July 14, 2015

The Verdict on Charter Schools?. . . Do charter schools lift students as much as they reflect the aspirations of political activists and private donors? It seems that the abstract idea of charter schools began to outshine hard evidence on whether they were having a positive impact on student learning. Established charter schools such as KIPP that have been in operation for years, along with those serving large shares of black and Latino kids, do often lift achievement at higher rates than do traditional counterparts. But charter campuses can limit the learning of white, urban students relative to their counterparts who remain in traditional public schools, according to Stanford’s Margaret Raymond, who tracked over 1 million charter students in dozens of cities over five years.   The Atlantic

PA: In Pennsylvania city, the poor are paying the price for a bad water deal. . . By all practical measures, Coatesville is 2 square miles of ghetto. Yet more than a dozen residents told Al Jazeera that, despite low use, they spend more than $100 each month for water, on par with residents of major cities such as San Francisco. All of their money goes to the private company that owns Coatesville’s water system, Pennsylvania-American Water Co., or PAWC. The dilapidation of Coatesville is closely intertwined with the growing cost of water. Back in 2001, city officials sold the rights to the system to PAWC, in the hopes that the revenue from the sale could spark an urban renaissance. But that turnaround never came. Now thousands of low-income people must pay exorbitant prices to access a basic resource. Al Jazeera America

PA: Fighting Back Through Resistance: Challenging the Defunding and Privatization of Public Education. . . The premise of the “Reclaiming the Promise of Pennsylvania’s Public Education” campaign is that the old Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, recently left office after having followed the national trend of defunding public education. This tour is designed to put pressure on the new Democratic Governor, Tom Wolfe, to make an effort to deliver on one of his key campaign promises, that is, to restore the millions of dollars that Corbett cut from public education while Governor. Truth-Out

NY: An Altar to Donald Trump Swallows Up Public Space in Manhattan. . . .What was promised as a pedestrian causeway in crowded Midtown Manhattan now more resembles an altar to Mr. Trump, one that New York City officials have struggled for a decade to dislodge. Now that he is vying for the Republican nomination, public-space advocates are hoping all the attention might help resolve their territorial dispute with Mr. Trump as well. It is a New York peculiarity that an atrium lined with golden mirrors, Gucci logos and an 80-foot waterfall would qualify as a public amenity. Yet there are hundreds of these privately owned public spaces, colloquially known as POPS, dotting Manhattan and a sliver of Brooklyn. New York Times

MI: Michigan ends prison food contract year after company fined. Michigan has terminated a three-year, $145 million contract with Aramark Correctional Services a year after the company hired to feed state prisoners came under scrutiny for unapproved menu substitutions, worker misconduct and other issues, state officials announced Monday. . . Michigan fined Aramark $200,000 last year for unauthorized food changes, inadequate staffing and employee misconduct such as fraternizing with inmates and drug smuggling.Centre Daily Times

MN: Residents Defeat Plan to Privatize and Demolish Glendale Townhomes. Following months of protests, residents of Glendale Townhomes, a public housing complex in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park Neighborhood, are claiming victory after pushing back city plans to demolish and privatize their community.   Socialist Alternative

WI: What Gov. Scott Walker is about to do to Wisconsin’s public schools. . . Buried within the budget are 135 non-budget policy items — a toxic cocktail of attacks on public education, democracy, environmental protections and labor rights. For Wisconsin’s schools, the budget is a blueprint for abandoning public education. In Milwaukee, in addition to insufficient funding, the budget includes a “takeover” plan that increases privatization and decreases democratic control of the city’s public schools. Washington Post (blog)

NY: New York ditches controversial test-maker Pearson. The state awarded a new five-year deal to Questar Assessment Inc., a Minneapolis-based company that has emerged in recent years as a smaller competitor to Pearson, the dominant vendor in the country’s lucrative standardized testing market. The switch allows the state to distance itself from Pearson, which has faced intense criticism for missteps and errors included in its New York tests and become symbolic of broader concerns about the privatization of public education. Chalkbeat Colorado

July 9, 2015

Feds throw cold water on GOP air traffic control privatization plan. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx threw cold water Wednesday on a Republican plan to privatize large portions of the nation’s air traffic control system. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is expected to call for the creation of a new nongovernmental agency that would take over air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration in a forthcoming funding bill for the agency. Foxx said Wednesday during a meeting with reporters at the transportation department’s headquarters that he did not see the need to remove the federal government from the airplane navigation process. The Hill

USPS’s controversial deal with Staples headed to showdown over legality. The U.S. Postal Service’s outsourcing of stamp sales and other retail services traditionally offered by post offices to Staples has been a simmering wound with postal unions, with nationwide protests and calls for a boycott of the office-supply retailer. Now, one of the biggest labor battles in recent years is headed to Washington, where the National Labor Relations Board will rule in August on whether the Staples deal violates the Postal Service’s collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union. Washington Post (blog)

Is Neoliberalism Finally Running Out of Tricks? Neoliberalism, the privatization and commoditization of everything that moves, has experienced a great run over the past three decades, jump-started in the 1980s by PM Thatcher and President Reagan, christened in 1951 by Milton Friedman. Decidedly, “austerity of governmental social programs” is the kissing cousin to “privatization of public assets” as part and parcel of neoliberal principles, for example, Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund) austerity and “the dismantling and privatization of public health and education systems” (Pablo Iglesias). Throughout Europe, Troika’s influence, or “neoliberalism on steroids,” has been hand-feeding kernels of dissent to popular uprisings. The imposition of draconian austerity measures inflicted upon Greece and the Mediterranean nation-states is rapidly, very rapidly, nursing a badly bruised European Left back to robust health. Pablo Iglesias, age 36, a former political science instructor, leads Spain’s leftwing anti-austerity Podemos party. He’s “the guy with the pony tail” on television with huge political impact. “The ‘People of the Television’—el pueblo de la television, or the TV nation, so to speak— didn’t know about a new political party called Podemos, but they knew about the guy with the pony tail,” (Understanding Podemos). CounterPunch

There’s a Contract for That. . .Some Michigan lawmakers are the latest to join Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi in considering the privatization of marriage by halting the issuance of state marriage licenses, thereby freeing people to make their own marriage contracts according to their conscience, religion and common sense. Those contracts could be registered with the state, recognized as legal and arbitrated by the courts, but the terms would be determined by those involved. Are these publicity stunts to show disdain for the idea of gay marriage? Maybe. However, the idea that states should get out of the business of regulating and granting permission to marry is hardly monopolized by religious fundamentalists. In fact, more and more people from all political backgrounds are beginning to ask the same question. Frankly, why does the state have to give citizens permission to marry?   Huffington Post

IN: Avoiding future highway congestion may come with a cost. . .Toll roads are just one approach transportation planners are taking as they try to ease the nation’s deepening traffic congestion. With little hope that the federal government will splurge on enough new construction to reverse traffic trends, the goal is to squeeze as much efficiency as possible out of current highways. . .. Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, won passage in 2014 of House Enrolled Act 1104, requiring the Indiana Department of Transportation work with outside experts to study alternative transportation funding mechanisms, such as changes to the 18 cents per gallon state gas tax — or the feasibility of a per-mile charge. Their first report to the Legislature is due this month. Soliday expects it will show the different ways of paying for roads and what the state would get using each method. Nwitimes.com

IN: Better Luck This Time: Analysts Optimistic on Indiana Toll Road. Months after the original private owner of the publicly owned toll road went bankrupt, the new owner, Australian fund manager fund IFM Investors, is set to complete the financing of its takeover bid next week. Bond Buyer

MA: Why something called the ‘Pacheco law’ is an MBTA battleground. . . What is the Pacheco law? The law doesn’t make it impossible to contract out work. In a nutshell, it requires agencies—like the T—to prove that a private contractor will provide cheaper and higher- or equal-quality services. Any proposal has to meet with state auditor approval. . . The Pioneer Institute, a fiscally conservative-leaning Massachusetts policy analysis group, says the law has cost the T hundreds of millions by preventing it from outsourcing. Pacheco law critics argue it accomplishes little beyond protecting union employees. Advocates of the law agree the law offers protection for labor, and the MBTA’s Carmen’s Union was quick to rally against Baker’s proposal to exempt the T. Advocates also say the law ensures any privately contracted work is not done at taxpayers’ expense—meaning that it actually saves money. And they argue the law does not impede privatization, often noting that since the law was passed, the vast majority of requests by the MBTA have been given approval. In-Depth-Boston.com

NJ: Debate continues over the future of Liberty State Park. Gov. Chris Christie and the Democratic-led Legislature made good on a promise this week to change a new law that some worried might pave the way for commercial development in the shadow of Lady Liberty. But the new law — frequently referred to as a fix — has not convinced everyone that the possibility of building up the park is off the table. seattlepi.com

July 8, 2015

Staples Deal With USPS Is Illegal: NLRB. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed a complaint against the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) related to the housing of contract postal units in Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) stores. The NLRB has determined that the USPS violated the law when it opened its first postal counter in a Staples store in late 2013. The contract between the USPS and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) states that USPS management must bargain with the union before entering a deal like the one with Staples. That did not happen in this instance according to the union, which issued a press release on Monday and which wants the postal counters staffed by Staples employees closed. 24/7 Wall St.

Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State This Year. ALEC’s legislative playbook for 2015 focused on blocking action on climate change, thwarting local democracy, attacking labor unions, and further privatizing public education in the U.S., as CMD reported last year in covering its legislative agenda for the year. Here are some of the worst policies ALEC legislators tried to push into binding law in state legislatures this year, so far. PR Watch

Supporters of highway tolls have hijacked our nation’s roadways – opinion. When drivers have experienced toll road proliferation at every turn, non-toll options are shrinking. Therefore, the 14 percent increase in toll road trips can be attributed to more toll roads being built that limit “free” options and force more and more drivers to pay in order to gain mobility on what was once a freely accessible public highway system. The cost of everything we buy is going up due to this explosion in our cost to travel and transport goods. Americans are experiencing it firsthand every time they buy groceries and other necessities. The Hill

NJ: As privatization of public services continues, is 911 dispatch next?. . . Camden City Business Administrator Robert Corrales said the city is only in the early stages of exploring the possibility of privatizing dispatch, and a committee is currently reviewing two bids they received from outside companies following the city’s request for bids earlier this year. . .The CWA isn’t waiting until then to make their concerns known, however. “Companies care more about making a profit then they do about the safety of Camden,” said Jim McAsey, a national staff representative with the CWA. “This rally is about good jobs, not just for 25 people but good jobs for all Camden workers.” NJ.com

NJ: New legislation on Liberty State Park signed. Gov. Christie signed legislation Monday that would provide new protections against any proposed commercial development at Liberty State Park but does not meet the expectations of park advocates, who still fear the site is “very vulnerable.” The law requires at least one hearing at the park over any project there, and gives the commissioner of environmental protection the right of final approval. An earlier version – which opponents feared would open the door to the park’s privatization and commercialization – was signed by the governor in February, then revised to offer protections to the site, a popular gateway to the Statue of Liberty. Philly.com

PA: Should Luzerne County employees compete with the private sector for their work? Outsourcing? Privatization? Luzerne County Councilman Jim Bobeck said the concept he’s pushing for is neither of those because he wants to open up some county work to outside bidders while still giving employees who perform that work a shot at submitting their own proposal to keep it. Known as “managed competition,” the technique has been used by some governments across the country as a way to shop around for other prices and options. . . County departments generally maintain they are doing the best they can with available resources and funding, he said. “What is the market of actually providing that service? You have no idea because you’ve never tested it,” Bobeck said. Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

IA: Federal Judge Backs Iowa Speed Cameras. A federal judge on Thursday decided not to allow the case against Iowa’s speed cameras to be heard by a jury. After hundreds of pages of legal briefs were filed over the course of ten months, US District Court Judge Linda R. Reade dismissed the class action case that motorists had filed in state court against the city of Cedar Rapids and Gatso, the Dutch company that owns and operates the cameras. The drivers, she argued, failed to meet the requirements needed to bring such a case. The lead plaintiff in the case, Gary Hughes, did not actually receive a speed camera ticket. Instead, he filed suit claiming a general harm to “his and every citizen’s interest in proper application of the Constitution and laws.” The judge was not impressed. TheNewspaper.com

IL: IL House Approves DCEO Privatization Bill. A plan to privatize Illinois’ economic development agency and beef up its responsibilities has cleared the House. CBS Local

July 7, 2015

Koch Brothers Believe National Parks Should Be Privatized. While many were celebrating with their families and enjoying festivities this weekend, an op-ed was published in the New York Times that made the case that the nation need not make any new parks. His reason: we cannot maintain the parks we have now. . . . It appears that, in order to address this growing problem, the Koch brothers are interested in privatizing the park systems. The author and co-author of the Times op-ed piece both work for the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). PERC is an organization interested in “property rights and environmental organization” and funded by none other than the Kochs. Ring of Fire

IL: Chicago Skyway up for sale: Report. Looking to buy a toll road? The long-term lease of the Chicago Skyway has gone up for sale, according to Reuters. The news agency reports that Spanish toll road investor Ferrovial and Australian investor Macquarie are offering their stakes in the toll road for sale to the highest bidder. Ferrovial is the parent company of Cintra. Cintra and Macquarie leased the 8-mile toll road in 2005, paying the city of Chicago $1.83 billion for the right to collect tolls and maintain the roadway through 2104. The Chicago Skyway was profitable in 2014 with revenue exceeding expenses by about $8 million. Land Line Magazine

FL: Fewer of tomorrow’s freeways will be free. Fewer of tomorrow’s freeways will be free. In exchange, drivers willing and able to pay to avoid the traffic congestion that bedevils everyone else. Toll lanes are an increasingly common solution in metropolitan regions with limited public space or money to widen highways. One increasingly popular idea is to convert carpool lanes to let solo drivers pay for a faster ride. In the future, non-carpool lanes might also be tolled. Florida Times-Union

LA: Legislative auditor: Medicaid privatization savings hard to nail down. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature Medicaid privatization program may be saving the state money, but it’s hard to tell for sure, the legislative auditor said Monday. . . The auditor recommended that the state health agency work with the Legislature to determine whether an independent actuary should be hired to determine if Bayou Health is saving the state money when compared with traditional Medicaid. Purpera’s office found flaws in some of the cost-savings reports the state health agency provided the Legislature. . . .Legislators have questioned cost savings in the past. The legislative auditor also has been critical of the information the health agency has provided, including an initial report largely based on data provided by the insurance companies involved in Bayou Health. The Advocate

NJ: Christie and his enablers jeopardize Liberty State Park – Editorial. When we last left the clash over Liberty State Park and its right to exist without some hideous commercial eyesore vandalizing its 600 pristine acres, it was trending unfavorably for the five million annual visitors who enjoy this hallowed ground in its present form. . . . Sweeney and Speaker Vincent Prieto have surrendered, essentially, with another bill that does not remove the Park from Christie’s crosshairs. No doubt, it makes significant improvements to the present law (environmental impact mandates, a public bidding process, and one measly day of public hearings), but it still gives authority to the MRC to “implement any plans” for development under the DEP. And that, indeed, has outraged park stewards and environmentalists who have made Liberty State Park an urban monolith without the help of some shopping mall architect… But this plan creates a legitimate fear that development could face few restraints. And now that the legislative fight seems lost, the public deserves to weigh in on projects, even if they’re not as large-scale as an amphitheater. Because the way this all started, the inherent distrust – in the process, in the governor, and in the lawmakers who enabled him – is wholly justified. The Star-Ledger

July 6, 2015

11 Most Expensive Toll Roads in America. . . When Interstate Highway System was introduced in the 1950s, it seemed that toll days are over, as federal regulation forbade toll collection on the roads built with federal money. However, this position was abandoned in the 1970s and states were free again to introduce tolls to fund road construction and maintenance. Despite huge network of tolls booths and the substantial amount of money that is collected through them, US still failed to make it onto the list of the 11 countries with the best roads in the world. To be quite honest though, United States do have the most extensive road network in the world and keeping it in order requires vast quantities of money. Insider Monkey

Charter Schools Are Mired in Fraud and Failure. The inadequacies of charter schools have been confirmed by many recent studies. Even CREDO, which is part of a conservative think tank funded by the pro-privatization Walton Foundation, recently found that in comparison to traditional public schools “students in Ohio charter schools perform worse in both reading and mathematics.” Another recent CREDO study of California schools reached mixed results, with charters showing higher scores in reading but lower scores in math. AlterNet

Stop treating citizens as consumers – opinion. . . When people are framed as consumers, society becomes little more than a marketplace. Social problems get treated with individualized, market-oriented solutions — where each consumer-citizen is solely responsible for spotting deceptive practices and avoiding unfair schemes — instead of collective, rights-based protections. For instance, protecting against predatory financial institutions and data brokers is a duty largely shouldered by individuals, who must remain ever vigilant against companies that hide in the shadows and track our every move. The more marginalized and vulnerable you are, the more likely you are to be targeted and the less likely you are able to defend yourself. Al Jazeera America

PA: Wolf vetoes GOP liquor privatization bill. Gov. Tom Wolf said he vetoed legislation that would close the state’s liquor stores and permit private sales because it was not a “responsible means” of overhauling Pennsylvania’s liquor system and because it would hit Pennsylvanians in the pocketbook. “It makes bad business sense for the Commonwealth and consumers to sell off an asset, especially before maximizing its value,” Mr. Wolf said. “During consideration of this legislation, it became abundantly clear that this plan would result in higher prices for consumers.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

TX: Toll road projects in limbo following legislative session. The Texas Legislature began this year’s session with a major case of toll fatigue. After more than a decade of letting local and state planners partially fund large highway projects through toll collections, most lawmakers had little appetite left for such projects. Some talked openly about scrapping many tolls already in place. Five months later, the state’s vast toll network remains intact, but the prospects for new toll projects have dimmed. In Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, major highway projects originally planned with toll lanes are in limbo as local officials try to work out the path ahead, according to lawmakers and state officials with knowledge of the projects. San Marcos Mercury

VA: Va. spends $260 million on unbuilt road, says it could’ve been worse. After paying a private company more than a quarter-billion dollars for a road that was never built, Virginia officials say they’ve reached an agreement for a modest refund. US 460 Mobility Partners . . . “It could have been a whole lot worse,” said Aubrey Layne, the state’s top transportation official. Layne said that a deal reached by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s administration left the state exposed, noting that 460 Mobility had been arguing that it was due an additional $103 million from the commonwealth. “Quite frankly, they probably would have won in litigation. The contract really did favor them,” Layne said. A spokeswoman for 460 Mobility said the company was “pleased to have reached an agreement to bring an amicable resolution” to the project. Washington Post

VA: McAuliffe signs bill that protects taxpayers in public-private deals. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a settlement on what he described as a “disastrous” U.S. 460 project Thursday before ceremonially signing a bill that takes the burden off taxpayers if a future transportation collaboration falls through. Under the Public-Private Transportation Act, which was passed by the General Assembly this spring, a committee will be set up to vet projects before financing is acquired and accountability will lie with government officials, McAuliffe said. The Virginian-Pilot

CT: State mulls using private companies to fix roads, rail and bridges. A state panel charged with finding ways to fund a $100 billion upgrade of the state’s roads, rails and bridges on Tuesday received a crash course in how to partner with private companies and the highway tolls which typically fund the projects. Connecticut Post

MA: State poised to add hundreds of spots to city charter schools. ‎The state Education Department is poised to add hundreds of charter school seats in Boston, potentially loosening the logjam in a city where thousands of children remain on waiting lists. Boston Globe

NC: Company involved in I-77 toll lanes eyes early exit from Chicago operation. While business and civic leaders from the Charlotte area were traveling to Raleigh this week to voice opposition to the proposed toll lanes for Interstate 77, one of the companies contracted for that project has been looking to sell off its toll-road operation in Chicago. A report published by the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday outlines the situation unfolding there. An investor group formed by Cintra Infraestructura and the Macquarie Group is trying to sell its interest in operating the Chicago Skyway, a 7.8-mile stretch of toll road on the south side of the Windy City, according to that newspaper. Charlotte Business Journal

OH: Legislators push school privatization with little public input. . . “The academic distress commission has been redesigned and granted more powers,” State Senator Peggy Lehner (R- 6th District) explained. Kettering Senator Lehner says Governor John Kasich requested she lead this effort, as is custom for committee chairs. For schools that have failed 3 years in a row, primarily Youngstown School District, they’d see the most changes. The commission would have the power to privatize the district. A C.E.O would be hired, and could remove the elected education board and suspend a union and some of its collective bargaining agreements. For many education unions, they say this was a last-minute effort that shut out the public and union officials. WDTN

OH: Privatization of second Ohio prison authorized by state lawmakers. State lawmakers on Tuesday approved legislation to allow the sale of a second Ohio prison. House Bill 238, which cleared a final House vote, would put the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion on the auction block. Gov. John Kasich intends to sign the legislation, according to gubernatorial spokesman Rob Nichols. The money from the sale will be spent on initiatives to develop alternatives to prison for convicts, according to state prisons agency spokeswoman JoEllen Smith. cleveland.com

DC: Privatize Metro? Be careful what you wish for. With all of Metro’s problems handling emergencies and running day-to-day service, it’s only natural that the riders who follow my online chat would raise the possibility of an outside entity taking over the D.C. region’s transit system. Most comments suggested turning it over to a private company. But they should be careful what they wish for.   Washington Post (blog)           

June 24, 2015

The Senate’s proposed highway bill: Six years, $257 billion. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unveiled language for its proposed surface transportation reauthorization bill that is scheduled for markup on Wednesday, June 24.  Of note heading into Wednesday’s markup hearing, the bill does not seek to expand a pilot program that allows up to three interstate highways or bridges to be converted into toll roads, something that truckers and other highway users have been watching closely. The tolling pilot program would remain status quo under the proposal, with a provision added to say that if a state does not act on federal approval to pursue tolls within two years, the slot would open back up for another state to apply. The three slots in the current program are held by Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina, but to date, no currently toll-free interstate has been converted into a toll road under the program.  Land Line Magazine

Privatizing Primer. You may wonder how this is sustainable. It isn’t, and it isn’t meant to be. Charters routinely drop out of the business, move on, dissolve and reform under new names, getting out of Dodge before they have to offer proof of success. This churn and burn is a feature, not a bug, and it is supposed to foster excellence. To date, there is no evidence that it does so. But in the long term, we get a two-tier system. One is composed of private, profit-generating school-like businesses that will serve some of the students. The other is a vestigal public system, under-funded and under-served, but still serving as “proof” that public schools are failure factories and so we must have a state-run system. Huffington Post

IL:  House votes to privatize state commerce agency. The Illinois House has approved a plan to partially privatizate Illinois’ commerce agency. It’s one of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s ideas for economic development. But the version sponsored by Democrats would only authorize the partnership for three years. Peoria Public Radio

CT: State mulls using private companies to fix roads, rail and bridges. A state panel charged with finding ways to fund a $100 billion upgrade of the state’s roads, rails and bridges on Tuesday received a crash course in how to partner with private companies and the highway tolls which typically fund the projects. CT Post

OH: Ohio decides to renew prison food contract with Aramark. Ohio on Tuesday renewed a contract to feed the state’s 50,000 prison inmates with a company whose early troubles getting the job done led to criticism over privatizing the service. The state rejected a counterproposal by the union representing prison guards and other workers after a four-person panel determined the union’s plan would cost too much. The $130 million agreement with Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services extends through June 30, 2017.The company faced criticism last year over understaffing, running out of food and a few cases of maggots near food prep areas. The State

MD: In Baltimore, Rec Centers Provide So Much More Than Just Fun. Local recreation centers, which have a long tradition in the city, provide a much-needed refuge. . . . “Most of the folks from this community at some point have stepped foot inside this center. As you can see it’s connected to the elementary school,” Fowlks says. “We had some great leaders over the past, that helped groom us to become adults.”That’s why the city has taken heat for closing or privatizing a dozen rec centers since 2012. Rachel Donegan, of the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work’s Promise Heights program, says closing some makes sense. Attendance has dropped as the city’s population declined. But she says it’s still left some feeling they have no place to go. NPR




June 23, 2015

Proposal to privatize air traffic control draws support. Some might have assumed that the chairman of the House Transportation Committee was courting controversy when he said last week that he planned to introduce legislation to have the country’s air traffic control (ATC) system run by a not-for-profit corporation. But it says a great deal about how flawed and dated that system is that even in the current hotly partisan environment in Washington, Anthony Foxx, President Obama’s secretary of transportation, did not immediately reject the plan. Travel Weekly

IL: Court rules federal, state agencies violated NEPA in approving massive Ill.-Ind. toll road project. A federal judge in Chicago ruled last week that state and national transportation agencies violated the law when they approved plans for a controversial toll road to connect Illinois and Indiana. . . . The decision is a punishing blow to the Illiana Expressway, also known as the Illiana Corridor, a proposed 47-mile road that would stretch east-west between the two states. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) delayed the project earlier this month, citing budget constraints. Environment & Energy Publishing

WI: Scott Walker’s Unprecedented Voucher Expansion. At a time when other states are reinvesting in public education, Wisconsin continues to slash and burn. The Wisconsin Budget Project says that the state is now spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008 and more funds are slated to be siphoned off as Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposes an unprecedented voucher expansion, draining funds from public education and directing them to for-profit and religious schools. In crafting the budget, Walker is taking his cues from the American Federation for Children (AFC), a major force for school privatization nationwide. It is funded and chaired by billionaire Betsy DeVos, and pushes its privatization agenda in the states with high-dollar lobbying and attack ads. PR Watch

MI: Arbitrator rules state must pay workers laid off after privatizing at home for veterans. Michigan owes severance pay to eligible nursing aides who were laid off from a state-run home for veterans. . . .Two year ago, more than 130 nursing aides were laid off to save the state a little more than $4 million a year. But that savings didn’t account for the severance packages employees should have gotten. Michigan Radio

CO: U.S. 36 first phase gets send off from local, state, fed officials. The toll rates will be collected by Plenary Roads Denver, which entered into a public-private partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation to also complete the second phase of construction and to manage the entire U.S. corridor. The Denver Post

NC: 2 NC charter schools cut ties with embattled management company. Two North Carolina charter schools in danger of not getting approval to open in 2016 are cutting their ties to a management company which has schools in Florida being investigated for allegations of grade tampering. News Observer

FL: State moves to tighten rules for new charter schools. Charter school applicants would be required to disclose their history with other schools, including ones that are closed, under new rules to be considered Wednesday. Sun Sentinel

NY: School ‘Reformers’ Outspending Unions In Lobbying Battle. Groups seeking to privatize education or advocate for market-based “reforms” last year outspent Teachers’ unions, which have dominated the lobbying field for years, according to a study released last week by Common Cause New York. In a June 15 report, “Polishing the Apple,” the good-government group found that the public was being deprived of a transparent debate on education issues because of elevated spending levels on ads and lobbying. The Chief-Leader

MA: Lawmakers redraft Baker MBTA bill, set Tuesday vote. A House budget provision would suspend the law requiring a vetting process before the T attempts to privatize service. Sentinel & Enterprise

June 22, 2015

Doing More, Not Less, to Save Retirees From Financial Ruin. . . At a conference hosted by the International Monetary Fund, Brad Delong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, argued that private markets were ill suited to handle the sort of long-term assessments needed to ensure a decent retirement. “The 21st century will see longer life expectancy, and thus a greater role for pensions,” he wrote. “Yet here in the United States the privatization of pensions via 401(k)’s has been an equally great disaster.” Rather than shrink Social Security, some experts and liberal politicians like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders propose expanding it. Today, more than half of working households do not have enough assets to avoid a drop in consumption in retirement, according to analyses by Alicia H. Munnell from Boston College and her colleagues. The proportion of households in that group has increased by 10 percentage points in just the last 10 years. New York Times

Clinton opposes VA privatization but sees need for choice. . . “We have learned that privatization and outsourcing is not a magic solution for anything, let alone when it comes to the unique obligations we have to our vets, so I do oppose blanket privatization proposals,” she said. Even so, the former secretary of state suggested there was a role for private health care in some areas of veterans’ treatment. “I do believe choice should be part of the solution and if we let the VA work more with communities while preserving what it does best, serving veterans and their unique needs, perhaps we can get better care faster to more vets.” Reuters

Our Ayn Randian Dystopia: The Five-Step Process to Privatize Everything. Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself — all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service. At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand ‘freedom’ unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.    United Steelworkers

Senate kills attempt to test privatization of commissaries. The Senate voted Wednesday to kill a plan hatched by its armed services committee to privatize five large commissary stores to test the concept of commercial grocers running base stores to save defense dollars. Colorado Springs Gazette

Is the US Government About to Privatize Air-Traffic Control? The future of air-traffic control in the U.S. could be in store for major reform. Under a policy proposed by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the air-traffic control program would be removed from the FAA and spun off into a private not-for-profit corporation. . . .Shuster, who serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says the move would save taxpayers billions every year and provide a better level of service to flyers in the U.S. FlyerTalk

IL: FBI probing bribery over contract to supply privatized parking meters. The FBI is investigating whether an executive at the firm that manages Chicago’s privatized parking meters was paid $90,000 in bribes to steer a contract to install and maintain the controversial meters across the city. The alleged kickback scheme was laid out in an FBI search warrant affidavit filed in February seeking access to two email accounts tied to the vice president of government services at LAZ Parking, the Atlanta-based firm hired by a Morgan Stanley-led business consortium in 2008 to manage the privatized meters in Chicago. Chicago Tribune

MI: Reps: Study more before outsourcing state jobs. State agencies would have to prove the benefits of privatization and state workers could bid on their jobs before they’re outsourced under a bipartisan package bills in the state House. Two Democrats and two Republicans have introduced bills they said would allow outsourcing to happen “in the sunshine” and remove political influence from privatization decisions. The state’s problem-plagued prison food contract with Aramark Correctional Services and road contractors failing to live up to warranties are the types of snafus the legislation might prevent, backers said. Lansing State Journal

IN: Lessons of privatization taught anew – Opinion. When the state lottery commission initially released bids for operation of the Hoosier Lottery in 2012, the documents were so heavily redacted they were incomprehensible. Officials claimed the methods bidders described to hit lofty sales targets couldn’t be disclosed because they were trade secrets. Three years after a deal was signed with GTECH, it’s clear the methods also were implausible. The lottery commission voted this month to restructure the contract, dramatically reducing those lofty goals and, ironically, reducing the penalty risk for a company selling Hoosiers games of chance. If the Rhode Island-based company didn’t deliver on its revenue promises, it at least delivered another lesson on privatization: Be wary of outlandish claims. Indiana still needs that lesson.   Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

LA: New troubles erupt in LSU Shreveport hospital privatization. LSU leaders and the manager of the university system’s Shreveport hospital are again at odds, and the threat of a possible breach of contract lawsuit emerged Thursday in the privatization deal. . . . The contracts, according to University Health, would have LSU doctors working at Willis-Knighton Health System clinics to provide specialty care. David Ettinger, an antitrust lawyer hired by University Health, said if LSU doctors shift much of their specialty care to Willis-Knighton, that will drive insured patients away from the state-owned facility and will boost state costs for uninsured care. “It will be very harmful to patients. It will be very harmful to the taxpayers of Louisiana,” Ettinger said. NOLA.com

TX: Opinion: Have toll roads become ‘Troll Roads’? At one time free marketers spoke of toll roads as if they would be the answer to congested roads and urban gridlock. No longer. The thinking was that government doesn’t seem to do anything very well, and that included building and maintaining the roads. . . . But that thinking seems to be changing, at least in Texas. Companies that build and operate toll roads have proposed a number of new ones and the public seems to be pushing back. YourHouston.com


June 17, 2015

Rep. Bill Shuster Releases ‘Principles’ For Bill to Privatize US Air-Traffic. Questions about who will establish rates have been among the most controversial aspects of the continuing privatization debate, along with maintaining pay and pension rights for current controllers. Wall Street Journal

Jeb Bush: Next President Should Privatize Social Security. Jeb Bush thinks the next president will need to privatize Social Security, he said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday — acknowledging that his brother attempted to do so and failed. It’s a position sure to be attacked by both Republicans and Democrats. Bush has previously said he would support raising the retirement age to get Social Security benefits, a common position among Republicans. And he backed a partial privatization that House Republicans have proposed that would allow people to choose private accounts. International Business

IL: Judge’s ruling on Illiana may be Rauner’s ‘way out’. A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday dealt what could be the fatal blow to the proposed Illiana toll road, ruling that the federal government’s approval of the controversial project was invalid. The Federal Highway Administration’s 2013 endorsement of the bistate project was “arbitrary and capricious,” and in violation of U.S. environmental law, according to the decision handed down by federal Judge Jorge Alonso.   Chicago Tribune

IL: Feds focus on LAZ executive for alleged parking meter bribe. Federal agents have been investigating an executive with the firm that manages Chicago’s privatized parking meters on allegations he took kickbacks to steer a meter contract to a favored company, according to a court record obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.   Chicago Sun-Times

IL: Red Light Camera Bribery Trial Stays In Chicago. Federal judge turns back attempt to move Redflex bribery trial out of Chicago, Illinois. The trial of the former managing deputy commissioner of the transportation department in Chicago, Illinois, will stay in the Windy City. Judge Virginia M. Kendall on Friday issued a ten-page order rejecting an attempt to move the trial of John Bills to Nevada on the grounds that Chicagoans are so blinded by their hatred of red light cameras that they would take their frustration out on him. . . .Judge Kendall did not buy the argument that twelve impartial individuals could not be found in a judicial district with eight million residents. TheNewspaper.com

TX: Kingston’s stumping for trinity of anti-toll road allies may have paid off. . . Though he didn’t have an opponent in the election, council member Philip Kingston had been hard at work for months. His efforts may have paid off with the election of two new council members who, like him, oppose the construction of a tolled highway inside the Trinity River levees. Kingston, along with council members Scott Griggs and Adam Medrano and former council member Angela Hunt — all toll road opponents — marshaled dozens of volunteers to campaign door to door for Mark Clayton in District 9 near White Rock Lake, Adam McGough in District 10 in Lake Highlands and Joe Tave in District 3 in southwest Dallas. Dallas Morning News

NY: School Privatizers Donate Heavily to NY State Senate GOP: Common Cause. A new report by Common Cause may offer a clue why Republicans in the New York State Senate oppose the proposal to create a monitor for the troubled East Ramapo school district. Common Cause/NY’s report, “Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Education Policy,” analyzes efforts to influence the debates around education policy and funding—Specifically, about using tax dollars to fund private schools, including religious schools. Patch.com

June 16, 2015

After 8 Years Running Florida, Jeb Bush Has A Lot To Explain. . . Bush’s changes on the economic front were even more influential. He eliminated about 13,000 government jobs — more than 10 percent of the entire state government — in part by privatizing a slew of public services, including foster care, adoption services, legal representation for death row prisoners, human resources, and state parks. His penchant for privatization continued after he left office, with investments in private disaster response corporations and for-profit education. He has recently called for privatizing veterans health care. ThinkProgress

House Committee Chairman: Privatize Air Traffic Control.The chairman of the House transportation committee said Monday he’ll introduce a bill that takes control of air traffic operations away from the government and places it under the control of a non-profit corporation run by airlines and other segments of the aviation industry. . . . Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the committee, said he has “a number of serious concerns about the constitutionality, the national security implications, and the logistical challenges of separating the system.” Airlines have been heavily lobbying Congress to give them a greater say in air traffic operations and how they are paid for. The non-profit corporation would be run by a board that would include airlines, private plane owners, and labor unions, among others. ABC News

PA: Why The Latest Liquor Privatization Bill Might Actually Pass. Yes, we’ve heard a million times before that the Pennsylvania Legislature is mulling a liquor privatization bill. A million times before, it’s gone nowhere. So why highlight the latest bill from Sen. Scott Wagner, a York County Republican? Answer: Precisely because it’s originating in the Senate, where previous House attempts at privatization have long gone to die. Philadelphia Magazine (blog)

NC: NCGA may tap school privatization advocates to hand out taxpayer funds to charter schools. . . The budget proposal being considered by the General Assembly may break new ground in state spending by letting Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina decide which fledgling charter schools get a piece of $1 million a year, N.C. Center for Nonprofits vice president David Heinen said. “This is probably unique to have a completely independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit having discretion without a lot of criteria,” said Heinen, citing the chapter of federal tax law describing charity and educational groups. “I don’t know of any other that is quite like this.” Progressive Pulse

IL: Lawmakers To Look At Privatizing State Agency Upon Return Tuesday. . . The Illinois House will focus on one item from Rauner’s wish-list: partially privatizing the state’s Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. . . Critics say that could lead to a misuse of state funds. WNIJ and WNIU

IN: Loan program for charter schools draws scrutiny. The Indiana Senate’s top budget writer is sounding an alarm about a new provision included in the spending plan lawmakers passed this year that gives charter schools access to $50 million in low-interest state loans. But Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley has concerns about the risk to taxpayers, noting that many charter schools have significant debt. “I don’t think they have the ability to retire that debt. It’s really a problem,” Kenley, R-Noblesville. Gov. Mike Pence said the new law, which takes effect July 1, will help charter schools pay for facilities. South Bend Tribune           

OH: Charter school owes state nearly $1.2 million. A former Dayton charter school owes taxpayers nearly $1.2 million after padding its attendance rolls and receiving state aid for students who never attended. General Chappie James Leadership Academy in Dayton reported enrollment of 459 students, however an investigation by state Auditor Dave Yost found nearly half of those students had never attended or long since left the school. Columbus Dispatch

FL: Opinion: Parks are not for profit. . . If the 27 million Floridians and tourists enjoyed the state parks during their visit and want them managed in a sensitive professional manner, they had better make their voices heard without delay. The Department of Environmental Protection, which administers the Florida Park Service, is converting our state parks to consumptive use (multiple-use). No tree will be safe, wildflowers and wetlands will be grazed and trampled, and deer and turkey will be shot. No state park will be secure from exploitation. The state parks collected 77 percent of their costs last year. Isn’t that good enough? They are not for profit. They are your parks. It is your choice. Make your voices heard. Gainesville Sun