October 3, 2014

How Privatizing Medical Records Will Harm You
Imagine you’re a doctor at a clinic in New York City. You have a patient come in who’s in New York City on business. Their normal doctor is hundreds of miles away in California. In order to treat the patient, you need access to their medical files from their doctor in California. But, you learn that those files are stored in a digital program that your clinic doesn’t use, making it next to impossible to get access to them, and to treat your patient. This isn’t just some hypothetical situation. It’s a scenario that’s playing out all across America today thanks to the conservative ideology that says our public spaces, our commons, which should include our healthcare system, should instead be in the hands of for-profit companies. All across the country, doctors and healthcare workers are finding it increasingly hard to treat patients, because of electronic health record systems that don’t share information with competing systems. The systems, which were installed to help reduce costs and improve patient care, have, in many cases, made patient care a nightmare. thomhartmann.com

A New Argument for Vouchers
Now, the new siren song is that they save money! Politico reports “the fiscal case for vouchers:” “The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice touts vouchers as an ideal way to shake up the “government monopoly” on public education. Now the foundation aims to prove that vouchers make good financial sense, too. A report out today calculates that voucher programs in six states plus D.C. saved taxpayers $1.7 billion between 1990 and 2011. (States typically spend less on a voucher for private school tuition than educating a student in public school.) “Parents are already demanding school choice. Taxpayers should be, too,” said Robert Enlow, the foundation’s president and CEO. The report does not look at the quality of education in voucher schools, under fire in many states. Nor does it look at tax-credit scholarships, which allow individuals and corporations to cut state tax bills by donating to private school scholarship funds. Just think: abolish public education and save hundreds of billions! I thought the point was better education, not cheaper and worse education. DianeRavitch’s Blog

Kansas Is a Portent of Republican Medicare Privatization Disaster. . . In January 2013, Brownback promised that transferring the care of 380,000 Medicaid recipients to three private companies would not sacrifice their level of care, and the number of people on Medicaid’s waiting list would be reduced. He also promised the wholesale privatization of Medicaid under KanCare would save $1 billion, and yet a year-and-a-half later Kansas is so starved of revenue bankruptcy is in sight, schools are in crisis, courts face closure, children’s’ homeless shelters close for lack of $100,000, and ratings agencies are downgrading the state’s credit at regular intervals. What Brownback has not campaigned on, and Democrats across the nation are obviously unaware of, is that the only possible way three private managed-care organizations could realize cost savings is by cutting Medicaid services. PoliticusUSA

IN: INDOT Concerned About Toll Road Plaza Conditions
The Indiana Department of Transportation says it’s concerned about the deteriorating condition of the state’s Toll Road plazas. Last week, South Bend Representative David Niezgodski of South Bend wrote a letter to INDOT, calling the dirty bathrooms he encountered while traveling along the Toll Road embarrassing and unacceptable. INDOT responded this week, saying it agrees with Niezgodski’s assessment. In June, the Indiana Finance Authority sent a letter to the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company, saying they’d received several complaints about dirty and unsanitary bathrooms. Indiana Public Media

IN: Commentary: Going private keeps taking its toll
The money from the Indianapolis water-sewer utility sale is gone, and rates are going up, as the city told us would happen, sale or no sale. The money from the Indianapolis parking meter sale is gone, and rates have risen and billable hours have lengthened, with the collections flowing past city coffers to an outfit in Texas. 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? The Statehouse File

TX: Private Wylie-to-Greenville Toll Road Will Displace Disabled Children on Horses
. . . “The property is just absolutely gorgeous, with rolling hills and running water,” Bricker says. No longer will the disabled children and veterans who compose Equest’s clientele be relegated to riding in tight circles, as space constraints in Wylie dictate. In Rowlett, they will have the space to explore a network of trailsEverything seemed perfect, save for one minor detail. Equest’s pristine 238 acres lies directly in the path of a planned Wylie-to-Greenville toll road. You’ve probably already heard about this road. It’s the one being built by the Texas Turnpike Corp., a private company that for some poorly conceived reason has the power of eminent domain. The one that thousands of otherwise mild-mannered suburbanites are angrily shouting down by the thousands.. The one the toll-enamored North Texas Council of Governments is desperately making up numbers to justify. Dallas Observer (blog)

MI: Aramark Workers Run Amok in Michigan Prisons
Last December, Aramark (ARMK) began running Michigan’s prison kitchens under a three-year, $145 million contract. The deal, which eliminated about 370 union jobs, was supposed to make food service more efficient while saving the cash-strapped state millions. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. More than 100 Aramark employees have been fired for alleged misconduct that included sneaking cell phones into prisons, distributing drugs, and having sexual contact with inmates. On Sept. 23 an Aramark worker at an Ionia prison was fired on suspicion that he’d tried to pay one prisoner to beat up another. The next day a worker at a maximum-security prison, also in Ionia, lost her job after corrections officers found a 65-page love letter she wrote to an inmate with whom she was allegedly having an affair. Two days later the Detroit Free Press reported that a former Aramark worker at a prison in the Upper Peninsula was suspected of asking an inmate to help have a prisoner at another facility killed. Businessweek

NY: Bid to privatize auditing may pit county against CSEA
The Erie County comptroller’s plan to privatize some of its internal audit functions could pit the county against its largest collective bargaining unit. In a letter to the Legislature this week, Interim Labor Relations Director Mary Thomas Scott expressed concern over Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw’s proposal. Without the consent of the Civil Service Employees Association, Scott said the plan would violate the state’s Public Employee’s Fair Employment Act and could prompt the union to file an improper labor charge. “Replacing the bargaining unit positions with an outsourced provider is ill-advised and not in the county’s best interest,” Scott advised lawmakers in her letter.  Buffalo News           

OH: Bankrupt Traffic Camera Company Sends Ohio Town To Collections
Cities that sign up for speed cameras and red light cameras sometimes wind up with greater expenses than they bargained for. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) sued the city of Houston, Texas and won a $4.8 million settlement two years ago, an amount the 4th largest city in America could readily pay. The $638,093 judgment defunct traffic camera company Nestor Traffic Systems won on Wednesday against East Cleveland, Ohio, on the other hand, represents about three-quarters of the cash-strapped town’s entire property tax revenue for the year. Nestor Traffic Systems went bankrupt in 2009, and its contracts were acquired by ATS. A bankruptcy judge appointed Jonathan N. Savage to manage the assets of the failed entity. After reviewing the books, Savage realized East Cleveland failed to pay Nestor’s bills between October 2007 and 2009. He decided to file a lawsuit to collect. TheNewspaper.com

CA: Privatization of Public Resources Confronted with Sit-In at UC Berkeley
Uniting students, workers, community members, and veterans of the Free Speech Movement, CPC led a surprise sit-in at Capital Projects following the rally for the 50th Anniversary of the birth of the Free Speech Movement. Capital Projects is the real estate arm of the University of California Berkeley that is actively privatizing public resources, such as in their proposed commercial development of the historic Gill Tract Farm. . . The sit-in lasted through 6 hours of negotiation amidst speeches and chants that could be heard across central campus. The Bay Area Indymedia

October 2, 2014

IN: County wants state to take back Toll Road
Dirty and outmoded rest stops. Long lines at automated toll centers. About $6 billion worth of debt. And a loss of money to roads in La Porte County. Those were among the reasons why the La Porte County Commissioners passed a resolution Wednesday asking the state to explore options for retaking full control and ownership of the Indiana Toll Road after the private consortium running it under a 75 year lease filed for bankruptcy. On Wednesday, members approved the resolution unanimously, citing a promise from former Governor Mitch Daniels that the Toll Road would revert back to the state’s control if anything like this were to happen. The Herald Argus

IN: Officials decry lack of information on Illiana plans
State Rep. Rick Niemeyer said he is tired of getting the runaround from state officials on some key facts concerning the proposed Illiana toll road and now he wants answers. . . The legislator said before the project moves any further local officials must have answers to several questions including what the cost of the tolls will be, how local emergency service providers will cope financially with the increased call volume and what will taxpayers end up paying if the toll road runs short. . . . The bankruptcy filing last week for the Indiana Toll Road calls into question the validity of the project, he said. Unlike the contract for the Indiana Toll Road, which protected the state from any financial responsibility in the event of a failure, the Illiana Toll Road does not have that same agreement. Post-Tribune

MI: Michigan Lawmaker Makes A Second Run At Imposing Speed Cameras
Automated ticketing machines are not legal in Michigan, home state of the domestic automobile industry. That could change under legislation introduced last month in the state Senate that would create the ideal environment for private companies such as Xerox, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia to take over traffic enforcement for cash-strapped municipalities and operate without any risk of being challenged. TheNewspaper.com

LA: LSU approves new hospital privatization agreements
The LSU Board of Supervisors approved Wednesday new agreements between its hospitals and private partners in hopes that these agreements will keep federal money flowing to the private managers. The new cooperative endeavor agreements were designed to satisfy concerns the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid over Gov. Bobby Jindal’s public/private hospital partnerships. CMS rejected the old agreements last spring. . . . But some board members questioned whether language in the new agreements leaves LSU and low-income patients vulnerable should a partner withdraw from the partnership. The Times-Picayune

LA: Opinion: Rape victims shouldn’t be billed
It’s hard to imagine anything more traumatic than being raped. Sexual assault often leaves victims scarred for life. Many are too traumatized, too scared, to call the cops. Those who do often spend hours undergoing forensic exams. That’s why it’s so infuriating that in Louisiana, many sexual assault victims are billed by public hospitals for portions of their rape exams. It wasn’t always that way, at least not in New Orleans. Making rape victims pay for the crimes of their attackers is an outrage. Many victims say they feel violated all over again. Gov. Bobby Jindal and state lawmakers created this mess when they privatized Louisiana’s public hospitals. Now it’s up to them to fix it.  WWL

PA: Advocacy groups call for closer scrutiny of charter schools
Three groups with union affiliations on Wednesday pointed to the case against ousted PA Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta as a good example for why the state’s nearly 180 charter schools need better oversight and stronger accountability. The Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education, and Action United of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh issued a report that alleges Pennsylvania charter schools defrauded taxpayers out of more than $30 million. That figure is an aggregate of cases brought by whistleblowers and media exposés, according to the authors. Tribune-Review

Online, For-Profit Charter Schools Hit Another Snag
The latest sign that the nation’s 14-year romance with the for-profit cyber charter industry might be cooling came this summer when the Board of Trustees for Pennsylvania’s scandal-plagued Agora Cyber Charter School discussed completely severing its relationship with K12 Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit cyber charter management and curriculum supplier. The action came nearly three weeks after an August 5 vote by Agora’s board to not renew its management contract with the online learning giant beginning with the 2015-16 school year. . . . Investors had already been skittish following an avalanche of recent setbacks for the company. Huffington Post           

October 1, 2014

IL: Public Interest Group Urges Against ‘Wasteful Spending’ On Illiana Expressway
An Illinois public interest organization is raising concerns about the proposed Illiana Expressway, saying the privatized toll road that would serve mainly as a trucking corridor “may charge tolls too high to attract trucks, and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.” The Illiana Expressway, a public-private partnership endeavor, is cited as one of 11 highway “boondoggles” across the country a new report by the Illinois PIRG Education Fund, which is calling on “decision makers to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects.” Progress Illinois

NJ: Turnpike, Parkway toll privatization put off again
he deadline for proposals to privatize New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway cash toll collections has been pushed off for a fifth time, this time until November. The new due date is Nov. 12 for contractors to submit proposals to run the E-ZPass system and to tentatively replace authority toll collectors with private collectors April 25. The latest extension comes after a tentative settlement with two unions representing toll plaza supervisors and interchange managers that contained salary concessions. The Star-Ledger

LA: LSU to consider changes to hospital privatization agreements
The LSU Board of Supervisors will consider changes to hospital privatization agreements aimed at keeping federal Medicaid money flowing to the private partners… The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid rejected the state’s reimbursement plan in the spring, threatening deals that had already turned over management of the hospitals to private operators. . . The hospital privatization plan has been a controversial issue in Louisiana. Critics argued Gov. Bobby Jindal implemented the privatization too quickly because he did so without federal approval.If the plans are not approved by the federal government, the contracts might be ineffective because there won’t be enough money to support them, and the state would have to repay what has already been spent.The deals will cost an estimated $1 billion in the current budget year, most of which is federal money. The Times-Picayune

Professor: Why I tell students to become teachers — even though the profession is under assault
. . . . Here is the brutal truth: There is no occupation in this country where you can avoid the brutal management practices current invading teachers! There is no “dream job” I can tell my students about, here or in any other country, where you will find security, loyalty, autonomy, and caring respectful management. Work conditions in teaching, as bad as they are, may actually be better than they are in some other jobs. But there is an additional reason that I would urge my students to become teachers: I refuse to give up the profession to the privatizers and to those people who are destroying childhood and undermining what should be one of the best jobs in the society.  Washington Post

Harvard Students Ask University to Cut Ties with Teach for America
A dozen Harvard University students, members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), assembled outside a university building on Friday, September 26th, calling on President Drew G. Faust to cut ties with Teach for America unless the AmeriCorps program makes major changes to its organization. The group’s demonstration comes as part of a larger movement initiated by United Students Against Sweatshops, which holds that holds that Teach For America is working to privatize education through its relationships with big-name corporations that are threatening the sanctity of public education. The group had a TFA Truth Tour during March and April earlier this year, wherein protests were scheduled and executed on college campuses, including Harvard University. The Nonprofit Quarterly