April 30, 2014


The Koch Efforts To Privatize Schools Dealt a Blow By Record High School Graduation Rate. . . According to a new report, for the first time in American history the national high school graduation rate surpassed 80% in 2012 and is projected to reach 90% by 2020. For the record, it is statistically impossible for a 100% rate due to a wealth of factors far out of the control of schools, teachers, students, and even parents. Republicans, privatization advocates, religious extremists, ALEC, and anti-union fascists contend that America’s public schools are failures on the decline and regularly propose “school choice” legislation, voucher scams, unregulated and failing charter schools, and private religious are necessary to stop the nation’s education system from continuing its downhill trajectory. The news that universal, and free, public education is not failing, and in fact improving, is certain to ire conservatives who will likely portray the news as proof that giving for-profit substandard corporate and religious education crusaders taxpayer dollars will guarantee a 100% graduation rate. PoliticusUSA           

This land is our land – until it’s privatized. . . This particular campground host works for a Phoenix-based corporation called Recreation Resource Management. Though the company’s vehicles and uniforms resemble those of the federal agency, these employees are not the noble forest rangers of days gone by, nor do they own the land they manage. American taxpayers have provided the infrastructure, including the recently completed, six-year renovation at Rose Canyon. In exchange for running the site, the concessionaire collects the profits. But national forest concessionaires don’t honor federal agency passes or follow the same rules that govern the Forest Service when it comes to fees. I notice that the fee booth on Mount Lemmon is closed. That is because the law does not allow the Forest Service to charge visitors for simple access — for parking and walking through the national forest. But when RRM opens the campground at Rose Canyon, all visitors will have to pay $10 just to park and walk around the lake. In fact, even if you park along the highway, as I did, RRM will charge you for walking through “their” campground, built with your tax dollars. It seems shocking to say it, but this privatization of what were once public resources was recently upheld by the Washington, D.C., District Court, in a lawsuit in which I was one of six plaintiffs. We challenged the Coronado and four other national forests’ use of concessionaires to evade laws that restrict what fees the agency itself can charge. We lost.  High Country News

California House delegation urges Postal Service to nix Staples deal. A California House delegation led by Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) is calling on Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe to reject a recent pilot program with Staples to operate retail mail counters at 82 U.S. stores.  The pilot program, announced in November, allows for Staples employees to process basic mail services. Of the 82 pilot locations, 32 are in California. . . .Lowenthal echoed criticism by union officials and warned that the partnership “is a clear and unmistakable attempt at union-busting, as well as the privatization of critical public services,” he wrote in a letter to Donahoe.  Los Angeles Times

NJ: Turnpike plan to privatize NJ toll collectors panned by Assembly leader. A vote on a plan to privatize toll collector jobs on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway has been postponed until October. The chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee says the savings, averaging about $1.50 a year for frequent drivers, is not worth it to “discard” loyal employees. The Star-Ledger

IL: Ousted Red-Light Camera Vendor Rakes In Windfall In Chicago. Even as Redflex Traffic Systems’ scandal-plagued eleven-year tenure operating the nation’s largest red-light camera system was ending, it was a particularly lucrative year for the company. The last Redflex cameras (at the intersection of Grand, Kostner and North) were turned off in February, but in the year before that, the company raked in $24 million, city records show, making this the second most profitable year in the company’s Chicago history.  TheNewspaper.com




April 29, 2014


For-Profit Colleges Spend Big On Lobbyists to Fight Obama Regulation. With the May 27 deadline approaching to submit comments to the U.S. Department of Education, big for-profit colleges are pulling out all the stops to gut the Obama Administration’s proposed “gainful employment” rule, which is aimed at curbing predatory career training programs.  Taking some of the $33 billion a year they’ve been getting from taxpayers, the industry is spending big on lobbyists, with a continued heavy emphasis on hiring former Members of Congress and ex-Capitol Hill staffers. Republic Report

NJ: Months after Christie veto, bill restricting privatization passes Senate committee again. A bill that would regulate New Jersey’s attempts to privatize government functions advanced out of a Senate committee Monday, less than a year after a similar version met Governor Christie’s veto pen. The legislation would forbid the state from outsourcing a government function to a private company — a practice often touted by Christie as an efficient way to save taxpayers money — if the cost savings would come from increasing fees, cutting services or reducing wages. NorthJersey.com

PA: So how many plans to privatize Pennsylvania liquor sales are out there? The Pennsylvania Senate is expected to take up liquor privatization this week. It remains to be seen if the plan that’s been circulated among Senate leadership is popular enough to overcome the deadlock that have stalled others. PennsNews

TX: Boom Time in Texas: Jobs, Traffic, Water Worries. . .Mr. Nichols, a former commissioner of the Texas Department of Transportation, says lawmakers have favored alternatives such as striking partnerships with private developers to build toll roads, which eases congestion in a way that is “off the books of books of the state.” Wall Street Journal

April 28, 2014


A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools. . . In effect, Walton has subsidized an entire charter school system in the nation’s capital, helping to fuel enrollment growth so that close to half of all public school students in the city now attend charters, which receive taxpayer dollars but are privately operated. Walton’s investments here are a microcosm of its spending across the country. New York Times

Introducing the New Federal Program That Will Further Privatize Public Housing. Olufemi Lewis was a child in Charlotte, NC, when HOPE VI came through town. HOPE VI was a federal initiative that issued grants to tear down physically distressed public housing. The buildings that were eventually rebuilt were in better shape, but most of their original residents were gone, including many of Lewis’ friends and relatives. Across the country, only 33 percent of the housing demolished with HOPE VI was replaced. . .  .HOPE VI started in 1993 because there wasn’t enough money to keep up public housing in the traditional way. There still isn’t. . . .The Rental Assistance Demonstration program, known as RAD, will restructure the way public housing is funded in an attempt to leverage private money to maintain it.  democraticunderground.com

US postal workers protest step toward ‘privatization’. Postal workers across the United States on Thursday protested a partnership between the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and office supply chain Staples – a program that would allow nonunion retail employees to help handle mail and packages at Staples stores. Al Jazeera America

CA: LA Metro adds monthly fee for toll road drivers. In a push to make toll lanes permanent fixtures on two of Los Angeles County’s most congested freeways, local transportation officials approved a $1 monthly fee Thursday that will apply to all drivers with electronic tolling accounts, even carpoolers and infrequent users. . . . several public speakers said they were concerned that a fee for every driver, including carpoolers using the toll lanes, would discourage people from signing up for accounts. During the months when Metro waived the account maintenance fees, sign-ups for the tolling devices increased, the agency has said. Metro owes the project’s contractor $3 a month in maintenance fees for every tolling device put into service. “There are people who just want to go to the airport once or twice a month,” Molina said. “But for every transponder out there, whether it’s used one time or 55 times, that cost is still $3.” That totals about $9.1 million a year in fees. Los Angeles Times

NY: New York City Agrees on Charter-School Pact With Success Academy. New York City officials said on Saturday that they agreed with Eva Moskowitz, head of education provider Success Academy, over new space for three charter schools that lost homes two months ago when Mayor Bill de Blasio revoked plans for them. . . .The charter network said the sites will serve about 500 elementary school children beginning in the fall, with most coming from low-income, minority families. Representatives for the city and the charters were negotiating details late into Friday night for the schools, part of a high-performing network run by Ms. Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman who has often sparred with the mayor. A representative for the charter network said it has dropped its legal challenge, and city officials said they were working on final lease details.  Wall Street Journal

MI: Detroit employees skip work ahead of privatization of garbage collection. The upcoming privatization of garbage collection in Detroit has some city employees skipping work, leaving trash pickup services behind schedule, officials said Saturday. The city’s Department of Public Works Director Ron Brundidge issued a statement saying trash collection is about two days behind schedule, in part because of extra bulk trash and yard waste that normally comes this time of year. There’s also been a slowdown due to some workers staying home, he said.  MLive.com

FL: Orlando toll-road scandal was predictable, preventable. On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott saw his appointee to Orlando’s toll-road agency get indicted and booked at the jail.mIt was a pathetic scene — and yet another stain on this mess of an agency that sucks up commuters’ toll money and yet seems incapable of cleaning up its act.  Orlando Sentinel

ID: Guest Opinion: Idaho’s CCA prison debacle shows need for serious reform. When elected leaders hire a private corporation to manage an essential government function, they do not make government smaller. Privatizing a public service merely reduces control, oversight and accountability. Idaho’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to manage the Idaho state prison is a glaring example of privatization gone badly wrong.  The Idaho Statesman

April 25, 2014


Meet The Companies That Just Promised To Pull 60 Million Dollars From Private Prisons. Three investment groups announced this week that they will divest from the two major private prison corporations that constitute a massive share of America’s prison-industrial complex. . .The decision to divest comes on the heels of pressure from Color Of Change, a racial and economic justice advocacy group that ran a campaign asking a total 150 companies to stop investing in the private prison industry. “In accordance with the principles of the UN Global Compact, with respect to the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights, the pension fund has divested from the for-profit prison industry,” DSM President Hugh Welsh said in a Color of Change statement. “Investment in private prisons and support for the industry is financially unsound, and divestment was the right thing to do for our clients, shareholders, and the country as a whole. DSM is committed to good corporate citizenship and operating in a way that contributes to a better world.” ThinkProgress

Unions protest Postal Service deal with Staples. Postal workers demonstrated at Staples stores nationwide Thursday to protest a recent U.S. Postal Service deal that allows the office-supply chain to operate USPS retail counters at some of its locations as part of a pilot program. The financially struggling Postal Service said its agreement is part of a plan to increase convenience and boost business through new partnerships. The agency also has contracted with Amazon to provide package deliveries on Sundays for the online retailer.  Washington Post

Separate and unequal: The charter school pedestal the public can’t reach. . . . As the broader debate over charter schools whips across the country, the epicenter is in Harlem, home base for the Harlem Success Academies, the city’s most successful and well-funded charter school network. Despite their relative success in offering a quality education to a small number of students from some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, the network’s sharp elbows and aggressive expansion has created a toxic dynamic as traditional public schools languish. Critics say that charter schools—publicly funded but run by private organizations—are being used as a means to privatize public education at the expense of the vast majority of students. They say the charter movement is a Trojan-horse riding under the guise of school choice, used as an instrument to break teachers unions. Exacerbating matters in New York City is a complicated dance called co-location, in which traditional public schools and charters co-exist under a single roof. The policy has become a lightning rod issue that has vexed the young administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio.  MSNBC

WI: Legislators order audit of privatized medical ride program. . . . The groups urged the committee to request an audit that addressed more fundamental questions about privatization through a broker. Under the privatized program — which took effect with LogistiCare as the first broker in 2011 — a company contracted by the government dispatches rides to Medicaid-covered services for poor and elderly residents who have no other way to get to their appointments. The company is paid a fixed amount per eligible member, not for the number of rides provided. Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said Thursday that when a company gets paid regardless of whether it provides services, it creates a “perverse incentive” to provide as few rides as possible as cheaply as possible because the company makes more money that way. Other critics said patients get worse or unreliable service, and established transportation companies lose business because they can’t or won’t compete with newcomers who underbid them. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WI: Scathing Report Finds School Privatization Hurts Poor Kids. . . .Lafer’s report, “Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” released today by the Economic Policy Institute, documents the effects of both for-profit and non-profit charter schools that are taking over struggling public schools in Milwaukee. “I hope people connect the dots,” Lafer said by phone from the Milwaukee airport. Lafer’s research, commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute to evaluate the school-privatization push in Milwaukee, is a sweeping indictment of the growing private charter school industry and other schemes backed by rightwing groups and big business that siphon public funds out of public schools and enrich corporate investors at the expense of quality education for poor children. Milwaukee is ground zero for school privatization, having pioneered the use of publicly funded private school vouchers in 1990.  . . . A popular chain of charter schools called Rocketship, which originated in California and has spread to Wisconsin, with the enthusiastic support of state legislators and the local chamber of commerce in Milwaukee, is “a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day,” Lafer writes. In These Times

IL: Despite Community Pleas, Three Chicago Schools Slated for Privatization. The Chicago Board of Education’s vote on Wednesday to convert three public elementary schools into “turnaround schools” run by the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) was no surprise to most parents and teachers. The board has consistently voted to close schools or turn them over to private management—laying off most of the staff in the process—despite overwhelming opposition, anxiety and outrage expressed in heartfelt testimony by parents, teachers, students and elected officials at scores of public meetings.  In These Times

FL: Measure Would Set Long-Term Transportation Plans. Florida House members on Thursday unanimously passed a vision of the state’s transportation future that calls for more toll roads. It would encourage more ellphone towers on state property to raise money to build roads in these days of declining gas-tax revenue. It also would allow businesses to put up signs on state nature and recreational trails to help pay for their maintenance. . . . But that’s not all HB 7175 would do. It also dissolves the state’s rail commission created in 2009 and rendered moot by Gov. Scott’s refusal of billions in federal dollars that would have built a high-speed link between Tampa and Orlando. . . . The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, puts a heavy emphasis on private money. It authorizes the DOT to help pay for future road projects by using money from leases with wireless companies that want towers near state roads. The bill allows ”commercial sponsorship displays” on state trails. The money raised from the agreements between the DOT and private businesses would pay for trail maintenance, something that gas taxes have helped finance. A similar trailside sign measure failed two years ago because of concerns that it would clutter the landscape. The Ledger



April 24, 2014


Union chief cries foul on poultry inspection privatization. A plan to privatize poultry inspection would increase the chances of contaminated meat entering the food supply, according to the head of the American Federation of Government Employees. The plan would allow companies to privatize the inspection process and would speed up processing lines by 25 percent, while remaining Agriculture Department employees would be responsible for inspecting 175 birds a minute, according to union president J. David Cox in a blog post on the Huffington Post. “Let’s be clear: This is a filthy rule that will lead to filthy chicken on your dinner plate,” he wrote. Federal Times

New Net Neutrality Proposals Worry Campaigners. Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) chairman Tom Wheeler will today present his proposals for net neutrality – which reportedly include the provision that content firms should in some cases be allowed to pay for faster access to customers’ homes. . . . The proposals would be good news for large companies such as Netflix or Google – and for broadband providers, which would be able to raise extra revenues from prime customers. But start-ups could have great difficulty getting their services off the ground. This has been a concern for the Obama administration, which in February issued a statement warning that: “Absent net neutrality, the internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries.”  Forbes

VA: Va. toll road could cost $500m, not be built. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s aggressive push to build a toll road parallel to U.S. 460 from Suffolk to Petersburg may wind up costing taxpayers between $400 million to $500 million — with no road to show for it. . . .“Taxpayers have been shaken down on this thing,” said Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William. The state and private bondholders have already spent about $282 million on the project, with no construction having yet started. . . . Gov. Terry McAuliffe stopped work on the project in March rather than continue to pay private contractor U.S. 460 Mobility Partners while the state considers alternate routes or improvements to the existing road that would have less of an impact on the area’s wetlands. U.S. 460 Mobility Partners is a joint venture between Ferrovial Agromán of Spain and American Infrastructure, whose corporate headquarters is in Pennsylvania. The project was initially intended to be a public-private partnership with substantial private investment with corresponding assumption of risk, Layne said. When the state sought offers in 2006, private companies said the road would need a large public subsidy. An independent review board came to a similar conclusion in 2010.  Washington Post

TX: The Long, Slow Death of the Trinity Toll Road. . . Let’s say that the Army Corps of Engineers gives us the green light to build the road. That decision would come in December. Before anything with the road can happen, though, the Corps says we have to move the river (in part because restoring its natural meander was the plan all along). The city’s portion of that work will cost $185 million, and the project would take nine years to complete. Our next bond vote will come in 2017. Don’t forget that the bond vote will have to address $900 million worth of needed street repairs. Let’s just say we tack on the $185 million for river meandering (a $1.085 billion bond!), and it passes. That means the river project can theoretically begin in 2017. Nine years later, construction of the toll road could begin — if a broke TxDOT can find a private partner willing to pay for it. D Magazine

NY: Report says charter schools draining enrollment from Catholic, public schools. Charter schools in the five boroughs are draining students from both the Catholic schools and district public schools, according to a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. Over the last decade, the number of students attending Catholic schools has plummeted by 35 percent, from about 135,000 in 2002-2003, to just over 87,000 last year, according to the report. Meanwhile, during that same period, enrollment at district public schools dropped from more than a million students to just over 950,000. At the same time, the number of students attending charter schools jumped to nearly 59,000 last year, up from less than 2,500 a decade ago.  siLive.com

FL: Toll-road board members to appear before grand jury Thursday. . . State Attorney Jeff Ashton started his probe in September, saying he was looking into claims that Batterson, Pena and Downs privately talked about ousting former director Max Crumit from the job he held for two years. Authority business can be discussed only in public meetings. . .  But Ashton’s investigators also have been attending authority meetings where land purchases are discussed, including property owned by Project Orlando LLC, a company headed by Maitland attorney Jim Palmer. Project Orlando intends to build a billion-dollar development called Kelly Park Crossings by the sole interchange within 15 miles of the Wekiva Parkway, a $1.66 billion toll road being built by the authority and the state. IBI Group of Maitland, which employs Batterson, worked on Kelly Park Crossings until June 2011. Emails obtained by Ashton and reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel show Batterson was introducing potential investors to Palmer as recently as June. Orlando Sentinel

April 23, 2014


The Privatization Backlash. . .In states and cities across the country, lawmakers are expressing new skepticism about privatization, imposing new conditions on government contracting, and demanding more oversight. Laws to rein in contractors have been introduced in 18 states this year, and three—Maryland, Oregon, and Nebraska—have passed legislation, according to In the Public Interest, a group that advocates what it calls “responsible contracting.” . . . From Halliburton to Healthcare.gov to private prisons and welfare systems, contracting has often proved problematic. Perhaps mindful of these high-profile debacles, lawmakers are now more likely to view privatization and contracting proposals with skepticism. “The ideological fervor for privatization has ebbed,” according to John D. Donahue, an expert on privatization at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The Atlantic

The Privatization of Our Public Colleges (in Two Charts). State cuts to higher education spending aren’t the only reason public colleges are getting more expensive. But they are, without a doubt, one of the most important reasons. Slate Magazine (blog)

CO: Lawmakers ask for state audit of US 36 privatization deal. The controversial deal to privatize U.S. Highway 36, giving a consortium of private companies paying for repairs to the Boulder Turnpike control of the road for the next 50 years, is done.But the concerns from residents along the transportation corridor still haven’t been satisfied — and that’s why a group of state lawmakers from the area are calling for a state audit of the deal itself. . . Although the public-private partnership was worked out over a the last two years with input from the state and from mayors and officials in cities along the highway, the public didn’t get wind of the implications — mainly, the length of the deal ceding control of the road to private companies — until the final stages of the project. The letter requests that the audit examines how and when public input was sought and whether all financial details of the deal were disclosed. kdvr.com

PA: District wants Philadelphia charter school shut down. The School District of Philadelphia is recommending to the School Reform Commission the suspension and charter revocation of a school due to “significant academic underperformance and financial issues.” The recommendation, which takes aim at the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, is based on findings over the course of six years, accusing the school of continual violations of its charter and charter school law and policy. In addition, the district alleges it was fraudulently billed $770,000 in the 2012-2013 academic year for students not enrolled at the school.  6ABC.com


April 22, 2014


OH: Ohio lawmaker wants private prison vendor canned. An Ohio state lawmaker says the state prisons department should terminate its contract with a private food service operator after fining the company last week for repeatedly failing to meet promised staffing levels. Democratic state Rep. Matt Lundy said Monday that deficiencies identified in Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services’ performance reaffirm his and other opponents’ concerns about privatization. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction fined Aramark $142,100 Friday. The private food vendor took over feeding Ohio’s 50,000 prisoners from state employees in September. The contract goes to June 30, 2015. The ACLU says the fine should trigger a reevaluation of the deal.  10TV

TX: Corps: Trinity River needs to be moved to make way for toll road, which is likely to end up in litigation. . . It’s only when you get deep into the doc — on Page 87 out of 134 — that you realize the Trinity needs to be moved, at least in some spots, to make way for the toll road, which isn’t yet approved or funded. . .  Then there’s the fascinating chart found on Page 3-34 of the feasibility study — the table that shows what Dallas would get if it ditches the toll road. Because even the Corps recognizes: “There is a possibility that it may never be constructed.” And if that’s the case — if the NTTA does its own study and passes on spending $1.5 billion (give or take) to build the road and no one else wants to pick up the option — the Corps says “certain BVP features would be different.” How different? Well, we’d get more trails, fields and raised vegetation, for starters. But not necessarily more meadows, because: “To serve major events and gatherings, an additional 6,200 overflow parking spaces are proposed in separate meadow areas, the majority near the potential West Dallas Amphitheater.” So … We know what’s holding up the toll road. There’s no money to build it. But the feasibility study’s Appendix I also ID’s a few potential hold-up further down the toll road, including “Threat of Lawsuits/Political Opposition,” which a chart says would have a “critical” impact on the cost, and poses a “high” risk to the time line.  Dallas Morning News

OR: Suit Filed Challenging Sale of Elliott State Forest Land. . . “The Elliott State Forest is critically important to the survival of the marbled murrelet, coho salmon and hundreds of other species. It holds great promise for storing carbon to help insulate both people and wildlife from the devastation of climate change,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s not in the best interest of Oregonians or the planet to sell the Elliott to the highest bidder to be converted to an industrial tree farm. There’s a path forward for the state to protect important habitat and generate revenue for schools in Oregon.” The East Hakki Ridge parcel is one of five forested tracts the Department of State Lands has authorized for privatization. Combined, the parcels consist of approximately 2,700 acres of public land on the west side of the Elliott State Forest. One of the parcels being considered for disposal this fall contains the highest production of Endangered Species Act-listed coho salmon in the Oregon Coast Range, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and also is home to threatened marbled murrelets, according to survey data. And the state of Oregon has just revealed that it will soon be analyzing the possibility of selling off the entire Elliott State Forest.  eNews Park Forest

NC: School vouchers: helping students or hurting schools?. . . But whatever public and private schools have in common has increasingly been overshadowed by a divide created when North Carolina legislators approved using public money to help some low-income families afford private schools. Funding passed in the state General Assembly last year would provide as many as 2,400 public school students with up to $4,200 to go toward private school tuition, an effort that would cost about $10 million. Children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches would be eligible. Jeffries calls them opportunity scholarships. For many in public education, they are vouchers.  Asheville Citizen-Times

Privatization or Bust: The Big Reveal In Ryan’s Latest Medicare Plan. Earlier this month, Loren Adler—a policy analyst at the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget—noticed a highly technical, but pivotal change to Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare. It’s gotten little press, but it’s pretty big news that Ryan has shifted to premium support based on avg bid with no cap. . . . From my vantage point, though, the most interesting thing about the change is the way it reveals an ordering of the GOP’s priorities vis a vis federal programs in general. . . . What he hasn’t, and won’t ever give up on, no matter what experts ultimately conclude, is partial privatization. When push comes to shove, breaking government monopolies (and age-restricting eligibility) are the only things that really interest the GOP with respect to reforming entitlements.  The New Republic

April 21, 2014


Private money fuels public projects. Short on funding but big on need, U.S. states and cities are increasingly turning to such deals, known as public-private partnerships, or P3s, hoping to leverage assets that can bring a quick infusion of private dollars to rebuild crumbling infrastructure. The projects include everything from a light rail system in suburban Washington, D.C., to the replacement of hundreds of bridges in Pennsylvania. The last 12 to 15 months have seen more deals and more opportunities to invest in the sector, said Jim Barry, head of BlackRock’s infrastructure investment group. U.S. insurance companies and public pensions are all eager to invest. “After let’s call it a decade of promise, I think we are actually beginning to see that movement,” he said. “Over the next five years, you could have a lot of deals flow.” Allentown Morning Call

A defense of public education against ‘the wolves of Wall Street’. I am disturbed when high-flying charter schools, such as Harlem Success Academy, brag about their student standardized test scores, not because I begrudge them but because they seem blithely unaware of selection bias. Just the very fact that a parent takes the initiative to apply to one of these schools makes a huge difference. In addition, both students and their parents have to sign contracts and agree to longer hours and high performance standards. If students do not live up to these standards, they are no longer able to attend. A fair comparison between test scores of high-profile charter students and regular public school children must include only the public school students who attend regularly, do their homework, and, along with their parents, are committed to school. Or compare them to magnet schools, which is what they essentially are.  Washington Post Blog

WI: County mental health nurses worry about privatization under new law. Mental health reform legislation would permit a new state board to privatize any or all of the work now done by more than 600 county mental health staffers, the author of the legislation says. A new Milwaukee County Mental Health Board to be named by Gov. Scott Walker by June has the authority to outsource whatever work it chooses under the legislation, said state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis). . . . “This is a wholesale attack on county workers,” said Supervisor John Weishan Jr. He said it means eventually County Executive Chris Abele will have the power to unilaterally “privatize the jobs of…employees, (who will have) no recourse whatsoever.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WI: Privatization Ploy. Not that we need a study to tell us that voucher schools do not perform as well as public schools, we have the test scores to prove it.   Professor Gordon Lafer gave us one anyway: A new report reveals that legislative moves to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into private charters─whether for-profit or non-profit─may actually damage the academic futures of far too many of the city’s children. . . . The report is an eye-opening investigation into the rapidly growing private charter industry and the effects profit motivated schools can have on the depth and quality of education children receive. Voucher and for profit schools perpetually get outperformed by public schools, and yet almost like clockwork, the tea party shows up to argue the wrong side of the issue(facts be dammed)! Cognitive Dissidence

CO: Matt Jones introduces road bills in response to US 36 controversy. The bills, spearheaded by state Sen. Matt Jones, a Louisville Democrat, are largely in response to the controversial public-private partnership deal reached earlier this year between Plenary Roads Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation. Under the contract, Plenary will finance the work on U.S. 36, including contributing its equity to the project, and will be repaid over a 50-year period through toll-lane revenue. But many howled in protest over the Plenary deal, saying it was done secretly with little public input. Jones’ bill — Senate Bill 197 — would add new requirements to any future public-private partnerships. They include: public and legislative check-ins at critical points, including town hall meetings; any agreement more than 35 years must be approved by the legislature; and legislative approval of any compensation due to the private company that’s not directly related to the road lanes.   The Denver Post

CA: Federal report’s findings may help save Berkeley’s historic post office. The report, put together by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, suggests that USPS halt the sales of historic postal facilities until it complies with all 15 of the report’s recommendations, which are intended to remedy the problems illuminated by the report’s findings. . . . “This is one more step forward in a growing national moment to save our post offices and stop the sale and privatization of a valuable national resource that benefits everyone,” said California State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, in a press release regarding the report. Daily Californian

NY: On the public landscape, LIPA lives – if in lesser ways. The Long Island Power Authority has yet to vanish. True, its role is sharply diminished by a new state law enacted last year. Yes, it has officially become subordinate in key ways to PSEG Long Island, now the Island’s electricity operator, as part of what policymakers call a “hybrid” privatization. . . . On Friday, Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said the overhaul worked out with the State Legislature in the subsequent months is suitably described as privatization, under a “hybrid” model, even if the system is not fully private like Con Edison.  Newsday

SC: Columbia officials weigh privatizing city parking garages. Columbia city government is looking into privatizing its 10 parking garages and the two the city is contracted to build for the Bull Street neighborhood. . . Columbia’s 10 garages have been revenue producers for the city during the past three fiscal years, according to figures supplied by its Parking Services Department. The net revenue after expenses totals $1.3 million for 2011-2013, the figures show. But the city’s certified annual reports for those three years disagree with those figures.  The State

April 18, 2014


States Crack Down on For-Profit Colleges, Student Loan Industry. . .Thirty-two states are now working together under the leadership of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to investigate potential abuses in the for-profit college industry, which saw enrollment more than triple between 1998 and 2008, according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. One reason for the concern is the amount of taxpayer dollars involved: Some for-profit colleges receive 90 percent or more of their revenue from the federal and/or state governments in the form of student aid. “While some for-profit schools offer quality training and legitimate diplomas, we have found that this industry often markets subpar programs to veterans and low-income students who depend on federal aid,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “When students don’t receive the training they sign up for, or default on their loans, it not only greatly impacts their future but it also impacts taxpayers who have backed these loans in the first place.”  Stateline

IL: Environmental groups file suit to stop $1.3B Illiana toll road proposal. Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit today to block the proposed $1.3 billion Illiana toll road that would serve primarily as a trucking corridor linking interstates in Illinois and Indiana. The lawsuit challenges the Illinois Department of Transportation’s authority to build the toll road running through Will County, saying the Illiana’s approval violated state law.  The Illiana would be state’s first major public-private partnership, in which private investors would build and operate the highway.  Chicago Tribune

GA: Regents seeking bids to privatize student housing. The University System of Georgia is moving ahead with a student housing privatization initiative the General Assembly approved last month. . . . Georgia lawmakers passed a bill during the recently concluded legislative session aimed at encouraging privatization of student housing and other non-instructional campus construction by making projects financed and built through public-private partnerships eligible for a property tax break. Atlanta Business Chronicle (blog)

FL: Editorial: Good old days weren’t so good for education. . . As for pockets of low tests scores, they normally are connected with poverty and high concentrations of racial minorities. Ravitch says it would be more productive to do more about the root causes of poverty than to privatize the schools.  “Reformers in every era used the schools as punching bags,” she writes. Alternatives, such as charter schools or vouchers for private schools, are useful in providing competition, especially in areas where public schools have failed to provide quality education. But these options cannot and should not replace the mass education provided by public education. “When the public schools have appropriate policies, personnel, resources and vision to achieve attainable goals, they respond with positive achievement. “A citizen of a democratic society must be able to read critically, listen carefully, evaluate competing claims, weigh evidence and come to a thoughtful judgment.” We can do that in public schools. We must demand it.  The Florida Times Union

NJ: Opinion: Privatization rears its ugly head in NJ once again. This time, it’s at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, where the Christie administration is myopically seeking to lay off and privatize as many as 800 jobs. If one were to look at the history of failed privatizations in our state and others, it would be painfully apparent that it’s not the solution to all the state’s ills. Even worse, it can often cost taxpayers more money to eventually undo it. The most high-profile example here in New Jersey was the Department of Motor Vehicles fiasco. In 1995, New Jersey privatized the DMV. A state legislative report issued in 2002 said the DMV privatization resulted in “poor, disjointed and confused service delivery without consistency which has led to confusion and frustration in the minds of New Jersey citizens.” The report also noted that privatization “resulted in poorly paid employees who have received inadequate benefits, resulting in a high turnover rate at DMV agencies.” In 2003, New Jersey returned the DMV to state control, and today it is run much more efficiently.   The Times, Trenton




April 17, 2014


Bipartisan Plan to Privatize Tax Collection Hits Opposition. Part of the Tax Reform Act of 2014, written by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), would require the Treasury Department to contract with private collection agencies to pursue tax debts not addressed by the Internal Revenue Service. Now, Taxpayer Advocate Service and the National Treasury Employees Union are releasing findings and statements that run counter to the proposal. . . . . In a 2013 report on the IRS Private Debt Collection Program, Taxpayer Advocate Service found that the IRS collected about $53 million, or 62 percent, more over the course of two years than private collection agencies (PCAs). Also, the IRS collected a greater percentage of available dollars than private collection agencies, 9.2 percent to 5.4 percent. . . .[W]hile private collectors collected more tax dollars in the first six-month period than the IRS, over time IRS collections were more consistent. Private collection agencies had six months of success, before drastically decreasing the dollar amount and percentage of available taxpayer dollars collected.   InsideARM

“A self-fulfilling conflict of interest”: Charter schools, testing mania, and Arne Duncan. The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now [it’s] getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon. The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.” A condensed version of our conversation follows.  Salon

Thousands turn out for Labor Notes conference. In a major political development, over 2,000 trade union activists and friends attended the conference, which was geared toward helping unionists find ways to build coalitions and win struggles in today’s difficult political climate. Besides the Chicago Teacher’s Union, official union delegations, some quite large, were present from other teacher’s unions, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Teamsters, Steelworkers, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), both major longshore unions ILWU and ILA, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Union of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), food and commercial workers, farmworkers, nurses and others. Some delegations were sent directly from International leadership offices. “Our nation’s postal service was set by our nation’s revolution, with the guarantee, written into our constitution, that every American citizen be served equally, having access to our service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Those trying to privatize it and cut service to some are in violation of our nation’s constitution.”   People’s World

New article on criminal law enforcement privatization. Sharon Finegan of South Texas College of Law has an article in last year’s volume of the University of Massachusetts Law Review: Watching the Watchers: The Growing Privatization of Criminal Law Enforcement and the Need for Limits on Neighborhood Watch Associations. Here’s the abstract.  Washington Post

AZ: Bill would boost public money for private school. The Arizona Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would expand the state’s school voucher program and would increase the amount in public funds a student could receive to attend private school. The bill would expand Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts eligibility to siblings of students who are current or past recipients and to those who have not previously attended public school. Current rules require students to attend public school before being eligible.  WRAL.com

VA: Toll Road Rates Could Remain Flat–With Federal Money. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority today repeated its plan to hold tolls on the Dulles Toll Road at their current rate for the next five years–a plan that is predicated on federal money being issued for the Silver Line Metro project. Leesburg Today

VT: House freezes school privatization debate. The question of whether voters should be allowed to “flip” public schools into private entities has churned for months in Vermont. After lengthy debate on the House floor Wednesday, the issue has been tabled. For now. To date, two Vermont schools have gone from public to private. The Senate after much negotiation produced a study committee to look deeper into the constitutionality of both sides: “flipping” a school, as senators came to call it, and prohibiting the flips.  vtdigger.org