March 31, 2014


Which For-Profit College Lobbyist Are You?. . .Predatory for-profit colleges use deceptive and coercive tactics to pressure students into signing up. More than half of for-profit college students drop out within about four months. Although the for-profits promise that their programs are affordable, the real cost of some schools can be nearly double that of Harvard. And graduates often struggle to find jobs beyond shifts at Office Depot. The U.S. Department of Education just reported that 72 percent of the for-profit college programs it analyzed produced graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts. As a result, today, 13 percent of all college students attend for-profit colleges, on campuses and online — but these institutions account for 47 percent of student loan defaults. It’s not just students who are harmed. For-profit colleges get more than $30 billion a year in federal student grants and loans; many get almost 90 percent of their revenue from federal aid. When a student defaults on a federal loan, taxpayers must foot the bill; the for-profit college already has been paid.  Huffington Post

Sheppard Air Force Base: Uncounted Costs of Privatizing Government Services. . .In fact, there are very good reasons why government cannot operate properly when it is run like a business, says Forbes contributing writer John T. Harvey. He notes, “We should no more want the government to be run like a business than a business to be run like the government. … The problem in a nutshell, is that not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.” Harvey’s observations on privatization, published by capitalist tool Forbes Magazine, clearly have been lost on the Department of Defense, which has been a major user of contractors.  Truth-Out

IN: Public-private plan for I-69 work proves divisive. Gov. Mike Pence is getting ready to sign onto a deal with a Dutch-led contractor to construct and maintain the section between Bloomington and Martinsville. Under terms of that contract, the state would make an $80 million “down payment” to the private partner, which would pay the $325 million estimated for construction. Once that section of highway is complete, the state starts paying the partner $21.8 million a year for 35 years and the company maintains the highway. . . Supporters say the public-private partnership is innovative, but critics say the deal will end up costing Indiana taxpayers more in the long run. . . “It’s a quick easy fix for government that can’t afford to build and maintain the roads that people want. By at least getting it out there, the question is, is that fair to the next generation? We have pushed off the burden to future generations, years beyond what we would be normally paying,” said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

NY: State Protections for Charter Schools Threaten de Blasio’s Education Goals. Mayor Bill de Blasio has mapped out an ambitious agenda for education in New York City. He wants to reinvigorate schools on the verge of shuttering, open 100 schools with health clinics and therapists at their core, and train more students for careers in science and technology. But the budget deal announced by state leaders on Saturday, which would require the city to find space for charter schools, may cut into Mr. de Blasio’s priorities. Charter schools, which serve about 6 percent of students citywide, are poised to expand significantly in New York over the next several years, potentially attracting as much as 10 percent of students by 2017, according to education advocates. And it is up to the state — not the city — to approve any new charter schools, leaving Mr. de Blasio virtually powerless to stop their growth. New York Times

CT: Bob Horton: Private influence on public parks. . .When the Parks Department presented its proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, it included more than $400,000 for the renovation of Greenwich Commons, the park just north of the Havemeyer Building on Greenwich Avenue. That project seemingly came out of nowhere, and when finance board members asked Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Siciliano why it had suddenly risen near the top of the list, he answered that a private donor whom he would not identify had committed $250,000 to the work. Plus, I understand the private donor was hoping to ban soccer or any other ball playing on the field as a condition of the gift. It is not unreasonable of donors to put conditions on gifts, but when it affects public spaces, uses should not be subject to private whims. Greenwich Time

March 28, 2014


Charter-boosters’ ugly civil rights scam. Corporate education reformers are coopting the politics of race and labor, author Micah Uetricht explains.  Salon

‘Private Option’ for Medicaid Expansion Would Cut Some Benefits. . . At issue are so-called “wraparound” benefits, such as free rides to doctor’s offices, designed to give low-income people the same kind of care and health outcomes as people with higher incomes. Such benefits typically are not included in private insurance plans. “Medicaid is different from private insurance for a lot of good reasons,” said Joan Alker, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. “Trying to make it look like private insurance without Medicaid’s unique features could lead to worse health outcomes, increased hospitalization and more preventable deaths.”. . . Other benefits include the periodic screening, diagnosis and treatment of children and young adults for conditions such as lead poisoning, malnutrition and mental illness, as well as limits on co-pays and premiums, which can prompt people to do without care. Stateline

NY: State reaches tentative deal to protect charter schools. Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a tentative deal Thursday on a package that will offer charter schools greater protections – increasing per pupil spending and providing rent money for the first time. New York Daily News

FL: Editorial: Hear out the toll road skeptics…. The idea is pushed by a consortium of private companies known as Florida 54 Express. It wants to lease state right of way so it can build and operate an east-west 33-mile elevated toll road from U.S. 19 to U.S. 301. Steinman dubbed it a high-level concept with few details. There is no technical data, no engineering study, no traffic and revenue projection. That is why he suggested community opposition is premature. But what is known should give the DOT and the county reason to pause. The private suitors, International Infrastructure Partners and OHL Infrastructure, are expected to provide detailed information to the DOT next month. The state should be careful in its review to avoid a repeat of past performance. OHL’s toll road in Madrid, Spain, recently entered bankruptcy proceedings after high construction costs and falling traffic counts triggered unexpected financial difficulties, according to international press accounts. Tampa Bay Times

KY: Kentucky Senate Approves Measure Creating Public-Private Partnerships for Infrastructure Projects. A bill that would permit private corporations to partner with government to finance infrastructure projects is one step closer to becoming law. Filed by Rep. Leslie Combs, House Bill 407 passed the Senate by a 27-9 vote, and would allow local governments to partner with businesses to fund infrastructure projects. Dissenting members worried that the legislation would afford private companies too much influence on public projects, and expressed concern over accountability of the process. WKU Public Radio


March 27, 2014


Public-sector pensions united unions and business leaders against privatization. The refrain of privatization seems to play over and over. Our cities are going broke and can’t afford to make retirement payments; public health nurses, city park employees, and other workers who provide important services will not get what they worked hard for all their lives; and the only way out is to put pensions into the hands of privately held corporations. Or at least, that’s what the tea party and other political interests would have us believe. Fortunately, there is a recent example of a city where people have fought back against this prevailing narrative and won: Cincinnati. Although public employee pensions may seem an unlikely proving ground for new alliances between local unions and business leaders, the people of Cincinnati showed that unity was possible when, last November, 78 percent of voters rejected a tea-party-backed ballot measure that would have drastically altered the retirement prospects for city workers.  Al Jazeera America

Most Anything Is Fair Game in Portugal’s Quest for Cash, Including the Mirós. . .The government’s announcement that it would sell the collection through the auction house Christie’s in London set off intense discussion of what kind of assets the state should be allowed to sell, and whether the nation’s cultural heritage is off limits. Portugal’s controversy has now become part of a broader debate across Europe’s hard-hit, if historically treasured, southern tier over the virtues and limits of downsizing government, often centered on the public preservation or privatization of cultural patrimony that touches on the raw nerves of national identity. “The obsession with eliminating everything that is public is leading the government to go further down the privatization road, and perhaps they consider paintings to be part of the same strategy,” said Gabriela Canavilhas, a Socialist lawmaker and Portugal’s former culture minister. “But even in Detroit, which was declared bankrupt, their final decision was not to sell any art.”  New York Times           

31 state chambers push for 5-year transportation bill. Several state chambers — 31, to be exact — are urging Congress to pass a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. . . The letter also notes that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the U.S. a grade of D+ on its Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, as well as the estimated $3.6 trillion needed for infrastructure by 2020. The letter outlines four areas the chambers want Congress to consider while working on a new bill: “At minimum, a five-year authorization to provide predictability and certainty to a sector of our economy that needs stability and growth; dedicated federal funds to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund; flexibility for states to invest in transportation infrastructure as they deem necessary; and freedom for states to choose their own funding options.”  Better Roads

NY: Education groups lobby against building aid for charter schools. In a legislative memo being circulated to state lawmakers in the final days of budget negotiations, the group, called the Educational Conference Board, argues that charter schools are already a financial burden on school districts. To now give them access to a pot of funds intended for district schools would further undermine the state’s ability to fully fund district schools, the memo contends. . . The coalition is made up of groups representing teachers, parents, school boards, superintendents and school budget officials. Yagielski said “they don’t always agree on everything,” but the fact that such a diverse group is lined up in opposition is an example of the threat seen by charter schools. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate are mulling a plan to provide facilities funding to charter schools that operate in private space.  Chalkbeat New York

IL: Board to privatize recess. One month after voting to privatize what is left of custodial services, the Chicago Board of Education is poised, at its meeting of March 26, 2014, to privatize recess. A Board Report on the agenda for the March 26, 2014 meeting calls for the Board to hire two dozen outside agencies, all of them non-union and most anti-union, to provide various recess services. The vote to further privatize custodial services was taken at the Board meeting of February 26, 2014. Privatization of custodial work has begun in all schools that have unionized custodial workers as this report is written.

FL: PACA gives a big no to elevated toll road. . .PACA represents 60,000 residents living in homeowners associations, condominium associations and community development district-managed communities. . . International Infrastructure Partners has proposed a private venture estimated by some to cost $2.2 billion that would build a 33-mile elevated toll road from U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills to U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. A group of residents living along the State Road 54/56 corridor have organized against the project, speaking out at recent meetings hosted by the county. However, it is ultimately up to the Florida Department of Transportation to make a final decision, although officials there say they won’t proceed without the blessing of the county.  The Laker/Lutz News

CA: Santa Ana, California Dumps Red Light Cameras. . .A unanimous Santa Ana City Council decided last week to stop doing business with Redflex Traffic Systems based on a staff proposal that would end photo ticketing once the Redflex contract expires on June 21, 2015. . . Councilman Vincent Sarmiento offered the resolution to end use of cameras citing the “excessive fine” of $490 that the embattled Australian firm issued last year to 30,099 in the city. Out of the $14,748,510 worth of tickets mailed, the city’s cut was $2,541,745.

March 26, 2014


TX: Toll Opponents Say Aggressive Collection by TxDOT is Proof of ‘Failed Policy’. In a very controversial move, the Texas Department of Transportation is announced it will begin seizing the cars of motorists who have failed to pay tolls on the state’s growing network of toll roads, essentially turning TxDOT into a taxpayer funded collection agency for the private companies which operate the toll roads, 1200 WOAI news reports. . . . But Terri Hall, the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom and a long time anti toll road activist, says the idea that taxpayer money is being used to allow TxDOT to become ‘collection goons’ for private companies is outrageous. . . . Under the Public Private Partnership agreements under which many toll roads and toll lanes are build, private companies, like San Antonio based Zachry American Infrastructure, build the roads under a fifty year agreement with the state which allows the private companies to collect the tolls.  But if people don’t pay the tolls, it is the taxpayers who have to make up the difference.  And Hall says the PPP policy was clearly not thought through, because there is no way to collect tolls from out of state and out of country motorists who aren’t subject to Texas penalties, like tickets and refusal to renew their car registration. 1200 WOAI

MI: Detroit Seeks Proposals to Privatize Its Water System. This bankrupt city is seeking proposals from private companies to run and potentially buy its regional water and sewer system as talks to lease it to the city’s suburbs have stalled. The move to at least partially privatize one of the nation’s largest water systems comes as the city considers unloading assets to finalize its debt-cutting plan, which is expected to be voted on by creditors this spring. . .But suburban leaders so far have balked at their potential share of future costs for system improvements and unpaid water bills. It is still possible the city-owned system could continue to be run as a municipal department from Detroit, said a person familiar with the matter. Privatizing water and sewer service in southeast Michigan could provide a test case for advocates who argue the private sector would bring greater efficiency and needed improvement to aging systems nationally. Opponents of such privatization efforts fear rate increases and question turning a public entity into a profit-making enterprise. . .”If Detroit does this, it will probably be the first really big public-private effort in the last 10 years,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a California environmental-research and advocacy group that studies water privatization and other issues. Wall Street Journal

MA: Hundreds of Boston parents band together to oppose charter school expansion. The parents say that cities and the state cannot afford to fund additional schools, pointing out for instance that the Boston school system is facing budget cuts. Members of the group have been meeting with key lawmakers, testifying at legislative hearings, and circulating an online petition advocating against a bill that would lift a state-imposed cap on charter school enrollment. As of Sunday, the petition had received more than 2,200 signatures. The campaign is believed to be the largest and most aggressive parent-driven effort in the state to stop raising the charter-school cap. It follows a similar effort by teachers unions, which have launched letter-writing campaigns to persuade legislators to oppose the measure.  Boston Globe

NJ: NJ Senate President Tells Turnpike Authority to Lay Off Toll Collection Privatization. Today, NJ state senate president Steve Sweeney urged board members to abandon the concept, insisting that unionized collectors have already given enough: some $30 million worth of concessions in their last contract. “If they (the Turnpike Authority) want to be more efficient, they should look at reducing the amount of administration that they have, because that’s where the real salaries are,” Sweeney said. CBS Local

HI: Public-private partnership plan for Hawaii’s correctional system. State Sen. Will Espero introduced a resolution on public-private partnerships for jails, prisons and other correctional facilities. A Senate panel listened to testimony from supporters and opponents during a hearing on Monday. . . . Private sector involvement would be limited to planning, construction and financing. The state would still run the facilities. The Department of Public Safety supports the proposal since the changes could ease overcrowding and help cut the agency’s costs. Hawaii News Now

In Defense of Public Higher Education – Paul Stoller. In recent months waves of ignorant criticism have flooded the airwaves with a great deal of blather about the nature of higher education at public universities and colleges. Consider the case of Ohio State Representative Andrew Brenner (R) who recently suggested that public education is socialism. Other such critics have said that our colleges are much like indoctrination campus that steer our young people away from “family” values and “free market” ideology. Taking their cue from the more neoliberal wing of conservative thought, a growing group of state legislators have used the rationale of “living within our means” to cut funding for public universities and colleges. Feeling the squeeze, public universities and colleges have trimmed “unproductive” programs like philosophy, music and foreign languages, and have replaced expensive retiring professors with inexpensive temporary instructors. Huffington Post

‘Billion-dollar bet’ on Postal Service. The Postal Service wants to cut its workforce, expand into new markets and products, and modernize all of its systems as part of its bid to transform itself into a highly-responsive digital organization. The Postal Service plans to shrink its workforce by 10,000 positions in fiscal 2015, according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. The reductions will be entirely through attrition — there will be no buy-outs or reductions in force. . . .The ultimate goal is for the Postal Service to reduce its career workforce from about 485,000 to around 400,000, with about 65,000 full-time non-career workers. But the Postal Service can do that only with the added flexibility provided by legislation pending in Congress. The bill would also allow USPS to waive the required pre-funding of its retiree health benefits — about $5.5 billion a year — and would give it greater flexibility to reduce the size of its workforce and end Saturday delivery.  Federal Times

Why We Are REALLY Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. Non-profits are being employed by finance capital to cement its privatization agenda, thus making the institution not only limiting in nature but thoroughly corrupting as well. Teach for America (TFA) and LIFT are two non-profits currently serving the privatization agenda.  Financial corporations, such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America and capitalists like the Walton and Gates families, fund both LIFT and TFA.  Dissident Voice


March 24, 2014


Editorial: ‘Private’ toll roads lead to good fortune only for the boodlers. Toll roads are all the rage with those who expect to get rich with deals called “innovative” public-private partnerships. The idea of tossing a coin into a basket for the privilege of traveling on a road is a stale and frayed idea that only seems fresh. It’s a crony idea that gives off more than a whiff of corruption. Consider what’s happening in Virginia. As Gov. Bob McDonnell was leaving office, his suitcase stuffed with goodies collected from his “admirers,” he auctioned as many of the state’s roads as he could find to foreigners willing to buy them. Now taxpayers are even paying for the advertisements needed to make those foreign investors rich.  Washington Times

CA: California Contracts With Private Prisons To Alleviate Overcrowding. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that condemned California for prison overcrowding, which was leading to the deaths of at least one inmate per week. . . Gov. Brown hoped to implement long-term solutions that would “help inmates become productive members of society and make our communities safer,” but he has turned to a solution that may very well exacerbate, rather than solve, California’s mass incarceration crisis: privatization.  Neon Tommy

GA: Georgia’s Push to Privatize Foster Care Fails. A push to privatize the child welfare system in Georgia failed in the final hours of the state’s legislative session Thursday. The bill, which was introduced by the state senate in February, aimed to begin contracting out most child welfare services — like adoption and case management — to private agencies by the summer of 2017. . . . But the momentum to privatize the system worried some child welfare advocates in the state, who said the talks were happening too fast, too soon. Full privatization of the foster care system has been rolled out in states like Nebraska and Florida, but not without criticism. In Nebraska, a Youth Today story found that privatization has been largely characterized as a failure after the state’s leading child services agencies withdrew their contracts due to financial reasons.  Youth Today

IN: Lake Station EMS workers protest privatizing ambulance service. Medics from the Lake Station Fire Department picketed Saturday along Fairview Avenue in protest of the city’s move to privatize its ambulance service. Almost two dozen part-time paramedics and EMTs will lose their jobs with the city.

TN: TN state park hikers share views on privatizing. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation started looking into the possibility of privatizing state parks when they filed a request for information to potential contractors in February. . .Fisk University student Quin Gathers said that, while she understood some of the financial benefits of the state contracting out park management, she was skeptical there would be that much money saved. “It’s a park,” she said. “If the state wants to save money, there’s got to be a better way to do it.” Nashville resident Vincent Anderson was supportive of privatizing the parks, if only because he believed companies could manage better than governments. For many, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before they decide what to think about it.   The Tennessean

PA: New proposal ditches privatization for modernization of state liquor sales. The effort last year to get the state out of the booze business went flat… But with a budget deficit looming heavy on the minds of state lawmakers, there is a new push to shake things up. And a new proposal to modernize — not privatize — Pennsylvania’s state store system is likely to do just that.. . .The proposal, which would give the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board the ability to open more stores on Sundays and flexibility to set prices, contrasts greatly with previous legislation to sell the state stores to private business. Lancaster Newspapers

NY: From de Blasio, Gentler Words About Charter Schools. For weeks, Mr. de Blasio had been locked in a battle with advocates of charter schools, who were denouncing him around the clock in a $3.6 million advertising blitz. The results were beginning to show: His education agenda seemed rudderless, and his popularity in polls was slipping. So on Sunday, Mr. de Blasio struck a conciliatory tone, acknowledging missteps and emphasizing common ground. New York Times

LA: Plan would place toll road around Baton Rouge. . .”Hopefully it would get a lot of trucks from going through the middle of town because they will have a way to get around,” Foil said. However, the effort faces huge financial and political obstacles. The initial price tag is unclear. Estimates range from $700 million to $1 billion. The undertaking also hinges on finding a private firm willing to enter into a public-private partnership, build the road, then rely on tolls to repay the costs, plus a profit. Finding a private company to do the work may be a daunting task, especially because no such mega projects have been erected that way in Louisiana.  The Advocate


March 21, 2014


NY: Charter Schools in Wealthy Areas at Center of NYC Battle. At Success Academy Union Square, a charter school in Manhattan, parents dropping off kindergartners one frigid morning include a radiologist with a Louis Vuitton bag slung over one shoulder and a fashion designer married to an investment banker. . . New York state law requires charter schools — publicly funded but privately run — to improve student achievement, especially among those “at risk of academic failure.” Still, Success Academy, the nonprofit that is the city’s biggest charter chain, is opening schools in wealthier neighborhoods like Union Square, where the median household income was $103,198 in 2012, about twice the city median, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The evolution of Success Academy illustrates a growing debate nationwide over charters serving higher-income families. Bloomberg

GA: Push to privatize foster care, adoptions fails. A sweeping plan to privatize the state’s child welfare system failed to pass Thursday in the frenzied final hours of the legislative session amid infighting between the House and Senate over unrelated bills to legalize medical marijuana and mandate autism coverage for some children. Atlanta Journal Constitution ($)

MA: Mass. highway officials eye plan to install new toll lanes on the South Shore. . . This Route 3 HOT lane is among three potential public-private partnerships that state transportation officials are looking to advance this spring. There’s  the new Cape Cod Canal toll bridge under consideration, and there’s also a broad effort to find revenue-producing opportunities at some of the 133 state-owned properties adjacent to highways, such as rest areas, weigh stations and park-and-rides. Gov. Deval Patrick is keen on getting one of these public-private partnerships off the ground, and he is hopeful that at least one highway project will be on track before he wraps up his last year as governor in December. Boston Business Journal (blog)




March 20, 2014


CO: UCCS study says outsourcing city and state jobs is not a good move. . . The center’s researchers identified the social and economic impact of outsourcing public services, which they say, includes reduced accountability and transparency as control of key public decisions is removed from citizens and their elected officials. Quality also often suffers, the report says. “There is a wealth of evidence that outsourcing public jobs often diminishes quality without substantial cost reduction. Unfortunately, few states and cities have a serious oversight process to let citizens evaluate what is happening,” said Daphne Greenwood, professor, Department of Economics, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and center director.  Colorado Springs Gazette (blog)

CA: Private education overseer is failing public, state audit says. State regulators are failing to protect the public from potentially fraudulent and unqualified nonprofit and for-profit private educators, amassing a backlog of hundreds of licensing applications, inspections and complaints, according to an audit released Tuesday. The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has “consistently failed to meet its responsibility to protect the public’s interest” and “failed to appropriately respond to complaints against institutions, even when students’ safety was allegedly at risk,” state Auditor Elaine M. Howle wrote.  Los Angeles Times

CA: California Busts Red Light Camera Companies Over Wage Laws. The two largest providers of red light camera systems in the country have been caught flouting labor laws. The California Department of Industrial Relations has taken action against American Traffic Systems (ATS) of Arizona and Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia for failing to pay contractors prevailing wage rates, despite a contractual obligation to do so. ATS was caught violating the rules in South San Francisco in 2012. Six years earlier, the city signed a contract with ATS to install, operate and maintain the devices in return for keeping $5000 per month from the ticket revenue at each intersection approach.

MI: Michigan urged to reject $145M prison food contract over safety concerns. Two state employee unions and a Republican senator on Wednesday urged the Civil Service Commission to reject a $145-million prison food service contract with Aramark Correctional Services, saying the company’s performance since December is endangering prison safety. “These are things that are dangerous in a prison,” said Michigan Corrections Organization executive director Mel Grieshaber, after commissioners heard about Aramark workers exchanging love notes with prisoners and smuggling in prohibited cell phones. The Michigan Department of Corrections, which has already fined Aramark $98,000 for violating the three-year contract with frequent menu item substitutions and for hiring employees who get overly familiar with prisoners, acknowledged problems but said it plans to stay the course — at least for the time being.  Detroit Free Press

IN: Editorial: Lawmaker’s conflicts tarnish entire Indiana House. If it’s true that Rep. P. Eric Turner privately lobbied to kill a bill that would have hurt his son’s business, the Hamilton County Republican should be ashamed. But the shame should extend beyond the House speaker pro tem. The entire General Assembly – particularly its GOP super-majority – is tarnished by the clear appearance of backroom dealing and compromised ethics. The Associated Press reports that Turner lobbied to kill Senate Bill 173, a moratorium on new nursing home beds. Turner’s son is chairman and CEO of Mainstreet Property Group, a Carmel-based developer of upscale nursing homes. His daughter, Jessaca Turner Stults, lobbies for the company, which the legislator co-founded.  Fort Wayne Journal Gazette


March 19, 2014


Objection to USDA Plan Allowing Poultry Producer Self-Inspection Spreads to Congress. When the Obama administration unveiled a plan last year to privatize food inspections at poultry plants, a host of consumer and environmental organizations objected to the idea. Now, nearly 70 members of Congress have joined the opposition and called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to scrap the idea before it is implemented. AllGov

The Defunding of Public Education and the Creation of a Permanent Underclass. People have supported the voucher program, as it is named ‘school choice,’ and this discourse allows parents to feel empowered, through giving them a neoliberalized model of choice: have your child attend a failing public school or an unregulated charter school or a parochial private school. These are not in fact real ‘choices,’ since attending a successful public school is often no longer even a possibility for many students. I argue that the goal of NCLB is not to close the achievement gap, but instead is aimed at widening that gap and destroying public education at the same time. . .Will we no longer provide a guaranteed education to every citizen? This is why I argue that we are creating a permanent underclass with the defunding and destruction of public education. And once again, this permanent underclass is often composed of African American and Latino male youth. Since NCLB’s passing, schools have officially become more segregated than they were forty years ago. Huffington Post

FL: Florida moves toward school voucher expansion — but with no accountability. Florida’s legislators appear to be on their way to passing legislation that will greatly expand the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program — a voucher-like scheme that allows public money to be used for private school tuition. A Miami Herald editorial said the plan  will “please the few” but  undercut “the many,” while Frank Cerabino, a writer for The Palm Beach Post, went further, describing the legislation as an opening gambit in what “promises to be a banner year for the dismantling of public education in Florida.”  Washington Post (blog)

IL: Aldermen create independent budget office, then let it languish. Three months ago, Chicago aldermen created a $485,000-a-year independent budget office to provide them with expert advice on mayoral spending, programs and privatization. Sponsors hailed the move as a step toward making the City Council the separate and co-equal branch of government it’s supposed to be. Three months later, nothing has happened. Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), chief sponsor of the new office backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, acknowledged that he’s frustrated by the delay and chomping at the bit to get started. Chicago Sun-Times

LA: Former DHH leader heading to LSU health care job. A long-time state health department official who helped arrange Gov. Bobby Jindal’s privatization of LSU’s public hospitals is heading to work for the LSU System. Jerry Phillips retired this month as undersecretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, after 25 years with the agency. He’ll start working for the LSU Health Care Services Division on March 24, according to LSU System spokesman Jason Droddy. The Jindal administration has struck privatization deals for nine of LSU’s 10 hospitals that cared for the poor and trained medical students. Phillips worked on the financial pieces of those deals.   WHLT22

GA: House approves plan to test privatization of adoption, foster care. A bill calling for a two-year pilot program to test the privatization of child welfare services passed the House on Tuesday. . . The bill was altered significantly from the original version approved by the Senate, which called for the statewide privatization of child welfare services by 2017. Senate leaders are unhappy with the changes and still hope to get privatization passed this session. Atlanta Journal Constitution

GA: Final passage for bill extending college tax exemption to private developers. The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would extend a property tax exemption to private companies when they take over operations of University System of Georgia dorms and parking areas. The tax exemption is a key part of the University System’s privatization plan that could help wipe almost $4 billion in debt off its books. Under the plan, the system would retain ownership of the buildings and land, but the selected companies would operate and maintain the facilities according to leases that could run as long as 65 years. Atlanta Journal Constitution

IN: Airport privatization deal slammed by critics. Indiana University Northwest Professor Emerita Ruth Needleman said while the airport deal reserves 20 percent of contracts for disadvantaged and minority-owned firms, it does not mean those firms have to put disadvantaged workers on the job. “It means all the money will fly out of here, just like it did with the baseball stadium,” Needleman said in reference to building the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary. The Rev. Dwight Gardner, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations, took aim at the $166 million Gary airport expansion as the prime example of an RDA-funded project that employs few from the local community.


March 17, 2014


Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science. As government financing of basic research has fallen off precipitously, philanthropists have stepped in, setting personal priorities and raising questions about science research for the public good.  New York Times

Federal Privatization and the Expensive Philosophy of the Circular A-76 Process. It might be thought that, if any work in America is inherently governmental and requires such tight governmental control that it cannot be privatized, it must be the military. However, history shows otherwise. From the British use of Hessian soldiers during the American Revolutionary War up to today’s use of defense contract workers, there is a long tradition of using private contractors in the military. For example, in recent years, military housing has been privatized, with not particularly good results. The second Iraq War was awash with contractors, who were paid billions of dollars and were part of a system of cronyism and corruption.  Truth-Out

VA: Virginia transportation secretary suspends work on toll road from Suffolk to Petersburg. The road was a priority of former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration. But when Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office earlier this year, his administration began reviewing how the project should proceed because of well-known issues involving streams and wetlands along the route that could prevent it from securing permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said the suspension of contract and permit work is needed so the Virginia Department of Transportation can be sure it will get the necessary approvals before moving forward with the highway. Daily Journal

NY: Why NYC mayor is getting unfairly bashed over charter schools. The level of discourse over New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision not to allow several charter schools to co-locate in the buildings of traditional public schools has reached a hysterical pitch. Washington Post (blog)           

VT: Vermont Senate votes for ban on privatizing schools. The Vermont Senate has voted in favor of a two-year-old ban on privatizing public schools. The move comes as the town of Westford considers the possibility of turning its public elementary school into a private one. The Senate voted 19-0 on Friday to ban public schools from ceasing operation so they can become independent until the ban ends on July 1, 2016, according to published reports. The bill also requests a study of the constitutional and legal consequences of such changes. The report from the education secretary is due in January 2015. Brattleboro Reformer

IN: Commentary: Public-private partnerships, profit and public service. Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, says outsourcing management of the Indiana Toll Road has been a huge mistake. Bauer, the former speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, says the money Indiana collected for leasing the toll road to a private consortium for 75 years now is gone with more than 65 years remaining on the lease. . . .He says that the problem with outsourcing is that it introduces a new factor into the public service equation. He says that people pay taxes so that government can afford to provide certain services and that the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay anything more than what those services cost. He says that outsourcing brings in companies and people who want to make a profit from serving taxpayers and that breaks down systems of accountability and opens the door to corruption.  The Statehouse File


March 14, 2014


Tackling Student Debt and the Privatization of Education. Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) kicked off a new campaign called “Higher Ed, Not Debt” to tackle the nation’s staggering burden of student loan debt. The campaign will be fought by a broad coalition of unions and progressive groups including the Working Families Party, Progress Now and Jobs for Justice and a couple of think tanks, the Center for American Progress and Demos. The campaign has broad goals, including highlighting the role Wall Street has played in financializing student debt products. But Nelini Stamp, youth outreach director for Working Families, tells that it is part of a larger battle over education in America from pre-kindergarten up.  Bill Moyers

Public-Private Partnerships From Hell….[L]obbying efforts by the private prison industry seem to have been diverted recently. An analysis from the Associated Press last year found that the three major private prison corporations spent roughly $45 million over the past decade to influence state and federal government. CCA has its own PAC and a lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Geo Group exerts influence through donations to candidates’ PACs. Recently Senator Mark Rubio argued that “we need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.” Rubio received at $33,000 from the private prison industry. CounterPunch

The link between charter school expansion and increasing segregation. One thing that proponents of the broad expansion of charter schools never talk about is the evidence of how charters are leading to increasing segregation by race, ethnicity and income. Washington Post (blog)

NJ: Christie’s charter school nightmare: “White flight, and they’re bankrupting us”. As charters in the city have exploded in number and size, “they’re fostering white flight, and they’re bankrupting us,” the city’s school board head charged in a Wednesday interview. “We are creating separate but equal school systems,” warned Hoboken Board of Education president Leon Gold. (As Salon has reported, Christie-style ed reform has also sparked controversy in Newark.) Salon

NY: Gov. Cuomo Says Protecting Charter Schools Will Be Major Part Of Budget. Gov. Cuomo says the fight to protect charter schools will be one of he biggest issues in the upcoming state budget negotiations. In a slight jab at Mayor de Blasio, Cuomo said the charter school issue will trump the fight over prekindergarten expansion–declaring that latter battle over. New York Daily News

VT: Moratorium on school privatization goes to final Senate vote. S.91 aims to temporarily prevent municipalities from closing a public school only to reopen an independent school in the same physical property. The legislation, which now heads to a final Senate vote and potentially to the House, also would create a committee to study the constitutionality of such transitions. To date, two Vermont schools have transformed from public to private: Winhall in 1998 and North Bennington in 2013. Westford is now considering the same. Sen Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, said that looks like a trend, and it’s got the Senate Education committee worried.

OR: Conservationists Say They’ll Sue Over Privatization Of State Forest. The state of Oregon is in the process of selling almost 3,000 acres of public land in the Elliott State Forest. Conservation groups are afraid that timber companies will buy the land and log it. Much of the forest is home to the Marbled murrelet, a seabird that’s listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. “Our effort is to put the timber industry on notice and let them know that we are going to prosecute them for violation of the Endangered Species Act if they plan to clearcut these stands of marbled murrelet habitat,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. It’s one of three groups that has filed notice of intent to sue.  Jefferson Public Radio

GA: Documents Show Privatized Bus System Costs More Than City Operation. Augusta Commissioners privatized the bus system three years ago, with the promise it would save $400,000 a year. The city changed private companies in July, hiring McDonald Transit, but some Commissioners feel it’s the wrong route to take.  “We can’t afford to expand with it outsourced, because it costs too much money. So, what we need to do is bring it back in-house,” says Commissioner Bill Lockett. And, figures from the Augusta Finance Department seem to indicate that. Comparing the last six months the city ran the bus system, in 2011, to the last six months under the current company, the private company’s operation was about $500,000 more expensive than the city’s operation. “Is it more expensive to have the private contractor in there?” we asked. “Most certainly, it is more expensive plus it limits what you can do,” says Lockett.  WJBF-TV

OK: State Senate passes bill to privatize Medicaid. The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would privatize Medicaid in a pilot project at a yet-to-be-determined location in the state. . . Managed care for Medicaid was tried in the 1990s and failed miserably, said Wes Glinsmann, Oklahoma State Medical Association spokesman. “This isn’t about managed care,” he said. “It is about privatization. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is already one of the most efficient agencies in state government. Their administrative overhead is far less than what you would find with most private insurers and so for there to be any cost saving, it is going to be borne on the back of providers.”  Tulsa World

FL: Sierra Club latest to oppose toll road idea in south Pasco. Add another name to the list of opponents to the proposed toll road in south Pasco County: the Sierra Club Tampa Bay Group. The environmental organization’s Tampa chapter came out against the planned elevated highway that would span most of south Pasco, saying it would bring more sprawl and traffic. It urged policies promoting mass transit and blamed current traffic headaches on inadequate planning.