October 9, 2014


This Is What Happens When Republicans Try to Destroy Public Education. A month out from the midterm elections, Republican candidates around the country are confronting a shared, and significant, vulnerability: education. The conservative wave of 2010 allowed Republicans to implement slash-and-burn governance in several states—what Kansas Governor Sam Brownback called a “real live experiment” in tax cuts for corporate interests and cuts to services for everyone else. One of the most devastating casualties was public schools and universities. Now, several Republicans could fall victim to their own experiment. . . . “I’ve never seen this level of anger about what policymakers have done in some places to our schools,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten thinks it’s not only underfunding that’s made education a top-tier issue but also the effect of efforts to privatize public education. “The market-based reforms, the top-down reforms, the testing and sanctioning as opposed to supporting and improving has taken hold so much and has been so wrong-headed that you’re seeing this fight back,” she said. The Nation

IL: Move to kill Illiana toll road project falls short. An effort by members of the Chicago region’s main planning board to kill the controversial Illiana toll road fell short this morning. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning board needed a 12-vote supermajority of its 15 members to remove the Illiana from its comprehensive plan, but opponents of the project could only muster 10 votes. The spotlight will now fall on members of a companion agency, the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee, who will meet on the same issue Thursday. The Policy Committee gave its support to the Illiana last year, and some experts did not expect that outcome to change Thursday. . . . Opponents had hoped to halt the effort to build the 50-mile, four-lane highway across southern Will County that would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65. Chicago Tribune

IL: Chicago Public Schools Under Fire Over Dirty Conditions, Rotten Food. . . Recent money-saving moves to privatize management of custodial and cafeteria services have drawn the ire of parents and faculty, who have alleged schools are dirtier — and school lunches are worse — than ever. A teacher at a high school on the city’s Southwest Side, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the district, described where he’s taught for the past eight years as “gross and disgusting.” “We’re running out of toilet paper,” he said. “I’m seeing more bugs than ever before. There’s overflowing trash that sits for days and weeks in some cases.”. . . “It’s gross and disgusting and my health is being affected,” he said. “I want to be outside the minute I’m in here. It smells. Everything smells and I can’t focus. If I can’t focus to teach, how can kids focus to learn?” The complaints follow the school district’s hiring of Philadelphia-based Aramark in February to supervise and train school custodians. Aramark in the spring pulled many custodians from their longtime schools and assigned them to a floating pool of janitors. This led to fewer permanent custodians in schools, and talk of layoffs. Huffington Post

IN: Going private keeps taking its toll. . . The money from the Indiana Toll Road lease is gone, and now the foreign consortium running it has declared bankruptcy, ominously struggling against low use combined with raised tolls and much-criticized service. The spectacular failure of IBM’s takeover of welfare eligibility determination, a fiasco that wrought untold suffering upon the poor, disabled and elderly, has the state before the Indiana Supreme Court trying to scratch back tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Could you please tell us again, Mitch Daniels and Grover Norquist and the rest of you libertarian luminaries, how privatization of basic government functions beats letting the government handle the work and control the revenue stream? NUVO Newsweekly

NY: 17 New Charter Schools Approved for New York City. The state approved 17 new charter schools for New York City on Wednesday, substantially increasing the size of one of the city’s largest and most polarizing charter networks, Success Academy, and setting up a battle over where the schools will be located.. . . . While the state approves the creation of these institutions, it is up to New York City to decide where to put them. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an enthusiastic supporter of charters, eagerly offered free space to charter schools inside public school buildings, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has strongly indicated that his administration would take a different approach. A new state law championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo forces the city to give new charter schools free space or to help pay their rent in private space, but if a deal cannot be reached, the issue could go to court. New York Times

KS: Critics of Kansas’ Medicaid Privatization Program Call for Investigation. Amid reports of possible corruption and complaints of long waits for benefits have come calls for an investigation into the Medicaid privatization program championed by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R). KanCare was launched in January 2013, when the state’s traditional Medicaid program was phased out. In its place the Brownback administration contracted three for-profit health insurance companies to coordinate health care for more than 360,000 low-income residents.. . . However, over the past year and a half, all three companies lost money. In 2013 the three companies lost a total of $110 million, and in the first half of this year the companies lost another $72.6 million. Opponents of the program are now growing concerned that if any of the three companies were to withdraw from KanCare, it could cause a significant disruption in service. Delays in reimbursement payments to health-care providers have also been reported. RH Reality Check