some 12 percent of its North American outlets—following a plunge in revenues in the fourth quarter of 2013. The company’s stock plummeted 15 percent on the announcement. There is something wrong with this picture. What exactly is the postal service doing staking its future to a partnership with a company whose business model is if anything in even greater trouble than its own?  The New Republic

VT: Faceoff coming in Vermont Senate over privatizing schools. Later this week, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would put a two-year halt to turning public schools into independent institutions while the state studies whether the practice is constitutional. A split over which way to go emerged Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Burlington Free Press

GA: House puts brakes on plan to privatize foster care, adoptions. . . But child advocates cautioned lawmakers against moving too fast, and the House Judiciary Committee responded to those pleas by passing a substitute that would inch Georgia toward privatization with a two-year pilot program in portions of the state. Atlanta Journal Constitution

FL: Toll road opponents say Pasco officials using ‘scare tactic’. . . Panelists from the Urban Land Institute, who toured the county last October, said Pasco officials are overestimating their projected 2025 population by more than 50,000 people. In the final report released Monday, the panelists strongly oppose the elevated highway concept, saying it would promote “highway oriented development” rather than “transit oriented development,” which is the county’s stated goal. . . They recommended the county “defer for a reasonable time” the private toll road. “Instead, the county should pursue a regional collaboration that could both enhance funding opportunities and configure different physical solutions,” they wrote. “Proceeding with the elevated freeway before pursuing the regional MPO configuration would foreclose possible superior solutions to the east–west congestion challenge. In the meantime, the continued buildup of congestion may spawn more public support for transit solutions.”

MI: Orr’s alternative: Privatize or sell Detroit water department. With multi-county negotiations stalled to create an expanded regional water authority, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is exploring Plan B — privatize operation of the Detroit Water and Sewer Department or sell it outright. The Detroit News



March 11, 2014


FL: Officials get earful at town hall meeting over toll road plan. Angry residents made their voices heard at a town hall meeting Monday about a proposed toll road in south Pasco. The meeting didn’t start that way, though. Like previous meetings about the road, the first hour consisted of a slide presentation, a series of discussions touching on historical and anticipated growth patterns, and trends in housing, employment and transportation. Then something happened not seen at two previous meetings.

FL: Florida special election offer clues for 2014. Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly are vying to win a special election in Florida’s 13th congressional district, with polls showing a virtual dead heat. . . .A key line of attack has been Jolly’s lobbying work for a conservative organization that wants to privatize Social Security.  MSNBC

NY: Irate Charter School Parents Filing Lawsuits Against De Blasio. Lawsuits are being filed this week over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to move charter school students out of public school space. CBS Local

SD: South Dakota Governor Blasts Iowa Traffic Cameras. Governor Dennis Daugaard South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) is tired of having Sioux City shake down South Dakotans as they pass through Iowa. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, Daugaard transportation policy advisor Matt Konenkamp blasted Iowa’s speed trap tactics and offered an amendment to legislation that would prevent photo enforcement companies like Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and Arizona-based American Traffic Soluions from accessing the South Dakota driver’s license records they need to issue citations. The committee unanimously adopted the recommendation. The

AZ: Divisive Arizona school plan advances. The Arizona Legislature will soon decide whether to dramatically expand the state’s nation-leading efforts to give parents control over where to spend their child’s taxpayer-generated education funds. The state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program was, at the start of this school year, scheduled to disperse $10.2 million to 761 students. If expanded as proposed, the 3-year-old program could within the next five years apply to more than 28,000 students and strip more than $374 million a year from public and charter schools, based on the current average cost. The goal is to eventually expand the program to the state’s more than 1 million public and charter schoolchildren. Opponents of the bills say an expansion on that scale would be a deathblow to public schools.  azcentral

Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education – Diane Ravitch. A few years ago, when I was blogging at Education Week with Deborah Meier, a reader introduced the term FUD. I had never heard of it. It is a marketing technique used in business and politics to harm your competition. The term and its history can be found on Wikipedia. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The reader said that those who were trying to create a market-based system to replace public education were using FUD to undermine public confidence in public education. They were selling the false narrative that our public schools are obsolete and failing.  Huffington Post



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


March 7, 2014


Pitfalls Seen in a Turn to Privately Run Long-Term Care. . . At least 26 states, including California, Florida, Illinois and New York, are rolling out mandatory programs that put billions of public dollars into privately managed long-term care plans, in hopes of keeping people in their homes longer, and expanding alternatives to nursing homes. . . “It’s a success story,” said Patti Killingsworth, director of long-term services and supports in Tennessee, pointing out that the state was serving a quarter more people with inexpensive home and community services. But a closer look at Tennessee, widely cited as a model, reveals hidden pitfalls as the system of caring for the frail comes under the twin pressures of cost containment and profit motive. In many cases, care was denied after needs grew costlier — including care that people would have received under the old system. “The notion of prevention saving money in the long run only works if you actually provide care in the long run,” said Gordon Bonnyman, former director of the Tennessee Justice Center, a patient advocacy group. “Tennessee is probably as good as it gets in terms of oversight and financial regulation, and thus I think it is a cautionary tale.”  New York Times

Length of public-private road contracts questioned. Some public-private partnerships involving toll roads are only a few years into long-term contracts but are already falling short on traffic and revenue. Members of a U.S. House panel questioned the length of the contracts and urged accountability for so-called PPPs during a hearing Wednesday, March 5, on Capitol Hill. . . The ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts cut right to the chase on some PPP contracts that last 75 or even 99 years. “I’m concerned about spending tomorrow’s money today,” he said during a discussion of the Indiana Toll Road. Back in 2006, then Gov. Mitch Daniels leased the toll road for 75 years, allowing a private firm from Spain and Australia to keep the toll revenue until 2081 in exchange for operation and maintenance of the roadway. Truckers have seen tolls on the Indiana Toll Road more than double since 2006 to help the private investors recoup the $3.85 billion they spent to control the roadway. Land Line Magazine

NJ: Rutgers study cites ‘stunning’ lack of oversight of companies hired by New Jersey. A “stunning” lack of oversight by New Jersey of companies hired to do work for the state has cost taxpayers money and, in some cases, endangered residents, according to a three-year study released by Rutgers University on Thursday. New Jersey has not devoted enough money or attention to making sure companies that sign contracts with the state do what they say they will do, the report said, even as the state continues to outsource government functions. “The state is failing in its duty of protecting vulnerable citizens from poor service and taxpayers from wasted funds,” the report said.           

KY: Ky. panel backs public-private partnerships to build bridges, other projects. Arnold Simpson of Covington, who said the public-private partnership option could pave the way for tolls to finance a new Ohio River bridge between Cincinnati and Covington. Lexington Herald Leader

PA: GOP says privatizing LCB could aid budget. House Republican leaders are arguing in ongoing negotiations that privatizing the state liquor system would bolster the 2014-15 budget, but political analysts remain skeptical, given the issue’s troubled legislative history. . . Corbett forecast a $1 billion-plus budget shortfall. He said his spending plan, which needs legislative approval, would balance the budget without raising taxes. But officials acknowledge balancing the budget may be difficult, depending on revenue the next few months.  Tribune-Review

TX: Petition Drive Seeks Public Vote on All SA Toll Projects. In a change of tactics for anti toll groups, they have begun circulating petitions calling for an election on a change to the San Antonio City Charter which would require that a public vote be taken before any toll roads or toll lanes could be built inside the city limits, 1200 WOAI news reports. “When they come back and want to toll these roads, they would have to get public approval first,” said Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, a major anti toll organization, told 1200 WOAI

TX: Texas Voters Reject Red Light Camera Candidates. . .Carona and Harper-BrownTwo of the figures most responsible for the spread of red light cameras in the Lone Star State lost their jobs Tuesday. Texas state Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) and state Representative Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) were both defeated in Republican primary elections.. . .Harper-Brown was richly rewarded for her efforts. Paradigm Traffic Systems, which sells equipment used by the red light camera industry, provided a black 2010 Mercedes E550 sedan and a 2004 Chevy Tahoe to Harper-Brown and her husband William Brown. Harper-Brown insisted she did not have to disclose the gift because the cars were for her husband, an accountant, but WFAA-TV caught her driving the vehicle with her official state license plates. The Texas Values in Action Coalition filed a complaint in 2010, and the Texas Ethics decision decided to fine the lawmaker $2000 in 2012.

NY: De Blasio, in Radio Interview, Defends His Position on Charter Schools. Battered in the press over his position on charter schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday took to a friendly news outlet to defend himself and argue that his actions were being distorted. New York Times

ME: Maine governor vetoes virtual charter school bill. Maine Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would put a pause on the creation of virtual charter schools in the state until next year while officials try to come up with a state-run cyber academy. In his veto letter, the Republican governor said Thursday that he opposed that the moratorium because it would halt Maine Connections Academy, a virtual charter that was approved by the state Monday. He said the school is critically needed for hundreds of students, many of whom are “emotionally or physically unable to access a ‘brick and mortar’ option.”  WCSH-TV


March 6, 2014


PA: Should Philly’s public gas company be in private hands? Mayor Michael Nutter has announced a proposed agreement to privatize Philadelphia Gas Works. The deal, which would sell PGW to Connecticut-based UIL Holdings Corp. for $1.86 billion, is enormous. And it is the most important local issue that you haven’t thought about at all.  . .Utility Workers Union of America Local 686, consumer advocates and City Controller Alan Butkovitz have already criticized the sale. A skeptical City Council — which, along with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, must give its approval for the deal to go through — has retained consultants to analyze the sale, and whether PGW could expand and improve as a city-owned utility. Philadelphia City Paper

IL: Rahm Made the Meter Deal Worse, and That Shows No Signs of Changing. Mayor Rahm Emanuel still hasn’t let any aldermen reinstate metered parking on Sundays, despite promises last summer to do so after he announced a renegotiated parking meter deal. A new study released today shows why it may never happen. Navigant Consulting’s report for the mayor’s office [PDF] says that “parkers” are paying less than Navigant had estimated last summer. It also shows that the city is paying less to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, because it no longer has to pay for road closures (including street festivals and construction) that happen on Sundays. Combined, CPM is collecting $8.7 million less from Sunday parkers and the city annually. (The report doesn’t specify how much of that total is attributable to each source.) This result suggests why Emanuel has been dragging his feet on letting aldermen opt out of free Sunday parking, because then the numbers for the “savings” wouldn’t look as good. The study supports 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack’s assertion that allowing metered Sundays would “hurt the deal they cut,” as he told DNAinfo. Streetsblog Chicago (blog)

GA: House begins debate on privatizing foster care. . .They see the privatization bill as a way to free up DFCS workers to focus on child abuse investigations and permanency plans for children in the state’s care. But other private organizations told reporter Rebecca Lindstrom, FaithBridge is in the minority of those who feel Senate Bill 350 is a good idea. . . Mead and other opponents say the effort to mirror Georgia’s foster care system after Florida’s is short sighted. “There’s evidence that Georgia is doing better than Florida in many of these important outcomes,” said Mead.  WXIA-TV

TN: State reviews privatizing lodges, restaurants in parks. Resources at about a dozen state parks may no longer be in Tennessee’s hands. The state is currently reviewing a proposal that would privatize lodges and restaurants at 11 state parks, including Cumberland Mountain State park in Crossville. . . Skeptics say privatizing these parts of the park would result in layoffs and impact 50 jobs in Crossville. WBIR-TV

Bernie Sanders: There’s No Need to End Saturday Mail Delivery. . . Whether you are a low-income elderly woman living at the end of a dirt road in Vermont or a wealthy CEO living on Park Avenue, you get your mail six days a week. And you pay for this service at a cost far less than anywhere else in the industrialized world.  Yet the Postal Service is under constant and vicious attack. Why? The answer is simple. There are very powerful and wealthy special interests who want to privatize or dismember virtually every function that government now performs, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, public education or the Postal Service. They see an opportunity for Wall Street and corporate America to make billions in profits out of these services, and couldn’t care less how privatization or a degradation of services affects ordinary Americans. What They Think


March 5, 2014


Anti-tolls group formed by trucking companies, truck stops, other sectors. Several trucking companies and trucking trade groups have joined a band of other business and consumer organizations to form an anti-tolling group who says its mission is to keep existing interstates toll-free. The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates includes trucking industry members FedEx, UPS, Old Dominion, the American Trucking Associations, all 50 state trucking associations, the Truckload Carriers Association, Quality Transport, H&J Trucking, NATSO and others. . .The group formed in response to three states implementing pilot programs to allow tolls on existing interstate lanes, even though federal law prohibits tolling on existing Interstates. Moreover, ATFI says, “the tolling industry is pressuring lawmakers” to change the law and allow tolling on existing lanes. Also, as the next highway bill looms and Congress searches for a solution to preventing the Highway Trust Fund going broke, ATFI says it hopes to show tolls as “unreliable, expensive and inefficient” as a mechanism for generating infrastructure funding.  Overdrive

Ravitch calls for congressional hearings on standardized testing gets unexpected support. . . The subject of congressional hearings on testing abuse came up Tuesday at a SXSWedu panel on accountability. On the panel were Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s former communications director, Peter Cunningham, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. (I was the moderator.) During the Q & A, one of the founders of NPE, veteran educator Anthony Cody, asked if the panelists would support the call for Congress to hold hearings on how standardized tests are being used in public schools. Weingarten quickly said she would. Then, Cunningham said he would support it, as well.Weingarten has been a vocal critical of excessive testing for some time. But it was a surprising moment for people who expected a different response from Cunningham, whose job it used to be to defend the Education Department’s policies which have resulted in a rise in testing. Washington Post (blog)

NY: Mayor De Blasio and Operator of Charter School Empire Do Battle. . . In his campaign last year, Mr. de Blasio took aim at charter schools, saying they had a “destructive impact” on traditional schools. He has promised to charge rent to well-financed charter schools, which are privately run but publicly financed, for using public school buildings, and he has placed a moratorium on future requests for classroom space inside traditional district schools.  New York Times

PA: Critics see loopholes in PGW-sale deal. The ink is barely dry on the city’s agreement to sell Philadelphia Gas Works for $1.86 billion to a Connecticut energy company, and critics are already seeing loopholes in promised customer protections. Under the purchase agreement announced Monday, UIL Holdings Corp. is required to maintain a three-year rate freeze and continue PGW’s low-income subsidies. But advocates who have read the 87-page agreement say it appears to contain provisions that would allow the new owners to hedge those commitments. Critics also say that UIL is taking over municipal liens that PGW placed on properties of nonpaying customers, triggering fears that the utility could foreclose on homeowners to extract long-standing debts.

MA: At meeting on proposed waste transfer station, City Council expresses dismay at push for privatization. A presentation by Republic Services for a proposed transfer station after the Fall River Industrial Park landfill closes turned into a protest when it became apparent to city councilors that Mayor Will Flanagan is talking with vendors about privatizing the city’s trash hauling. “I’ll be the first one to come forward and say I will never — never — be in favor of privatization of the city. No way, not on my watch,” said City Councilor Daniel Rego to thunderous applause from department of public works staff that packed City Council Chambers. Wicked Local Fall River

March 4, 2014


Virtual Schools Continue to Proliferate. Full-time virtual schools continue to have serious problems with respect to education quality, diversity, accountability, and funding, according to a new national study published today by the National Education Policy Center. . . “Full-time K-12 online learning is growing exponentially. Many policymakers praise it, and taxpayer money supports it,” says the report’s editor, Professor Alex Molnar of the University of Colorado Boulder, where the NEPC is housed at the CU Boulder School of Education. “And yet, there has been little high-quality research to support the claims that justify its rapid expansion.” National Education Policy Center

PA: PGW sale means higher gas bills, says advocacy group. Philadelphians are in for a big hike in their gas bills after the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works to UIL Holdings Corp. for $1.86 billion, an advocacy group is warning. Food & Water Watch warns that if gas utility privatization is anything like water privatization, then customers will pay the price with rate increases. Philadelphia Business Journal

PA: Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett: Liquor privatization not dead yet. Corbett fought for liquor privatization and pension changes during last year’s budget negotiations but wasn’t able to get them through the Legislature. Delaware County Daily Times

ID: House passes measure allowing for partial privatization of services at state universities. House Bill 549, which now goes to the Senate, would not require the schools to shift to private services, but would extend the opportunity to do so where it currently does not exist. The bill passed on a 53 to 14 vote.

TX: Toll troubles: URS set for hefty layoffs in Austin. URS Corp., one of the Austin area’s largest engineering companies, is set to lay off 79 employees in April — nearly 9 percent of its local staff — because its contract to operate the Central Texas Turnpike has not been renewed, the company disclosed in a notice sent to the Texas Workforce Commission. . . URS is the contractor that launched the Central Texas Turnpike in 2006. The turnpike, 65 miles long, includes portions of State Highway 45, State Highway 140 and Loop 1, also known as MoPac Expressway. URS Corp., based in San Francisco, is one of the largest private Austin-area employers, with more than 950 workers. Austin Business Journal

WI: Editorial: Toll roads aren’t the answer for Wisconsin. . . Instead of a two-tax system, Wisconsin would be better off taking the current road and using the gas tax as the primary source for highway funding. Critics will say the state’s gas taxes are already among the highest in the country — and it’s true that Wisconsin ranks 14th among all states. But at 51.3 cents per gallon for federal and state gas taxes, Wisconsin is less than 2 cents per gallon morethan the national average of 49.5 cents. We don’t need a new and inefficient tax like toll roads in southeastern Wisconsin.  Journal Times

NJ: Wanna buy a bridge? Neighboring state turns to private sector to fix crumbling spans. As New Jersey wrestles with how it will pay for its crumbling roads and bridges once the Transportation Trust Fund runs out of money in two years, Pennsylvania is looking to enter into a public-private partnership to reconstruct its spans. Color New Jersey’s transportation commissioner intrigued.  The Star-Ledger

NJ: Franklin schools nix plan to outsource paraprofessionals, substitutes still at  risk. The school board has decided not to outsource paraprofessionals, including teachers’ aides, but will have to find other cuts to meet a $1.75 million budget gap, the interim superintendent said. . . Despite the strong support for the move indicated by a loud burst of applause when the outsourcing announcement was made, many of the more than a dozen attendees who still came up to the microphone to comment chided the board for considering the move in the first place, and for not including the substitute teachers. The Star-Ledger

KS: Wichita council weighing change to no-bid policy for public-private projects. . . Bidding would no longer be required for construction work jointly financed by city and private money – if general contractors agree to select their subcontractors through a competitive process approved by city staff. The city also plans to engage a third-party expert in these instances to verify construction estimates and contracts. Projects entirely financed by taxpayers would still require competitive bidding.


March 3, 2014


PA: Pennsylvania will have private companies rebuild and maintain more than 500 bridges. Pennsylvania is moving closer to awarding a contract for private companies to repair and maintain at least 500 structurally deficient bridges. The plan will work like this, according to PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch. The state’s Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board will select a firm to replace as many as 650 structurally deficient bridges. The contracts will call for those firms to then maintain the bridges for the next 30 years, Schoch said. After that, the state would resume maintenance. Patriot-News

TN: State Takes First Steps Towards Privatizing Parks. NewsChannel 5 has learned the Haslam administration has taken the first steps that could lead to the privatizing of almost a dozen state parks. Now, some fear that move could end up costing hundreds of state employees their jobs.

IN: Gary Airport Consultants Set To Score $2 Million From Privatization Deal. There are always the usual suspects who cash in big time from the consulting work that occasions the execution of a privatization agreement. The magical number for the pay day to the consultants for the 40-year privatization deal with Aviation Facilities for the Gary Airport is $2 million, which is about the same amount Indianapolis spent on consultants for its corrupt parking meter privatization deal with ACS. Advance Indiana

CA: OC toll road CEO put on leave after spending questioned. The chief executive officer for Orange County’s toll road agency has been put on leave after less than one year on the job, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed Friday. Neil Peterson had been under fire for spending thousands of dollars without public  scrutiny, using a provision that gave him and the agency’s chairwoman authority to sign smaller contracts without the authorization of the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ board of directors.  Los Angeles Times

FL: Privatizing government work reaps lavish profits for some. The idea behind privatizing Florida government services is that it’s supposed to be not only cheaper, but better — to save money for the taxpayers and, just as important, to do the job better than state employees. . . A lot of state employees and their elected representatives, who were Democrats, warned that there was another purpose behind privatization. It makes a lot of money for companies taking over state contracts, and officers of those companies make a lot of contributions to politicians. We’ll let you take a wild guess at which party grabs most of the gelt.

FL: Grand jury investigates 3 toll-road board members. An Orange County grand jury is looking into an allegation that three board members of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority violated the state’s open-records law. Orlando Sentinel

OR: National liquor group gives $100,000 to Oregon privatization effort. The Distilled Spirits Council, a national group that advocates for liquor manufacturers, has donated $100,000 to the effort to privatize Oregon liquor sales, state records show. The money could help jump-start a signature-gathering drive when the campaign pushing for the law change gets an approved ballot title, said Pat McCormick, spokesman for Oregonians for Competition. That’s the group, backed by Northwest grocery chains, that’s trying to put a measure on the November ballot that would end Oregon’s monopoly on liquor sales, and allow big retailers to stock booze on their shelves. The Oregonian

GA: Privatized college buildings bill clears Georgia House. After several fits and starts, legislation making it easier for the University System of Georgia to privatize student dormitories and parking decks is moving in the General Assembly. . . The university system Board of Regents wants to step up its privatization efforts in order to reduce the system’s debt load from campus construction projects, a total that is approaching $4 billion. Atlanta Business Chronicle (blog)

GA: Children at risk – Opinion. Senate Bill 350 proposes to fully privatize the foster care system in Georgia. Private companies or non-profits would take over all services related to adoption, foster care, family reunification, and case management. . .The problem with Senate Bill 350 and its full privatization of the foster care system is that it would do nothing to address the failure of DFCS to identify and respond to children at risk of abuse and neglect. . . Full privatization of foster care does not ensure better outcomes for children. Florida, from which this legislation was taken, does not appear to offer any advantage over Georgia’s public agency approach. There is no evidence whatsoever that full privatization is more effective at keeping children safe or finding permanent homes faster than Georgia’s current system.  Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Fighting Schemes to Privatize the USPS. In an effort to protect good jobs and community service against privatization schemes on Capitol Hill and the marketplace, Postal Workers this month called for a boycott of Staples office-supply stores. Specifically accusing Republicans of trying to privatize mail processing and delivery to enhance profits for their campaign contributors by destabilizing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) is demanding that Staples stop operating postal retail units staffed by non-postal employees. Tri States Public Radio

Chomsky: How America’s Great University System Is Getting Destroyed. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities. The idea is to divide society into two groups.  AlterNet