April 1, 2014


Video: Bill Moyers: Public Schools for Sale? Public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors are entering what they consider to be an “emerging market.” As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.” Huffington Post

YES! Magazine Challenges Myth of Failing Public Schools. Education Uprising, the Spring 2014 issue of YES! Magazine, questions the assumptions of standardized testing, revisits the statistics used to justify public policy in schools, and imagines a more inclusive and just classroom for all. For decades, the myth of failing public schools justified industrial-scale testing and a privatization agenda. Now, activist educators nationwide are bursting the bubble test, getting culturally relevant, and restoring justice to the classroom. DigitalJournal.com

Crisis in Correctional Care: Pressing for Prison Reform. . . One final area to watch is privatization.  Gabe Eber, Staff Counsel to the ACLU’S National Prison Project, say government alone should administer prisons and the healthcare they provide: “By adding a private, for-profit corporation, you’re changing the nature of the punishment.  You’re giving this corporation considerable power over prisoners who are in the custody of the state, and when you put a profit motive into the provision of healthcare, it may not necessarily be in the interest of the taxpayers or more importantly the prisoners.” But the business of caring for prisoners appears to be a profitable one, and companies pay to play. Virginia’s largest provider of medical services to prisons, Corizon, paid lobbyists here more than $21,000 this year, and its CEO gave $500 to the campaign of Republican Ken Cucinelli.  Another  provider, the GEO Group, spent nearly $15,000 on lobbyists, and one of their top competitors, Armor Correctional Health Services, contributed $25,000 to the campaign of Democrat Terry McAuliffe. WVTF

IN: Investment Firms Buy Chunk of Indiana Toll Road Debt. . . .Indiana Toll Road, which spans about 157 miles between the Ohio Turnpike and Chicago Skyway, has struggled over the past few years with lower-than-expected traffic and a $5.8 billion debt load. The road is operated by units of Ferrovial and Macquarie Group. . . Distressed investing firms have been buying up Indiana Toll Road debt over the past 12 to 18 months, in some cases building positions of more than $100 million, some of these people said. These firms increase their stakes when mostly European lenders sell, including another roughly $500 million trade a few weeks earlier by another European bank, one of these people said. The changing base of creditors has shifted the tide in this restructuring, according to people involved. Some European banks have been unwilling to take write-downs on the toll road debt, but other banks are starting to change course, these people said. More than 40 lenders hold pieces of the company’s debt, they said. A steering committee of lenders including European banks Banco Santander and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA was appointed last year. Wall Street Journal

OR: Liquor privatization: Fred Meyer, Safeway kick in big-dollar donations. More than $1 million has rolled into the campaign to privatize Oregon liquor sales in recent days, according to election records posted Monday. Two big grocery chains put in the money. Fred Meyer, which already had contributed a half a million dollars, added another $500,000, bringing its total to $1 million so far. Safeway, a new donor, gave $656,500. Earlier, the national Distilled Spirits Council kicked in $200,000. A full-fledged opposition campaign has yet to form. The Oregonian

CA: School Boards Association’s Pres. takes on Netflix CEO’s call for privatization for school boards. Josephine Lucey, President of the California School Boards Association and a Cupertino Union School District board member, took on Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ controversial assertion that voter-elected school boards hamper sustainable school improvement. Lucey’s opinion, published on the San Francisco Chronicle’s open online forum, points out what Hastings seems to have forgotten, “Public oversight of local government is the foundation of American democracy.” . .  . Turning to privatization of school boards, Lucey counters, would be akin to suggesting that publicly owned corporations have no responsibility to listen to their shareholders. Who is there to keep the board accountable if not for voters?  School Board News

NJ: Is Christie-Backed One Newark Reform Plan Good For Newark’s Students?….That said, the growth in charter schools is particularly galling to One Newark opponents, who see the hand of controversial Governor Chris Christie behind what opponents believe is a privatization push masquerading as improved “public” education. Indeed, parents and teachers contend that One Newark is merely a shake-up of underperforming schools in disadvantaged parts of the district, with little data to back up the state’s reform effort. . . . “One Newark is a program that appears to place sanctions on schools — including closure, charter, takeover and ‘renewal’ — on the basis of student test outcomes, without regard for student background,” the report reads. “The schools under sanction may have lower proficiency rates, but they also serve more challenging student populations.” The report notes that, when student population dynamics are accounted for, cumulative test scores of the schools slated for closure in fact surpass those that would not be affected by the reform.  Forbes

NY: Lawmakers dump lab plan. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s novel plan to let the private sector finance a $600 million state public health lab in Albany may have been just a little too novel for state lawmakers consumed with sexier and less complex budget issues. The Legislature dropped the proposal for a consolidated mega-lab on the Harriman State Office Campus from the state budget that was approved Monday night. . . . Known as a “P-3” — for public-private partnership — the plan would have allowed the state to enter into a 50-year pact with a firm charged with designing, building and operating the state-owned facility in return for annual “service payments” from state coffers.  Albany Times Union