June 11, 2014


Washington’s Cold Shoulder for Defrauded Students and Soldiers. . .$880 million is a lot more than the $80 million fine that will be shared by Navient’s shareholders and the shareholders of Sallie Mae. That’s right: we said “shareholders.” Sallie Mae has been a private corporation for quite some time. Navient, its loan servicing arm, was spun off when this for-profit corporation became a bank. It’s publicly traded too. . . . We’ve also learned that privatization, that bipartisan scourge of government at all levels, often allows greed to corrupt well-intentioned government activity. In 2010 we detailed some of the degradation in Sallie Mae’s mission, along with some of its executives’ self-serving lobbying, in a piece called “Sallie Mae’s Jets.” (Yes, they had two of them, for executive use.) Back then we said that Sallie Mae was “the poster child for the moral and operational bankruptcy of the … privatization craze.” It still is. Huffington Post (blog)

CA: California teachers unions lose big in court. A court ruling on Tuesday striking down job protections for teachers in California deals a sharp blow to unions — and will likely fuel political movements across the nation to eliminate teacher tenure. . . . Reformers also plan to take the fight to other states, hoping the strong language of the ruling will prompt Democrats elsewhere to reconsider ties to teachers unions. They’re considering similar lawsuits in Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and elsewhere. And they plan a relentless public relations campaign, backed by millions of dollars from reform-minded philanthropists, to bring moms, dads and voters of both parties to their side.  Politico

OH: Ohio Supreme Court shoots down JobsOhio legal challenge. In a split opinion published Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court denied that Columbus-based left-leaning think tank ProgressOhio and two state legislators lack the standing to challenge the private economic development organization. The court voted 5-2 that ProgressOhio, state Sen. Michael Skindell (D-Cleveland) and state Rep. Dennis Murray (D-Sandusky) failed to establish the grounds to challenge the constitutionality of the group, founded by Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2011 to privatize job growth efforts. Dayton Business Journal

OH: FBI agents in Cleveland examining Illinois business that runs charter schools. Federal authorities in Cleveland are examining an Illinois company that manages the local Horizon Science Academy schools and several others in the Midwest, and they have seized documents from several locations in the past week, including here in Ohio. . .  Vicki Anderson, an FBI agent in Cleveland, said the search warrants involved “a white-collar matter,” but she would not specify. The search warrants are sealed. . .  The Indianapolis Business Journal quoted a spokeswoman from an Indianapolis school, who said agents requested documents that were part of an audit the U.S. Department of Education was conducting of federal “e-rate” grant programs. The Plain Dealer      

NC: House proposal for Commerce privatization better than Senate’s… barely. Privatizing job creation efforts is hardly a new idea, although it’s proven to generate more scandals than results in the sixteen states that have experimented with this approach. According to the General Assembly’s own Fiscal Research Division, the kinds of economic development public private partnerships envisioned in the House and Senate bills haven’t proven themselves any more effective at boosting job creation in the states that adopted them than in those states that simply kept their job recruiting efforts inside agencies of state government.   At the same time, FRD and other researchers have found that these privatization schemes have been marked by financial mismanagement (Wisconsin), conflicts of interest and pay-to-play incentive-granting (Texas and Florida), and the inability to raise private funds, leaving taxpayers on the hook (Missouri). The Senate bill largely ignores many of these problems. It allows partnership staff, officers, and board members to operate outside the ethics requirements of the State Ethics Act, simply requiring the new partnership to develop its own code of ethics. Thanks to a range of amendments offered during floor debate, the House version corrects this problem by covering the new partnership under the state ethics act, but is unclear whether this important provision will remain after both chambers negotiate during a conference committee.  Progressive Pulse

LA: State work force down 8000. More than 8,000 classified state employees have lost their jobs since Gov. Bobby Jindal took office, according to a state Civil Service report issued Tuesday. The bulk of the 8,278 employees were laid off as a result of Jindal administration initiatives that turned traditional state functions over to private companies. Most of the layoffs have occurred in the past two state fiscal years with privatization of the LSU hospital system.  The Advocate

LA: Letter: Where has the money gone?. . . This group of state workers — teachers and retirees — paid premiums to build up a $500 million health care trust fund. According to Legislative Auditor Daryl Pupera, this same trust fund will be gone by 2015. . . .After privatization of the Office of Group Benefits, health benefits are being cut, premiums are being raised and the $500 million trust fund has been raided. They gave a 1.5 percent pay increase to retirees that starts in July and the same month a 5 percent rate increase on insurance premiums for a loss of 3.5 percent for the year. The Jindal administration should be held accountable as to where the $500 million trust fund went. Workers worked so hard to build this up and it’s nearly gone after two years with higher rates and fewer benefits to the 250,000 families insured. This is a shame and someone needs to be held accountable. Monroe News Star

June 9, 2014


A Modern-Day Debtors’ Prison? Judges Push Back Against the South’s Privatization Wave. . . Pushback against some of the worst practices in private probation is sporadic but growing. In September, Georgia’s Supreme Court is slated to hear an appeal of Judge Craig’s ruling that extending private probation sentences beyond their original date was against the law (as was the use of electronic monitoring in probation cases). Some believe the Supreme Court’s ruling has the potential to fundamentally shape the way in which private probation companies operate in Georgia. Elsewhere, alternative solutions have already been found—like in Athens-Clark County, Georgia, where a government probation department that operates independently of taxpayers’ coffers was brought in to replace a broken private probation system.Nevertheless, critics of private probation continue to draw parallels between problems in that industry and those associated with the broader privatization of the nation’s entire judicial system.  Truth-Out

CO: Colorado Governor Vetoes Toll Road Accountability Bill. Critics of long-term toll road contracts complain that they are often negotiated in secrecy by unaccountable bureaucrats, cutting the public out of the process entirely. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) is not among those who see any problem with the way things are done. On Wednesday he put his veto pen to Senate Bill 14-197, the Transportation Enterprise Transparency Act, ensuring the status quo. . . .The Colorado legislation would have required public meetings disclosing the state’s intentions at each relevant phase of the contract development process, from concept through execution. The General Assembly would have to approve any deal that contains potentially objectionable features. This includes any contract lasting longer than thirty-five years; non-compete clauses that drive up toll road usage by hobbling development of nearby general purpose roads; and any requirement that the public assume risk on behalf of the private companies involved.  TheNewspaper.com

KY: Questions raised about legality of private meetings held by University of Kentucky trustees. The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees will vote Tuesday on a proposed annual budget of more than $3 billion, but don’t expect many questions or much discussion of how the money gets spent. They already will have been briefed extensively on the budget in private meetings that administrators hold with small groups of trustees. Those behind-the-scenes meetings, however, might violate the Kentucky Open Meetings Act because they appear to be held in an effort to avoid public discussions, according to multiple attorneys familiar with the law. . . .According to the Herald-Leader archives, members of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees had no questions or comments when taking the following votes: Oct. 14, 2012: The board voted to approve a contract with Education Realty Trust to build the first phase of privatized housing, the first major outsourcing in UK’s history. Lexington Herald Leader

TX: Dallas’ 15-year-old Trinity toll road agreement with NTTA has little protection for the city. . . For Instance, it puts the price of the toll road at a quaint $394 million. Well, we know that’s not right. The road is somewhere north of $1 billion. Well north I believe.  There is a great deal in the agreement about the city’s many responsibilities, including its pledge of $84 million to the road. That figure seemed like a substantial contribution at the time. It’s not quite a rounding error yet, but getting there.  What bugs me about this agreement is that no one at City Hall at the time appeared to look at it and say, gosh, maybe we should add some outs for ourselves in here. Maybe we should give ourselves a little legal push back in case, say, 15 years goes by and this road still isn’t built and we decide that, perhaps, there would be a better way to build our city.  Dallas Morning News (blog)

TX: American Institute of Architects (Dallas) backs off support of Trinity toll road. This morning, the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects backed away from its support for the Trinity River toll road. This is another important voice that has come to understand just how much Dallas is sacrificing in the name of this project. The AIA’s statement isn’t quite as strong as it should be, unfortunately. Specifically, its executive director, Jan Blackmon, states that the organization cannot support the road until it has a better understanding of how the major elements of the Balanced Vision Plan (lakes, parks) will be incorporated into the design of the “parkway.” (Personally, I reject the term parkway for this project.) Dallas Morning News (blog)

LA: Diane Ravitch asks if New Orleans is “The Biggest Scam in the History of Public Education?” New Orleans will soon be the first urban district in the nation that is all-charter, the first district where public education has been completely extinguished. Because so much money has been invested in the privatization of the schools in New Orleans, there is a media machine that cranks out favorable stories about it. The state board of education, the state department of education, and the Governor are determined to prove that privatization was successful. But there is another side to the story. Read it here. Read about a district that has low rankings on state measures, a district that has depended on fluctuating state standards, a district that depends on Teach for America, where charter leaders are paid handsomely.  History news Network

LA: Louisiana Resubmits Hospital Privatization Plan to Federal Agency. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has revised its plan to privatize state-run hospitals with sovereign dollars and resubmitted it to a group that only last month rejected a proposal. The devise involves changeable a supervision of hospitals now operated by Louisiana State University in New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma, Lake Charles, Shreveport, and Monroe. It would cost a state a reported $1.1 billion this year, and relies heavily on approaching supports from a sovereign government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) deserted a administration’s plan in May, including a ask for payment of a $260.8 million in allege franchise payments a state done to support a devise before to a approval.  Louisiana News Feed

CA: Viewpoints: Outsourcing delays road improvements. . . For example, a Caltrans engineer – salary, benefits and overhead – costs the taxpayer $116,000 per year. Outsourcing the same job costs $237,000, primarily because contracts with private firms are awarded without competitive bidding. Yet, Caltrans outsources nearly 1,000 jobs per year at an annual waste of more than $100 million. This money could be used to fund construction, create jobs, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Local agencies also outsource most of their highway engineering work using no-bid contracts. While seeking additional funding to improve our streets and highways, the governor and Legislature would be well advised to stop wasting public dollars by awarding contracts to private firms at twice the cost of having the work performed by public servants. Sacramento Bee

OR: Abandoned liquor privatization campaign spent about $2.5 million this year. When liquor privatization backers called off their ballot initiatives this week, it wasn’t for lack of spending. This year, petition committees associated with the campaign recorded about $2.5 million in cash expenditures, on everything from signature gathering efforts to inter-campaign contributions. That includes a $200,000 check on Monday — just two days before backers dropped the initiatives — to Silver Bullet, a signature gathering firm hired to help the group meet an ambitious July 3 deadline. The Oregonian


June 5, 2014


Study findings: TVA should not be sold; analysts reject Obama’s call to privatize utility. Selling TVA wouldn’t yield much for American taxpayers, but it could prove costly for Tennessee Valley residents and the region’s economy and environment, according to an outside financial review of America’s biggest government utility. In $1 million study prepared for White House budget planners, Lazard Freres & Co. said if TVA had to earn the financial returns of private utilities, electricity rates would jump by 13 percent. At the same time, dismantling its power and nonpower programs could hurt TVA’s recreation, economic development and environmental programs. . . . The Obama administration has suggested in two budget proposals that TVA might be sold, privatized or transferred to state or local governments to help cut its associated federal debt. . . . But, spurred by a slowdown in power demand, TVA has tightened its belt, scrapped aging coal plants and suspended work on the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant. The utility cut capital spending plans by $13 billion and annual operating costs by $500 million. Chattanooga Times Free Press

FL: Public-private transit projects planned. The first major project to be accomplished through a public-private partnership could be the proposed rail line from Miami to Miami Beach, said Mr. Scurr, the trust’s executive director. With high ridership on the line practically a given, he said, it shouldn’t be hard to attract interest from the private sector. And the partnership could go beyond a normal construction and operating agreement to one that also offers a private partner the opportunity to develop property along the route.  Miami Today

TX: Toll road opponents planning so-called funeral for Trinity Parkway. Organizers of a tongue-in-cheek, New Orleans-style jazz processional through the Bishop Arts District admit that the planned $1.5 billion toll road is far from officially dead. But they say the project’s costs and potential impacts have grown so dramatically since voters last approved the riverside road that it’s time to shelve plans. . . .  “You have an equal and opposite reaction to the ridiculousness that is this project,” said Jason Roberts, a long-time community activist who is helping organize the event. The parkway is perhaps the most contentious piece of the city’s long-held but frequently embattled plans for the Trinity River Corridor Project. The ambitious venture aims to turn the vacant floodway into a massive urban park filled with lakes, recreational areas and trails.  Dallas Morning News

OR: Oregon grocers abandon liquor-privatization effort. Grocers who sponsored ballot measures to end Oregon’s state liquor monopoly have given up for this year, saying Wednesday that there’s not enough time left for them to round up signatures. The grocers prepared two versions of their proposed initiative with slightly different language, but they still haven’t received approval to begin collecting signatures for the one they prefer. They would need 87,000 valid signatures on that measure by July 3 to qualify for the November ballot. Initiative proponents said they will continue seeking privatization of liquor sales through the Legislature or the 2016 ballot. KPIC News

IL: Illiana gets push from Quinn. Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration wants lawmakers to make the proposed Illiana Expressway more attractive to private investors by guaranteeing toll revenue shortfalls will be covered by dipping into the state’s road fund ahead of other projects. The 47-mile tollway between Indiana and Illinois would be placed at the top of the funding list under draft legislation backed by the Illinois Department of Transportation. That’s intended to sweeten a potential deal for the $1.5 billion project that some lawmakers and regional planners contend is not a critical need, will spur little economic development and threatens to become a painful financial drain on a state buried in debt. Critics of the proposal also question the legislation’s timing — Quinn faces a tough re-election campaign this year against Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner. The expressway would serve an area in the southern Chicago suburbs, and Quinn has for years used the project to talk up job creation.  Agri News

NC: NC lawmakers likely to consider plan to privatize part of economic development effort. The bill would shift the state’s corporate recruiting from the Commerce Department to a private nonprofit that can raise money from private donors to pursue companies considering new factories or expansions. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker says the new arrangement will put the state’s recruiting efforts more on par with how the corporate world operates. Critics say similar efforts elsewhere have been marred by ethics scandals and a lack of transparency about how the money is spent. A similar bill cleared a Senate committee later Wednesday and heads to another panel Thursday.  The Republic

OH: Charter school dream turns to nightmare. . . For the first time, the state is cracking down on charter school sponsors – the nonprofit entities in charge of overseeing the schools. Sponsors are now on notice they are not to take on risky schools, a move that could lead to a wave of closures like VLT. . . . Critics of charter schools say it’s about time. They said the lack of oversight has cost millions in public dollars and has led to fraud, corruption and sometimes criminal charges. “Until recently the state never saw a charter school it didn’t like,” said William Phillis, author of the blog Ohio Coalition for Equity and Advocacy of school funding. “Recently because of audits and because people are awakening to the egregious nature of the charter school industry, the state has become embarrassed with the tragic waste of money on these charter schools. So the state officials have become more aggressive in recent months in monitoring these schools.”  Cincinnati.com






June 4, 2014


The High Cost of Low-Wage Public Service Outsourcing. In the late 1990s, as part of a rush to save money by privatizing government services, many school districts in New Jersey turned over their school lunch programs to private contractors. For the school districts, the results were what they expected – costs dropped. But a study set for release this afternoon suggests that the overall cost to New Jersey may have been higher than the amount saved by individual school districts – a warning that could apply to states, municipalities, and the federal government alike.  The study, “Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class,” was produced by In the Public Interest, a watchdog group that monitors privatization of government contracts. Its central finding is that when the government outsources its services, “local communities suffer the consequences of lower quality services and middle class jobs being replaced with poverty-level wages” while “far-away corporate executives benefit from lucrative government contracts.”  The Fiscal Times

Democrats have a VA bill, Republicans trying to slap lipstick on a privatization pig. While Democrats push Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bill to allow the Veterans Affairs Department to lease 27 new medical facilities and hire more doctors and nurses to reduce wait times for veterans seeking medical care, Republicans are preparing to unveil their own plan. Sens. John McCain, Richard Burr, and Tom Coburn are teaming up on this one, and it’s a safe bet it will involve privatized care: “The solution to this problem is flexibility to the veteran to choose their health care, just like other people under other health care plans are able to do,” McCain said June 1 on “Face the Nation.”   Daily Kos

IL: Why Chicago’s Botched Parking Meter Privatization is Also Bad for the Environment. To find out how Chicago’s parking meter lease impacts street-level planning, Professor Stephanie Farmer interviewed Chicago-area transportation planners. She found that the deal is tying the hands of transportation planners in their efforts to construct environmentally sustainable transportation modes on the city streets for the remaining 69 years of the lease. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is planning a network of 20 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines. The CTA found replacement parking meters for its initial BRT routes, but planners fear that spaces for replacement meters will soon dry up. In that case, either the cost for implementing future BRT lines will increase significantly as the city must compensate Morgan Stanley for the number of parking meters they remove, or the city may trim down their plans for 20 routes altogether. . . . The Chicago deal isn’t the only contract that has clauses working against sustainability goals. A P3 that created HOV lanes on the Washington Beltway in Northern Virginia forces taxpayers to reimburse the investment consortium (comprised of Australia-based Transurban and Texas’ Fluor Corporation) when “too many” commuters carpool.The unintended consequences of these contract clauses create hidden costs for cash-strapped cities, neglect the changing urban lifestyle patterns of millennials and empty-nesters, and more significantly hinder the increasingly urgent need to redesign our cities to address climate change and reduce our carbon footprint. Next City

OR: State Land Board should find alternative to selling the Elliott: Opinion. . . . But while Oregonians treasure our parks and public lands, our State Land Board is not acting on those values. The board recently took the first steps towards privatizing the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest in order to generate funding for state education budgets. Three parcels totaling 1,453 acres were auctioned, and Seneca Jones Timber Company, one of the winning bidders, has already said “…we will be clearcutting.” All Oregonians have a stake in the fight to save the Elliott State Forest.  The Elliott is unique among our system of state parks and public lands because it is home to our largest remaining stand of old-growth.  Some 41,000 acres of the forest contains trees over a century old.  This old-growth in turn sustains some of the cleanest rivers in the Oregon Coast Range, valuable runs of wild salmon and steelhead and vital habitat for rare wildlife.  Because the Elliott is public land — for now — all Oregonians enjoy the right to use it for activities like hiking, fishing, hunting and camping.  The Oregonian




June 3, 2014


Fake Political Outrage Is the Real VA Scandal. . . The extreme rightists who control the House of Representatives don’t want to privatize the VA to help veterans – if the Republican majority truly cared about veterans, they wouldn’t have repeatedly voted against bills providing jobs, homes, and health care to veterans and their families. The budget deal that Ryan and Senator Patty Murray approved last year cut veterans’ pensions by $6 billion. The GOP actually wants to see the VA fail to score more political points. By continuously cutting VA services, the far-right wants to reinforce their anti-government narrative by cementing the idea into people’s heads that government is bloated and inefficient, and that private companies unaccountable to voters should seize control of public assets. Huffington Post

The Privatization of Special Education. . . Of course, this move is nothing new in the world of special education.  In Illinois, there are a multitude of private operators (both non-profit and for-profit, though the tax status is mostly irrelevant in practice.)  Some of these schools are beautiful places.  Some have lovely sounding websites, covering up truly horrible, poorly-run warehouses for students with special needs.  But they are almost all very very expensive. In fact, as these schools expand in number, investors understand there is a huge profit margin to be had on the backs of these vulnerable students.   Districts, by federal law, must pay for these placements if it is determined to be the best environment for the student. But in order to ensure growth in this hot growing sector, special education services in public facilities must fail.  And failing they are in many places.  IDEA has never, in its history been fully-funded, but schools get punished for non-compliance all the same.  And as school budgets continue to shrink, special education services, very pricey services indeed, are often the first to go.  University of Colorado Boulder

MI: Detroit emergency manager reviewing final bids to privatize water and sewerage department. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s office is studying several bids to privatize the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and could have a selection process completed within two weeks, a spokesman said Monday. But Orr spokesman Bill Nowling would not release any information about which companies submitted bids by Sunday’s deadline to operate and manage the system relied on by millions of people in southeast Michigan. Nowling said the bids are considered confidential under a federal mediation order.  Detroit Free Press

IL: Chicago Politician/Landlord Aims to Privatize Eviction. . . House Bill 5395 would privatize the eviction business by allowing any off-duty law enforcement officer hired by a landlord or private company to carry out an eviction. The bill has been described as “eviction at gunpoint” and “eviction by rent-a-cop.” ourstreets.net

IL: Clout-Heavy Charter School Group Charged With Defrauding. United Neighborhood Organization, the charter school group with connections to nearly every major politician and power broker in Illinois, was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday with defrauding investors on a $37.5 million bond offering for construction work by failing to disclose conflicts of interest. Oops. The conflict of interest centers on companies owned by brothers of UNO’s former senior vice president of operations Miguel D’Escoto. The companies received $8.5 million in business from $98 million in state grant money. Furthermore, the SEC alleges UNO failed to inform investors about the financial impact the contracts with the companies would have on its ability to repay the bonds.  InvestorsChicagoist

WA: Has liquor privatization in Washington brought negative consequences? There are four times as many stores selling spirits today than before privatization. Sales increased statewide by about 3 percent during the first 18-months. . . . Julia Dilley, with the Washington State Department of Health, has been researching the impacts of privatization. She said the increased prices and sales were expected, but there have been some unexpected consequences, too. “It was associated with an increase in some negative consequences, including emergency department visits for alcohol-related conditions, and multiple reports of alcohol theft,” Dilley said. Studying King County, which had the best data to track, Dilley said the historical data showed that there should have been about 10,000 emergency room visits for alcohol-related issues between June of 2012 and September of 2013. “We saw an excess about 5,500 additional emergency department visits for alcohol-related conditions in the 16 months after the change in law. That was about half again as much as what we expected.”  MyNorthwest.com

PA: Court Upholds Right of City To Dump Camera Contractor. With municipalities around the country deciding to drop red light camera programs at a record rate, the photo enforcement industry has turned to suing their own municipal clients to prevent a loss of business. This conduct will not be allowed in Philadelphia, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled on Friday. The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) signs the contract with the company that owns and operates the cameras, issues the tickets and collects the fine revenue. After a decade with American Traffic Solutions (ATS, previously operating as Mulvihill Intelligent Control Systems), city officials decided it was time for a change. A few months before the contract’s February 2014 expiration date, the city put the program out to bid and settled on Xerox, which offered the same suite of services for a lower price, to become the city’s next vendor.  TheNewspaper.com

ID: Idaho’s Federal Lands Panel Hires Private Attorney. The Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee has hired outside legal counsel even though the state attorney general’s office has questioned the legality of Idaho being able to take control of public lands away from the government. The committee is relying on the Legislature’s Legal Defense Fund to cover the private attorney’s costs. So far, Idaho has paid the attorney nearly $26,000.  Boise State Public Radio

TX: After 10 years, I’ve dropped my support of the Trinity Tollway – opinion. Ten years ago, I was an outspoken and dedicated proponent of the Balanced Vision Plan, including the Trinity Parkway. . . . I have changed my mind and now confess publicly my opposition to building this highway. . . . The public projects that have been completed (or are nearing completion) in the Trinity River Corridor are already changing the use and investment patterns along the river. The talented Dallas real estate development community is serving customers who want to live, work and play nearby. If we begin construction of the tollway, we risk killing the goose that is laying this golden egg. We would be wiser — and richer — to continue investing in the smaller projects that improve the quality of life there.  Dallas Morning News

June 2, 2014


VA: Higher tolls pushing many off the Dulles Toll Road. When the Dulles Toll Road was built in 1984, it was meant to provide quick local access to the interchanges between the Capital Beltway and Dulles International Airport. An average of 327,296 vehicles traverse the roadway daily. But after five straight years of toll increases, many drivers have decided that the convenience, such that it is, is no longer worth the cost. “You talk to people and they go, ‘Oh, hell, no — I don’t use the toll road,’ ” said Tammi Petrine, a longtime Reston resident who used to use it but now avoids it whenever possible. . . . Not surprisingly, statistics show that as tolls increase, the number of annual toll road transactions decreases. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of transactions on the toll road declined by more than 5 million. But residents and elected officials worry the vehicles bailing on the toll road are clogging local surface roads.  Washington Post

NY: Mr. Schumer Backs a Bad Old Idea – editorial. Senator Charles Schumer of New York wants to outsource the collection of unpaid back taxes to private debt collectors, who would take a cut of the proceeds. The plan is basically a budget gimmick aimed at creating jobs at a handful of collection agencies, two in upstate New York. The last time the government tried to privatize collections, from 2006 to 2009, a handful of firms pocketed $16.5 million. But there was no increase in federal revenue — in fact, after accounting for administrative costs at the Internal Revenue Service, there was a net loss for the government of $4.5 million. A pilot privatization program in 1996-97 also lost money.  New York Times

WI: Wisconsin ranks high in number of charter schools, study says. Nearly 11% of public schools in Wisconsin are charter schools, the fourth-highest rate in the nation and double the national average, according to a recently released report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. . . . . Most charter schools in Wisconsin are run by districts, many with district staff, which means they have more restrictions – or more accountability, depending on your perspective – than charter schools that operate independent of school districts. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel