April 25, 2014


Meet The Companies That Just Promised To Pull 60 Million Dollars From Private Prisons. Three investment groups announced this week that they will divest from the two major private prison corporations that constitute a massive share of America’s prison-industrial complex. . .The decision to divest comes on the heels of pressure from Color Of Change, a racial and economic justice advocacy group that ran a campaign asking a total 150 companies to stop investing in the private prison industry. “In accordance with the principles of the UN Global Compact, with respect to the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights, the pension fund has divested from the for-profit prison industry,” DSM President Hugh Welsh said in a Color of Change statement. “Investment in private prisons and support for the industry is financially unsound, and divestment was the right thing to do for our clients, shareholders, and the country as a whole. DSM is committed to good corporate citizenship and operating in a way that contributes to a better world.” ThinkProgress

Unions protest Postal Service deal with Staples. Postal workers demonstrated at Staples stores nationwide Thursday to protest a recent U.S. Postal Service deal that allows the office-supply chain to operate USPS retail counters at some of its locations as part of a pilot program. The financially struggling Postal Service said its agreement is part of a plan to increase convenience and boost business through new partnerships. The agency also has contracted with Amazon to provide package deliveries on Sundays for the online retailer.  Washington Post

Separate and unequal: The charter school pedestal the public can’t reach. . . . As the broader debate over charter schools whips across the country, the epicenter is in Harlem, home base for the Harlem Success Academies, the city’s most successful and well-funded charter school network. Despite their relative success in offering a quality education to a small number of students from some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, the network’s sharp elbows and aggressive expansion has created a toxic dynamic as traditional public schools languish. Critics say that charter schools—publicly funded but run by private organizations—are being used as a means to privatize public education at the expense of the vast majority of students. They say the charter movement is a Trojan-horse riding under the guise of school choice, used as an instrument to break teachers unions. Exacerbating matters in New York City is a complicated dance called co-location, in which traditional public schools and charters co-exist under a single roof. The policy has become a lightning rod issue that has vexed the young administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio.  MSNBC

WI: Legislators order audit of privatized medical ride program. . . . The groups urged the committee to request an audit that addressed more fundamental questions about privatization through a broker. Under the privatized program — which took effect with LogistiCare as the first broker in 2011 — a company contracted by the government dispatches rides to Medicaid-covered services for poor and elderly residents who have no other way to get to their appointments. The company is paid a fixed amount per eligible member, not for the number of rides provided. Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said Thursday that when a company gets paid regardless of whether it provides services, it creates a “perverse incentive” to provide as few rides as possible as cheaply as possible because the company makes more money that way. Other critics said patients get worse or unreliable service, and established transportation companies lose business because they can’t or won’t compete with newcomers who underbid them. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WI: Scathing Report Finds School Privatization Hurts Poor Kids. . . .Lafer’s report, “Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” released today by the Economic Policy Institute, documents the effects of both for-profit and non-profit charter schools that are taking over struggling public schools in Milwaukee. “I hope people connect the dots,” Lafer said by phone from the Milwaukee airport. Lafer’s research, commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute to evaluate the school-privatization push in Milwaukee, is a sweeping indictment of the growing private charter school industry and other schemes backed by rightwing groups and big business that siphon public funds out of public schools and enrich corporate investors at the expense of quality education for poor children. Milwaukee is ground zero for school privatization, having pioneered the use of publicly funded private school vouchers in 1990.  . . . A popular chain of charter schools called Rocketship, which originated in California and has spread to Wisconsin, with the enthusiastic support of state legislators and the local chamber of commerce in Milwaukee, is “a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day,” Lafer writes. In These Times

IL: Despite Community Pleas, Three Chicago Schools Slated for Privatization. The Chicago Board of Education’s vote on Wednesday to convert three public elementary schools into “turnaround schools” run by the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) was no surprise to most parents and teachers. The board has consistently voted to close schools or turn them over to private management—laying off most of the staff in the process—despite overwhelming opposition, anxiety and outrage expressed in heartfelt testimony by parents, teachers, students and elected officials at scores of public meetings.  In These Times

FL: Measure Would Set Long-Term Transportation Plans. Florida House members on Thursday unanimously passed a vision of the state’s transportation future that calls for more toll roads. It would encourage more ellphone towers on state property to raise money to build roads in these days of declining gas-tax revenue. It also would allow businesses to put up signs on state nature and recreational trails to help pay for their maintenance. . . . But that’s not all HB 7175 would do. It also dissolves the state’s rail commission created in 2009 and rendered moot by Gov. Scott’s refusal of billions in federal dollars that would have built a high-speed link between Tampa and Orlando. . . . The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, puts a heavy emphasis on private money. It authorizes the DOT to help pay for future road projects by using money from leases with wireless companies that want towers near state roads. The bill allows ”commercial sponsorship displays” on state trails. The money raised from the agreements between the DOT and private businesses would pay for trail maintenance, something that gas taxes have helped finance. A similar trailside sign measure failed two years ago because of concerns that it would clutter the landscape. The Ledger