March 25, 2015

News

Congress considers privatizing the air traffic control system. Frustrated by the FAA’s bureaucratic inertia, there is bipartisan sentiment in Congress to spin off the agency’s biggest single workforce — the almost 15,000 people who control the nation’s air traffic — into a separate corporation. Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) presented a bill to the House aviation subcommittee Tuesday that would create a private corporation to govern air travel. Washington Post

Grover Norquist sees bipartisan doc fix deal as ‘model of success’. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have worked out a deal, a permanent “doc fix” that would repeal automatic cuts in Medicare payments to physicians. Their bipartisan solution, if enacted, will plunge a stake into the heart of traditional Medicare, according to health policy expert Don McCanne, M.D., of Physicians for a National Health Program. Physicians for a National Health Program

When Will “Progressives” Defend Public Education?. . . There is no mention of K12 education. No mention of the issues confronting public schools, the attempts to privatize, voucherize and charterize our schools. No mention of school closures in African American and Latino neighborhoods. No mention of assaults on teacher unions and due process rights. No mention of the test obsession destroying the quality of education in our schools, leading students to walk out by the thousands.   Progressive.org

Opinion: National experiment in school choice, market solutions produces inequity. After a series of policies implemented from the 1980s onward, Chilean governments have managed to develop one of the most deregulated, market-oriented educational schemes in the world. Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the “Chilean experiment” was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market…. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures. Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)

Space Privatization, Tourism And Morals. . . “We don’t know who the Googles and the Amazons are going to be. It might be SpaceX and Virgin Galactic,” Impey said about the private groups who will be involved in the next stage in space travel. “I do believe that what happens next [with space travel] will dwarf what’s happened before.” But progress will not come without cost. Impey reminded the audience that these continued forays into space will likely include accidents like those that occurred in October 2014: the Orbital rocket explosion and the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crash, which killed one pilot and injured another. “People died in the first decade of the civil aviation program,” said Impey. “There are going to be ups and downs.” Inside Science News Service

NJ: New Jersey privatizes its water in the worst way possible. The Water Infrastructure Protection Act (WIPA), approved on February 5th, allows municipalities to sell their water facilities to private companies without public referendum. As part of Christie’s privatization task force agenda, WIPA aims to balance Jersey’s current budget crisis, while also fixing the state’s water facilities that ail from “emergent conditions,” or what the bill calls “serious risks to the integrity of drinking water and the environment.” The Protection Act has alarmed New Jersey communities and watchdog groups, however, who claim, as activist Jim Walsh has said, the bill allows “multinational corporations to profit off increased water rates with virtually no recourse for New Jersey residents.’’ AMERICAblog (blog)

DC: Follow The Money: The Murky Ethics In A DC Prison Contract. The clock is ticking on a controversial proposal to turn over the health care for the thousands of inmates at Washington, D.C.’s two jails to the for-profit corporation Corizon, and the company is using a political insider to push for approval of the contract. Though not officially listed on Corizon’s lobbyist disclosure forms, DC Council members confirmed to ThinkProgress that businessman Max Brown has been calling, texting and visiting them, urging them to vote for a plan to get rid of the local non-profit that has served the DC jail since 2006. Brown did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. Brown is widely known as one of new DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s biggest fundraisers and closest confidantes. ThinkProgress

NC: Senate Republicans want North Carolina’s state ferries to go private. A trio of Senate Republican leaders on transportation issues proposed in legislation filed Tuesday that North Carolina’s state-run ferries should be privately owned and operated. “The General Assembly finds that the privatization of the North Carolina Ferry System would provide a more cost‑effective service model for the citizens of the State,” declares the bill filed by Sen. Bill Rabon, a Southport Republican who co-chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and the committee’s two vice chairs, Sens. Kathy Harrington of Gastonia and Wesley Meredith of Fayetteville. News & Observer (blog)

OH: Ohio State U. Launching Another Privatization. The Ohio State University wants a private firm to take over its energy system for 50 years in exchange for an upfront cash payment. Bond Buyer ($)

March 24, 2015

News

Opinion: How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives. . . Broadcast Journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955: Who owns the patent on this vaccine? Polio Researcher Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun? We don’t hear much of that anymore. The public-minded sentiment of the 1950s, with the sense of wartime cooperation still in the minds of researchers and innovators, has yielded to the neoliberal winner-take-all business model. In his most recent exposé of the health care industry in the U.S., Steve Brill notes that it’s “the only industry in which technological advances have increased costs instead of lowering them.” An investigation of fourteen private hospitals by National Nurses United found that they realized a 1,000% markup on their total costs, four times that of public hospitals. Other sources have found that private health insurance administrative costs are 5 to 6 times higher than Medicare administrative costs.  eNews Park Forest

TX: Lawmakers, anti-toll road groups rally at Capitol. Members of various advocacy groups opposed to toll roads gathered on the Capitol steps Monday to present their legislative agenda and voice their support for eliminating toll roads. . . . “The tax burden represented by paying tolls has risen to a level that exceeds many folks’ property tax bills,” said Terri Hall, director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. “Texans cannot sustain this toll tax burden. Something must change, and fast.” Hall outlined six priorities of the coalition, including prohibiting the Texas Department of Transportation from utilizing public money to build toll roads, requiring toll revenue be used only for the road on which the tolls are collected, and banning any partnerships between private companies and the state. Chron.com

DC: Graduation rates up in DC public schools, down for charter schools. D.C. Public Schools’ graduation rate increased last school year by two percentage points, to 58 percent, but the city’s public charter schools recorded a drop of nearly seven points, to 69 percent, according to new data. Washington Post

IA: Editorial: Medicaid plan is gift for private firms. From Social Security to Medicare, Republicans have pushed to privatize government entitlements. Now Gov. Terry Branstad seeks to hand over management of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program to a few private companies. The public should be skeptical. The more than 500,000 poor and disabled individuals and families in Iowa who rely on Medicaid should be asking questions. The federal government should be reluctant to approve the waiver that Iowa needs to privatize a program funded by state and federal dollars. In recent presentations to the public, state leaders have unveiled a lot of numbers intended to show Medicaid is expensive. What they do not provide is context. Des Moines Register

WI: This Is What Wisconsin’s 2.5% Budget Cut Looks Like. . . And while none of the campuses expects to close, each is being transformed. That’s because Walker’s proposed changes would monumentally shift the tradition of shared governance, further dismantle the tenure system, and effectively privatize much of the system’s work force. Many employees are being told to expect to lose their jobs this spring. Many who remain will find that their jobs require significantly more work for less pay. Chronicle of Higher Education ($)

WI: Your Views: State budget would privatize local Aging and Disability Resource Centers. I am writing to encourage all citizens to contact their government representatives and express concern regarding the proposed budget cuts to several of the human service programs in Wisconsin, including privatizing the local Aging and Disability Resource Centers or ADRCs. . . When consumers are given accurate and unbiased information, they can make good decisions about how to spend their money to obtain care at home. This prevents admission to long-term care facilities and saves taxpayers money! Privatizing these services not only gives profits to insurance companies paid for by taxpayers, but it also places our local communities’ most vulnerable citizens at risk of receiving poor service or, worse yet, no service. Janesville Gazette

MO: Missouri House moves to privatize Medicaid eligibility checks. Missouri would hire a private contractor to verify applicants’ eligibility for Medicaid and other social services programs under a bill the state House passed last week. . . . In addition to checking initial applications, the contractor would update the income and assets of recipients at least quarterly to see if they should remain on the rolls. The company would submit the information to the Department of Social Services, which would retain authority to decide who is eligible. . .. The bill garnered bipartisan support, passing on a vote of 148-5. It is being pushed by Maximus, a Virginia-based company that specializes in government health and welfare programs. Maximus has hired lobbyist David Winton to advocate for the bill. STLtoday.com

IL: Brady Says Privatizing Higher Ed Might Be The Solution In Illinois. Wisconsin and Virginia have begun conversations about privatizing flagship public universities. Now, Illinois is about to have the discussion. Bloomington Republican State Senator Bill Brady has introduced a bill to privatize Illinois’ public universities over six years. WUIS.org

NY: State education aid may fall short; Cuomo gets Fs across the board. . . Also on Monday, Cuomo got a report card full of Fs from the Alliance for Quality Education. In a news release with a chalkboard-like graphic and a picture of the governor frowning, the alliance gave him Fs in the following categories: research, for putting faith in standardized testing to evaluate teachers; math, for not closing the equity gap in school funding; pre-K, for not following through on funding prekindergarten in upstate and suburban communities; and civics, for what it called his bullying of school districts. Cuomo got an A in rhetoric because of his “ability to distract from real solutions and point the finger or blame, not deterred by whether facts match reality;” and an A for business studies as it alleges that Cuomo “scores very high on return on investment for Wall Street investors supporting high stakes testing, privatization and teacher bashing.” Glens Falls Post-Star

LA: Gov. Jindal’s Implosion – Charles M. Blow. What happened to Bobby Jindal? . . . Jindal was the brainy Moses coming to deliver his people from the bondage of inanity. But that was then. Now, Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular. . . . On Friday, Robert Mann, a columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, called for Jindal’s resignation, citing all of the problems in the state that the governor isn’t focusing on as he tries to gin up a greater national profile: “We have some of the nation’s highest poverty and worst health outcomes and you’ve done little to address them. . . .. What you have done is hollow out higher education and inject needless confusion and rancor into the state’s elementary and secondary education system. Meanwhile, the state’s health care system is a fractured, dysfunctional mess under your privatization schemes. Now, you’ve outsourced the state’s tax policy to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.” New York Times

NJ: Editorial: Lottery couriers / Preying on the vulnerable. . . The state is a little more than a year into a misguided and so-far-disappointing privatization contract for lottery sales and marketing. There was only one bidder for the 15-year contract – a three-company consortium known as Northstar New Jersey. And in the first year of the contract, lottery sales were down 9.2 percent, and Northstar fell $24 million short of its projections – and that was after the company got the state to lower the projections. And administrative costs were up 45 percent from the last year the state had full control of the lottery. In return for a lump sum payment of $120 million to the state, Northstar gets a percentage of any increase in lottery revenue it generates. Could the creation of lottery courier services be an attempt to bail out Northstar and the privatization deal? Press of Atlantic City

GA: GUEST COLUMN: A return to separate but equal schools. . . They now have floated legislation to create two separate school systems in our state. Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 will go far to destroy the public education system. If we adopt this law now pending in the House, the governor will become the dictator for all poor white and black students and their schools. He will then appoint a “czar” to operate what he deems failing schools, in what is to be called an Opportunity School District. This czar’s private corporation will educate all Georgia’s kids whose schools are deemed “failing” by the governor. This private corporation will hire teachers, run the schools, and collect their profits. The idea is, I guess, that private enterprise can do it best. This is a long-held belief of Republicans, whose real plan is to privatize all services and to profit from them — and then to destroy government, or limit it to just raising an army. Northwest Georgia News

 

 

March 23, 2015

News

The New American Order: Birth of a System Without a Name. . . In the recent coverage of the Hillary Clinton email flap, you can find endless references to the Clintons of yore in wink-wink, you-know-how-they-are-style reporting; and yes, she did delete a lot of emails; and yes, it’s an election year coming and, as everyone points out, the Republicans are going to do their best to keep the email issue alive until hell freezes over, etc., etc. . . .The most striking aspect of this little brouhaha lies in what’s most obvious but least highlighted. An American secretary of state chose to set up her own private, safeguarded email system for doing government work; that is, she chose to privatize her communications. If this were Cairo, it might not warrant a second thought. But it didn’t happen in some third-world state. It was the act of a key official of the planet’s reigning (or thrashing) superpower, which — even if it wasn’t the first time such a thing had ever occurred — should be taken as a tiny symptom of something that couldn’t be larger or, in the long stretch of history, newer: the ongoing privatization of the American state, or at least the national security part of it. Truth-Out

CA: The Privatization of Transit. Private companies are changing the way many of us are getting to work. For years, Google, Facebook and other firms have run shuttle buses that take their employees to and from their campuses. Now startups are getting into the transit business. KQED

IN: Critics blast new I-405 tolling as money grab aimed at forcing drivers onto buses. Critics believe toll rates for express toll lanes on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood is just a money grab by the state, and that this is just the first step to tolling and changing the HOV requirements for every road. . . . Most of that money won’t pay for new roads. As much as 75 percent of the collected tolls will merely pay for the tolling system itself. It’s basically a pricing model aimed at modifying congestion. . . . “Currently, the HOV lanes are failing on six out of 10 days that they operate,” Parker said. “Those lanes were built with federal money and the federal government requires that they remain free flowing at a speed of 45 mph hour or greater.” KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson said, “This proves that the state of Washington, the Department of Transportation, as well as the private company that’s going to be operating this system – they have a financial incentive to create as much gridlock as possible in the three general purpose lanes because that’s the only way anybody’s going to be willing to pay these outlandish tolls.” MyNorthwest.com

AK: Proposal to Privatize Trash Already Drawing Criticism in Anchorage. . . The contract is with California-based consulting firm HF&H for $46,500. To some, the number seems high. “I think that’s way too much to pay for an appraisal,” said Assembly member Jennifer Johnson. “We got one earlier for $6,000. This is a little more in depth, so many $10,000 to $15,000 would be more in the ballpark.” That earlier appraisal assessed rate structure, and Sullivan said the higher cost in the current contract reflects a significantly more comprehensive analysis of how much the utility is worth. The other Assembly criticism of the contract is that it was made out of that body’s oversight. Because the total amount is less than $50,000 it does not require approval from them. But Assembly member Paul Honeman felt blindsided by how the administration handled it. Alaska Public Radio Network

TX: TxDOT Refunding $1.7 Million for Botched Toll Bills. Billing problems with the Texas Department of Transportation’s tolling system are bigger than the agency had realized, officials confirmed Tuesday, and the agency will be giving back about $1.7 million to tollway users who have been overbilled. . . . Billing issues are just one of several problems that have emerged since this summer, when Xerox took over TxDOT’s tolling operations under a five-year, $100 million contract. Texas drivers have encountered trouble accessing accounts online and long wait times on customer service calls. . . Last month, TxDOT officials told a state Senate committee that it had found approximately 30,000 Texas drivers with valid TxTag accounts that erroneously received bills in the mail for using the state’s toll roads, which are charged at a higher rate. Those accounts have since been credited, Bass said. Troubled state contracts are expected to be a big part of the discussion as TxDOT addresses the House General Investigating Committee on Thursday, along with officials with the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Criminal Justice. The Texas Tribune

TX: In Legislature, Toll Roads Facing Strong Opposition. Lawmakers have filed more than a dozen bills this session aimed at either tapping the brakes on new toll road projects or undoing the state’s current tolling system entirely. “In light of the Legislature’s commitment to fully fund transportation, it is a breach of trust with taxpayers to demand that they pay the double tax of tolls and transportation taxes,” said state Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano. Texas Tribune

TX: Texas “parent trigger bill” would pave way for privatizing public schools. SB 14 by Sen. Larry Taylor—the so called “parent trigger bill”–is a part of a package of bills that would pave the way for privatizing public schools, said Texas AFT President Louis Malfaro, commenting on today’s hearing on the bill in the Texas Senate Education Committee. “This bill offers a false sense of empowerment for parents, because it actually would open the door for private charter chains and management entities to take over neighborhood schools with little or no accountability to these parents,” Malfaro said. “The only thing triggered here is the flow of money into private hands. We’ve offered a better way to empower parents, with the Community School model as a proven tool for school improvement, especially at struggling campuses.” North Dallas Gazette

NJ: Trenton schools to eliminate 226 positions, privatize one-on-ones. At the district’s offices on Thursday, Superintendent Francisco Duran outlined that 226 positions will be eliminated, one-on-one paraprofessionals will be privatized and Monument Elementary School will be closed. . . . Two years ago, one-on-one paraprofessionals were privatized. This year, the staff members assigned to work with students suffering from behavioral and health issues, were hired back by the district. Next year, the vicious cycle will continue. . . . Eris Tunstall, vice president of the paraprofessionals union, claims the district’s maneuver is “unjust.” “They’re saying that they’re saving money by privatizing the paraprofessionals, but they paid over the amount last time they were privatized,” she said. “So I don’t understand what is the savings by cutting us again.” Tunstall believes the district is ultimately hurting students. Last time the district privatized the one-on-ones, Tunstall said a lot of people were hired from outside Trenton. “It wasn’t a good fit for a lot of the kids,” she said. “Now, we do have a lot of people working in the city who are taxpayers. They know the kids, they know the community. We work here, we live here.” The Trentonian

WI: Opinion: Don’t privatize strong public school system. Wisconsin has long recognized that public education is a commitment we make to each other. When our schools are strong, so are our communities. That’s why the Wisconsin Constitution obligates our Legislature to create and nurture a system of public schools. The proposed state budget, however, neglects this directive by expanding taxpayer subsidies to private education. As university faculty who study education, we know this approach lacks foundation in research and endangers our strong public school system. Madison.com

LA: Spitzer non-commital on Terrell State Hospital privatization. State Sen. Bob Hall and state Rep. Stuart Spitzer hosted a packed house at a town hall meeting on March 14 held at Carmona’s Restaurant in Terrell.. . . .Among the questions asked was one about the potential privatization of Terrell State Hospital. Spitzer said he had no big announcements on the issue, but he also stressed that he is not interested in cutting corners when it comes to health care. Spitzer said the best solution for patients at the facility is the best solution for Terrell. Until that solution is clearly identified, he said he would not commit to backing any of the proposals under consideration. Terrell Tribune

March 19, 2015

News

OH: Ohio State CFO leaving to join company behind parking deal. The chief financial officer at Ohio State University will leave the school to work for the investment firm that funded OSU’s parking-privatization plan, the school said Wednesday. . . . Chatas is going to work at QIC Global Infrastructure, the parent of Ohio State University parking operator CampusParc. Chatas was instrumental in that partnership. Columbus Business First

WI: Schools Plan Massive Layoffs After Scott Walker Guts Funding. . . “Over the last several years we’ve seen more kids in each classroom, less individual attention for children, and cuts to music, art, and physical education programs,” he said. “There are also way fewer guidance councilors and social workers, and given the Depression-like economic conditions that are in the community here, that’s a real serious problem. They now don’t have time to give kids guidance around post-high school possibilities like technical schools, apprenticeships or college.” . . . The money saved from the education cuts is specifically slated for property tax relief, which largely benefits the wealthiest in the state. “Walker keeps bragging that he’s reduced property taxes each year, but most people don’t see any real difference, and it has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Peterson, who works now with the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. “You can see it’s a talking point he’s using in his very self-interested political campaign.” ThinkProgress

TX: Tollway company’s authority could be curbed. Now the private Texas Turnpike Corp. and its 18 investors are fighting another blow in the form of an attempt to revoke its authority to condemn land for the stalled Northeast Gateway – or any other project, for that matter. Turnpike President John Crew said the state turns away from the tollway at its peril. “We’ve got devastating growth coming,” he said in a Senate hearing Wednesday, and an underfunded road-building effort hasn’t kept up. “The state with the most infrastructure wins.”  But Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, said taking land by eminent domain – a process that pays property owners fair market value – is “egregious” even when used by government for other projects. Hall told colleagues that he wants to end the Turnpike Corp.’s ability to do that, after several previous attempts. Weatherford Democrat

MI: Susan J. Demas: Latest Aramark scandal shows Republicans’ blind faith in privatization is half-baked. . . So let’s get this straight. Initially, it looked like Aramark wouldn’t really save taxpayers money. Then the state decided it would. Since then, the company has served up a steady stream of PR fiascos that revealed startling gaps in prison security. And yet Aramark still has a state contract. How many chances does one company deserve? In the business world, where Snyder and much of his team hail from, this never would have dragged on so long. Businesses can’t afford to tolerate public embarrassments and security breaches, because customers will walk. As it so happens, those being served by Aramark aren’t free to do anything. They’re prisoners, after all. MLive.com

IA: Iowa DOT Cracks Down On Profit-Driven Speed Cameras. Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) wants ten of the thirty-four traffic cameras in use on state roads to come down. Officials reviewed documentation supplied by Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Muscatine and Sioux City and concluded on Tuesday that too many were not installed for safety purposes. The orders were based on rules that the department laid out Last year regulating the use of automated ticketing machines on state roads. The regulations are based on the premise that engineering solutions must be implemented before ticketing programs and that cameras should never be considered a “long-term solution” to a traffic safety problem. The principles discourage use of cameras on interstate highways because the amount of pass-through traffic makes it unlikely drivers will be aware the systems are in use, making improvement in driver behavior unlikely. TheNewspaper.com

AR: House member pulls nonprofit school district proposal. An Arkansas lawmaker who sponsored a bill to assist failing school districts said he pulled the proposal on Tuesday less than an hour before hundreds of opponents descended on the Capitol to protest it. Republican Rep. Bruce Cozart told The Associated Press that he has deferred the bill and that it won’t come up again this session. He said he received more than 3,000 emails and countless calls about the proposal that opponents branded as a push to privatize education in the state. SFGate

Republicans want to privatize Medicare in new budget proposal. House Republicans will unveil a proposed budget Tuesday that would drastically reshape the federal government by privatizing Medicare and repealing ObamaCare, a report said. The ambitious agenda, which uses the policy prescriptions of Rep. Paul Ryan New York Post of Wisconsin, aims to slash federal spending and balance the budget within 10 years, according to The New York Times. Medicare would transform into a voucher-like program that subsidizes purchases of private health insurance. New York Post

 

 

March 18, 2015

News

AR: School privatization bill pulled for this session. . . Republican Rep. Bruce Cozart told The Associated Press Tuesday that he has deferred the bill and that it won’t come up again this session. Cozart says he couldn’t get the cooperation needed from proponents and opponents to advance the proposal. The major force behind the bill were lobbyists financial tied to the Walton Family Foundation, which supports expansion of charter schools and has backed several enterprises that have harmed Little Rock School District desegregation efforts. The attention on Walton ties to the bill — a group that supports their aims took Cozart and other education committee members on a junket to Washington last summer. Arkansas Times

NJ: New bill gives DEP commissioner final say on Liberty State Park development plans. Any plans to commercially develop Liberty State Park would be subject to approval by the New Jersey’s chief environmental official under legislation that has won Assembly approval. . . . However, New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said commercial land use would still be possible under the legislation. In a statement, Tittell said the new version of the bill “nibbles around the edges, but still leaves many problems.” “The change that occurred today calls for the DEP Commissioner to sign off on plans for Liberty State Park, and a public hearing,” Tittel said. “However, it doesn’t stop privatization and leasing of land for commercial land use. We believe this legislation does not really fix the problems with original legislation. NJ.com

IN: Indiana Toll Road execs to share $2.45 million bonus. The rich price fetched last week for the Indiana Toll Road means the top five executives of its bankrupt operator should be sharing a $2.45 million bonus pool as a reward for their services. ITR Concession Company CEO Fernando Redondo and the four executives under him will receive the money when IFM Investors closes on its $5.72 billion offer for the road, under the terms of an order issued in January in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The closing is expected within months. . . . Under the incentive bonus plan approved by the judge, the five top executives share a $1 million bonus pool if the road’s sale fetches more than $4.5 billion. But for every $1 million paid above $5 billion, the bonus pool grows by $2,000. The motion did not specify how the bonus pool is split among the five executives. nwitimes.com

TX: Austin: Battle over toll roads underway. Toll roads are about as popular as tornadoes — a fact emphasized last fall when protests effectively put the brakes on a $500 million, 27-mile tollway connecting Garland and Greenville. Now the private Texas Turnpike Corp. and its 18 investors are fighting another blow in the form of an attempt to revoke its authority to condemn land for the stalled Northeast Gateway — or any other project, for that matter. Corsicana Daily Sun

DC: Graduation rates up in DC public schools, down for charter schools. Graduation rates for D.C. Public Schools increased last school year by two percentage points to 58 percent and fell by nearly seven points in the city’s public charter schools to 69 percent, according to data released by the Office for the State Superintendent of Education. Washington Post

NM: Victor Reyes: Public-private partners bill a bad deal for NM. . . Private companies are pushing hard to expand P3s in our state. HB 299 is one of the broadest, if not the broadest, pieces of P3 legislation in the country in terms of scope of authorized projects, breadth of governmental entities involved, lack of oversight (legislative and executive), lack of public transparency and financial risks. . . . HB 299 is a bad deal for New Mexico. In addition to the broad definition of “public projects” that are subject to privatization, HB 299 specifically lists dams, reservoirs, sewerage or water treatment facilities, water pipelines, habitat or environmental restoration, power plants, and other basic, essential environmental assets. When governments seek to privatize these services, the reality is that taxpayers get the short end of the stick. . . . Generally speaking, the more heavily the private sector is involved, the riskier the project is for the public — in financial, social and environmental terms. Examples from across the country have proven the need to take a very cautious approach to P3s. Deming Headlight

Higher Interest Rates Could Make Fixing America’s Infrastructure More Expensive. . . “I definitely think we need more infrastructure spending. My guess is, given the current makeup of Congress, it’s not going to happen anytime soon,” says John Canally, a vice president and economist at LPL Financial. “A lot of it might have to be done with the public-private partnerships which happened a lot in the mid-2000s.” Canally says infrastructure projects may be “a little less likely to happen” once interest rates go up, but he says the bigger impediment to surface transportation revitalization is tied to political budgetary squabbles. He says private companies may be more capable of investing in toll roads that could alleviate traffic congestion on federal and state roadways. He says such private sector investments are not hindered by politics and could be an infrastructural boon for the country if such investors are willing to pony up. “[Interest] rates might go up a quarter of a point, but these companies have so much cash on the sidelines that that almost doesn’t matter that much,” Canally says. “We saw a number of these toll roads and bridges done on a joint basis by public and private where the public sector bought it and sold it to the private sector. Those were big in 2004, 2005, 2006, before the downturn. That might be the way it has to get done in this decade as well given the backdrop in Washington and some of the state capitals.” U.S. News & World Report

 

March 17, 2015

News

Republicans Can Kiss Medicare Privatization Goodbye. For the last four years Republicans have used their small power perch in the House of Representatives to prime members for the day when they’d control the whole government. During each of those years, House Republicans passed a budget calling for vast, contentious reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, and other support programs. Republicans proposed crushing domestic spending to pay for regressive tax cuts and higher military spending, and then went further by laying out specific structural reforms to popular government spending programs. Today they control the Senate as well, which represents significant progress toward their goal of complete control over the government. But as Republicans inch toward that goal they’re also growing less committed to their ideas. The New Republic

IN: Another True Tale Of Privatization In Indiana. . . A state toll road is (or ought to be) part of the political commons. Naturally, this requires some (cough, wheeze) tax dollars to repair and maintain it and, my dear young people, this simply is not done. So you toss the thing onto the vicissitudes of the private market and you hope there’s always another Australian company ready to step in. Meanwhile, tourists go zipping through Indiana crossing their legs very hard because all your rest stops look like downtown Fallujah. Esquire

AR: Groups Rally Against School Privatization. Groups representing education professionals met Monday to voice concerns about legislation allowing some school districts to be privatized. They warn of a slippery slope allowing private interests to take greater hold of the state’s public school system. The bill in question allows the Department of Education to appoint private not profits to run distressed school districts taken over by the state. . . .But during a rally Monday afternoon, opponents blasted the law as undermining public schools. ArkansasMatters

NY: County sticking with jail medical provider despite inmate deaths. Even though two inmates died in their cells within days of Armor Correctional Health Service’s takeover of Niagara County Jail medical services, county leaders have decided to stick with Armor. A stinging report from the state Commission of Corrections last year on the deaths of Tommie Lee Jones and Daniel Pantera in December 2012 recommended that the county consider whether to replace Armor, whose contract runs out at the end of this year. “We have not made any decisions to change providers,” Daniel M. Engert, deputy chief jail administrator, said last week. Buffalo News

NY: Parents and Teachers Protest the Cuomo Education Agenda. Although Cuomo is strongly in favor of teacher testing and charter schools, the budget that has been proposed by the New York State Senate does him one better. Cuomo had proposed increasing the per-student subsidy for pupils in charter schools by $75. The proposed budget from the Senate would up the per-student subsidy for charter schools by $225. The Senate budget also increases the statewide cap on charter schools by 100, as Cuomo had proposed. The Nonprofit Quarterly

NY: Nassau may move to lease sewer system to private investor. Nassau is moving to revive a proposed lease of its massive sewer system, which officials say could bring an upfront cash payment to the county of as much as $1 billion. The county Monday issued a request for proposals for a financial adviser “in connection with a potential public-private partnership transaction” for Nassau’s three sewage treatment plants. Newsday ($)

Mexico: Grassroots Movement Blocks Water Privatization in Mexico. The ruling party (PRI) and its allies, the National Action Party (PAN), the Partido Verde and New Alliance, were forced to back down in the Chamber of Deputies. The privatization offensive launched this time against water, will have to wait for another day—preferably for its promoters, not around elections. . . . The fact is that faced with this imminent heist of public goods, the citizenry reacted immediately. The Union of Concerned Scientists in Mexico demanded a public discussion of the initiative and issued a statement that in a few hours garnered over ten thousand signatures. The scientists denounced the lack of transparency in the approval process for the initiative and affirmed that the contents violate Article 4 of the Mexican Constitution, which reads, “Everyone has the right to access, provision and sanitation of water for personal and domestic consumption as sufficient, safe, acceptable and affordable. The State guarantees this right.” Upside Down World

 

March 16, 2015

News

Koch-backed veterans group advocates for VA privatization. During the 2014 midterm election cycle, the Koch-funded group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) backed a bevy of extreme conservative candidates and helped send top Koch cronies (and veterans) Joni Ernst and Tom Cotton to the U.S. Senate. Scarcely a couple months into the 2016 cycle, CVA has released a report recommending that much of the U.S. Veterans Administration be privatized, an extreme policy position that would jeopardize the care received by millions of our nation’s veterans. RealKochFacts.com

Privatizing Public Housing: The “Genocide of Poor People”. . . Janet Golrick . . . a senior advisor at the Federal Housing Administration . . . calls RAD “our central piece in public housing preservation . . . to ensure that the housing units are preserved and affordable for the long term.” (During her interview with Truthout, she references HUD’s budget constraints five times.) Developers sign initial 15-to-20-year contracts to provide public housing, “which they’ll have to renew,” she says, but only once, leaving the future of lots of low-income housing projects up in the air. Baltimore is another RAD testing ground, and, as its Right to Housing Alliance ominously notes: In 40 years, when the contracts with developers expire, the new owners will be able to convert the buildings to market -ate rents, forcing out low-income renters, essentially ending public housing . . .Truth-Out

Privatization Scams You Should Know About – Diane Ravitch. . . If you want to know how private interests have finagled their way into making a killing off public sector dollars, here is an example: Top executives of the Blackstone Group, owner of the janitorial services company GCA Services Group, pull down massive annual compensation. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s CEO, received $656 million in dividends and pay; and its real estate chief Jon Gray took in $205 million, for a combined total of $861 million. GCA has faced repeated accusations of low pay. The New Haven Register reported in 2011 that ‘a proposed GCA contract for custodial services would plunge 200 New Haven, Connecticut, Public Schools custodians into poverty. OpEdNews

AZ: Arizona Republic Promotes Koch-Backed Effort To Privatize Department Of Veterns Affairs. The Arizona Republic recently published an editorial promoting Concerned Veterans for America’s efforts to privatize much of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While the group is presented by the Republic as an impartial veterans organization, it is actually a right-wing group backed by Charles and David Koch and headed by a Fox News contributor. Media Matters for America (blog)

PA: Koch Bros.-linked PAC launches ad campaign to pressure lawmakers on booze, pensions and paycheck protection. The conservative pressure group, The American Future Fund, is splashing it across websites (including the popular Keystone Report), as a reminder to conservative lawmakers and their constituents that they basically only have three things to do this budget season. And as you might gather, it’s passing a pension reform package, a liquor privatization bill and so-called ‘paycheck protection’ legislation. And if all that sounds as easy as do-it-yourself neurosurgery, that’s because it is. So who’s bankrolling The American Future Fund (or at least someone’s vision of a very specific American Future)? The group is tied to the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a political nonprofit with ties to the Koch Brothers.. . . Paycheck protection, or a ban on the state deducting union and political dues from state employees’ paychecks, hit a speedbump in the state Senate the other week. PennLive.com (blog)

IN: Do charter schools deserve more state funding?. . . A Star analysis found that the failure rate of charter schools more than doubled in the past five years — 53 percent received a D or an F rating from the state last year compared to 23 percent in 2010. “There are charter schools that are doing a wonderful job, but they are just not the panacea that people think they are,” said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials, which represents public schools. “You have to look at these things … and the bottom line is: Are they functioning properly?” Indianapolis Star

IN: Local officials decry state’s fast Toll Road move. Lake and LaPorte County officials blame their loss of the Indiana Toll Road on misdirection and hostility from downstate officials. “I think the citizens should be outraged the state wouldn’t support our package to bring the toll revenues back into Indiana,” Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, complained last week after IMF Investors, a global investment firm announced they clinched acquisition of the 157-mile bankrupt highway. . . “I would like Gov. Pence to use his overwhelming influence over the Indiana Finance Authority to support our bid. How can you claim to be all-American and when they have an opportunity to do something that is patriotic and beneficial to the citizens of Indiana, do the opposite?” Allen said.   nwitimes.com

IL: No need to privatize prof hiring. Who hires professors? Almost always, an academic unit recommends a hire and the board of trustees makes the hiring official. A recent UIUC Senate resolution seeks to remove this power from the board of trustees. A minority of senators, myself included, opposed it. We contended that this is a long-standing statutory power. It is used very sparingly and without abuse. . . No doubt, some board decisions are terribly misguided. Some trustees probably meddle where they shouldn’t. But trustees do not have tenure, as do faculty members — and therefore, their poor or questionable judgments can be altered when new members are appointed. On the other hand, the fact that faculty members have the unique privilege of tenure suggests that it is reasonable to provide trustees with limited oversight in their hiring recommendations. The Senate resolution seeks to reverse a centuries-old power that university boards in America and Europe — public, private, and ecclesiastical — have exercised. In effect, this resolution seeks to privatize the hiring of professors, and further, to make these decisions unreviewable. Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

March 12, 2014

News

IN: Australia’s IFM Investors to pay $5.7 billion for Indiana toll road. IFM Investors of Australia agreed to pay $5.725 billion to buy the bankrupt operator of a 157-mile (253 km) toll road in northern Indiana, the investment fund said in statement. The road operator, ITR Concession Co LLC, put itself up for sale when it filed for bankruptcy in September after it was unable to support its $6 billion in debt. In 2006, Indiana agreed to lease the highway to ITR Concession for 75 years in return for $3.8 billion, a record for a road privatization deal. IFM will assume the responsibility for contract to operate the road, according to court documents. Reuters

CO: A failed experiment in privatizing. . . The Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian think tank, is of that opinion and has developed models to replace federal agencies with private interests. What many people don’t know is that Congress implemented one of the Cato Institute’s ideas in 2000, on the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. For some critics of the federal government, this was the experiment in land management that would signal the end of the BLM and Forest Service in the West. The Cato experiment in New Mexico, however, failed, chewed up by the friction between monetizing the “services” that landscapes provide — recreation, timber, grass, wildlife — and fulfilling citizens’ expectations for public access and protecting natural resources. For example, New Mexicans had very little tolerance for paying high fees to visit public property that had already been paid for using federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars. Colorado Springs Independent

MS: Troubled Water, Part I: Explaining Jackson’s $91 Million Siemens Contract. . . The water meter upgrade project, under way now for two years, was the single largest expense in a $91 million contract inked with Siemens Industry Inc., a division of European multinational conglomerate Siemens AG, in fall 2012. On Friday, Feb. 13, city officials halted all new meter installations when a Department of Public Works employee found a water meter calibrated to read gallons instead of cubic feet, which could make a water bill more than six times larger than it should be. Some want to terminate the contract outright. Jackson Free Press

NV: Lawmaker calls privatization of youth prison a failure. . . On Tuesday, state officials began removing the 43 juveniles from Red Rock Academy after dissolving the $11.5 million contract it had with Rite of Passage to operate the prison. The Red Rock Academy was the state’s only maximum security juvenile corrections center. It has been beset by problems throughout its 15-year history. This is the third time the state has closed the facility. Reno Gazette Journal

IA: IA House in full support of privatizing gun permit holders. A bill about the typically polarizing issue of firearm rights passed through the Iowa House of Representatives on Tuesday without any debate. The legislation has several parts. One of the largest components says personal information of gun permit holders will no longer be public record. KTIV

NJ: Protesters slam Christie policies at Statehouse rally. Trina Scordo, executive director of New Jersey Communities United, said the governor puts the needs of Wall Street ahead of the people of New Jersey. “Public schools continue to be taken over by charters and private money is funneled to private charter schools as opposed to making sure that public schools are solvent,” Scordo said. “He also just cut a sweetheart deal with Exxon that puts certainly the needs of Exxon ahead of the needs of those communities that were damaged by that deal.” Protesters from Camden and Newark say state-appointed public schools superintendents are not listening to residents’ concerns. Newsworks.org

CA: Letter: For-profit option worsens our underfunded libraries. If present levels of service are too burdensome — that is, they present an unbearable tax load — what do these county officials think will happen to that service once private enterprise takes over? The aims of any profit-oriented business are to cut costs, including payrolls, and cut services to whatever minimal levels employees and the community will tolerate, in order to maximize profits. A commercially successful library system, properly run to serve investors, must necessarily pursue those ends, which would be achieved, again necessarily, at the expense of the people whom a public library system is intended to serve. Introducing the profit motive into what most aware observers see as an already underfunded system can only worsen it — by imposing the fees, charges, penalties and reductions in service required to make it pay. The Bakersfield Californian

March 11, 2015

News

AR: Little Rock crowd rallies to oppose school privatization bill. More than 200 people gathered on a rainy night at Calvary Baptist Church in the Heights to hear speakers urge defeat of Rep. Bruce Cozart’s HB 1733 to allow the state to take over any school or school district judged in academic distress and turn it over to a private charter school operator. Legislators, teachers, parents and other urged the crowd to call the House Education Committee, which could prove the last hurrah for conventional public schools in Little Rock. Arkansas Times (blog)

TX: The Trinity Toll Road Is a Civil Rights Project? One big number the Trinity toll road hustlers don’t want us to see before the May City Council elections: How much it would cost to drive on that dog. You saw the story about the new North Texas toll road where they jumped the rate to $7 to drive four miles during the recent ice storm. The Texas Department of Transportation said later it was looking into how that happened. We know how it happened. You know those big overhead electronic message boards they have over the highways? The message that day should have been “What’s your other choice today, suckers?” Dallas Observer (blog)

CA: California Court of Appeal Blocks Red Light Camera Lawsuit. California motorists may not sue cities for violating their constitutional rights with red light cameras, according to a ruling last week by the state Court of Appeal. A three-judge panel threw out a class action lawsuit claiming that the photo ticketing system undermined the confrontation, due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution. . . . Carole Jaquez, John Macias, and Michael Curran filed suit together after Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia mailed them citations on behalf of Victorville. The San Bernardino County Superior Court Appellate Division had thrown out the case against Macias in 2011 (view decision) because the person who testified at trial for the city had no personal knowledge regarding the alleged events that produced the citation. The plaintiffs, however, ran first into technical problems regarding their standing to sue. “Civil rights actions cannot call into question undisturbed criminal convictions,” Justice Richard D. Fybel wrote for the panel. “Since Curran never went to trial, he did not suffer the alleged civil rights violation and lacks standing. Macias went to trial, appealed his conviction for violating Vehicle Code section 21453, and obtained a reversal. He therefore has standing to pursue a section 1983 claim.” TheNewspaper.com

AL: Charter school bill up first in Alabama Senate. The Alabama Senate today made a bill to allow charter schools in Alabama the first one considered this year. The proposal by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, was at the top of the calendar today, the first day lawmakers can vote on bills.            AL.com

IL: O’Fallon considers plan to privatize city water, sewer. A growing southwestern Illinois bedroom community is considering leasing the city’s water and sewer systems to a private company. Voters in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon will consider dueling, non-binding ballot measures on the topic in the April 7 municipal election. One was written by city officials who support leasing the city-owned water and sewer systems to one of three interested private companies. The other was crafted by opponents of the city plan and asks voters to also consider a possible sale. Belleville News Democrat

MO: Dave Helling: Ferguson shows profits and public interest not always on the same page. . . Ferguson seems less like a city and more like a plantation. Privatizing public services is a tradition in Missouri. It’s still weird, for example, that car tags and licenses are issued through private fee offices, a system that enriches fee-office operators by providing incentives for poor services. A few years ago, legislators tacked on a $3 ticket surcharge charge — not to reduce speeding but to fund the sheriffs’ retirement fund. Not every public function must be run for someone’s profit. On Monday, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver introduced a bill making it illegal “to enforce criminal or traffic laws solely to raise revenue.” Kansas City Star (blog)

The Militarization of US Police Departments. . . Often the U.S. elite are constrained in implementing the policies domestically, due to laws that prevent this. They then will try to circumvent the restricting laws or attempt to overturn them. There has been a similar pattern with economic policies as with structural adjustment economic initiatives internationally by the IMF and World Bank and now neoliberal privatization in the U.S. itself. This is mostly thanks to Congress overturning, for example, the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 (Crawford) and politicians and government agencies allowing for the privatization of many of our formerly “public” institutions (Gray). CounterPunch

Government Debt Collection Scam: How the Government Robs Poor People. A recent CNN investigation uncovered some rather disturbing practices by collection agencies. These debt collectors are going after people and making big profits by tacking on huge fees on top of the debts already owed. So how do these debt collectors get away with such a practice? Wouldn’t the government have some laws to protect people? Well, there are consumer protection laws to protect against overly aggressive debt collectors. But the problem here is that these collection agencies are actually doing work for the government. Wealth Daily

March 10, 2015

News

IN: Lake County commissioners vote to pursue toll road lease. Lake county commissioners voted unanimously Monday to pursue a bid for lease rights to the Indiana Toll Road in a joint venture with LaPorte County. A positive vote is still needed by the Lake County Council to join the bid pursuit. That vote is scheduled for Tuesday. It’s all part of a quest for local government to claim the revenue rights to the state-owned toll road, which was leased to a private Australian-Spanish consortium in 2007, Commissioner Gerry Scheub said Monday. nwitimes.com

AR: Walmart lobbyists push bill privatizing Arkansas’ public schools. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) will back legislation from lobbyists connected to Walmart that would open the door for private contractors to take over management of local school districts, the Arkansas Times reported. The bill, HB 1733, was introduced by state Rep. Bruce Cozart (R), and was written by Walton Family Foundation lobbyists. Cozart is also chair of the state House Education Committee. The bill was sent to the committee for review on Friday, and needs 11 votes to advance to a vote on the floor. According to the Times, the bill would establish an “achievement school district” that could include any school district found to be under “academic distress.” Raw Story

MA: Massachusetts Teachers Association calls charter school threat of lawsuit ‘appalling and deceptive’. . . “Any claim that the charter school cap is the basis of Massachusetts children being denied their civil rights is appalling and deceptive,” MTA President Barbara Madeloni said in a statement Sunday. “The real threat to our students — and to our democracy — is the two-tiered school system funded by public dollars that charter proponents will go to any lengths to expand.” Madeloni went on to say, the lawsuit “will represent just one more step in the effort to dismantle public education, put public resources into private hands, and undermine the schools in our poorest communities.” Current limits allow for up to 18 percent of the state’s lowest-performing school districts to be spent on charter school tuition. MassLive.com

KY: Outlook bad for public-private partnership bill. The bill allowing the state to contract with private companies to finance major road and bridge projects appears it may be stalled for the duration of the 2015 legislative session. . . . One key opponent to the bill is Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, who said Monday, “I would say that bill is in jeopardy.” Thayer said he and other legislators from Northern Kentucky are concerned that the bill could lead to the use of tolls as a way to finance the $2.6 billion plan to build a new Brent Spence Bridge linking Covington and Cincinnati. The Courier-Journal

PA: Sustainable community schools: An alternative to privatization. . . . The reality of understaffed, poorly resourced public schools destabilized by punitive and largely ineffective school transformation policies has driven many families to seek refuge in charters, few of which perform better than the schools they left. The charter lobby ignores the fact that charter school expansion, given the present charter school law and the absence of additional funding in the form of a charter school reimbursement line in the state budget, can only come at the expense of children in traditional public schools. Philadelphia Public School Notebook