September 16, 2014


NY: Lawsuit Targets Funding Gap for Charter Schools. A lawsuit filed by a group of charter-school supporters alleges that a chronic funding gap between charter schools and traditional public schools violates the state constitution and disproportionately hurts minority students. . . . The suit, filed late Monday in state Supreme Court on behalf of five families in Buffalo and Rochester, says charter students in Buffalo received around $9,800 less than their district-school counterparts in the 2011-12 school year, which they said was the largest disparity in the state. In Rochester, charter students received around $6,600 less, according to the suit. . . . “This lawsuit is simply another deceptive attempt for charter schools to divert even more money away from public schools,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group for public schools. Charter-school advocates acknowledged that a court battle could take years, but they hoped the lawsuit would pressure the state legislature to act. Wall Street Journal

IL: Chicago Public Schools chief tries to quell custodian controversy. Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Monday acknowledged the controversy surrounding the district’s move to outsource school cleaning but said contracted custodians will be held accountable for clean buildings. . . The dispute over school cleanliness continued over the weekend when district officials said nearly 480 custodians who work in CPS buildings will be laid off by a private company that manages school upkeep through a multimillion-dollar contract signed in March. A district spokesman later said terminating the district’s custodial contracts had not been discussed, but officials are meeting with school principals to determine their satisfaction with the work and if changes are needed. Karen Lewis, president of the city’s teacher’s union and a possible mayoral candidate, called for the district to terminate its custodial contracts with the private companies, which it has the authority to do. “This is a real problem,” Lewis told reporters after attending Byrd-Bennett’s speech. “This is what happens when you have a very short-sighted notion of what privatization can do.” Chicago Tribune 

IL: Could a new company soon be in charge of the Indiana Toll Road? The company that operates the Indiana Toll Road and its lenders are finalizing negotiations for a debt settlement, said Indiana’s Toll Road Oversight Director James McGoff with the Indiana Finance Authority. But the state would not comment on reports that the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company may soon file for bankruptcy or that the Toll Road could get a new operator. It’s all reaction to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that said the ITRCC is weighing a possible bankruptcy filing in the coming weeks. WSBT-TV 

Charter school enrollments increased by 13 percent nationally, Nationwide, about 2.5 million public school students were enrolled in charter schools last school year, up from 789,000 a decade earlier, according to the most recent enrollment estimates from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Last year, the number of students enrolled increased by 12.6 percent from the year before. . .  California, one of the most populous states, led the nation in charter school growth last year with 104 new schools. It also closed 39 schools. Arizona added 87 and closed 16, and Florida added 75 and closed 26. Washington Post

September 15, 2014


Trade Deals Set Their Sights on Public Workers
For much of this decade, Tea Party-backed lawmakers have been at war with public sector employees across the country. They’ve tried, and in a few cases succeeded, in taking away public servants’ ability to collectively bargain. But now the battle is going abroad. Under the guise of crafting trade agreements, big business — which bankrolled many of those same elected officials — is looking to impose provisions across the globe that open up government services to the private sector. Other language would limit the ability of democratic governments to regulate in the public interest. Simply put, corporations are looking to put their interests above the public’s interests in an effort to further fatten their wallets. . . . While most people don’t think about public sector jobs when they hear about trade deals, such pacts have increasingly held sway in the services sector. Beginning with NAFTA, trade-in-services has been a part of the discussion. And it has only increased as the General Agreement on Trade in Services and then the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) came into force. Huffington Post

Public-Private Deals Spark Turmoil
Three years ago, Carlyle Group CG bought the pipes, pumps and water wells in Missoula, Mont., and several California communities in what the firm assumed was a relatively low-risk bet. . . .Carlyle finds itself fighting in court to retain control of the Montana water utility. Missoula officials are suing under eminent domain laws to take control, accusing one of the world’s largest private-equity firms of reneging on a handshake deal to sell the system to the city. One of the California locales is considering a similar takeover for its water system. The dispute highlights the difficulties in what seems like a natural fit: using private money to fix the nation’s leaky pipes, outdated airports and crumbling bridges. . . . An accommodating municipal-bond market has given local officials cheap access to cash for repairs and upgrades. Their constituents often are leery of investors profiting from basic resources such as water. Wall Street Journal

US poised to be world’s biggest public-private partnership market
The United States is poised to become the world’s biggest marketplace for public-private partnerships as infrastructure needs soar while traditional funding for bridges, courthouses and other projects wears thin, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday. The U.S. market is also less mature than most of the rest of the world. A number of large so-called P3 projects are in the pipeline now for U.S. transportation, and once those deals close a new wave of social infrastructure projects is expected, Moody’s said.  Reuters

IN: Indiana Toll Road Operator Weighs Bankruptcy Filing
The company that leases the Indiana Toll Road is considering filing for bankruptcy in the coming weeks. They’re in the process of working out a debt settlement. In 2005, the State of Indiana leased the Indiana Toll Road to Cintra-Macquarie for $3.8 billion. . . .Nearly all of the money’s been spent – most of it on road projects. Representative David Niezgodski was elected the year after Major Moves took place, and has been against it from the beginning. Niezgodski says the potential for bankruptcy is very concerning for the future of the state, being that the lease was intended to be for 75 years. He believes 75 years is not a lease, but rather a sale. Indiana Public Media

OH: Ohio to court: Privatizing prisons in budget legal
State lawyers tell the Ohio Supreme Court that using a budget bill to privatize state prisons didn’t violate a constitutional provision holding bills to a single subject. In a brief filed Monday, Ohio said the state’s budget involves both revenues and expenses — not just appropriations. The filing comes in a legal dispute with the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. The prison workers union sued over privatization in 2012, contending that lawmakers extended beyond the single-subject rule when they used the budget to sell a state prison and turn others over to private operators. An appellate court agreed, finding in October that there was no “rational relationship” between the privatization plan and state spending. Fort Worth Star Telegram

TX: State Stumbles Forward with Foster Care Privatization
The Department of Family and Protective Services continues to push forward on a plan to bring on more private companies—despite evidence that its effort to overhaul the state’s foster care system is faltering. Many advocates think recent turmoil with Providence Services Corporation, the first contractor tapped by the state to oversee a portion of the foster care system, suggests the experiment is already a failure. The next stage in “foster care redesign,” as the state calls it, is set to take effect this month when another private company takes over a seven-county North Texas region including Fort Worth. Instead, critics argue the Legislature should invest more money in a state-run system and work out the issues without the involvement of private companies. The Texas Observer

IL: Chicago Public Schools contractor to lay off 476 custodians
The move to lay off nearly 500 privately contracted custodial workers who clean Chicago Public Schools will make it harder to keep classrooms tidy, the union representing the custodians said Sunday. . . The cuts come after CPS officials agreed to a $260 million contract in March with the firm Aramark, which used subcontractors to employ the custodial workers, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Saturday. CPS principals have complained about school cleanliness since the district privatized the janitorial services, according to a survey by AAPPLE, a new activist group under the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.  Chicago Sun-Times

NJ: Toll collectors on Parkway, Turnpike gain privatization reprieve
The deadline for proposals to privatize toll collection on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway has been pushed from Tuesday to Oct. 8, giving 340 toll collectors a month-long reprieve before facing possible job or pay cuts. . . . The toll takers fear privatization could mean the loss of their jobs or, in the event they go to work for the private operator, cuts in pay and benefits.  The Star-Ledger

VT: End the privatization of public records – editorial
Vermonters have a right to be outraged over a long-standing practice by the Public Service Board that creates additional hurdles for anyone seeking transcripts of board proceedings, a public record. . . . The PSB, the state’s utility regulators, contracts a private company to produce transcripts of proceedings before the board. . .  .The contract gives the company the right to sell copies of the transcripts to the public, while reducing the cost of the transcription service to the board. The contract also prevents the board from allowing members of the public to make copies of the document available at the PSB office. . . . The problem is clear. The remedy is clear. The Public Service Board — as well as all of state government — must stop selling off the right to access public records to private contractors. Burlington Free Press

PA: PennDOT’s first public-private effort hits the road
Pennsylvania is rolling out its first public-private partnership since a 2012 law allowed such joint efforts for transportation infrastructure and services. A nearly 20-year-old highway safety truck service now has a private sponsor in State Farm, which is paying 11 percent of the annual $4 million cost for the roving patrols on highways in and around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and Harrisburg.

September 1, 2014


Reason Foundation comes unhinged at populist revolt against tolls
Bob Poole of the Reason Foundation has decided to pick a fight he can’t win. He just published an article personally attacking anti-toll group leaders across the nation, and he had a extra special below-the-belt attack saved just for yours truly. He’s responding to the populist anti-toll revolt taking place in America, and he can’t help but go on the attack because these grassroots efforts are finally making progress. He’s lashing out in response to a 5-page cover story in the Weekly Standard that slammed the new rage among transportation think tanks like Reason, called HOT lanes. It stands for High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. Sometimes they convert existing HOV lanes into toll lanes, other times they’re new lanes but only open to carpoolers and those who pay tolls. (blog)

OH: Inmates seek food outside cafeteria
Junk food and cell-made meals cobbled together with commissary items appear to be the preferred bill of fare for some Ohio inmates with distaste for the prison-provided food. Purchases at prison commissaries have jumped since Aramark Correctional Services took over meal service last fall, with some prisoners complaining about food quality and quantity. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has fined Aramark $272,300 in ordering it to fix problems while accepting shared responsibility for the presence of maggots in some food-service area.  A Dispatch analysis of commissary food-sales figures suggests that some inmates are using their limited pocketbooks to vote on the desirability of prison meals that Aramark provides at a cost of $3.61 a day per inmate.  Columbus Dispatch

MI: Poll: Don’t open new charter schools until review
The state should place a moratorium on opening any new charter schools until the Michigan Department of Education and the state Legislature conduct a full review of the charter school system, a majority of respondents in a new poll say. . . . The poll comes as state schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan awaits responses from 11 of the state’s 40 charter authorizers on why he shouldn’t suspend their ability to open new schools. The authorizers were put on an “at risk” list for reasons that include academic performance, significant financial deficiencies in their 2013 audit, or if one or more of their schools had charter contracts that failed to meet certain requirements by MDE. It also comes on the heels of an investigation by the Detroit Free Press into charter schools. The eight-day State of Charter Schools series showed that Michigan charters receive nearly $1 billion per year in taxpayer money from the state, often with little accountability, transparency or academic achievement.  Livingston Daily

LA: Analysis: Strife emerges in LSU privatization deal
. . . LSU claims it’s owed more than $25 million for services rendered as part of the 10-month-old management transfer, and the new operator of the hospitals, the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, is accusing LSU of having mismanaged its clinics. A flurry of back-and-forth letters from lawyers and health care officials seems to contradict claims that the hospital “partnership” is going well. Critics of the privatization deals, who note they were approved by LSU’s governing board with blank pages in contracts, say the disintegrating relationship between the university system and the foundation known as BRF was inevitable because the deal was sketchy from the start. Washington Time

MS: Democrats Blast Child Support Privatization
. . . House Minority Leader Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said privatization would not result in lower taxes. Anyone who attempts to convince you this is shrinking government is being disingenuous. Citizens will only see the transfer of their state tax dollars that paid the salaries of these fifty soon to be displaced workers to lawyers in Jackson that are the beneficiaries of the privatization,” Moak in a press release. It is purely a transfer of money to those savvy enough to lobby enough votes in the legislature and governors office to make it happen for them. It is the same plan that transfers money from the state treasury to ‘certain individuals’ that we have seen during the entire time this administration has been in control of state government.”  Jackson Free Press