August 30, 2013


PA: Charter operator owed its schools millions, but no one’s checking its books. The Philadelphia School District will spend a projected $729 million on charter schools in the coming fiscal year. But, if the past year at one charter operator is any indication, not all of those funds will actually go toward serving students. Philadelphia City Paper

FL: Interest rises in east-west toll road for Pasco. The DOT and Florida Turnpike Authority have partnered with the private sector to build toll roads in Orlando and Miami, but this would be the “first of its kind, privately funded, designed, built, operated and maintained elevated expressway” in the state.

LA: Privatization … we’re selling our souls – opinion. It could be argued that privatization increases the efficiency of an organization. But there’s no evidence for this. State-run healthcare systems in Germany and Australia provide some of the best public healthcare for the lowest cost. The for-profit charter school model is based on hiring teachers at the lowest possible wages, refusing to accept special needs children, and dumping kids with behavioral problems. In public schools, paying and advancing teachers in relation to how their students perform on standardized tests encourages cheating just as this type of pay scheme does on Wall Street. When did children, the sick and the elderly become profit centers? What kind of society allows the cost of an illness or caring for a disabled child to bankrupt a family, just so a profit can be made? Through privatization of the public good, what price have we put on our souls?  Shreveport Times

CA: Protesters leave Berkeley post office camp. Police dispersed a group of campers and cleared out their tents, tables, posters and a tree house at the Berkeley main post office Thursday morning, according to police and organizers of the month long protest against the sale of the building. San Jose Mercury News



August 29, 2013


CA: Calif. Gov. Proposes Prison Expansion, Privatization To Avoid Prisoner Early Release. California’s prison situation has been dire for a long time. In the wake of mismanagement, years of overcrowding, and a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that California’s prisoner housing circumstances lead to “needless suffering and death,” the state has been under pressure to either offer early release to thousands of California prisoners or come up with another solution. Last night, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown opted for the latter. In These Times

IA: Iowa won’t privatize state fiber-optic network. Gov. Terry Branstad says the state will reject bids for the Iowa Communications Network. Branstad says today that the bids for the statewide fiber-optic network do not reflect the value of the system. Both bids came from the West Des Moines-based Iowa Network Services. The network provides phone, video, data and internet services to schools, hospitals, libraries and government agencies across the state. It is currently an independent agency within the state government.  Dubuque Telegraph Herald

PA: Corbett extends Pa. Lottery bid another 2 months.The extension is the eighth agreed to by the operator of British national lottery. Corbett, a Republican who is a proponent of privatizing government services, began searching for a private manager in early 2012 and chose the only bidder, Camelot, in January. But state Attorney General Kathleen Kane rejected the proposed contract with Camelot in February. Kane said state law did not allow the governor to privatize lottery management or sanction the expansion of gambling the contract would permit. Her office also concluded that a management fee that Camelot can claim was unconstitutional. Miami Herald

Ways Privatization Failed America – Part 2. Paul Buchheit. Regulation is meant to protect all of us, but anti-government activists have worked hard to turn us against our own best interests. Truth-Out

The NYT Is Asking the Wrong Question About Rapid Turnover at Charter Schools. Motoko Rich has a very interesting piece in the New York Times about the rapid turnover at charter schools compared with traditional public schools, where the average teacher has about 14 years of experience as opposed to the two to five years you’ll find at charter schools. But I think she frames this information around the wrong question. Rich is asking, basically, whether it’s good for kids to have so much turnover. And I think the answer is obviously: No, it isn’t.  Slate Magazine

August 27, 2013


Private lobbyists get public pensions in 20 states. He’s among hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states who get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards, an Associated Press review found. Legislatures granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits. But several states have started to question whether these organizations should qualify for such benefits, since they are private entities in most respects: They face no public oversight of their activities, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers.

Profit, prison, and privatization. Lawmakers first embraced outsourcing to private correctional facilities as a cost-cutting option. These companies inherently value profit over the welfare and rehabilitation of the people in their custody.  The more bunks filled, the more money they make.  The resulting maltreatment and recidivism has long term costs for the health of our communities, whose tax money is paying for this broken system. (blog)

OH: New state report card proves Ohio’s charter school experiment has failed. After 15 years of charter school expansion, the new Ohio school report cards provide the strongest evidence yet that this method of using charter schools to supposedly reform education in our state is a complete failure.  The latest results from the state make it clear that the large urban districts are not dramatically improving and the charter schools that are supposed to be transforming educational practices while being given every advantage (including a greater amount of state funding) are doing no better.  Plunderbund

IL: Alderman Worried About Fallout From Possible Midway Airport Privatization. Opponents of privatizing Midway approached Zalewski about instances of possible union-busting and black-listing of workers by one of the finalists for the Midway lease, Spanish firm Ferrovial. Chicagoist

FL: Proposal envisions Pasco toll road, with some elevated lanes. A development company called International Infrastructure Partners LLC has proposed building a privately run toll road, some of which would be elevated, across south Pasco from U.S. 19 to Interstate 75 and then east to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills. The privately constructed and operated toll road would be the first in Florida.

PA: CDC opposes liquor store privatization in PA. The CDC claims that when the free market sells alcohol, more alcohol becomes available at cheaper prices. That, the CDC says, leads to  illegal sales to minors. Crunching number from multiple studies on privatization efforts of the 70s and 80s, the study cites a 44 percent median increase in per capita alcohol sales post-privatization.  Pennsylvania Independent


August 23, 2013


CA: Jerry Brown Considers Prison Alliance Between Private Company, Union. Under the plan …. the for-profit prison giant Corrections Corporation of America would lease one or more of its prisons to the state, which would in turn use California prison guards and other public employees to staff the company’s facilities. By transferring state prisoners to these privately owned structures, the state would have enough space to comply with an order by a panel of federal judges in 2009 that said overcrowded state prisons were jeopardizing the health and safety of inmates…Critics of Brown’s proposal include prison reform advocates and champions of the state’s beleaguered social safety net programs, who may lose funding as state payments for the prison expansion rise. The governor’s proposals, which also include sending California inmates to out-of-state prisons and county jails, could cost the state $300 million to $800 million each year, by various estimates. Huffington Post

KY: Kentucky Republicans seizing on charter school issue. Republicans in Kentucky are pressing the state to allow charter schools, saying state policy on the issue could determine whether the next generation succeeds. Any future Kentucky governor who ignores education, and the benefits that many think charter schools would bring, would be holding the state back, said former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner, who is considering a run for governor in 2015. The Courier-Journal

MN: County moves ahead with privatization of mental health services. Goodhue County will seek proposals from third parties to privatize the Mental Health Center and related services. HHS Board members reiterated a need for caution in the RFP process, and that the board should give prospective candidates enough time to research the mental health needs in the county before responding. Republican Eagle

VA: Op-Ed: Why Too High Greenway Tolls Violate State Statute. The toll rates on the 14-mile road between Dulles Airport and Leesburg are among the most expensive in the world. The Greenway was built in the late 1990s by a public-private partnership, with $144.2 million of equity invested. In 2005, the holding company that operates the Greenway, TRIP II, was sold by the original ownership consortium to the Australian investment bank, Macquarie.  Evidence shows that the high level of Greenway tolls violates Virginia statute and embodies the failure of collaboration between the public and private sectors on this project. Leesburg Today

IL: City commission to decide fate of shuttered Chicago public schools. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is appointing an advisory committee to decide what to do with nearly 50 shuttered Chicago Public Schools that residents fear could be turned into charter schools or sit vacant and become magnets for crime…. As for the charter theory, Milhouse said, “I can’t say that, if that community says they want to make it a charter school that we would say no. That hasn’t been given to me as a parameter to stop any community from turning it into a charter school.” Several of the 13 panel members — who will not be paid for their service — have ties to Emanuel and to former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Chicago Sun-Times

NY: Privatization threatens New York City’s public housing system….To climb out of its fiscal hole, NYCHA proposed a sweeping land lease plan earlier this year. This initiative would effectively allow for the construction of luxury high rises on public-housing properties that have been historically occupied by the city’s poor. According to recently released design plans, this “infill development” would saddle eight NYCHA projects with new privately run developments. The city emphasizes that while a lease would typically last 99 years, it would technically not amount to a sale of NYCHA land—a distinction critics write off as mere political semantics.  In These Times


August 22, 2013


MI: Governor to Free Pontiac, Mich., from Emergency Financial Management. Gov. Rick Snyder announced Monday that the financial emergency in Pontiac was over and that the city no longer needed to be run by an emergency manager….. Under Schimmel’s leadership, city expenses were slashed, the city’s police and fire services have been contracted out and golf courses have been sold. Effective Monday, the city’s mayor and council were to assume their former roles.  Governing

TX: State report finds Houston charter school misspent $5.3 million in federal funds. A Houston charter school misspent $5.3 million in federal funds on items ranging from first-class airline tickets to spa services, according to a state report released Tuesday. Dallas Morning News

IL: Alderman: If Midway privatization plan flies, neighbors could be hurt. An influential alderman raised red flags Wednesday about the privatization of Midway Airport, spelling political trouble for Mayor Rahm Emanuel if the project is cleared for takeoff. Aviation Committee Chairman Michael Zalewski (23rd), whose ward includes Midway, said he’s concerned that a private contractor would attempt to shoehorn more late-night flights into the airport. hat could make life miserable for noise-weary Southwest Side residents, particularly those whose homes don’t qualify for soundproofing at city expense.  Chicago Sun-Times

FL: Lawmakers discuss spike in child deaths. DCF has struggled to oversee its contractors since Florida became the first state to fully privatize its child welfare programs in 2005, inking multimillion-dollar contracts with 20 child welfare contractors that care for the more than 17,000 foster children in the system. Wilkins attempted to add more penalties for poor performance to the contracts, but the contractors pushed back, saying he was overstepping his role. “The (contractors) have taken over without anybody managing them and so the department is doing its job in the dark,” Talenfeld said. “The only way this privatized system can work is if somebody is in charge.” Most advocates agreed the privatized system has produced better outcomes, but some suggested an ombudsmen or independent monitor.



August 21, 2013


The loss of the public good – Robert B. Reich. “Privatize” means “Pay for it yourself.” The practical consequence of this in an economy whose wealth and income are now more concentrated than at any time in the past 90 years is to make high-quality public goods available to fewer and fewer. In fact, much of what’s called “public” is increasingly a private good paid for by users — ever-higher tolls on public highways and public bridges, higher tuitions at so-called public universities, higher admission fees at public parks and public museums. Baltimore Sun

PA: Federal laws may bar bid by PA charter schools to get extra $150 million from public schools. Federal laws and regulations could save Pennsylvania school districts from having to turn over as much as $150 million that charter schools say they are owed. Charter schools have filed 231 requests to Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, seeking to change the charter school funding formula to give them a share of the federal money school districts receive.  Allentown Morning Call

PA: Are Philly Public Schools Destined For Failure?  Philadelphia is borrowing $50 million to open schools this fall, a temporary fix for an increasingly worrisome funding problem. Meanwhile, GOP Gov. Tom Corbett is intent on destroying the teachers’ union. Has the district begun a death march? Huffington Post

KS: Administration defends child support privatization….The email Hensley received was from a DCF employee who said the child support division was doomed by understaffing and unnecessary bureaucratic changes. Freed said the division has “hired relatively few staff over the last nine months, knowing that privatization would be happening and wanting to reduce the layoffs,” but added that the division “has historically been overstaffed and inefficient.” “CSS was not set up to fail,” Freed said. “It was already failing, and we are trying to fix it.” Topeka Capital Journal

FL: Districts pushing back against state effort to privatize virtual school. The Palm Beach County School Board plans today to urge state lawmakers to repeal a new funding approach that slashed dollars for the state-run Florida Virtual School, spawning wholesale teacher layoffs from the program just as a new school year begins. The demand from county officials is part of rising push-back across the state over what critics say is the latest bid to further privatize public education by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Legislature.  Palm Beach Post


August 20, 2013


Towns Try to Take Back Water Systems. Water fights are simmering in small towns across the country this summer, as rate increases irk residents and spur local governments to try to take over privately owned water systems. Municipalities in Massachusetts, California and Texas have recently filed lawsuits or set ballot measures in a bid to gain control of their water systems. Private firms have defended their rate increases, saying they have had to spend money to improve the infrastructure and are entitled to make a profit. Wall Street Journal ($)

LA: Audit shows privatization of mental health services in Louisiana increased costs. Bobby Jindal’s privatization of mental health and addictive disorder treatment programs has created confusion and added costs for the local human services districts that provide the care, according to an audit released Monday.           

KS: Changes to privatize Kansas child support system raises questions about process, contracts. Private contractors are preparing to take over operations of the Kansas child support system from a state agency even as questions remain about how the contracts were awarded.,,,, Contracts were awarded in June on a competitive bid process, though Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka says one contractor seemed to have an inside connection to landing the contracts.  The Republic

NY: Pushing Privatized “Partnership” Agenda at New York City’s Public Parks — Part 3. Recently, in a rather long interview with the New York Observer, former NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said that during his ten-year tenure overseeing our city’s public spaces and recreation areas, Mayor Michael Bloomberg never told him to seek out “public-private partnerships” to help fund maintenance and activities at New York City parks. He told the reporter that “the [Bloomberg] administration encouraged us to be creative.” Huffington Post

NAFTA Superhighway: Private operators vie for I-69 in Indiana. P3s don’t merely contract a private firm to build the road like most procurements, the corporations gain complete operational control over the public’s highways and, usually, the power to tax by setting toll rates. San Antonio Express

August 19, 2013


OR: Liquor theft soars in Washington after privatization, but remains low in Oregon. A sudden, dramatic rise in liquor thefts in Washington could be seen as collateral damage from the state’s recent move to privatization — part of the cost of changing to a free market model. Or, the hike in booze-stealing could be read as a cautionary tale for Oregon, where voters may get asked to end our distinction as the lone West Coast state with a government monopoly on liquor sales.

PA: Despite Increased Income from Liquor Sales in Pennsylvania, Privatization Still a Priority. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board reported revenue near $2.2 billion for fiscal year 2012-2013, a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year. In addition, contributions to various state agencies and the general fund exceeded a record-setting $660 million dollars. Still, this news doesn’t sway Gov. Tom Corbett, who remains a proponent of privatizing the state’s liquor system. A plan from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), and supported by Corbett, calls for the state to close its more than 600 Wine & Spirits Stores and then issue 1,600 licenses to sell wine and distilled spirits.  90.5 WESA           

TX: TxDot moving toward toll roads. The issue is an internal rule change TXDot is requesting. It would essentially allow them to do what the Legislature refused to let them do this past session. And that is to enter into unlimited numbers of so-called public-private partnerships, where a private company builds a toll road, and collects the revenue. “These public/private partnerships is where they sell of our roads to these, mostly foreign, private companies,” says Terri Hall, President of the grassroots group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF. “And the first foreign-owned toll road in Texas that opened is not even getting half the traffic that was projected.” But the most outrageous part is, if the toll revenue doesn’t meet its target, the state guarantees the difference. That would come from the Highway Fund, which is already strapped. “It basically puts all Texas taxpayers on the hook to pay back these private toll operators,” Hall declared. KETK           

TX: Kaufman County Sheriff halts negotiation to privatize jail due to lack of employee guarantees. Commissioners hope to save approximately $1 million annually by privatizing the county jail. Sheriff Byrnes agreed to investigate the possible cost savings but only with the stipulation that “the current jail staff be protected as relates to their employment status and benefits.” …. On August 12, 2013, Commissioner Vrzalik placed an item on the Commissioners’ Court consent agenda without the employee protection clause which was subsequently passed. According to Byrnes, “This was a deliberate act to sabotage the jail privatization efforts on the part of Commissioner Vrzalik.” Byrnes concluded by stating, “Therefore, all efforts and/or negotiations to privatize the Kaufman County Jail are halted.”

WI: Exodus of top Milwaukee bus drivers feared under Texas-based manager. Transit employees fear their pension plan could be dissolved if Milwaukee County awards the transportation contract to MV Transportation, a for-profit company based in Texas. About 21% of the more than 1,000 employees of the transit system will be eligible to retire by year’s end, according to a transit system spokesman. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

IL: Chicago Mayor hopes warning is ticket to deterring illegal use of disabled parking cheats. The abuses have cost Chicago taxpayers millions of dollars in reimbursements to Chicago Parking Meters LLC, the private company running metered parking citywide under the meter-privatization deal championed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The deal requires City Hall to reimburse the company for free parking provided to drivers displaying disability placards or plates. Those payments have soared to a total of nearly $55 million since the company began running the meter system in 2009 and started to sharply raise meter rates. Chicago Sun-Times

DE: Deal to keep Dole at Port of Wilmington is hailed. The Diamond State Port Corp., which runs the port for the state, has made several price concessions to Dole, and Delaware has agreed to make capital improvements at the port that would benefit Dole, including $34 million assigned to the port over a three-year period. That would pay for buying two cranes and renovating cold-storage warehouses. That expenditure had been up in the air while the state considered bringing in a private company to lease, improve and manage the port. Earlier this year, the state put that effort on hold after the leading bidder, Kinder Morgan, suspended its bid amid community opposition.

WA: State mulls privatizing websites, printing. Washington state government is belatedly wrapping up a review of services for possible privatization and could make its biggest decision so far – whether to farm out state printing – as early as this week. The decision would follow the state’s conclusion last week that it can’t save money by contracting with a private courier service to deliver interoffice mail to far-flung locations. State employees will keep that work.

Helium Reserve Faces Shutdown. When Congress returns to Washington next month, it will have just weeks to prevent a shortage of helium that could deal a blow to a range of industries. Unless Congress acts to wind it down more gradually, the Federal Helium Reserve, which supplies more than one-third of the world’s crude helium, will shut down on Oct. 8…. Congress has been working to privatize the nation’s helium system since 1996, when lawmakers agreed to start paying off the $1.3 billion debt the government accumulated to buy helium in earlier decades from private companies that were extracting helium from natural gas.  Wall Street Journal


August 16, 2013


KS: Child Support Services On Schedule For Privatization. Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Phyllis Gilmore announced Thursday, efforts to privatize Kansas Child Support Services (CSS) are on schedule… In June, DCF announced the vendors who will perform full-service child support activities for all 31 judicial districts in Kansas. WIBW

IA: Union leader: Branstad needs to ‘man up’ on home. The labor union that represents many Iowa state employees is calling on Gov. Terry Branstad to “man up,” take responsibility for the Iowa Juvenile Home and immediately accept offers of free training for workers at the facility. Branstad said this week he is considering privatizing the home, noting that Iowa’s privately run residential facilities “do a better of job” of caring for troubled youth. In response to that suggestion, Danny Homan of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said Thursday that privatization would further diminish public control and oversight that is already lacking at the home. Des Moines Register

IL: Activists Want An Immediate End To Illinois’ Medicaid Privatization. Activists with the Alliance for Community Services protested at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) Chicago office Thursday morning demanding that the state immediately end its $76 million contract with a private, for-profit company hired to “scrub” the Medicaid rolls. Progress Illinois

NY: Funding Plan for Public Housing Draws Flak. New York wants to offset federal cuts by leasing complexes’ parking lots, ballfields to builders of market-rate apartments.  Wall Street Journal ($)

OK: Lloyd Snow: Top 10 reasons Oklahoma public schools are in a fix. I think Diane Ravitch gets it right in her latest book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” She says the only crisis in public education is the one ginned up by government bureaucrats, major foundations and an odd coalition of elitists and commercial hustlers who have made inflated claims about the virtues of vouchers, charter schools, virtual schools, standardized testing, merit pay, etc. They insist that poverty has no correlation to low academic achievement and that overhauling our entire system along business lines is the way to go.  Tulsa World

August 15, 2013


For Disaster Preparedness: Pack A Library Card? Across the country, in places like Louisiana and Oklahoma, libraries have served as crucial hubs for information and help in the aftermath of hurricanes and tornadoes. And federal emergency planners have noticed. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency classified libraries as an essential service — like one of the things that would get early funding so that communities could recover,” says Jessamyn West, a librarian in Vermont and a moderator of the popular blog MetaFilter. “People are finding in the wake of the natural disasters that we’ve seen — lots and lots of flooding and hurricanes and storms and tornadoes — that getting the library up and running with Internet connectivity or air conditioning or clean bathrooms or a place that you can plug in your phone really has benefit to a community that’s in a recovery situation,” she adds.  NPR

The Architect of School Reform Who Turned Against It. This spring, she helped found the Network for Public Education to fight high-stakes testing and what she calls the privatization of public schools…. Ravitch presents Reign of Error as an overture to dialogue with opponents, but her subtitle suggests otherwise: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. Her tour of the research is littered with bumper-sticker slogans—she indicts, for example, the “Walmartization of American education”—likely to put off the unconverted. The book reads like a campaign manual against “corporate reformers.” The first half challenges the claims of their movement; the second offers Ravitch’s alternative agenda. Her prescriptions include universal pre-K, smaller class sizes, better teacher training, and more measures to reduce poverty and school segregation. The Atlantic

Wildlife group criticizes new commissioner over statements about about public wildlife on private land. To some of the 5,000 members of the Montana Wildlife Federation, however, the idea of paying a landowner to allow hunters to remove elk and deer from their property smacks of privatizing public wildlife…. The privatization of public wildlife has been an ongoing debate for decades. In 1842, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling set the common law foundation for the principle that wildlife resources are owned by no one, to be held in trust by the government for the benefit of present and future generations. Helena Independent Record

More Corporations Drop Off ALEC’s Conference Brochure. An examination of the promotional brochure for the Chicago meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reveals that the meeting — where corporate lobbyists secretly vote as equals with legislators on model bills at ALEC task force meetings — has fewer corporate sponsors willing to tell the public they bankroll ALEC’s operations. This news comes in the aftermath of 48 corporations and six non-profits leaving ALEC after the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) connected the dots between “Stand Your Ground” legislation and ALEC, and coalition of organizations pressed for corporations to stop funding ALEC. PR Watch

PA: EDITORIAL: Privatizing Pennsylvania Lottery looks like a gamble. The core of this controversy is a quest for more money: Why settle for state-produced golden lottery eggs when the private sector promises platinum? Why? Because privately run state lotteries in the U.S. are in their infancy. And the results are mixed. The Express Times

IL: Two Companies Vie for Midway. The possible privatization of Midway Airport is a touchy subject, in part because so many people feel the privatization of city parking meters a few years ago was a big mistake….Emanuel has also said that he would only be interested in a 40-year lease, rather than a 99-year lease like the parking meter and Skyway leases. Profit-sharing for taxpayers and a customer bill of rights would also be part of any deal, Emanuel said.  Southwest News-Herald

CA: L.A.’s School-Takeover Battle. There is a quiet war being waged in the Los Angeles public school system. On one side: Parent Revolution, an advocacy group that helps parents enact the state’s controversial parent trigger law, which gives parents the power to turn their childrens’ schools into charter schools or replace the staff if enough parents support the overhaul. On the other: much of the state’s educational establishment, and the staffs of schools threatened by the trigger law.  Daily Beast