In the Public Interest’s weekly privatization report, July 30, 2018

1) National/South Carolina: As a summer of global temperature extremes marches on, private energy interests are inhibiting public efforts to address climate change—hitting ratepayers in the wallet and threatening jobs. In South Carolina, solar energy is about to hit a cap. “Once solar output reached 2 percent of utilities’ peak power production, the utilities could cap the program. On July 31, Duke Energy plans to do just that for a large swath of the state. Two other utilities are also expected to hit 2 percent in the coming months, solar installers say. Customers who already have net metering won’t see any change until the whole program is due to expire in 2025, but Duke Energy customers who add solar after this month will get much less favorable rates. This is all coming three years earlier than expected, and it could put as many as 3,000 solar jobs at risk.”

2) National: Federal Judge Dana Sabraw said the federal government has met his order that all eligible migrant families be brought back together. The process, he said, “has been completed.” But “he insisted that finding the deported parents must be the ‘the second stage.’ Stage three, said the judge, would be to set up a protocol ensuring that ‘this never happens again.’” However, “the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit to reunite the families, says the government is manipulating the figures to give a false impression. ‘The Trump administration is trying to sweep them under the rug by unilaterally picking and choosing who is eligible for reunification,’ Lee Gelernt, of the ACLU, said in a statement.

During a press briefing Friday, the Texas Civil Rights Project “outlined details of the U.S. government’s failure to meet a court-ordered July 26 deadline to reunite nearly 3,000 children taken from their parents under the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy.” Efrén C. Olivares, TCRP’s Racial and Economic Justice Program Director, said “the government would like the public to believe it successfully met the July 26 deadline; nothing could be further from the truth. Here in South Texas, chaos dominates the government’s family reunification efforts. Many parents were reunited in the parking lot of the Port Isabel Detention Center and dropped on the steps of Catholic Charities. One mother was brought the wrong child—thankfully, the issue was resolved later that day. Some clients had to sleep in cars because they were processed for release, but their children were not there yet. These incidents point to major, ongoing problems. They highlight the mismanagement of the process and the further trauma it’s causing. And they underscore the government’s utter failure to plan for timely, humane reunification when it tore families apart.”

Meanwhile, the Texas Observer is reporting that the Trump administration is setting up a “deportation factory” for reunified families in south Texas. “Most of the more than 1,000 families reunified so far have been released to U.S. nonprofits, many with ankle monitors. This week, however, the government said in court filings that it plans to use the 830-bed Karnes County Residential Center to temporarily hold hundreds of other families facing imminent deportation.” Karnes is operated for profit by the GEO Group.

3) National: Right on cue, and consistent with his “starve the beast” strategy to shrink government, Grover Norquist’s group calls for more road privatization just as reports are emerging that corporate tax revenue “has plunged to historically low levels” in the wake of Trump’s trillion dollar tax cut for wealthy individuals and corporations.

4) National: The Trump administration has ended the practice of requiring developers to pay for damage to public lands. The Scranton Times-Tribune says “the decision is an invitation to recklessness. Required compensation is an incentive for responsible development; eliminating it is an invitation to cut corners for expediency. The new BLM policy states: ‘Except where the law specifically requires, the BLM must not require compensatory mitigation from public land users.’ Congress should resolve the matter by ensuring that the law requires it everywhere.”

5) National: Digital sales are booming in prisons, and researchers are worried about a lack of regulation. Wanda Bertram, a communications strategist for the Prison Policy Initiative “said that tech programs like tablets or video visitation could have real, tangible benefits for incarcerated people—if it weren’t for what she called ‘private enrichment at the expense of largely indigent families.’ She thinks states can prove they care about these tangible benefits by negotiating fairer contracts and working with tech companies to develop more free, effective programs. Similarly, Chandra Bozelko, a writer and advocate who was formerly incarcerated, told me in May that while she was generally opposed to the ‘pay-to-play’ nature of many prison tech programs, ‘profit motive has led to innovation’—innovation that can and should be replicated on a not-for-profit scale.” See the PPI report, The Company Store: A Deeper Look at Prison Commissaries.

6) National: Writing in Truthout with the support of the Nation Institute, Sarah Jaffe interviews Cata Santiago of Movimiento Cosecha, an immigrant rights organization that is “spearheading a campaign against Amazon for its cooperation with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Donald Trump’s deportation machine.” Santiago says “Amazon is a corporation that is profiting off of the suffering of the immigrant community, where they are selling their surveillance to ICE, and that is something that we are not being complicit to.”

7) National: Campaigns against corporate complicity with profiteering from the federal government’s immigrant detention and deportation drive—as well as private prison profiteering—are spreading. Jobs with Justice is calling on people to “tell Microsoft and other tech companies to sever ties with ICE. (…) That’s why employees at Microsoft are calling on the company to cut their $19.4 million contract with ICE. Other big tech companies like Salesforce, Dell, Motorola, and Hewlett Packard Enterprises are also facing pressure from their employees to cut ties with ICE and Customs and Border Protection. Will you have the backs of these brave working people?”

Common Dreams’s Julia Conley reports that “JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon became the latest power broker to be directly confronted with the outrage of immigrant rights advocates, as CREDO Mobile, Make the Road New York, and other groups led a protest outside Dimon’s Manhattan apartment building over his bank’s financing of immigration detention centers.”

8) National: CoreCivic has entered into a new agreement with the federal government to use CoreCivic’s 3,060-bed La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. “More specifically, the city of Eloy has agreed to modify an existing Intergovernmental Agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to add the La Palma facility as a place of performance, while also permitting the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) to utilize capacity at the facility at any time in the future.  ICE currently expects to house up to 1,000 adult detainees at the La Palma facility under the new agreement and may house.”

9) National: George Smith, a former publisher of the Marshall News Messenger, targets prisoner quotas for driving up incarceration and ripping off taxpayers. “Follow the money. That quota has become a driver of an increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement strategy. Two major private prison corporations have emerged as the main corporate beneficiaries of immigrant detention policies: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group. Nine of the 10 largest ICE detention centers are private; CCA and GEO have eight of the nine centers. The entire ICE detention has increased by nearly 50 percent in the last 10 years. Follow the money. Both companies have significantly augmented their profits since the implementation of the quota—CCA from $133,373,000 in 2007 to $195,022,000 in 2014. GEO experienced an even more dramatic profit increase from $41,845,000[20] in 2007 to $143,840,000 in 2014, a 244 percent increase.”

 

Want our weekly privatization report in your inbox every Monday? Sign up here.

 

10) California: Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, the largest municipal bond counsel firm, has settled a negligence claim over a defunct charter school’s bonds. “UMB Bank, the successor bond trustee to The Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co., filed the lawsuit against Orrick in December 2016 in Orange County Superior Court, for “alleged professional negligence and alleged violations of the California Securities Act” in connection with a 2012 bond issue for Tri-Valley.” [Sub required]

11) California/National: Months after federal agents raided the offices of Celerity Educational Group, the charter network has “made the decision last week to close one of its seven schools in Los Angeles County: Celerity Rolas, in Northeast L.A. In a letter to parents, Nadia Shaiq, the group’s CEO, said that Rolas had been unable to attract enough students to justify the costs of keeping it open.”

12) California: A proposed San Lorenzo Valley charter school has again been denied approval to operate. “The nonprofit Integrative Leadership Academy plans to appeal to the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, but the decision dashed hopes of the school opening its doors to a founding class of 75 in August.” According to a staff report, the charter petition fell short in three areas. “It presented an unsound education program, was “demonstrably unlikely” to successfully put that program into practice and did not comprehensively detail five required elements about its programs, governance, health and safety and disciplinary procedures. ‘Really the nuts and bolts that set forth how they are going to accomplish what they set forth in the petition really just aren’t there,’ said Elizabeth Mori, an attorney who helped review the petition on behalf of the district.”

13) Florida/National: Two counties are suing to block the use of Private Activity Bonds by the owners of the private All Aboard Florida passenger line. “Federal officials ignored or failed to consider the environmental, public safety, maritime, and environmental impacts the passenger rail project would have on the two counties, and plaintiffs Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, or CARE, and the Indian River County Emergency Services District, according to the motion.” [Sub required]

14) Florida: The Tampa Bay Times has tracked Gov. Rick Scott’s “six-figure campaign haul from the GEO Group” for his new Senate bid. “At a time when other candidates are distancing themselves from GEO by returning the company’s money, Scott reports $10,800 from GEO’s chief executive, George Zoley, and his wife Donna, in his second quarter report filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Scott’s Super PAC reported $125,000 from a GEO Group subsidiary, GEO Acquisition II, and the governor’s Victory Fund listed $78,600 from the Zoleys. The donations total $214,000.”

15) Florida: The Palm Beach Post calls for the closure of the Eagle Arts Academy charter school. “Not surprisingly absent from any ‘A’ list, however, was Eagle Arts in Wellington, for reasons so disgraceful it is amazing that there is the remotest possibility the K-8 school might continue milking taxpayersand poorly serving students. As the Post has documented, its problems are pervasive and ongoing.”

16) Idaho: As the state prepares to send inmates out of state to for-profit prison facilities, Deb Greene-Grove of Lewiston points to the state’s abandonment of time off for good behavior. “In 2005, 302 were sent to Minnesota. In 2012, 800 inmates were shipped to Colorado. Now once again, Idaho is sending even more. One thousand will end up in the GEO Group-private prison system by August. The worst part of this yo-yo mess is Idaho taxpayers will cover the bill, once again. The bill for the two-year run will be more than $17 million. Good for you, Texas and GEO investors. In the United States, only nine out of 50 states do not have good time served. Forty-one states have seen the value in using it.”

17) Illinois: The Chicago Board of Education is moving to complete the privatization of “all its school facilities work amid reports of dirty schools, awarding $60 million more to SodexoMAGIC.” The company, “a campaign donor to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will add a zone of about 34 elementary schools that Chicago Public Schools officials had intended to give to another company.” The Sun-Times reports that “SodexoMAGIC currently holds about $419 million in facilities contracts through 2021. Aramark has another $290 million, as CPS has been gradually privatizing all schools’ facilities services such as landscaping, pest control and cleaning in all its schools since 2014. Meanwhile, in December, CPS inspections found that 91 of 125 schools examined for cleanliness scored failing marks as inspectors found mouse droppings, bathrooms that lacked hot water and soap and other problems in kitchens.”

18) Illinois: Emma Tai and Stephanie Farmer report in In These Times on how “Elon Musk and Rahm Emanuel’s Transportation Scheme Is a Privatization Bonanza.” The bonanza could hit taxpayers and public services. “Although Musk’s project would be the first airport express train project of its kind in the United States, such ventures in other countries have concentrated public wealth in private hands. A study conducted for SNCF French National Railways finds that 84 percent of private airport express train investors across the globe overestimate the number of riders they will attract by at least 20 percent. When such privately funded trains fail to hit their ridership targets, the projects can expect a public bailout to keep the trains running.”

19) Louisiana: The Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy charter school terminated its chief financial officer last month“amid a state ethics investigation and revelations that the school improperly delayed employees’ retirement transfers. (…) [Brent Washington] faces a state ethics investigation for being paid $54,500 over three years to do accounting for the school, in addition to his salary. Public employees are not allowed to contract with their agencies to do work that overlaps with their job duties.”

20) Michigan: A statewide coalition to “fight back against the profiteering and privatization of our public schools” gets underway with a listening session in Pontiac.

21) Missouri: Weeks before school resumes, one of Kansas City’s oldest charter schools shuts down, leaving students in the lurch. “For years, Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology struggled to meet state performance expectations. As a result, last October its sponsor, the University of Central Missouri, severed ties with the charter. Its contract expired June 30. Now the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says the school was unable to find a replacement sponsor and therefore is closed.”

22) New Jersey: An Egg Harbor charter school has applied for a name change amid lawsuits. “According to court records, two civil lawsuits were filed against International Academy of Atlantic City last month, one from SABIS Educational Systems and another from former school chief Natakie Chestnut. Attorneys for Chestnut and SABIS did not respond to requests for comment. Chestnut’s suit against the school, filed June 29 in Atlantic County Superior Court, is labeled as a whistleblower case and alleges retaliation, wrongful termination and defamation against both SABIS employees and the International Academy trustees.”

23) Oklahoma: A Tulsa charter school that faced accusations of grade tampering has been permitted to continue operating. “Classes begin in just a few weeks. Under new probation guidelines all math, science and English teachers need teaching certificates by November. (…) The department of education also plans to impose additional conditions as needed, and will provide oversight of the school in the year ahead.”

24) Washington/National: The Associated Press looks into the role the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has played in keeping charter school advocacy alive in Washington State after a devastating court ruling cur back public funding. “It’s an extreme example of how billionaires are influencing state education policyby giving money to state-level charter support organizations to sustain, defend and expand the charter schools movement across the country.” AP reports that “Since 2006, philanthropists and their private foundations and charities have given almost half a billion dollars to those groups, according to an Associated Press analysis of tax filings and Foundation Center data. The review looked at 52 groups noted by a U.S. Department of Education website as official charter school resources in the 44 states plus Washington, D.C., that currently have a charter law, as well as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.”

25) Washington: A new report by an organization backed by the pro-charter Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation finds that charter schools do better at enrolling students with disabilities than traditional public schools. But critics voice reservations. Ron Zimmer, a professor at the University of Kentucky, who directs the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration and has studied charter schools across the U.S. “suggested the CRPE brief might not convince critics of charter schools to change their minds, mostly because the authors did not compare similar types of schools. ‘You’re taking the whole (traditional) district and then the charter schools in them, but charter schools are not randomly distributed across the district,’ Zimmer said. He doubted the validity of comparing one charter school, located in and enrolling students from a high-poverty neighborhood, to a more affluent district like Seattle. The brief also didn’t compare the same grade levels between charters and their home districts.”

26) West Virginia: Looking at the major charter school scandals in neighboring Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Wheeling Intelligencer says necessary lessons must be learned. “In both states, officials have had to rethink governance of charter schools. Clearly, little thought was given in Ohio to how charter schools, whether online or using traditional classrooms, would be held accountable. Fortunately, that no longer is the case. Schools, both public and charter, are monitored more closely than in the past. That is how it should have been all along.”

27) International: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spells out his party’s strategy to “reprogram” the British economy to support good jobs, public services and education. “If we want to reprogram our economy so that it works for everybody, we must use powers we have to back good jobs and industry here,” he told EEF, the manufacturers’ organization. “Labour is determined to see public contracts provide public benefit using our money to nurture and grow our industries and to expand our tax base. The next Labour government will bring contracts back in-house, ending the racket of outsourcing that has turned our public services into a cash cow for the few. And we will use the huge weight of the government’s purchasing power to support our workers and industries…. What’s more we will include public interest into these big public contracts, as was done with the contract to build the High Speed 2 railway…. Instead by considering public interest such as job creation and the supply chains, we can grow our economy in a way that works for everybody…. Firms our government does business with will have to: properly pay their taxes, respect workers rights, provide equal opportunities, protect the environment, train their workers, pay their suppliers on time and end boardroom excess by moving to a 20-1 limit on the gap between the lowest and highest paid.”

28) International: Public Services International (PSI) President Rosa Pavanelli calls for “convening a process at the global level, through ECOSOC, to take stock and evaluate whether PPPs are fit for purpose.” PSI says, “An estimated USD 90 trillion investment is needed in infrastructure by 2030 to implement the SDGs. We are deeply concerned about the increasing privatisation of public services, including through public-private partnerships. These are by no means a fast track to SDG realization but instead undermine quality, equity as well as human rights, and very often incur additional costs in the long run. PPPs are inadequate and unsuccessful for essential and critical services—they privatise profits and socialize risks.”

29) Think Tanks: In the wake of a scandal over Forbes magazine runnng an op-ed saying public libraries should be turned into Amazon stores, In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler focuses in on a company driving library privatization now. “Like Amazon, LS&S slashes employee pay and benefits to turn a profit while shrouding its dealings in secrecy. Last year, it was hit with nearly $70,000 in penalties for wage and hour violations. In 2016, an audit of one of its libraries in Oregon revealed that 28 percent of the public money paid to the corporation was filed under the ominous category of ‘other,’ unknown even to public officials.”

30) Think Tanks: Demos releases the 254-page Summer 2018 edition of Everyone’s America: State Policies for an Equal Say in Our Democracy and an Equal Chance in Our Economy. The briefing book offers “an inclusive, race-forward, working-class platform that policymakers, grassroots organizations, and community members can move in their states.” They advocate strong investment in public infrastructure, while noting that state and local government spending on infrastructure is at a 30-year low.

“We the people—not Wall Street—should control American infrastructure,” says Demos. “We spent billions to build our bridges, pipes, ports, buildings, and more—we shouldn’t just hand them over to hedge funds to profit off of our investments. Public-private partnerships and other schemes to privatize our nation’s public infrastructure enrich Wall Street at the expense of working Americans. Rather than handing our assets over to unaccountable companies focused on boosting their stock price and maximizing profits, we must ensure that infrastructure serves the public interest in safety, accessibility and equity. Big infrastructure projects can be a powerful tool for advancing racial equity. In planning, we can prioritize the communities—often communities of color—that our state has not historically invested enough in. While building, we can thoughtfully create jobs and career pathways for residents. When the infrastructure is in use, it will ease our residents’ access to opportunity, recreation, and civic engagement.”

For more see In the Public Interest’s resource page on infrastructure and privatization.

Legislative Issues

1) Puerto Rico/National: As the privatization of the electric utility approaches, plans for a House oversight hearing were disrupted by a twitter spat between the House Natural Resources Committee chair and Gov. Rosselló, both Republicans. “The no-show comes after the governor demanded an ‘explicit, public apology’ for a tweet he found ‘shameful’ and ‘condescending.’ The tweet, now deleted, was posted on July 19 by the Natural Resources Committee’s account and said ‘Call your office, @RicardoRossello,’ with the committee’s invitation for testimony attached.” A bill to cancel Puerto Rio’s debt has been introduced by Sens. Warren and Sanders. @Alan_Britto_ writes “If you believe the government when it tells you that with the privatization of #AEE there will be a decrease in the cost of energy in Puerto Rico you are living in #lalandia. A bankrupt corporation with debts over $ 9 billion will never reduce rates.”

2) Massachusetts: The Massachusetts ACLU calls for opposition to H4546, saying “Community ‘Benefit’ Districts (CBDs) Pose Grave Risks.” They cite a number of concerns. “The bill is also troublingly silent as to the Legislature’s intent about the applicability of public records, open meeting, and similar laws intended to ensure transparency and openness of entities controlling our public spaces. It appears to allow private entities to control public space without any public accountability.”

 

Want our weekly privatization report in your inbox every Monday? Sign up here.