February 24, 2014


Federal Lawsuit Accuses For-Profit Schools of Fraud. “I saw students who never should have been there, students with whopping gaps in learning abilities and major psychiatric problems who were just not capable of doing the work,” said Ms. Amaya, an administrator at Harris’s Linwood campus, and then at its Wilmington, Del., campus, from 2009 to 2011. “The bosses were always like, ‘Stop asking why they’re enrolled, just get them to graduation however you can.’ ”  New York Times

In some states, gaming industry consultants double as gambling regulators. States hoping to make money quickly from legalizing gambling have few options as speedy as outside contractors, which allow them to get casinos up and running without having to hire and train a cadre of staff regulators. But letting consulting companies with deep ties to the gambling industry decide how casinos are run — and who runs them — is a significant departure from how established gambling states, including Nevada and New Jersey, do things. Regulators in states that maintain control over their own rules say the move toward privatization is unnerving. “How do you vet your consultants? If a lot of these consultants at one time or another have worked for the people that you’re in charge of regulating, at some point, you’re going to have issues with the purity of the investigation,” Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O’Shea said. At least 16 states rely on private companies for major portions of casino oversight, according to interviews with regulators across the country.  Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Myth Behind Public School Failure. To truly understand how we came to believe our educational system is broken, we need a history lesson. Rewind to 1980—when Milton Friedman, the high priest of laissez-faire economics, partnered with PBS to produce a ten-part television series called Free to Choose. He devoted one episode to the idea of school vouchers, a plan to allow families what amounted to publicly funded scholarships so their children could leave the public schools and attend private ones. You could make a strong argument that the current campaign against public schools started with that single TV episode. To make the case for vouchers, free-market conservatives, corporate strategists, and opportunistic politicians looked for any way to build a myth that public schools were failing, that teachers (and of course their unions) were at fault, and that the cure was vouchers and privatization. Jonathan Kozol, the author and tireless advocate for public schools, called vouchers the “single worst, most dangerous idea to have entered education discourse in my adult life.” Yes!

Return to Lender: Postal Banking Can Bring Equity to Communities. Conservatives have increasingly dismissed the United States Postal Service as a clunky relic of old-fashioned America, with right-wing lawmakers seeking to phase it out through service cuts and privatization. Now, some progressives are trying to save the USPS by rebranding it as a financial vehicle: a place for you to pick up your mail and deposit a paycheck in one stop.  Huffington Post

The Logic of Public Services. Many a local government has learned the hard way that even water is a commodity from which to squeeze a profit once privatized, with human need an afterthought. Decades of ideology have attempted to instill the idea that the private sector is always superior to government; that government can only mismanage what is in its hands. Although attempting to flip this discredited, self-serving phantasmagoria by arguing the complete opposite would not stand up to scrutiny, either, the realm of facts and data firmly contradict the standard corporate ideology. Government after government has found that privatization was a mistake in what has become a wave of “re-municipalization” — the return of public services to public management.  CounterPunch

CA: Long Beach city workers criticize proposal to privatize street-sweeping services. Municipal workers attended the Council Chamber on Feb. 18 to voice opposition to a plan that would allow private contractor Athens Services to take over street sweeping for the City of Long Beach. The plan acknowledges that 19 full-time employees may be displaced from their jobs but does offer alternatives for the city workers affected by the change. The Council removed the item from Tuesday’s agenda and plans to discuss the matter during a meeting in March. Signal Tribune

IL: Chicago charter school’s religious affiliation raises questions. The school’s deep partnership with the faith-based group raises questions about how a publicly financed charter school can comply with the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, especially when both groups share some leaders. Chicago Sun-Times

IL: City Violated Open Meetings Act. A Sangamon County judge has ruled that the Springfield City Council violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act late last year with its closed-door discussion of Oak Ridge Cemetery. The council went into executive session Nov. 5 to discuss a plan to solicit proposals for private management of the city-owned cemetery, citing exemptions that allow discussion of personnel and collective bargaining issues out of the public eye. Illinois Times reporter Bruce Rushton filed a lawsuit alleging that the council’s discussion violated the law. The State Journal Register

WA: Gov. Scott Walker urged employees, aides to promote him online, emails show. The Journal Sentinel reported Sunday of one instance in May 2010, in response to a Journal Sentinel story, Walker sent an email to county aides and campaign staffers saying someone should respond to critics of his plan to privatize the Mitchell International Airport. “Someone should comment on the fact that the only way for the county to benefit from that success is to contract out operations,” Walker wrote. “Having a well performing airport increases the value that the county could receive.” Brian Pierick, boyfriend of Walker aide Timothy D. Russell, soon after posted a comment anonymously that included Walker’s language nearly verbatim, according to the Journal Sentinel.  Madison.com

WA: Booze prices. Booze prices at bars and restaurants in Washington may go up this year as multiple interests fight over rules following the voter-approved privatization of the state’s liquor system.  The Seattle Times