May 12, 2015


Feds Spent $3.3 Billion Fueling Charter Schools but No One Knows What It’s Really Bought. Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to “authorize” charters that receive federal funds. And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program – designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools – the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016. Truth-Out

Support Builds to Redo US Air-Traffic System. A push to radically reshape the outmoded U.S. air-traffic control system is gaining support, as airlines and some labor unions join to back change and a top lawmaker drafts legislation that could effectively privatize services. . . , The AFL-CIO’s Transport Trades Department, a coalition of unions whose members work in aviation, has said it’s willing to consider changes but strongly opposes any privatization plans that involve a for-profit corporation or shifting FAA employees to a private entity. Still, the increasing momentum has persuaded even some veteran Washington players that major change could be near. “The atmosphere is very different,” said James Burnley, who served as deputy secretary and then secretary of the Transportation Department in the 1980s. Mr. Burnley, a proponent of recasting the FAA’s role for three decades, believes Rep. Shuster’s gambit is a viable option. “This is the first time I am cautiously optimistic systemic reform can occur,” he said. Wall Street Journal ($)

CA: Majority Against Nestle California Water Bottling. As Californians are required to cut water consumption, and the state scrambles to respond to the draught crisis, Nestle continues to bottle millions of gallons of water from local aquifers.   Activists wielding pitchforks temporarily shut down the plant during a March 20th protest, as part of an ongoing protest against the bottling. A video interview by Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has exacerbated public disapproval. In the interview he spoke in favor of privatizing water like any other foodstuff, and giving it a market value. Most Americans (78%) are aware of the draught in California, according to a recent YouGov Omnibus survey, and 63% support the mandatory water restrictions imposed by California Governor Jerry Brown. 74% of Americans believe that water should be a human right, and 65% agreed that Nestle should stop using California water to create bottled water. Forbes

IA: Iowa mental health care moves toward privatization. Two state mental health facilities slated to close this summer would remain open for a few months before switching to private care, under a proposal announced Friday with Gov. Terry Branstad’s support. . . . Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, was wary of the announcement “Outsourcing the services provided by these facilities is not needed because the existing workers are experienced and providing high quality mental health services. “There is no valid reason for the governor to outsource these facilities unless his emphasis is on cutting costs by severely limiting services.” Daily Gate

NY: High number of expulsions at Western New York Maritime Charter School draw questions. . . Western New York Maritime Charter School is either one of the most successful charters in Buffalo or one of the most controversial, depending on who you ask and how you view their data.. . . .That makes Maritime most susceptible to the criticism often lobbed by traditional public school advocates against charter schools: these independent schools excel because they have the freedom to throw out troublemakers and underachievers or persuade them to leave. “Kids with discipline issues either are not accepted or are immediately told to leave,” said Larry Scott, a school psychologist in the Kenmore-Tonawanda school district and co-chairman of the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization. “Here you’re taking money from a traditional school district and sending those kids back to a traditional public school or not accepting them at all.” Buffalo News

PA: Teachers: Lawmakers Holding School Budget Hostage to Threaten Pensions. Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, says now Republican leaders in the state Senate are telling the press they won’t pass a budget until public employee pensions are privatized and benefits are cut. “This is a manufactured crisis,” Crossey says. “They want to hold children and school funding hostage so they can destroy the pension system that provides retirement security for over half a million Pennsylvanians.” Senate Bill One is designed to push new public employees out of the traditional pension plan and put them into 401K style plans. Crossey says it also would cut current benefits, which he says is probably unconstitutional because it’s a breach of contract. But Crossey says the basic problem is a debt issue, not a pension issue. Public News Service

NH: NH budget is bad policy – opinion. Why prison privatization is bad policy: A broad coalition of prison reformers worked for three years to keep profit-making prisons from taking over adult corrections. Opponents included half a dozen national advocacy groups . . .It is well documented that private prisons cherry pick the easiest prisoners, then underpay their officers. The result is crowded, violent institutions that usually cost taxpayers more money than government prisons. A consulting report on the competing bids to build and run New Hampshire prisons warned that the bidders would understaff their cellblocks. They would have high personnel turnover and position vacancy rates. Make no mistake, the industry has deep pockets, and it wants a foothold here. Foster’s Daily Democrat

LA: Sidney Torres IV invests more than $300000 for private French Quarter security . . . Torres said he has spent more than $300,000 building what he believes is a better mousetrap for French Quarter protection, one he now wants the city to pony up to keep going even as he keeps his hand on the day-to-day operations. The French Quarter Task Force of privately paid police details on Polaris carts, driven by residents and businesses reporting crime via a smartphone app, is just one part of a complex web of security initiatives pieced together in recent months from just about every public and private agency and funding source imaginable. The New Orleans Advocate