January 9, 2015


Jeb Bush’s “Florida formula” of education privatization in North Carolina. . . In recent years, the Tar Heel state has seen the passage of legislation and policies that have opened the door for most of the initiatives that Bush’s foundation promotes. That includes taxpayer-funded school vouchers for students to attend private schools, the Read to Achieve law that requires all third grade students to be reading proficient by the end of third grade or else face retention, and the likely 2015 arrival of virtual charter schools that will be backed by controversial for-profit companies K12, Inc. and Pearson. The Progressive Pulse

The Feds Quietly Acknowledge the Driving Boom Is Over. The Federal Highway Administration has very quietly acknowledged that the driving boom is over. After many years of aggressively and inaccurately claiming that Americans would likely begin a new era of rapid driving growth, the agency’s more recent forecast finally recognizes that the protracted post-World War II era has given way to a different paradigm. The new vision of the future suggests that driving per capita will essentially remain flat in the future. The benchmark is important because excessively high estimates of future driving volume get used to justify wasteful spending on new and wider highways. In the face of scarce transportation funds, overestimates of future driving translate into too little attention paid to repairing the roads we already have and too little investment in other modes of travel. Streetsblog

TN: Memphis Campus Temps Outwit Scheme to Privatize Their Social Security. . . We drafted a media plan to frame the new policy primarily as an attack on Social Security, and secondarily as an attack on temporary workers. This helped us get national Social Security watch groups interested.It also changed the tone. Instead of a story about cuts to workers’ retirement plans, we made it a story about the university attacking Grandma and Grandpa’s income. Once administrators faced the possibility of opposition not just from workers, but also from senior citizens, they balked. Just five days after announcing the plan, the university reversed course. The plan to privatize our Social Security was suspended—though the layoffs went ahead.   Labor Notes (blog)

TX: A drive on a Texas high-speed toll road: Is this how everybody will drive in the future? I hope not. . . In addition to the NASCAR-like atmosphere on the freeways you’ve got different tolls for different roads and no two cities do them quite the same. State politicians play shell games with tolls and gas taxes, bankers and bond salesmen angle to get their cut and the lack of transparency in the process is an open invitation for local governments to divert funds. Equipment World Magazine

VA: Highway Robbery. . . Virginia authorities need to revisit the enforcement provisions in the Transurban public-private partnership contract and, ideally, induce Transurban into re-negotiating the offending clauses. It won’t be easy because traffic volumes and revenues are falling short of projections, and Transurban may not be receptive to changes that might raise its cost structure. On the other hand, the company does have a 70-year contract and it needs to consider the long-term implications of alienating its customer base. If a huge fan of the express lane concept like myself finds $2,500 fines for $10 offenses to be outrageous and indefensible, I feel like I’m pretty safe in saying that Transurban stands all alone on this one. Bacon’s Rebellion