August 7, 2015

VA Chief Blasts ‘Political’ Proposal to Privatize the Department. Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Thursday rejected criticism from a political advocacy group that has called for privatizing the department. . . . “First of all, you have to understand the political nature of the Concerned Veterans for America,” McDonald said. “I’ve met with [CVA Chief Executive Officer] Peter Hegseth many times. I know the people that back him politically, who fund his organization. We are not in favor of privatizing the VA.” The secretary didn’t go into detail, though his reference to those supporting the group likely refers to reports that it has largely been funded by Koch Brothers’ organizations.

How Jeb Bush Spent His Years on Wall Street… Around the time of his 2008 Mexico City trip, Mr. Bush was on the board of a Lehman fund pursuing investments in toll roads and other public works. His successor, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, in the months after Mr. Bush left office, had signed a bill allowing the state to lease some toll roads, including a stretch of interstate 75, known as Alligator Alley. Mr. Bush studied documents and advised Lehman executives on the deal, as well as the state’s political pitfalls, according to people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Bush brought lots of energy and “creative problem-solving skills” to Lehman, said Emil Henry, a former executive with the firm who has been active in GOP politics. Wall Street Journal ($)

RI: Public or Private: Are RI Charter Schools Trying to Have it Both Ways? Their teachers are not unionized. They don’t pay into public pensions. And they are exempted from some of the rules that apply to traditional public schools. But they are funded by taxpayer dollars, are free of charge to students attending, and cannot expel students. Are charter schools public schools or publicly funded private schools? Charter advocates say it’s the first. GoLocalProv

LA: “Reform” makes broken New Orleans schools worse. Here is all you need to know about the New Orleans schools before Hurricane Katrina hit, 10 years ago this summer: They were awful. The schools were awful, the school board was awful, the central office was awful—all of them were awful. At a recent conference held to tout the progress made by the schools here since Katrina, Scott Cowan, an early proponent of the all-charter-school model that exists here now, described New Orleans’ pre-storm schools as mired in “unprecedented dysfunction.” In other words, they were awful. Salon

LA: Jindal Medicaid privatization effort stalls. . .The administration already has contracted with private managers to handle the medical and behavioral health components of the state’s $8 billion Medicaid program. The long-term care portion would have been the third and final installment of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s privatization of the government insurance program for the poor. . . .The state’s powerful nursing home industry sought to exempt itself. Advocates for the elderly and disabled wanted them included, hoping that dollars would be shifted to more home- and community-based services where there are long waiting lists. he industry’s objections had stalled release of a request for proposal that would seek a private company to manage care for some 72,000 people who are getting their care in either institutional or home-based settings. The New Orleans Advocate

IL: Bruce Rauner is Using a Manufactured Crisis to Bust Unions, Privatize Services and Destroy Pensions. . . If you like Scott Walker, you’ll love Bruce Rauner. In February, Rauner issued an executive order blocking public employee unions from collecting “fair share” fees, or payments from non-union members who nonetheless benefit from collective bargaining done on their behalf. The order is intended to decimate public employee unions, not just in Illinois, but across the nation. As unions rightfully fight the executive order, Rauner hopes the case will make it to the Supreme Court, where following last years Harris v. Quinn ruling, many experts believe conservative justices may be poised to strike down fair share fees nation wide.  That was just an opening foray. Now Rauner is using the budget crisis to blackmail legislators into supporting his anti-worker policies. He refuses to raise revenue unless the state legislature, Cook County and municipalities across the state bow to his anti-union, destabilizing “turnaround agenda.” He has also created and funded two different PACs to lavish money on lawmakers who support his agenda, while punishing those who stand against it.   In These Times

FL: Protesters oppose North Miami Beach plan to privatize trash hauling. . . Dozens of protesters in green shirts voiced their opposition to the City Council’s recent vote to negotiate a contract with a private company, Waste Management of Florida, to handle trash hauling in the city. Hand-written signs compared privatization to “corruption” and displayed the words, “I Am a Man.” “We’ve been working for the city for so long and something has to be done,” said Daniel Pierre, a resident and 12-year sanitation employee. “If the residents speak, I think they’re supposed to listen to us.” . . . Residents, employees and local union workers said at the meeting that the city should place a higher priority on the jobs than the proposed financial savings. Miami Herald

MA: Charter-school proponents petition to put expansion measure on 2016 ballot. Charter school proponents filed a petition Wednesday for a ballot measure that would authorize the creation or expansion of up to a dozen charter schools statewide each year. The measure would direct state education officials to give priority to applications in the lowest-performing 25 percent of school districts and those with long waiting lists for charter seats. It would restrict the growth of seats to no more than 1 percent of student enrollment statewide. . . .Thomas Gosnell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts, said the union would oppose charter expansion. He said charters take funding from district budgets and are disproportionately built in underfunded urban districts that serve greater numbers of English-language learners and students with special needs. “An expansion of the charter school cap would draw even more money away from the regular public schools, where, of course, the overwhelming number of the students in Massachusetts go,” Gosnell said. Boston Globe

WI: Assembly speaker packs new education task force with school privatization supporters. A newly created “task force on urban education” features members hand-picked by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos who have benefited from campaign contributions and heavy spending by pro-private school voucher special interests, according to advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. Under Vos, the state Assembly dramatically expanded the unaccountable private school voucher program, stripped local control to facilitate school privatization and killed efforts to require equity in accountability between public schools and state subsidized private voucher and charter schools. WEAC

NJ: Christie Suggests Teachers Should Be “Punched In The Face.” Teacher Takes Him Up On It. Eager to score points with the Republican base voter while he wastes his state’s tax dollars on a futile campaign for the Presidency, the pile of toxic waste that calls himself Chris Christie lambasted teacher’s unions on Sunday, volunteering in an interview that teacher’s unions should be “punched in the face.”. . . However, the most effective response came today from an actual teacher, who offered to take Christie up on his blowhard threat. . . . “I am well qualified for the job. I have been a public school teacher and administrator for 45 years. I have been the president and the chief negotiator of my local teachers union. I have been sharply critical of Christie’s education policies on my blog. I deserve that punch in the face. I have earned it .” . . The demonization of unions, including teacher’s unions, is a primary piece of the warped puzzle that makes up the Republican Party’s agenda, one dear to the New Jersey Governor’s heart, that seeks to privatize the public school system and turn education into a profit venture for the hedge-funds who are backing his campaign. DailyKos

CO: Denver says up to 180 jobs at risk in outsourcing of workforce centers. . . City officials blame the coming layoffs in workforce development on a pending new requirement in last year’s federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The federal government is expected to require that operation of local workforce centers be competitively bid out to save on overhead costs, potentially freeing more money for training and employment-connection programs for job-seekers. But in deciding to privatize its workforce centers, Denver is making a choice that sets it apart from the state and some other metro-area counties. Faced with a similar choice, the state Department of Labor and Employment, which oversees 49 workforce centers in rural areas, has opted to compete with any private or nonprofit bidders to continue running them, a spokesman said. The Denver Post