September 26, 2014


Are Venture Capitalists Poised to ‘Disrupt’ Education?
. . . Next year, the market size of K-12 education is projected to be $788.7 billion. And currently, much of that money is spent in the public sector. “It’s really the last honeypot for Wall Street,” says Donald Cohen, the executive director of In the Public Interest, a think tank that tracks the privatization of roads, prisons, schools and other parts of the economy. That might be changing soon as barriers to investment are rapidly fading. As Eric Hippeau, a partner with Lerer Ventures, the venture capital firm behind viral entertainment company BuzzFeed and several education start-ups, has argued, despite the opposition of “unions, public school bureaucracies, and parents,” the “education market is ripe for disruption.”. . . “There’s a dramatic shift in how investors are thinking about this industry,” Fahad Hassan, an education entrepreneur with his own venture-backed start-up, told a meeting of entrepreneurs earlier this year.The explosion of investor interest in education raises a number of questions, among them: What kind of influence will the for-profit education sector attempt to exert over education policy? And if school reform is crafted to maximize the potential for investor profit, will students benefit, as boosters claim — or will they suffer?  The Investigative Fund

CA: Surfers Defeat Silicon Valley Tech Billionaire to Gain Access to the waves
A California state judge on Wednesday ruled that tech mogul Vinod Khosla illegally denied surfers and other members of the public access to Martin’s Beach, a stretch of pristine California coast south of San Francisco that the venture capitalist and green tech investor had purchased for nearly $33 million in 2008. The state’s landmark Coastal Act requires that even private property owners must provide public access to beaches, and the previous owners of Martin’s Beach had for decades opened the gates to surfers, beachgoers, and other nature lovers as long as they paid a parking fee. . . . The case quickly became a proxy for San Francisco’s culture wars, pitting a newly enriched tech elite spawned by Facebook, Google, and Twitter against the countercultural ethos of the Bay Area. If tech millionaires and billionaires could privatize the transportation system—symbolized by the Google buses ferrying employees from San Francisco to Silicon Valley—could they do the same to the coastline?  No, according to San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach. On Wednesday, she ruled that by painting over a billboard that had invited the public to come to Martin’s, Khosla’s company denied Californians their constitutional right to hit the beach.  TakePart

IN: Indiana Toll Road rates and revenue are up, traffic has been stagnant
Toll rates for cash customers on the Indiana Toll Road are up. Not surprisingly, revenue is up, too. Way up. Traffic, though, is down, at least compared to 2008. Those are a few takeaways from some of the Indiana Toll Road operational figures, provided by Macquarie Group, one of the investors in the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co., or ITRCC, the private firm that operates the roadway.  The Elkhart Truth

TX: City Attorney: Dallas council could vote against funding toll road
For years, top staff for the city of Dallas have told council members and the public that the city’s commitment to build the Trinity River toll road is locked in an ironclad contract with the NTTA that must be honored. But that 15-year-old agreement, which I wrote about in June, is anything but ironclad and in no way binds the current or future city councils, according to an opinion from City Attorney Warren Ernst. . . . For as long as the city has been debating the toll road, city staff and road backers have parroted the line that this contract with NTTA more or less prevents City Hall from doing anything but paying to build the road. The fact is, according to their own lawyer, the city is bound to very little with the NTTA. Dallas Morning News (blog)

LA: State leaders, policy makers call for an end to billing rape victims
State health leaders, policy makers and advocates spoke out Thursday, calling for an end to the practice of billing rape victims for forensic medical evaluations and care. . . A story and video published by | The Times-Picayune on Thursday described the shock rape victims and their families experienced when they received bills ranging from $1,700 to $4,000 after going through the hours-long process of being medically evaluated following a sexual assault. . . . Before the state transferred control of the hospital from Louisiana State University to a private entity last year, Tonkovich said, nurses were told to assure victims they would not be responsible for any costs associate with their care. The Times-Picayune 

MS: Child support privatization protest
A rally in the capital city Thursday evening protested the privatization of child support. The rally took place in Smith Park and was led by state workers and community leaders. The focus of the event was to bring awareness to the effects of privatizing child support. Organizers are calling for a Halt to the Plan for a Big Corporate Takeover of Mississippi’s Public Services. They say it takes away money from the children that it is supposed to help. Mississippi News Now

New Paper Examines Boundary Between Public and Private Policing
A new paper authored by Malcolm Sparrow, professor of the practice of public management, provides in-depth analysis of the opportunities and challenges provided by this new reality.  “It is no longer useful for public police to hang on to their own regrets about these trends, bemoan their loss of market share, or pretend that public/private partnerships cannot be useful,” Sparrow writes. “There are too many reasons to embrace the idea that private contributions can and should contribute to public purposes.”  Harvard Kennedy School