October 17, 2014


MI: Governor Snyder Stands Behind Prison Privatization, Even After Maggots and Murder for Hire. Ideological slogans often trump facts when it comes to the outsourcing of public services. When independent studies are commissioned, the conclusions are often disregarded. In some cases, however, there seems to be solid research supporting the cost-efficiency of privatization. Such was the case in Michigan – at least at first glance. PR Watch

TX: Plans for Texas’ First Private Toll Road Roll On — and Right Over People in its Path. For the people who live in the countryside east of Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lavon, the appeal is in the quiet rural roads, dense trees, wild animals in the woods and bright stars shining in the night sky. To a Dallas company called the Texas Turnpike Corp., all that open space is a sign that not enough stuff has been built yet. “A review of an aerial map of the metroplex shows that there is a lack of development to the north and east of Dallas,” said a report the corporation prepared and sent in 2012 to the mayor of Lavon, a small town on the eastern shore of the lake. “Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lavon have blocked access to the area and stifled growth.” Texas Turnpike Corp. had a fix for that “lack of development:” a private toll road, developed by none other than Texas Turnpike Corp. Dallas Observer (blog)

IN: Plans call for right to run the Ind. Toll Road to be sold at auction. . . . It’s expected that the right to run the Indiana Toll Road will be auctioned off to the highest bidder in bankruptcy court in Chicago in the next three or four months. “Indiana can approve a new operator or changes that might happen with that operating lease, which they’re not likely to do,” said Kevin Kelly. “And thirdly, if that all goes to heck, Indiana gets the road back free and clear.” If no bidders take part in the auction, ITRCC’s $6 billion dollar debt would be reduced to $2.75 billion and ITRCC would remain in control according to ITRCC executive Fernando Redondo. The bankruptcy could be a damper on efforts to build new toll road travel plazas. Bids are due on October 24th. ITRCC is looking for private companies interested in designing, building and operating new plazas. WNDU-TV

WI: WEDC slammed in report on privatization of public services. . . And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker heads the new quasi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which has handed out awards to Walker campaign donors and firms that have offshored jobs. According to one report, Walker donors ended up getting 60 percent of the funding from WEDC even though they made up only 30 percent of the recipients. Madison.com

FL: Florida Appeals Court Strikes Down Red Light Cameras. In a dramatic reversal of a decision handed down six months ago, the Florida Court of Appeals decided Wednesday that the way red light cameras are operated throughout the state is unlawful. A three-judge panel unanimously set aside its April 23 opinion, replacing it with a decision that represents bad news for automated ticketing vendors and cities that rely upon them. “For the reasons set forth herein, we… find that the city is not authorized to delegate police power by entering into a contract that allows a private vendor to screen data and decide whether a violation has occurred before sending that data to a traffic infraction enforcement officer (TIEO) to use as the basis for authorizing a citation,” Judge Mark W. Klingensmith wrote in the new decision. “Such outsourcing to a third-party for-profit vendor of a city’s statutorily mandated obligation to issue uniform traffic citations for red light camera violations is contrary to the plain wording of the Florida statutes.” TheNewspaper.com

PA: Philadelphia Charter School To Cut Enrollment. An embattled Philadelphia charter school is abruptly cutting its enrollment in half tomorrow, leaving 600 students searching for new schools, two months into the school year. CBS Local

NY: Backlash grows against letting charter schools submit proposals to take over struggling city schools. A backlash has quickly mounted to the Buffalo School Board majority’s “rammed-through” request last week that the state allow an unprecedented third round of charter school proposals for the takeover of struggling city public schools facing closure. Several dozen members of Citizen Action, PUSH Buffalo and Lafayette High School stood in front of Lafayette with minority board members Wednesday morning to protest the lack of community input before the controversial School Board vote Oct. 8. Buffalo News

October 16, 2014


New Report Exposes Governors Who Helped Powerful Lobbies & Campaign Donors Boost Profits at Taxpayer Expense. A new report by the Center for Media and Democracy, Pay to Prey: Governors Facilitate the Predatory Outsourcing of Public Services, details a national trend of outsourcing experiments gone awry. “Governors across the nation seem to be reading out of the ALEC playbook, attempting to shrink government by selling off the profitable services to private companies,” said Lisa Graves the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy. “While success stories are hard to find, fiascos are thick on the ground. In state after state, the result has been worse outcomes for the public, scandal, lawsuits, and scorching headlines.” The report highlights the efforts of governors across the country to outsource important public services to private firms with high-powered lobbyists and related campaign contributions. The report includes examples from multiple states. eNews Park Forest

Trillions in Global Cash Await Call to Fix Crumbling U.S.. . . Institutional investors such as Montreal-based Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec have capital and want to invest in U.S. infrastructure because it meets their long-term objectives, said Macky Tall, Caisse’s vice president of private equity and infrastructure. The Caisse is Canada’s second-biggest pension-fund manager, with C$214.7 billion ($190.7 billion) in net assets as of June 30. There hasn’t been more investment because the U.S. is behind other countries in tapping private capital, Tall said, and there’s been a lack of expertise, legal authority or receptivity to it in some parts of the country. Bloomberg

NC: Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits. Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls. ProPublica

IN: Toll Road board hears about “worn out” road. . . .”For all intents and purposes the whole concrete road is worn out,” said board member Kevin Kelly, who is president of construction company Walsh & Kelly. “It has served its useful life.” In comments after the meeting, Kelly said an annual report on the road showed private operator Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. is in substantial compliance with its lease, including road maintenance. . . . “We get more complaints about the service stops than anything else,” said board member John Letterman, of Elkhart. “How Indiana looks to the world is part of this,” he added. . . . Since the bankruptcy, a number of elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, have called for Indiana to exert its rights under the lease and take the road back. At the time the lease was under negotiation, then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels declared the state could take the road back if the operator ever went bankrupt. It is not clear from the Toll Road Concession Agreement if that can actually be done. If the state did commandeer the road, it most likely would be sued by the bondholders, who could claim to be owed billions of dollars. nwitimes.com

IN: Infrastructure investors line up for Indiana toll road. Some of the world’s largest pension funds and infrastructure investors are forming consortia to bid for the operator of an Indiana toll road that filed for bankruptcy last month, according to people familiar with the matter. The interest in the asset shows that infrastructure investors have not been fazed by the failure of one of the largest privatisations of U.S. infrastructure, even though any deal is expected to come at a significant discount to its original value. . . . Australia’s Hastings Funds Management has partnered with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) and Italian toll road operator Autostrade Meridionali SpA , the people said. The West Australian

TX: Foes try to bring proposed toll road to a dead stop. Critics of a toll road connecting Bush Turnpike to Hunt County brought their fight Tuesday to this city of about 25,000 along Interstate 30, the planned terminus for the divisive Northeast Gateway. As Hunt County commissioners, who largely support the project, prepared to meet, toll road opponents stood outside a county building with signs that said, “No eminent domain for private gain” and “Hands off our land.” It was one of several government meetings that opponents attended Tuesday to express their opposition to a road that many say will ruin a rural way of life. A growing number of area city councils, including in Fate, Lavon, Rockwall, Sachse and Wylie, formally oppose the project. Dallas Morning News

October 15, 2014


IN: Donnelly: State should take Toll Road back. US Sen. Joe Donnelly said the Indiana Toll Road lease turned out to be “mess of epic proportions” and the state should take management back now as the Spanish-Australian consortium operating it has gone bankrupt. nwitimes.com

CA: California getaways leave Utahns racking up toll road fines. Utah residents love to relax in sunny California. But a new automated toll road system in Orange County is causing a lot of stress and leaving many drivers facing hundreds of dollars in late fees. KSL.com

IL: Study: Chicago charter schools lag traditional ones. Charter schools have failed to improve Chicago’s public school system and perform less ably than comparable traditional schools, according to a new report from an urban research group at the University of Minnesota Law School. The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity concludes in its report that, taking into consideration factors such as economic status, Chicago charters lag behind neighborhood schools in producing students who meet or exceed standards for reading and math, as well as in graduation rates. The institute also says its research found that “charters are much less likely to be racially or ethnically diverse.”   Chicago Tribune

KY: Anti-tolls group: We’re growing rapidly. Northern Kentucky United now has more than 60 local businesses and organizations and political leaders signed on as members, the coalition announced Monday. The group launched its “No BS Tolls” campaign on Oct. 2 with about 10 core members. “There has been a misperception that Northern Kentucky’s business community is in support of tolls,” coalition leader Joe Meyer said. “Based on the intensity of interest in our coalition … I’m confident it will become clear that Northern Kentucky residents and the broader business community do not support tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge.” Debate over whether the state will pass legislation leading to the use of tolls to help pay for the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project is heating up as the Kentucky General Assembly prepares for the start of its next session in January. Cincinnati.com

TX: Northeast Corridor opponents deride officials, tell Hunt County commissioners they don’t want toll road.More than 30 people from across North Texas showed up in front of a Hunt County government building Tuesday to protest a planned rural toll road from Garland to Greenville. “We’re all citizens not wanting this thing,” said Bryan Slaton, a Royse City resident who spoke in front of the crowd of residents. Many opponents to Northeast Gateway held signs that said, “No eminent domain for private gain,” and “Hands off our land.” Dallas Morning News (blog)

LA: Connected company gets work release contracts. . . Over the last five years, Louisiana Workforce has quietly come to dominate the state’s lucrative and obscure world of privately run work-release programs, which allows private owners to profit handsomely from the labor of captives. Perkins, the company’s owner, says the company’s success is a function of quality. But he has also assiduously courted the favor of sheriffs around the state through political contributions, and he also boasts unmatched relationships with DOC’s top brass. WWL


October 14, 2014


IL: Chicago’s charter-schools experiment flops: report. Chicago’s massive experiment in adding charter schools pretty much is a flop, one in which the charters do little better than conventional schools and in some ways lag behind. That’s the eye-catching conclusion of a new report issued by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School . . . Pound for pound, charters should do better than typical neighborhood schools because parents, who have to go to special trouble to enroll their children, presumably are more invested in their kids’ performance, Mr. Orfield suggests. However, “after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools, Chicago’s charter schools actually underperform their traditional counterparts in most measurable ways,” he says. Crain’s Chicago Business (blog)

OH: Charter school leases draw criticism from liberal group. Three Cleveland and two Akron charter schools are among those being criticized for renting expensive space from the schools’ management company. Liberal group ProgressOhio on Monday released information about lease and management fees obtained through public records requests and state audits. The records show schools paying 20 percent of their operating budgets on rent and thousands of dollars more in “indirect costs” to run the schools. . . . “Over half of the money that goes to these schools is not going to the classroom — it’s going to the lease and additional management fee for these for-profit companies,” ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg said during a news conference. The Plain Dealer

LA: Number of state workers down 30K over 6 years. . . The shrinking of the state government workforce by one-third stems largely from Jindal’s privatization of many government functions and facilities, most notably in the health care arena. The biggest hit to state employment ranks — about 7,000 jobs — came as LSU turned over the management of nine of its 10 charity hospitals to private managers, a process that wrapped up during the last budget year. The privatization push — part of Jindal’s political agenda — started early on, and the pace picked up in his second term in office. Reorganization of department operations has eliminated many jobs during the Jindal years. . .For instance, the Office of Motor Vehicles has fewer staffers to help with driver’s licenses, renewals and the like. The Department of Children and Family Services has lost many of its employees in local communities. Shreveport Times

FL: Florida Public Universities’ Corporations Raise Immunity, Disclosure Questions. The business of Florida’s 12 public universities is supposed to be public like any other state agency. Salaries, contracts, policies and other university business records are supposed to be subject to Florida’s expansive Sunshine Law, which mandates that most government actions be open to scrutiny. But that’s not always happening. The universities are getting around Florida’s public records law through dozens of private corporations that have been created over the years to oversee everything from athletic programs to dorm construction to salaries. Under state law, these university corporations don’t have to make public the same records their parent universities must provide, though the corporations perform tasks once done by school employees and act on the universities’ behalf.  Insurance Journal

TX: Private Tollway Will Be a Moneymaker, Say Firms Hired by Private Tollway Company. . . Controversy over NCTCOG’s numbers began at a meeting on September 22. A woman from the public named Christine Hubley announced that she had dug up some data from the Texas Department of Transportation showing much lower future traffic projections than NCTCOG’s estimates. The News followed up with a story on the discrepancy, writing that while NCTCOG predicts anywhere from a 70 to 503 percent increase in drivers along different sections of the so-called Blacklands Corridor, the state’s figures stay in the more conservative range of 23.3 percent to 65.1 percent. Dallas Observer (blog)

PA: Allentown School District likely to outsource substitute teachers. . . Administrators introduced plans at Thursday’s school board Finance Committee meeting to outsource substitutes who work between 15 and 89 cumulative days for an average of at least 30 hours a week. . . . Outsourcing would allow the district to more effectively meet its demand for substitute teachers and also avoid the Affordable Care Act mandate to offer health care to substitutes who work an average of 30 hours a week or more, according to the district. Allentown Morning Call

CA: Mission Playground is not for sale! Rally against park privatization. There are many things for sale in the beautiful city of San Francisco – often times with the goods going to the highest bidder. But what is certain in the community is that there are goods that are not for sale: Mission Playground being one of them. But this is all much bigger and much more nuanced than just Mission Playground. San Francisco Bay Guardian

October 13, 2014


IL: Chicago Toll Road Gets Go-Ahead From Regional Transportation Group. A regional transportation body voted Thursday to move forward on a $1.5 billion public-private toll road outside Chicago, a day after a different group of local officials tried to kill the project. . . .The Illiana Expressway has long been discussed here as a way to improve travel south of Chicago and help speed up interstate trucking. The toll road, opposed by some local officials and environmental groups, has the backing of the governors of Illinois and Indiana and is expected to receive final approval from federal officials in coming months. Wall Street Journal

IL: Red-Light Cameras, Fuzzy Math And Breadsticks. . .Take the case of the red-light cameras, which recently generated $8 million in city revenue on 77,000 tickets related to yellow lights shorter than Chicago’s autumn. The city said, in essence: “Our bad. We fired the first band of greedy corporate dullards who bribed their way into that contract. We are certain—well, let’s say hopeful—the new band greedy corporate dullards will do much better. “Oh, and even if there IS a problem, we can have one of the city’s two embattled and hamstrung inspectors general make sure everything is on the up and up.’’ The beauty of privatization, other than the financial windfall, luxury junkets, and general abdication—having more people to blame when things go completely tits up. How can you blame Mayor Rahm Emanuel for making Chicago the subject of the world’s largest outsourced traffic enforcement program, though? I mean, the privatization of our parking meters was such a rousing success. Chicagoist

TX: Toll road opponents plan ‘Super Tuesday’. . . The activist group Texans United for Reform and Freedom (TURF) plans to hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. on Tue. Oct. 14 in front of the Hunt County Auxiliary Courtroom at 2700 Johnson St. in Greenville. TURF also plans to make its case during the Hunt County Commissioners Court meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. at that same location. The organization has announced intentions to have supporters present later that evening at city council meetings in Caddo Mills, Greenville, Royse City and Rowlett. Organizers are referring to the coordinated activities as “Super Tuesday.” Six cities along the proposed road’s possible pathway – Fate, Lavon, Nevada, Rockwall, Sachse and Wylie – have passed resolutions opposing the proposed toll road. 88.9 KETR

Private prisons face suits, federal probes. Conditions have become so terrible in some private prisons that some have been kicked out. Florida-based GEO got the boot in Mississippi after a federal judge in 2012 called the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions.” In Idaho, the FBI is investigating the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America after allegations that records were falsified to cover up staff shortages at the Idaho Correctional Center, where gangs ruled and violence was so rampant it was called “Gladiator School.” Jackson Clarion Ledger

America’s Crusade Against Its Public School Children. A specter is haunting America – the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists, newspaper moguls, governors, legislators, private investors, hedge fund managers, testing and computer companies are making common cause to hasten the destruction of public schools. Huffington Post

How to spot a fake ‘grassroots’ education reform group. One problem with today’s education reform environment is that a number of groups exist that call themselves “grassroots” organizations, but which have expanded rapidly because of large infusions of cash from corporations and foundations invested in pushing charter schools, mass high stakes testing, data mining students and the Common Core standards. These groups do not exist to represent the organically derived priorities and shared interests of students, teachers and parents; they exist to put a more credible face on the priorities and shared interests of a very narrow but astonishingly influential set of repeating characters. Washington Post (blog)

October 10, 2014


IL: Chicago Toll Road Gets Go-Ahead From Regional Transportation Group. A regional transportation body voted Thursday to move forward on a $1.5 billion public-private toll-road project outside Chicago, a day after a different group of local officials tried to kill it. The approval comes as private groups are wading back into highway projects with a new business model following a string of toll-road deals that ended in bankruptcy. The Illiana Expressway has long been discussed here as a way to improve travel south of Chicago and help speed up interstate trucking. The toll road, opposed by some local officials and environmental groups, has the backing of the governors of Illinois and Indiana and is expected to receive final approval from federal officials in the coming months. Wall Street Journal

DC: Really? DC charter school employees to get admissions preference for their kids.. . . Charter schools, it is worth remembering, are public schools, at least in the sense that they are funded with public dollars (though some get private donations). They are permitted to operate outside the traditional school system, and do not have to be as transparent about their operations as traditional schools. Families who want to send children to charter schools apply, and when there are more applications than seats, a lottery is instituted. Supposedly students are randomly drawn, except for those who have received preferences in the past. But giving a break to founding board members’ children isn’t enough for the D.C. Council. Now members voted to give a preference to the children of charter school employees who work full time and are D.C. residents. Charter school leaders and teachers lobbied the council earlier in the year for such a measure and were rewarded for their efforts in the 2015 Budget Support Act. Washington Post (blog)

The Price of Privatizing War. . . No matter what you think about “for-profit killing and the commodification of conflict,” McFate makes a strong case that demand for PMCs will expand in the decades and, perhaps, centuries ahead. The privatization of war is a growth business. . . . The Modern Mercenary is filled with fascinating stuff, and its bottom line is that there is no stopping the continuing development of the market for force. So, what—if anything—should be done? McFate says we have to regulate the industry while the free market for its services is still dominated by the demand from a few big customers, mainly the U.S. If we don’t, he warns, the profit motive could cause PMCs to perpetuate armed conflict. And then, we might really get a look at what the world was like in the Middle Ages. strategy+business (blog)

October 9, 2014


This Is What Happens When Republicans Try to Destroy Public Education. A month out from the midterm elections, Republican candidates around the country are confronting a shared, and significant, vulnerability: education. The conservative wave of 2010 allowed Republicans to implement slash-and-burn governance in several states—what Kansas Governor Sam Brownback called a “real live experiment” in tax cuts for corporate interests and cuts to services for everyone else. One of the most devastating casualties was public schools and universities. Now, several Republicans could fall victim to their own experiment. . . . “I’ve never seen this level of anger about what policymakers have done in some places to our schools,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten thinks it’s not only underfunding that’s made education a top-tier issue but also the effect of efforts to privatize public education. “The market-based reforms, the top-down reforms, the testing and sanctioning as opposed to supporting and improving has taken hold so much and has been so wrong-headed that you’re seeing this fight back,” she said. The Nation

IL: Move to kill Illiana toll road project falls short. An effort by members of the Chicago region’s main planning board to kill the controversial Illiana toll road fell short this morning. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning board needed a 12-vote supermajority of its 15 members to remove the Illiana from its comprehensive plan, but opponents of the project could only muster 10 votes. The spotlight will now fall on members of a companion agency, the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee, who will meet on the same issue Thursday. The Policy Committee gave its support to the Illiana last year, and some experts did not expect that outcome to change Thursday. . . . Opponents had hoped to halt the effort to build the 50-mile, four-lane highway across southern Will County that would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65. Chicago Tribune

IL: Chicago Public Schools Under Fire Over Dirty Conditions, Rotten Food. . . Recent money-saving moves to privatize management of custodial and cafeteria services have drawn the ire of parents and faculty, who have alleged schools are dirtier — and school lunches are worse — than ever. A teacher at a high school on the city’s Southwest Side, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the district, described where he’s taught for the past eight years as “gross and disgusting.” “We’re running out of toilet paper,” he said. “I’m seeing more bugs than ever before. There’s overflowing trash that sits for days and weeks in some cases.”. . . “It’s gross and disgusting and my health is being affected,” he said. “I want to be outside the minute I’m in here. It smells. Everything smells and I can’t focus. If I can’t focus to teach, how can kids focus to learn?” The complaints follow the school district’s hiring of Philadelphia-based Aramark in February to supervise and train school custodians. Aramark in the spring pulled many custodians from their longtime schools and assigned them to a floating pool of janitors. This led to fewer permanent custodians in schools, and talk of layoffs. Huffington Post

IN: Going private keeps taking its toll. . . The money from the Indiana Toll Road lease is gone, and now the foreign consortium running it has declared bankruptcy, ominously struggling against low use combined with raised tolls and much-criticized service. The spectacular failure of IBM’s takeover of welfare eligibility determination, a fiasco that wrought untold suffering upon the poor, disabled and elderly, has the state before the Indiana Supreme Court trying to scratch back tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Could you please tell us again, Mitch Daniels and Grover Norquist and the rest of you libertarian luminaries, how privatization of basic government functions beats letting the government handle the work and control the revenue stream? NUVO Newsweekly

NY: 17 New Charter Schools Approved for New York City. The state approved 17 new charter schools for New York City on Wednesday, substantially increasing the size of one of the city’s largest and most polarizing charter networks, Success Academy, and setting up a battle over where the schools will be located.. . . . While the state approves the creation of these institutions, it is up to New York City to decide where to put them. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an enthusiastic supporter of charters, eagerly offered free space to charter schools inside public school buildings, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has strongly indicated that his administration would take a different approach. A new state law championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo forces the city to give new charter schools free space or to help pay their rent in private space, but if a deal cannot be reached, the issue could go to court. New York Times

KS: Critics of Kansas’ Medicaid Privatization Program Call for Investigation. Amid reports of possible corruption and complaints of long waits for benefits have come calls for an investigation into the Medicaid privatization program championed by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R). KanCare was launched in January 2013, when the state’s traditional Medicaid program was phased out. In its place the Brownback administration contracted three for-profit health insurance companies to coordinate health care for more than 360,000 low-income residents.. . . However, over the past year and a half, all three companies lost money. In 2013 the three companies lost a total of $110 million, and in the first half of this year the companies lost another $72.6 million. Opponents of the program are now growing concerned that if any of the three companies were to withdraw from KanCare, it could cause a significant disruption in service. Delays in reimbursement payments to health-care providers have also been reported. RH Reality Check

October 8, 2014


Why Are Teach for America and a California Billionaire Investing in a Minnesota School Board Race?. . . This kind of involvement in local elections is nothing new for either Cioth or Rock. In 2013, for example, Cioth’s group, SFER, was listed in a Progressive magazine article as one of the main funders of the pro-charter school group “A Better Connecticut,” which endorsed a slate of candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education. Cioth is also on the board of the NewSchools Venture Fund, based in California and a leader in what has been termed the “venture philanthropist” approach to education: one that emphasizes on technology, data and charter school growth. In the video below, investigative journalist David Sirota zeroes in on the profit motive behind such technology-oriented groups, which, in Sirota’s words, often “try … to buy a big-city school board election” in order to more easily tap into what is estimated to be a $790 billion K-12 market. In These Times

IL: Progressives Try to Break Council Rules Committee Logjam. Two pieces of legislation in City Council are due to get a hearing this week, both of them sponsored by members of the Progressive Reform Caucus and both buried in the Rules Committee for more than a year. The first, an ordinance sponsored by Ald. Rod Sawyer (6) is known as the Privatization Transparency and Accountability ordinance, and is due to be heard in a Rules Committee hearing today. Originally introduced into Council in 2012, the ordinance is designed to create “greater oversight, disclosure and public discussion” before any efforts to privatize city services or assets is finalized. NBC Chicago

TX: Landowners Seeking Answers Over Proposed Toll Road. The study into building a toll road through Hunt, Collin, Dallas and Rockwall counties continues to draw controversy. On Monday, the Wylie city council unanimously voted to oppose the construction of a private toll road in a special session. The proposed project is a product of a study by the North Central Texas Council of Governments called The Blacklands Corridor Study, which is examining future population growth, travel patterns, existing roads and future needs in the area. NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

GA: Pilot program to privatize foster care in Athens put on hold. A pilot program to place foster care in the hands of an organization other than the state’s Division of Family and Children Services in Athens-Clarke County and surrounding areas has been placed on indefinite hold. The bidding process for the project, which has been labeled privatization but would likely use government-chartered nonprofits similar to charities that already provide mental health services under the state’s umbrella, will reopen after the agency consults with the Child Welfare Reform Council and other stakeholders, Graham said. Online Athens

PA: Postal clerks protest extending services to Staples stores. Post office clerks rallied outside a Staples office supply store in Center City Tuesday. They were complaining that the U.S. Postal Service’s plans to install in-store postal counters where lower-wage Staples employees sell stamps and accept packages hurts postal jobs and jeopardizes the safety of the mail. The post office “is not for sale,” protesters chanted at the rally organized by their union, the American Postal Workers Union. Calling for a boycott of school supplies at Staples, the workers say the Staples initiative is part of a postal management plan to privatize the Post Office. Philly.com

PA: Philadelphia’s school reform debacle. The Philadelphia school district has become the prime example of the problems with a corporate-style school “reform” agenda. Parents, teachers and students have resisted full privatization, New Orleans-style, and have found themselves punished for resistance as Gov. Tom Corbett, who controls the schools after a 2001 takeover by the state, slashes school budgets, wipes out thousands of jobs, and shutters dozens of schools. The latest move by Corbett and the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC), which replaced an elected school board after the 2001 takeover, is to unilaterally cancel the city’s contract with the 15,000 members of the Philadelphia Federation of teachers. Salon


October 7, 2014


Bob Herbert: The Plot Against Public Education . . . Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish, no matter how poor they were or how chaotic their home environments. Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools. None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype. After several years of experimentation and the expenditure of billions of dollars, charter schools and their teachers proved, on the whole, to be no more effective than traditional schools. In many cases, the charters produced worse outcomes. And the levels of racial segregation and isolation in charter schools were often scandalous. While originally conceived a way for teachers to seek new ways to reach the kids who were having the most difficult time, the charter school system instead ended up leaving behind the most disadvantaged youngsters. POLITICO Magazine

ALEC is coming to a city block near you. . . . “Local politics in America is the purest form of democracy,” Pittsburgh city council member Natalia Rudiak said to The Guardian about the ACCE. “There is no buffer between me and the public. So why would I want the involvement of a third party acting on behalf of a few corporate interests?” Rudiak’s comment cuts to the core of the matter: ALEC wants to take the same sort of highly ideological agenda that has stunted progress in Washington and state capitals and impose it at the metro level. If Americans let them succeed, we will lose the most promising frontier in democratic policymaking today — local government — along with our communities. Al Jazeera America

OH: Ohio prison employees stage protest for more guards, less privatization. Dozens of prison workers and union members picketed Ohio’s prison agency Monday, demanding that more guards be hired and that the state’s food-service contract be scrapped. The demands by the Ohio Civil Service Employee Association are not new. But as hundreds of guard positions have been cut while Ohio’s inmate population nears record levels, the union says changes are now needed more than ever to prevent incidents like last month’s escape of Chardon school shooter T. J. Lane. The Plain Dealer

TX: The trouble with toll roads in Texas. Texans aren’t so fond of toll roads. A Texas Transportation Institute study released last month found that from a list of 15 potential ways to improve transportation in the state, building more toll roads was by far the least popular option. Over 1,000 citizens reportedly filled a public meeting last month in Rockwall to show opposition to a private tollway. TribTalk



October 6, 2014


Was the ‘original bargain’ with charter schools a raw deal?. Charter school advocates didn’t like it recently when Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform issued a report calling for the strengthening of charter oversight and authorization. While noting that many charters work hard to “meet the needs of their students,” the report said that “the lack of effective oversight means too many cases of fraud and abuse, too little attention to equity, and no guarantee of academic innovation or excellence.” It provided some common-sense recommendations, including an innocuous call for the establishment of minimum qualifications for charter school treasurers. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, not surprisingly, bashed the report. . . . Yes, there are many fine charter schools. But seriously bad news about many others keeps coming, and concerns are rising as the number of charters overall is increasing. Washington Post (blog)           

Oped: A Perilous Dependence on Contractors. THE director of the Secret Service has resigned after, among other problems, the revelation that, in a visit to Atlanta on Sept. 16, President Obama rode in an elevator with a private security contractor who was carrying a gun and had an arrest record. The episode raises a crucial question: How thoroughly does the government vet the private security contractors that an increasing number of agencies employ? We live in an era in which our government has become dependent on contractors for our defense and security. But the speed of that industry’s development and our consumption of its services far surpass the agencies’ ability to hold contractors accountable for the vetting and training of their employees. New York Times

IN: The Indiana Toll Road: How Did a Good Deal Go Bad?. . . For one, the Indiana Toll Road, as well as many others, experienced dramatic drops in traffic due partly to the Great Recession. In 2010 it was estimated that the road needed nearly 11 million toll-paying trucks each year just to break even, but only half as many traveled the highway. While the revenue situation improved in 2012, the road’s financing structure may have had an even bigger impact. Using a common project finance tool called anaccreting swap, the consortium hoped to exchange low debt service costs early on with higher costs later, and then eventually refinance. But the consortium’s inability to meet these increasing debt costs that ultimately prompted the filing. The road’s total debt obligations now stand at nearly $6 billion, up from $3.4 billion at the time of acquisition. Forbes

IL: Crucial vote looms on controversial toll road. Nearly a year after backers of the proposed billion-dollar Illiana toll road won a crucial battle to drive the controversial project forward, another showdown looms this week.Opponents hope to halt the effort to build the 50-mile, four-lane highway across southern Will County that would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65. Supporters tout the Illiana as a job-generating economic boon for the state’s fastest-growing county and its burgeoning intermodal freight facilities. Foes predict it will be the biggest boondoggle in state history, saddling taxpayers with $1 billion in costs while defiling farmland and the environment. The Illiana clash ranks as perhaps the most contentious transportation tiff since the 1970s, when former Mayor Richard J. Daley failed to ram through the $1.2 billion Crosstown Expressway that would have bisected the city. Chicago Tribune

MI: New Bills Could Make It Harder To Privatize State Jobs. Under the title “transparency” Michigan House Democrats introduced a package of bills targeting private contractors with the State. The bills (at least on the surface) say that before privatizing, the state should look at all the numbers in the budget, and the impact on communities. Hard to argue with that sentiment – if that was all it did. The bills also prohibit private companies from bidding if they are in violation of any law. Again that makes sense on the surface, but we don’t even hold our own state employees to that standard. wfxd.com

NY: Charter School Backers Rally, Hoping to Influence de Blasio’s Policies. The rally at Foley Square, which included speeches by politicians and a performance by the musician Questlove, was part of a coordinated campaign, organized primarily by charter school advocates, to put pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he and legislators in Albany develop their education agendas in the coming months….While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was an enthusiastic promoter of charter schools, Mr. de Blasio’s support is far more muted and conditional. This year, the campaign for charter schools has included a website, a social media campaign and a rally that drew thousands. But beyond drawing attention to the city’s struggling schools, it has not included specific, stated goals, like more charter schools, for example. New York Times