June 24, 2015

The Senate’s proposed highway bill: Six years, $257 billion. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unveiled language for its proposed surface transportation reauthorization bill that is scheduled for markup on Wednesday, June 24.  Of note heading into Wednesday’s markup hearing, the bill does not seek to expand a pilot program that allows up to three interstate highways or bridges to be converted into toll roads, something that truckers and other highway users have been watching closely. The tolling pilot program would remain status quo under the proposal, with a provision added to say that if a state does not act on federal approval to pursue tolls within two years, the slot would open back up for another state to apply. The three slots in the current program are held by Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina, but to date, no currently toll-free interstate has been converted into a toll road under the program.  Land Line Magazine

Privatizing Primer. You may wonder how this is sustainable. It isn’t, and it isn’t meant to be. Charters routinely drop out of the business, move on, dissolve and reform under new names, getting out of Dodge before they have to offer proof of success. This churn and burn is a feature, not a bug, and it is supposed to foster excellence. To date, there is no evidence that it does so. But in the long term, we get a two-tier system. One is composed of private, profit-generating school-like businesses that will serve some of the students. The other is a vestigal public system, under-funded and under-served, but still serving as “proof” that public schools are failure factories and so we must have a state-run system. Huffington Post

IL:  House votes to privatize state commerce agency. The Illinois House has approved a plan to partially privatizate Illinois’ commerce agency. It’s one of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s ideas for economic development. But the version sponsored by Democrats would only authorize the partnership for three years. Peoria Public Radio

CT: State mulls using private companies to fix roads, rail and bridges. A state panel charged with finding ways to fund a $100 billion upgrade of the state’s roads, rails and bridges on Tuesday received a crash course in how to partner with private companies and the highway tolls which typically fund the projects. CT Post

OH: Ohio decides to renew prison food contract with Aramark. Ohio on Tuesday renewed a contract to feed the state’s 50,000 prison inmates with a company whose early troubles getting the job done led to criticism over privatizing the service. The state rejected a counterproposal by the union representing prison guards and other workers after a four-person panel determined the union’s plan would cost too much. The $130 million agreement with Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services extends through June 30, 2017.The company faced criticism last year over understaffing, running out of food and a few cases of maggots near food prep areas. The State

MD: In Baltimore, Rec Centers Provide So Much More Than Just Fun. Local recreation centers, which have a long tradition in the city, provide a much-needed refuge. . . . “Most of the folks from this community at some point have stepped foot inside this center. As you can see it’s connected to the elementary school,” Fowlks says. “We had some great leaders over the past, that helped groom us to become adults.”That’s why the city has taken heat for closing or privatizing a dozen rec centers since 2012. Rachel Donegan, of the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work’s Promise Heights program, says closing some makes sense. Attendance has dropped as the city’s population declined. But she says it’s still left some feeling they have no place to go. NPR

 

 

 

June 23, 2015

Proposal to privatize air traffic control draws support. Some might have assumed that the chairman of the House Transportation Committee was courting controversy when he said last week that he planned to introduce legislation to have the country’s air traffic control (ATC) system run by a not-for-profit corporation. But it says a great deal about how flawed and dated that system is that even in the current hotly partisan environment in Washington, Anthony Foxx, President Obama’s secretary of transportation, did not immediately reject the plan. Travel Weekly

IL: Court rules federal, state agencies violated NEPA in approving massive Ill.-Ind. toll road project. A federal judge in Chicago ruled last week that state and national transportation agencies violated the law when they approved plans for a controversial toll road to connect Illinois and Indiana. . . . The decision is a punishing blow to the Illiana Expressway, also known as the Illiana Corridor, a proposed 47-mile road that would stretch east-west between the two states. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) delayed the project earlier this month, citing budget constraints. Environment & Energy Publishing

WI: Scott Walker’s Unprecedented Voucher Expansion. At a time when other states are reinvesting in public education, Wisconsin continues to slash and burn. The Wisconsin Budget Project says that the state is now spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008 and more funds are slated to be siphoned off as Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposes an unprecedented voucher expansion, draining funds from public education and directing them to for-profit and religious schools. In crafting the budget, Walker is taking his cues from the American Federation for Children (AFC), a major force for school privatization nationwide. It is funded and chaired by billionaire Betsy DeVos, and pushes its privatization agenda in the states with high-dollar lobbying and attack ads. PR Watch

MI: Arbitrator rules state must pay workers laid off after privatizing at home for veterans. Michigan owes severance pay to eligible nursing aides who were laid off from a state-run home for veterans. . . .Two year ago, more than 130 nursing aides were laid off to save the state a little more than $4 million a year. But that savings didn’t account for the severance packages employees should have gotten. Michigan Radio

CO: U.S. 36 first phase gets send off from local, state, fed officials. The toll rates will be collected by Plenary Roads Denver, which entered into a public-private partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation to also complete the second phase of construction and to manage the entire U.S. corridor. The Denver Post

NC: 2 NC charter schools cut ties with embattled management company. Two North Carolina charter schools in danger of not getting approval to open in 2016 are cutting their ties to a management company which has schools in Florida being investigated for allegations of grade tampering. News Observer

FL: State moves to tighten rules for new charter schools. Charter school applicants would be required to disclose their history with other schools, including ones that are closed, under new rules to be considered Wednesday. Sun Sentinel

NY: School ‘Reformers’ Outspending Unions In Lobbying Battle. Groups seeking to privatize education or advocate for market-based “reforms” last year outspent Teachers’ unions, which have dominated the lobbying field for years, according to a study released last week by Common Cause New York. In a June 15 report, “Polishing the Apple,” the good-government group found that the public was being deprived of a transparent debate on education issues because of elevated spending levels on ads and lobbying. The Chief-Leader

MA: Lawmakers redraft Baker MBTA bill, set Tuesday vote. A House budget provision would suspend the law requiring a vetting process before the T attempts to privatize service. Sentinel & Enterprise

June 22, 2015

Doing More, Not Less, to Save Retirees From Financial Ruin. . . At a conference hosted by the International Monetary Fund, Brad Delong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, argued that private markets were ill suited to handle the sort of long-term assessments needed to ensure a decent retirement. “The 21st century will see longer life expectancy, and thus a greater role for pensions,” he wrote. “Yet here in the United States the privatization of pensions via 401(k)’s has been an equally great disaster.” Rather than shrink Social Security, some experts and liberal politicians like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders propose expanding it. Today, more than half of working households do not have enough assets to avoid a drop in consumption in retirement, according to analyses by Alicia H. Munnell from Boston College and her colleagues. The proportion of households in that group has increased by 10 percentage points in just the last 10 years. New York Times

Clinton opposes VA privatization but sees need for choice. . . “We have learned that privatization and outsourcing is not a magic solution for anything, let alone when it comes to the unique obligations we have to our vets, so I do oppose blanket privatization proposals,” she said. Even so, the former secretary of state suggested there was a role for private health care in some areas of veterans’ treatment. “I do believe choice should be part of the solution and if we let the VA work more with communities while preserving what it does best, serving veterans and their unique needs, perhaps we can get better care faster to more vets.” Reuters

Our Ayn Randian Dystopia: The Five-Step Process to Privatize Everything. Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself — all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service. At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand ‘freedom’ unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.    United Steelworkers

Senate kills attempt to test privatization of commissaries. The Senate voted Wednesday to kill a plan hatched by its armed services committee to privatize five large commissary stores to test the concept of commercial grocers running base stores to save defense dollars. Colorado Springs Gazette

Is the US Government About to Privatize Air-Traffic Control? The future of air-traffic control in the U.S. could be in store for major reform. Under a policy proposed by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the air-traffic control program would be removed from the FAA and spun off into a private not-for-profit corporation. . . .Shuster, who serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says the move would save taxpayers billions every year and provide a better level of service to flyers in the U.S. FlyerTalk

IL: FBI probing bribery over contract to supply privatized parking meters. The FBI is investigating whether an executive at the firm that manages Chicago’s privatized parking meters was paid $90,000 in bribes to steer a contract to install and maintain the controversial meters across the city. The alleged kickback scheme was laid out in an FBI search warrant affidavit filed in February seeking access to two email accounts tied to the vice president of government services at LAZ Parking, the Atlanta-based firm hired by a Morgan Stanley-led business consortium in 2008 to manage the privatized meters in Chicago. Chicago Tribune

MI: Reps: Study more before outsourcing state jobs. State agencies would have to prove the benefits of privatization and state workers could bid on their jobs before they’re outsourced under a bipartisan package bills in the state House. Two Democrats and two Republicans have introduced bills they said would allow outsourcing to happen “in the sunshine” and remove political influence from privatization decisions. The state’s problem-plagued prison food contract with Aramark Correctional Services and road contractors failing to live up to warranties are the types of snafus the legislation might prevent, backers said. Lansing State Journal

IN: Lessons of privatization taught anew – Opinion. When the state lottery commission initially released bids for operation of the Hoosier Lottery in 2012, the documents were so heavily redacted they were incomprehensible. Officials claimed the methods bidders described to hit lofty sales targets couldn’t be disclosed because they were trade secrets. Three years after a deal was signed with GTECH, it’s clear the methods also were implausible. The lottery commission voted this month to restructure the contract, dramatically reducing those lofty goals and, ironically, reducing the penalty risk for a company selling Hoosiers games of chance. If the Rhode Island-based company didn’t deliver on its revenue promises, it at least delivered another lesson on privatization: Be wary of outlandish claims. Indiana still needs that lesson.   Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

LA: New troubles erupt in LSU Shreveport hospital privatization. LSU leaders and the manager of the university system’s Shreveport hospital are again at odds, and the threat of a possible breach of contract lawsuit emerged Thursday in the privatization deal. . . . The contracts, according to University Health, would have LSU doctors working at Willis-Knighton Health System clinics to provide specialty care. David Ettinger, an antitrust lawyer hired by University Health, said if LSU doctors shift much of their specialty care to Willis-Knighton, that will drive insured patients away from the state-owned facility and will boost state costs for uninsured care. “It will be very harmful to patients. It will be very harmful to the taxpayers of Louisiana,” Ettinger said. NOLA.com

TX: Opinion: Have toll roads become ‘Troll Roads’? At one time free marketers spoke of toll roads as if they would be the answer to congested roads and urban gridlock. No longer. The thinking was that government doesn’t seem to do anything very well, and that included building and maintaining the roads. . . . But that thinking seems to be changing, at least in Texas. Companies that build and operate toll roads have proposed a number of new ones and the public seems to be pushing back. YourHouston.com

 

June 17, 2015

Rep. Bill Shuster Releases ‘Principles’ For Bill to Privatize US Air-Traffic. Questions about who will establish rates have been among the most controversial aspects of the continuing privatization debate, along with maintaining pay and pension rights for current controllers. Wall Street Journal

Jeb Bush: Next President Should Privatize Social Security. Jeb Bush thinks the next president will need to privatize Social Security, he said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday — acknowledging that his brother attempted to do so and failed. It’s a position sure to be attacked by both Republicans and Democrats. Bush has previously said he would support raising the retirement age to get Social Security benefits, a common position among Republicans. And he backed a partial privatization that House Republicans have proposed that would allow people to choose private accounts. International Business

IL: Judge’s ruling on Illiana may be Rauner’s ‘way out’. A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday dealt what could be the fatal blow to the proposed Illiana toll road, ruling that the federal government’s approval of the controversial project was invalid. The Federal Highway Administration’s 2013 endorsement of the bistate project was “arbitrary and capricious,” and in violation of U.S. environmental law, according to the decision handed down by federal Judge Jorge Alonso.   Chicago Tribune

IL: Feds focus on LAZ executive for alleged parking meter bribe. Federal agents have been investigating an executive with the firm that manages Chicago’s privatized parking meters on allegations he took kickbacks to steer a meter contract to a favored company, according to a court record obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.   Chicago Sun-Times

IL: Red Light Camera Bribery Trial Stays In Chicago. Federal judge turns back attempt to move Redflex bribery trial out of Chicago, Illinois. The trial of the former managing deputy commissioner of the transportation department in Chicago, Illinois, will stay in the Windy City. Judge Virginia M. Kendall on Friday issued a ten-page order rejecting an attempt to move the trial of John Bills to Nevada on the grounds that Chicagoans are so blinded by their hatred of red light cameras that they would take their frustration out on him. . . .Judge Kendall did not buy the argument that twelve impartial individuals could not be found in a judicial district with eight million residents. TheNewspaper.com

TX: Kingston’s stumping for trinity of anti-toll road allies may have paid off. . . Though he didn’t have an opponent in the election, council member Philip Kingston had been hard at work for months. His efforts may have paid off with the election of two new council members who, like him, oppose the construction of a tolled highway inside the Trinity River levees. Kingston, along with council members Scott Griggs and Adam Medrano and former council member Angela Hunt — all toll road opponents — marshaled dozens of volunteers to campaign door to door for Mark Clayton in District 9 near White Rock Lake, Adam McGough in District 10 in Lake Highlands and Joe Tave in District 3 in southwest Dallas. Dallas Morning News

NY: School Privatizers Donate Heavily to NY State Senate GOP: Common Cause. A new report by Common Cause may offer a clue why Republicans in the New York State Senate oppose the proposal to create a monitor for the troubled East Ramapo school district. Common Cause/NY’s report, “Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Education Policy,” analyzes efforts to influence the debates around education policy and funding—Specifically, about using tax dollars to fund private schools, including religious schools. Patch.com

June 16, 2015

After 8 Years Running Florida, Jeb Bush Has A Lot To Explain. . . Bush’s changes on the economic front were even more influential. He eliminated about 13,000 government jobs — more than 10 percent of the entire state government — in part by privatizing a slew of public services, including foster care, adoption services, legal representation for death row prisoners, human resources, and state parks. His penchant for privatization continued after he left office, with investments in private disaster response corporations and for-profit education. He has recently called for privatizing veterans health care. ThinkProgress

House Committee Chairman: Privatize Air Traffic Control.The chairman of the House transportation committee said Monday he’ll introduce a bill that takes control of air traffic operations away from the government and places it under the control of a non-profit corporation run by airlines and other segments of the aviation industry. . . . Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the committee, said he has “a number of serious concerns about the constitutionality, the national security implications, and the logistical challenges of separating the system.” Airlines have been heavily lobbying Congress to give them a greater say in air traffic operations and how they are paid for. The non-profit corporation would be run by a board that would include airlines, private plane owners, and labor unions, among others. ABC News

PA: Why The Latest Liquor Privatization Bill Might Actually Pass. Yes, we’ve heard a million times before that the Pennsylvania Legislature is mulling a liquor privatization bill. A million times before, it’s gone nowhere. So why highlight the latest bill from Sen. Scott Wagner, a York County Republican? Answer: Precisely because it’s originating in the Senate, where previous House attempts at privatization have long gone to die. Philadelphia Magazine (blog)

NC: NCGA may tap school privatization advocates to hand out taxpayer funds to charter schools. . . The budget proposal being considered by the General Assembly may break new ground in state spending by letting Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina decide which fledgling charter schools get a piece of $1 million a year, N.C. Center for Nonprofits vice president David Heinen said. “This is probably unique to have a completely independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit having discretion without a lot of criteria,” said Heinen, citing the chapter of federal tax law describing charity and educational groups. “I don’t know of any other that is quite like this.” Progressive Pulse

IL: Lawmakers To Look At Privatizing State Agency Upon Return Tuesday. . . The Illinois House will focus on one item from Rauner’s wish-list: partially privatizing the state’s Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. . . Critics say that could lead to a misuse of state funds. WNIJ and WNIU

IN: Loan program for charter schools draws scrutiny. The Indiana Senate’s top budget writer is sounding an alarm about a new provision included in the spending plan lawmakers passed this year that gives charter schools access to $50 million in low-interest state loans. But Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley has concerns about the risk to taxpayers, noting that many charter schools have significant debt. “I don’t think they have the ability to retire that debt. It’s really a problem,” Kenley, R-Noblesville. Gov. Mike Pence said the new law, which takes effect July 1, will help charter schools pay for facilities. South Bend Tribune           

OH: Charter school owes state nearly $1.2 million. A former Dayton charter school owes taxpayers nearly $1.2 million after padding its attendance rolls and receiving state aid for students who never attended. General Chappie James Leadership Academy in Dayton reported enrollment of 459 students, however an investigation by state Auditor Dave Yost found nearly half of those students had never attended or long since left the school. Columbus Dispatch

FL: Opinion: Parks are not for profit. . . If the 27 million Floridians and tourists enjoyed the state parks during their visit and want them managed in a sensitive professional manner, they had better make their voices heard without delay. The Department of Environmental Protection, which administers the Florida Park Service, is converting our state parks to consumptive use (multiple-use). No tree will be safe, wildflowers and wetlands will be grazed and trampled, and deer and turkey will be shot. No state park will be secure from exploitation. The state parks collected 77 percent of their costs last year. Isn’t that good enough? They are not for profit. They are your parks. It is your choice. Make your voices heard. Gainesville Sun

June 15, 2015

 WI: This City Is Fighting Against Public School Privatization. As Governor Scott Walker’s state budget inches toward passage, parents, teachers and students are taking to the streets to oppose sections of the education budget, which include sweeping changes they say would effectively privatize many public schools while draining funding from others. . . .Diaz said he’s “worried the charters wouldn’t care for the students. MPS has to cater to every student, no matter how much help you need. When a charter comes in, they don’t have to offer that, so students will be neglected in the system, especially students with disabilities.” The parents and teachers marching beside Diaz echoed his concerns, pointing to recent cases of private schools in Milwaukee expelling struggling students after cashing their voucher checks. ThinkProgress

IN: Whistleblower says Indiana’s healthcare system risked mothers’ and babies’ lives for money. Dr. Judith Robinson says Indiana’s largest health network defrauded Indiana taxpayers to the tune of at least $100 million dollars. The claim is that IU Methodist clinics, HealthNet Clinics and MDWise all profited while providing less-than-adequate care for poor mothers—specifically ones with high-risk pregnancies. The U.S. government, with the help of Dr. Robinson, are suing. Daily Kos

VA: Virginia Motorists Fight Back Against Excessive Toll Road Fines. Toll road users who have been slapped with five-figure fines over transponder errors are hoping to convince the Virginia General Assembly to their cause. Toni Cooley and Lisa Comras are motorists who had valid E-ZPass accounts who found themselves in a high-profile legal battle with tolling giant Transurban. The Australian firm demanded over $10,000 in penalties from each when credit card errors failed to account for less than a dozen trips taken on the 495 Express Lanes outside of Washington DC. Although Virginia courts have, so far, sided with Cooley and Comras, they believe it is essential that the toll road fine statute be rewritten so that a private firm no longer has the right to set an “administrative fee” of $1000 for each alleged instance of failing to pay a $1 toll. The pair created the group Changing Lanes to advocate for reform. TheNewspaper.com

AZ: Privatizing federal lands back before board. Public land transfers would not include tribal lands, national parks or forest lands but mostly BLM lands. If transferred to state and local control, BLM land could be made available for private economic development and add to the county’s property tax revenue. Arizona and Mohave County voters rejected transferring federal lands to the state in the form of Proposition 120 in 2012 Mohave Valley

CT: Custodians cite grievances with school district as result of outsourcing. It’s been a year since the Norwalk Board of Education exercised a clause in the school custodians’ contract to outsource cleaning services to an outside vendor. School officials say the move has saved them a little over $200,000 this school year and has achieved “phenomenal” results. Custodians employed by the school district, however, say that work conditions are on the decline for them as a result. Thehour.com

IN: Opinion: Privatization needs skepticism. Then-Hoosier Lottery head Karl Browning said three years ago he could see “no scenario” in which the state could produce – on its own – the revenue and profits that a private vendor promised it could. Turns out that private firm – GTECH – couldn’t do it either. In fact, the company fell so far short of those promises that the Hoosier Lottery board on Friday revamped its contract – reducing GTECH’s financial goals significantly. In Fiscal Year 2016, for example, the company will no longer need to achieve $365 million in revenue for the state or face financial penalty. It will now be just $270 million. The Courier-Journal

OH:Ohio ignores online school F’s as it evaluates charter school overseers. It turns out that Ohio’s grand plan to stop the national ridicule of its charter school system is giving overseers of many of the lowest-performing schools a pass from taking heat for some of their worst problems. Gov. John Kasich and both houses of the state legislature are banking on a roundabout plan to improve a $1 billion charter school industry that, on average, fails to teach kids across the state as much as the traditional schools right in their own neighborhoods. But The Plain Dealer has learned that this plan of making charters better by rating their oversight agencies, known as sponsors or authorizers, is pulling its punches and letting sponsors off the hook for years of not holding some schools to high standards. The Plain Dealer

MI: New bills give and take away powers, and more. . . HB 4702-05: Require a cost study and public disclosure of the impact of privatizing state services, establish specific performance criteria for privatized state contracts, allow state workers to provide pre-privatization cost benefit analysis and prohibit bad corporate actors from being awarded state contracts. Detroit Free Press

CA: Mulligans Café May Lose Big in Privatization of Muni Links. . . Mulligans Café & Bar, which has been run by the Medina family for more than two decades, will likely become a casualty of the city’s move toward privatizing the upkeep of the golf course under a single management company, starting next year. That company would also oversee the onsite pro shop and restaurant. Santa Barbara Independent

AL: Privatization of Alabama’s liquor stores to get fresh look from lawmakers. Legislation to take the state out of the retail liquor business failed this year, but the idea is not dead. The new Alcoholic Beverage Control Reform Task Force will study the issue and outcomes in other states and report its recommendations by January. AL.com

June 12, 2015

Racial History of American Swimming Pools. . . So, municipal pools, in at least the northern and western United States, were racially-desegregated in the late 1940s and the 1950s. And what I found is that in city after city after city, when a municipal pool became racially-desegregated, and so a court would order that the pool has to be open to blacks and whites without discrimination, what I found was that the overall attendance to the pool would plummet, and that, literally, the majority of whites who had been using the pool previously stopped using the municipal pools. They abandoned them, but they didn’t stop swimming. What they did is they then retreated to private pools. They built private club pools, which were able to continue to legally discriminate against black Americans. Or they build at-home residential pools, so they could really enclose themselves off from the larger public and truly exercise control over who they were swimming with. NPR

John Oliver, Bail Bonds, Charter School Owners, ALEC and Privatization. So, I was watching the latest Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The main topic was our out-of-kilter bail system which can victimize low income people and their families from the moment they’re taken into custody, whether they’re innocent or guilty. It’s a topic I’ve become more interested in lately with my growing understanding of the evils of our system of mass incarceration. (The most eye opening book I’ve read in years is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I recommend it highly.) I was more than usually attentive to what John Oliver was saying, and something kept knocking around in the back of my head. “Bail bonds. Bail bonds. When have I looked into that subject before?” Tucson Weekly

Commentary: Delay privatizing commissaries. . . A survey last year shows that 95 percent of service members are using commissaries to achieve needed savings in their family budgets, with a satisfaction rate of 91 percent. According to the Military Officers Association of America, the average family of four that shops exclusively at the commissary sees a savings of up to 30 percent — roughly $4,000 a year in savings for a military family. Commissaries also provide jobs for the families of service members and veterans. According to the Armed Forces Marketing Council, more than 60 percent of Defense Commissary Agency employees have links to the military. Their jobs are transferable, giving much-needed employment and income certainty when families are regularly relocated all over the world due to permanent change-of-station orders. Military Times

AZ: Arizona high court lets stand ruling on charter school funding. Arizona Supreme Court is letting stand a lower court’s ruling that said charter schools aren’t legally entitled to the same state funding provided to district schools. The justices on Thursday declined to review the Court of Appeals’ Nov. 18 ruling that said the state’s school funding system isn’t unconstitutional though charter schools and district schools get unequal funding. A lawsuit filed on behalf of parents of students attending charter schools had argued that the school funding system violates the Arizona Constitution’s requirements for a general and uniform public school system and for equal protection under the law. azcentral.com           

MI: Problematic privatization. Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed a bill permitting a closed correctional facility in Northern Michigan to reopen and operate as a privatized prison under the authority of the GEO Group of Florida. The new legislation provides for the upheaval of a restriction that previously prevented the Baldwin area prison in Lake County from housing inmates categorized under the highest security level, designated by a “Level 5″ category. The intent of the legislation was to promote job creation and alleviate economic hardship in one of the state’s poorest regions. Under its new operation, the facility will house roughly 1,675 inmates from other states, such as Vermont and Washington. While the legislation provides some economic incentive — roughly 150 jobs — to Lake County, the privatization of the Baldwin facility only exacerbates existing issues surrounding the country’s high rates of mass incarceration as well as issues of safety and human rights violations. The Michigan Daily

WI: Education professors in Madison say teaching standards need to be higher, not lower. Anyone who wants to reform public education should be advocating for more professional training of teachers, not less, says Jed Hopkins, an associate professor in the School of Education at Edgewood College in Madison. . . . The idea that teachers need more training, not less, is catching on, said UW-Madison education student Briana Schwabenbauer, who on Wednesday delivered an online petition to Gov. Scott Walker with the names of 37,000 people who oppose dropping standards for teacher certification. . . . “It shouldn’t be left to an individual employer to say who is suitable…it’s a profession. It’s a collective. Education belongs to the community and should involve lots of players,” Hopkins said at a recent gathering of Edgewood teacher educators. It takes trained professionals to respond to the kind of proposals making their way through the legislative system – like the corporatization and privatization of education, said Sheila Hopkins, director of graduate programs in bilingual educations at Edgewood. Madison.com

VA: Editorial: Money wasted on 460 creates skepticism. State officials are approaching the home stretch in negotiations to recover some of the $300 million shoveled toward a road that never was built. . . . Despite spending an inordinate amount of their first 18 months in office working on the issue, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his transportation secretary, Aubrey Layne, are unlikely to fully repair the damage caused by their predecessors. The structure of the project’s contract heavily favored the private contractor, making it unlikely that Virginia will be able to recover even half of the money already spent. “The state’s going to be out a bunch of money for a road that’s not being built,” Layne said. “There’s no way around that.” . . . Legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed by McAuliffe established stronger processes requiring more oversight and assigning greater accountability to prevent such embarrassingly bad deals from ever being repeated. That does little to assuage the frustration over the current mess, but it should help improve the public’s confidence that officials will strike a reasonable deal on future projects. PilotOnline.com

IL: Environmentalists ask feds to kill Illiana. With Gov. Bruce Rauner shelving the Illiana toll road, environmental groups want to make sure there’s no change of heart and have moved to try to ensure that the controversial road is truly dead. Several organizations — including the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Midewin Heritage Association, Openlands and Sierra Club Illinois — are asking the Federal Highway Administration to rescind its approval of the 50-mile tollway and also withdraw its environmental impact report that supported the Illiana. Chicago Tribune

June 11, 2015

These states’ prisons are so full that they have to ship inmates thousands of miles away. . . States argue that it’s cheaper to send prisoners far away to private prisons than building and managing new facilities on the taxpayers’ dime. But advocates say the practice brings its own problems. “It’s just not a good idea when you separate these inmates from their families and any support system that they might have,” Doug Honig, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, told Fusion of the contract his state just signed with the prison. “It doesn’t do anything towards rehabilitating them, and helping them get back on their feet when they get back out.” Fusion.net

WI: Wisconsinites Blast Scott Walker’s Stadium Deal As ‘Outrageous. Depending on who you ask, building a new, publicly financed basketball stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks is either a horrendous example of corporate welfare and official corruption, or a chance to reinvigorate an economically depressed city. . . [T] he county held its first public meeting Tuesday night to discuss the proposal to use tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to keep the team in the city. The large crowd took issue with many aspects of the deal, which would sell public land valued at nearly $9 million for $1 dollar to the team’s billionaire owners. ThinkProgress

PA: Parents, union, rally against plan to privatize school nursing services. . . “This is not a job that you can simply hire a private healthcare worker to do,” Jordan told reporters at a news conference held at the PFT’s Center City headquarters. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has said that the district has made no decision on whether it will outsource health services, but if it does, it would require that privatized workers have the same certifications required of school nurses. The privatization push would be made only if he could offer more and better health services to district students, he said. Philly.com

IN: Below the Waterline: Privatization of lakes, rivers could happen here. . . Can it happen here? You bet. As water resources become more scarce adjacent landowners to our lakes and streams can look for legal loopholes and align themselves with big business to privatize areas on the lakes and its tributaries. The Illinois River is under fire constantly where business and private sector interests come to blows. Adjacent landowners and the rights of outdoors and boating interests have been to court on numerous occasions. Bloomington Pantograph

LA: Bill sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal would give legislators more say on contracts to privatize government services. With little discussion, the Louisiana House agreed Tuesday that legislators should have a greater say in the contracts the governor’s administration enter to privatize government services. ….. HB137 would require that agreements with the private sector — valued at more than $5 million — that would take over tasks being done by government would first have to go through the competitive bidding process; require the legislative auditor to analyze the costs, including the so-called “legacy” expenses, such as insurance and pensions of state employees; and require legislative oversight of the contract. The bill also would require the records related to the privatization contract be available under the state’s public records law. AFSCME Information Highway

 

HI: Hawaii governor signs bill opening privatization path for Maui state hospitals

Gov. David Ige on Wednesday signed into law legislation that opens discussion for Hawaii’s state-owned hospitals on Maui to enter in business with a private entity, and the new partner could begin operations as early as 2016. Pacific Business News

June 9, 2015

Senators Push Back On Plan to Privatize Some Military Commissaries. The Senate this week will consider a measure that would prevent the Pentagon from privatizing military commissaries at five installations next year. The amendment to the fiscal 2016 Defense authorization act would require the Defense Department to study the costs and benefits of contracting out commissary operations and report the findings to Congress before moving ahead with any plans. The legislation, which the chamber resumes consideration of this week, requires a pilot program that would privatize commissaries at five installations as well as a report assessing potential costs and benefits. GovExec.com

Opinion: Will TPP Kill The Post Office?. . . As if we needed yet another reason for the public to see the text of TPP before Congress pre approves it with fast track, here is a question: Does the TPP contain provisions that corporations can use to force us to privatize “public” things like our Post Office, public schools, public roads etc., so they can replace them with profit-making enterprises that provide a return only to the wealthy few? We need to see the provisions of TPP that are designed to regulate “state-owned enterprises” (SOEs) and see them now. Huffington Post

Study criticizes OMB suggestion to sell TVA: Privatizing TVA would raise rates. A new study commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute suggests that selling or privatizing the Tennessee Valley Authority would raise power costs and hurt economic development and research in TVA’s seven-state region. . . . “Over its 80-year existence, the TVA has had an excellent track record in almost every area of its operation, and its success has delivered substantial benefits throughout the Tennessee Valley,” Dr. Joel Yudken, an economist and principal of High Road Strategies LLC, concluded in a 44-page study of TVA’s finances. “The TVA is addressing its serious financial problems and its new leadership is preserving its capabilities as a system that provides wide-ranging benefits to the region and people it serves.” Chattanooga Times Free Press

How the rise of gated spaces like swimming pools can quietly perpetuate racial tension. . . As public resources were desegregated in American cities, communities increasingly found ways to privatize them. In McKinney, the black teens were not using a public pool. They were swimming, rather, in the communal pool of a private community in the predominantly white part of town where civic resources like parks and pools are funded directly by homeowners. McKinney has three public pools, Appelbaum points out, but none of them are in this part of town.   Washington Post (blog)

Behind Scott Walker, a Longstanding Conservative Alliance Against Unions. . . More than any of his potential rivals for the White House, Mr. Walker, 47, is a product of a loose network of conservative donors, think tanks and talk radio hosts who have spent years preparing the road for a politician who could successfully present their arguments for small government to a broader constituency. . . By the time Mr. Walker ran for governor in 2010, he was clashing regularly with unions, calling for cost savings through shorter hours, layoffs, privatization, even an imagined disassembling of the very government he ran. New York Times

FL: In Miami-Dade, drivers (and politicians) feeling toll shock. Miami-Dade’s dream of an east-west commuter rail line has died multiple deaths through the years, but Esteban “Steve” Bovo thinks he has a powerful new force to get it done: people fuming over more tolls from the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. “The anger that MDX has created has put the wind behind our sails,” said Bovo, the county commissioner who heads up the board’s transportation committee. “That’s the driver. People want to see an alternative.” Miami Herald

FL: Jackson considers returning to city ambulance service.Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber says he is open to more discussions about the city reopening its ambulance service, which was closed 25 years ago. Yarber tells The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/1dRE9Xd) that support is coming from Fire Chief R.D. Simpson and some city council members. Ambulance service was privatized in 1991 when Hinds County signed a contract with Mobile Medic Ambulance Service, which later became American Medical Response, for countywide ambulance service. Miami Herald

LA: Privatization oversight advanced by the Louisiana Senate. Louisiana legislators would get greater say in the contracts that the administration enters to privatize government functions under a bill approved Saturday by the Senate. The New Orleans Advocate

PA: Phila. eyes privatizing school subs. The Philadelphia School District is poised to pay a Cherry Hill firm up to $34 million to provide substitute teachers for its classrooms over two school years. PressReader

VA: Mecklenburg Commissioners Have Votes to Support Anti-Toll Lane Resolution. Mecklenburg County commissioners have the votes to pass a resolution asking the state to stop the Interstate 77 toll lane project. The Department of Transportation signed a deal with a private company to move forward with the $655 million toll road. The lanes would run from Interstate 277 to to Mooresville. Commissioner Jim Puckett told Time Warner Cable News he’s spoken to five other commissioners who will support a resolution. It will be on the commission’s June 16 agenda. TWC News

 

June 5, 2015

Insiders Detail The Decline And Fall Of Corinthian’s For-Profit College Empire. . . According to Lueck, students signed an open-ended “master promissory note,” allowing the school to recertify new loan amounts every year. This would happen annually through a chaotic process known as repackaging, in which students would turn in financial information and the staff would shuttle them into new loans and grants. Corinthian students attracted huge amounts of financial aid money from the federal government: Close to 90 percent of the company’s revenue, around $1.4 billion per year, came from taxpayers. Huffington Post

Commissary privatization stokes concern among critics. A Senate proposal would require the Defense Department to develop a plan for private companies to run commissaries is drawing criticism. The Obama administration has joined the growing chorus of critics of a Senate proposal that takes steps to privatize commissaries. “The administration has concerns with commissary privatization and the willingness of private sector entities to participate in such a project,” said Tuesday’s statement from the Office of Management and Budget. . . .Meanwhile, two organizations wrote to leaders of the Senate defense committee, expressing their opposition to the provisions that would raise prices and would set in motion the process of privatizing the stores. “These committee actions set in motion price increases and would severely damage a benefit long cherished by millions of beneficiaries who rely on commissaries to stretch their household budgets by providing a 30 percent discount on their groceries,” wrote The Coalition to Save our Military Shopping Benefits, in a letter Monday. Military Times

Understanding Amtrak and the Importance of Passenger Rail in the United States. . . Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states. Passenger rail service supports economic development, connects rural communities to the nation, and helps reduce roadway congestion in major metropolitan regions. In addition, Amtrak facilities and services are vital to commuter rail agencies, allowing 840,000 commuters to reach their destinations every weekday. Center For American Progress

Scott Walker: The First ALEC President?. . . If Walker is successful in his presidential bid, he would be the first ALEC alum to take the oval office. . .Walker continued to push ALEC agenda items in the coming years, particularly education privatization measures – and often by way of the governor’s biennial state budget, which limits public discussion and debate. Walker’s 2013-2015 budget included several ALEC-inspired measures to transform and privatize the public school system, with provisions limiting local school board oversight for charter schools, expanding “voucher” programs, and creating new teaching licenses for individuals with no education background.  PR Watch

IL: Rahm’s privatization of school janitors is still a mess. For the last several months, teachers in Chicago have been doing two jobs for the price of one: instructing kids, and occasionally taking a moment to mop, scrub, or vacuum their dirty classrooms. The extra duties are the result of a $340 million privatization boondoggle from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Among other things, it’s resulted in the Chicago Public Schools firing hundreds of janitors. Now teachers at Oriole Park elementary on the northwest side have decided to take matters into their own hands. They’ve filed a union grievance that, if successful, could force CPS to hire back some of the janitors. Apparently this is the state of things: to get CPS to clean its schools, teachers have to go all legal on them. Chicago Reader

IL: Illiana foes happy, some unsure, about its apparent demise. Opponents of the Illiana toll road are elated but remain a bit skeptical about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s announcement that the controversial road will be removed from the state’s multi-year transportation plan. “The Illiana … is on hold indefinitely due to the refusal of the General Assembly to pass a budget that includes any meaningful reforms,” Carson Quinn, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said in an email, adding that IDOT has stopped all funding for the project. . . . IDOT envisioned it being built by a private company through a private-public partnership, but critics said it was too costly and the high tolls needed to pay off the bonds sold to build it would deter drivers from using it. Learner said he “hopes and expects” that Rauner and IDOT will take the next steps to implement their decision by removing the Illiana from Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning’s 2040 plan and working with the Federal Highway Administration to rescind its official approval of the tollway. Chicago Tribune

VA: Virginia Tempers its Enthusiasm for Public-Private Partnerships. Since Virginia passed a law 20 years ago authorizing public-private partnerships in the state, it’s been a model for other states interested in tapping private businesses to help deliver state services. Virginia officials frequently testify on Capitol Hill or at international conferences about their efforts. Both Democratic and Republican governors have used the partnerships in Virginia. The most well-known examples are toll roads and tolled lanes on highways in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. So it was significant when Aubrey Layne, Virginia’s transportation secretary, suggested recently that Virginia may be able to save taxpayer money by financing a $2.1 billion interstate widening project itself, rather than relying on a public-private partnership (P3) to finance, design and build the project. Government Technology

CA: UC President Janet Napolitano Urges State To Fund Expanded Enrollment. Napolitano: We have a plan that would enable us to meet the demand. We’ve asked the legislature to increase state funding by $50 million this year and $50 million next year to expand in-state student enrollment by 10,000 students over the next four years. NAM: What’s your read on what the legislature will do? Napolitano: Sacramento has realized that higher education has to be a priority. I’m sympathetic to the legislators because they have so many conflicting demands. Nonetheless when you look at the prison budget and compare it to higher education, that needs to change. The legislators have the opportunity to expand enrollment to the best university in the world.   NewAmericanMedia

CA: Costa Mesa settles lawsuit over outsourcing with employees union. A costly four-year lawsuit between Costa Mesa leadership and its public employees union, stemming from the City Council’s effort to outsource municipal services, has ended in a settlement. . . . The settlement allows Costa Mesa to privatize parks and maintenance services in 2017, but prevents the city from outsourcing other services for four years, which Righeimer called a “cooling-off period.” Daily Pilot