February 26, 2015


For-Profit School Students Challenge Education Department By Refusing To Repay Federal Student Loan. . . Corinthian, once one of the nation’s largest for-profit college chains with more than 110,000 students, is effectively shutting down under the weight of numerous state and federal probes that allege it cheated students by lying to them about job placement and graduation rates. Though the chain has previously disputed allegations from state and federal authorities that it defrauded students, it recently sold more than 50 campuses under pressure from the U.S. Department of Education, and Canadian authorities last week forced another 14 into bankruptcy. A contingent of former students, backed by prominent student advocates, the Massachusetts attorney general and more than a dozen Senate Democrats, has demanded the Education Department forgive federal student loans that thousands of people took out to attend Corinthian’s schools. The department has the authority to cancel loans in instances where students demonstrate that schools defrauded them. Huffington Post

The Secret World of Government Debt Collection . Government agencies across the country are hiring private debt collectors to go after millions of Americans over unpaid taxes, ancient parking tickets and even $1 tolls. CNNMoney

Where Lottery Privatization Went Wrong – William Weld. . . As economic growth remains fragile, governors must look for non-tax ways to raise revenues and avoid painful spending cuts. When I sat in their shoes, I looked at all avenues to plug gaps in the financial position of the state. Improving performance at the state lottery is one reasonably easy opportunity to increase revenues without stifling growth. But even as a long-time proponent of private management, I am constrained to say that the results obtained by private managers in Illinois and New Jersey have been a disappointment. . . . But the real problem with these arrangements lay earlier—in a flawed procurement process. Forbes

IL: Chicago surprise: Why Rahm Emanuel faces a runoff – and can he survive it?. . . While finishing first in the mayoral race, Emanuel, at 45 percent of the vote, failed to garner the majority needed to avoid the first runoff since Chicago switched to nonpartisan elections 20 years ago. . . . The election results have also been interpreted as a blow to the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, led by Mr. Obama, who campaigned with the mayor. . . .Commissioner Garcia, who is backed by the left-leaning online activist group moveon.org, has portrayed his opponent as the mayor of the privileged 1 percent. Born in Mexico but raised in Chicago, Garcia, a former state lawmaker and Chicago alderman, campaigned on the theme of social equality. . . . Meanwhile, Emanuel still faces criticism over his decision in 2013 to close almost 50 public schools seen as low-performing. During Emanuel’s term, public schoolteachers staged their first strike in 25 years. The Chicago Teacher’s Union is backing Garcia. Christian Science Monitor

NJ: Governor Christie Sells Off New Jersey to the Highest Bidder . . . Early in his first term, Governor Christie created a privatization task force, creating a virtual road map for transferring billions of dollars in public assets to private profit driven companies. And throughout his tenure as governor, Christie has pushed to privatize public television, parts of the New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway, public parks, inspectors, and now our water. Governor Christie just signed a bill will open the floodgates for water system privatization in New Jersey. Food and Water Watch (blog)

VA: Delegate Ramadan Continues SCC Push On Dulles Greenway Toll Rates. Legislative efforts aimed at curbing tolls on the Dulles Greenway proved unsuccessful over the past few weeks, but Del. David I. Ramadan is continuing the fight on another front: through the State Corporation Commission. Ramadan (R-87), of South Riding, noted last week that with bills introduced by him and other Loudoun County lawmakers being defeated in this year’s General Assembly session, he’s concentrating on his request for the SCC to investigate the toll structure of Greenway operator Toll Road Investors Partnership II. Leesburg Today

PA: With 3Ps – privatization, paycheck protection and pension reform – it’s open season on unions. . . [T]he Pennsylvania Legislature is the most conservative it’s been in years this year and that’s been reflected in the top priorities in the state House and Senate. The state House is set to take a vote this week on liquor privatization and should the push be successful (and that’s a big if), thousands of state store employees represented by Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union could be looking for work. In the Senate, a bill banning the state from collecting political and other dues from employees’ paychecks cleared a Senate committee earlier this week. And a push to reform the state’s underfunded pensions has some employees worried for their retirements.. . . Despite the current siege, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is opposed to privatization and, while he acknowledges the pension funding problem, isn’t a fan of the GOP-backed remedies making the rounds. PennLive.com (blog)

PA: Liquor privatization takes another step forward, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto looms. Pennsylvania is one step closer to pulling out of the liquor business after a House committee voted 15-10 in favor of a privatization bill along party lines. . . . Wolf, however, has vowed to veto the legislation. He has already made his own pitch, for modernization, which he said could include expanded Sunday hours and more liquor stores inside existing supermarkets. PennLive.com

KY: Public-private partnerships bill approved. Despite strong protests of Northern Kentuckians who say it is a step toward approving tolls on a new Brent Spence Bridge, the House budget committee on Tuesday approved the bill authorizing public-private partnerships for road and bridge projects. . . The bill authorizes state government to contract with private sector partners who will finance and build bridge and road projects. Just as state law currently lets a state university to contract with a private company to build a dorm and then be repaid with student housing fees, the bill would let the state contract with a highway contractor to build a road or bridge and be paid off with toll revenues. The Courier-Journal

IL: Chicago Charter School Teachers Demand a Union. Teachers and staff at Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies and North Lawndale College Prep (NLCP) announced on Friday they are seeking to form a union, joining the growing movement to organize charter school teachers in Chicago and around the country. . . . As hostility to teachers unions by some education reformers and government officials has risen in recent years, the number of charter schools—schools which are largely publicly funded but privately run—has seen a dramatic increase. As the New York Times reports, many charter school backers see teacher unions as incompatible with charters, as they say the schools “are more effective because they are free from the regulations and bureaucracies that govern traditional public schools.” Supporters of charter school unionization say collective bargaining allows teachers to secure the resources and conditions that create quality teachers and stable schools. In These Times