December 11, 2014


Privatizing the Attorney General’s Office. Thanks to an in-depth investigation in The New York Times, we now know that the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) was coordinating efforts of their members. That’s not unusual, of course. What is unprecedented is that RAGA and the Republican AGs, according to the Times, are secretly working with corporations—especially in the mining and energy sector—to fight federal regulations. That’s contrary to the traditional role of the AG, which is to take on corporations that fail to adhere to regulations. In effect, RAGA appears to be actually encouraging their state attorneys general to privatize the office by allowing corporations to secretly back legislation and support lawsuits in their interests. Express Milwaukee

When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only. . . Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances. . . . In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a “sweeps” contract because nearly all of a school’s public dollars – anywhere from 95 to 100 percent – is “swept” into a charter-management company. The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it’s also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits. “It’s really just a pass-through for for-profit entities,” said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs who specializes in work with charter schools and has come across many sweeps contracts. “In what sense is that a nonprofit endeavor? It’s not.” ProPublica

AZ: Apache tribe distressed by privatization of sacred land. Former San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Wendsler Nosie said he felt sick when he heard what legislators did last week. Members of Congress — including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act a controversial land-swap measure that would privatize national forest land sacred to Western Apache tribes. More than a dozen versions of the land-swap bill have failed to pass Congress since 2005. But now the U.S. Senate is expected to make a final decision on the defense spending bill by late Thursday. Arizona Daily Star

VA: McAuliffe, Jones, back transportation reforms. . . The new legislation targets the state’s public private partnership process, which is used to draw private sector funding for large projects. That’s the plan along Interstate 95 in northern Virginia, which the governor visited Wednesday to announce this weekend’s opening of a new toll lanes. A private consortium will collect tolls for 76 years to make back the roughly $854 million in private money raised for the $969 million project budget. The state had a similar plan for U.S. 460, and signed an agreement with an international conglomerate to build a new tolled highway between Suffolk and Petersburg. The project was put on hold after nearly $300 million was spent despite not having a crucial federal permit to build the road. Daily Press

OH: Ohio’s charter school performance is “grim” and needs state attention. Ohio’s longstanding and “grim” problem with underperforming charter schools is improving, a Stanford researcher said at the City Club today, but the state needs to increase its quality control efforts. . . . Most of all, Raymond stressed, Ohio has an “expanded need for attention to quality” of charter schools to reduce the large amount — about half — whose students show both low ability and low improvement in reading and math.

MO: Drivers balk at idea of turning I-70 into toll road. . . “I hate the idea. I’ll be protesting against it,” said driver Glen Scharnhorst. “It actually takes money out of my pocket and reduces my spending power.”. . . Nixon said he’d like to study a private or public-private operation. He asked the commission to report back to him before the end of the month. He said if I-70 became a toll road, money set aside for I-70 would be used to repair and improve other highways throughout Missouri. KMBC Kansas City

WA: State’s first charter school in disarray. Just months after it opened, First Place Scholars, the first charter school in Washington state, is in turmoil. Its first principal resigned in November, more than half of its original board of directors have left, too, and the state’s charter-school commission has identified more than a dozen potential problems that need to be fixed soon if the school wants to keep its doors open. The Seattle Times