April 14, 2014


Charter Schools: The Promise and the Peril: Two systems of public education go head-to-head in Chicago.  Since the first charter school was established in 1992 in St. Paul, Minn., the model has rapidly taken hold in cities across the United States. As of December 2011, about 5 percent of U.S. students attended the nation’s 5,300 charter schools. A charter school is a public school governed by a nonprofit organization under a contract—or charter—with a state or local government. This charter exempts the school from selected rules and regulations. In return for funding and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards as defined by its charter. Critics charge that charter schools are the first step toward education vouchers and, ultimately, the privatization of public education. A lot of public money is at stake. Rupert Murdoch has observed that K-to-12 education is “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” In These Times spoke with three Chicagoans who have strong opinions about the charter school movement .  In These Times

Do 72 percent of for-profit programs have graduates making less than high school dropouts?  “Of the for-profit gainful employment programs that our department could analyze, and which could be affected by our actions today, the majority — the significant majority, 72 percent — produce graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts.”– Education Secretary Arne Duncan, news conference at the White House, March 14, 2014. This was a surprising statistic uttered from the podium in the White House briefing room, offered when Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a proposed regulation that is designed to target what the Education Department contends are poor-performing career programs that burden students with unsustainable levels of debt. Could attending a for-profit institution actually result in a three-out-of-four-chance of earning less than a high school dropout?  Washington Post  Blog

US public-private partnerships in play. Across the United States, more state and local governments are tapping private dollars to build, repair and maintain public infrastructure. Here are some of the biggest and most-watched projects: *Pennsylvania is pushing to replace at least 500 bridges under a single contract in the next five years. On March 26 the state invited four construction teams to submit bids. Chicago Tribune

‘Privatization’ Is Not ‘Privacy’. America’s cultural turn in recent decades toward a glorification of the private and a denigration of the public has coexisted with what quite obviously is a deterioration in privacy. As individuals, we have dramatically less capacity than in earlier decades to control information about even the most personal aspects of our lives. This is not just historical coincidence. The cultural turn to the “private” has actually hurt privacy.  Huffington Post

TX: Lawmakers told public-private partnership law not working. An estimated 400,000 people are moving to Texas each year expecting to find the schools, roads, water systems and other infrastructure to support them. So far, the state’s controversial public-private partnership law isn’t helping fill those needs or contributing to the state’s economy, the Texas House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development was told this week. Houston Chronicle

TX: Wendy Davis: Senate votes didn’t conflict with clients. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis voted for bills in the Texas Senate that affected her clients and sought federal money while in office for a transportation project being handled by her Fort Worth law firm, a newspaper reported Sunday. . .Voting records reviewed by the newspaper show Davis supported legislation governing a toll road project for which the North Texas Tollway Authority hired her law firm, Newby Davis, which she started with former Perry chief of staff Brian Newby. Davis backed changes surrounding the collection of unpaid tolls that preceded a program in which law firms — including Davis’ — were chosen to carry out the collections.  SFGate

MI: Amid crisis, Detroit urged to outsource more. Detroit has made progress in contracting with private firms for certain services, such as garbage collection and electricity, but outsourcing advocates say there are more opportunities yet unexplored. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s office is considering outsourcing other services, including the water department, to cut costs and an estimated $18 billion in debt.  The Detroit News

LA: Analysis: Questions on La. hospital deals linger. A year after Gov. Bobby Jindal started turning over the operations of Louisiana’s university-run hospital system to outside companies, lawmakers are complaining that they have unanswered questions about the deals. Over the past week, state senators have asked why federal officials haven’t signed off on the financing arrangements, what happens if federal approval never comes, and how the state will compensate other hospitals now dealing with a rush of uninsured patients. Jindal chose to impose most of the reduction of federal Medicaid financing on the LSU charity hospital system. Privatization contracts were pushed by the Republican governor. Kansas City Star

IL: Chicago Public Library launches redesigned website. The $1 million web redesign was paid with a grant from the Chicago Public Library Foundation, which allowed the hiring of software company BiblioCommons to research, design and maintain the new site for the next three years. BiblioCommons was behind the redesign of dozens of other library websites around the country, Lednicer said. Chicago Tribune