Weekly privatization report

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1) National/California: California becomes the first state in the nation to ban for-profit charter schools as Gov. Brown (D) signs legislation. “Assembly Bill 406 was inspired, in part, by an investigation by [The Mercury News] into allegations of profiteering at the expense of children’s educations. The 2016 news investigation focused on K12 Inc., a for-profit company based in Virginia and traded on Wall Street that manages publicly funded charter schools in California and other states. The K12-run network,  California Virtual Academies, with an enrollment of roughly 15,000, graduated fewer than half of its high school students, and some teachers said they were pressured to inflate grades and enrollment records.” For-profit charter schools currently operating in California “must convert to non-profit management prior to each school’s renewal deadline.” The California Federation of Teachers (AFT, AFL-CIO) says “Thanks to @AsmKevinMcCarty & @TonyThurmond for authoring the bill! And thank you to all who contacted the governor, urging him to sign the bill!”

2) National: The Trump administration has proposed rules that would allow the government to imprison immigrant children indefinitely. The rule would terminate and replace the Flores agreement, which has governed the detention of migrant children since 1997. If adopted, the new policy could be a boon to for-profit “family detention centers.” Immigrant advocates have vowed to challenge the policy in court. “‘The Trump administration’s proposed regulations, purporting to implement the Flores settlement, are nothing more than a prescription for the mass internment of children,’ said Leecia Welch, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law. Welch’s organization is a co-counsel in the Flores case, and a spokesman said the group is likely to challenge the proposal if it is implemented. Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and a leader of the legal team in the original Flores case, said he was already preparing to challenge the Trump administration plan.” Written comments and related material must be submitted on or before November 6, 2018. Comment here.

Peter Schey, President and Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Foundation, one of the lead attorneys representing detained children in the Flores case, was interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar on Friday. [Audio, about 25 minutes]

3) National: Writing in the New York Times, NYU Professor Eric Klinenberg comes to the defense of public libraries, saying they are needed now more than ever. “This summer, Forbes magazine published an article arguing that libraries no longer served a purpose and did not deserve public support. The author, an economist, suggested that Amazon replace libraries with its own retail outlets, and claimed that most Americans would prefer a free-market option. The public response—from librarians especially, but also public officials and ordinary citizens—was so overwhelmingly negative that Forbes deleted the article from its website. We should take heed. Today, as cities and suburbs continue to reinvent themselves, and as cynics claim that government has nothing good to contribute to that process, it’s important that institutions like libraries get the recognition they deserve.”

4) National: Jonathan Feldman takes an in-depth look at the ideas and strategies surfaced at the North American Municipalist Summit of Fearless Cities held in New York on July 27-29. “What is municipalism? After the three day conference, a final wrap up session indicated that many were still confused by the term. Yet, numerous workshops provided a clue and various authors provide us with some departure points.” Feldman writes, “With not much advanced planning and a limited budget, the conference organizers pulled off a very interesting conference with a wide variety of speakers and helped push the left agenda past its often narrow confines. This movement, however, is associated with several limitations which should be debated among activists.”

For more on how the power of cities can be harnessed and increased, see the recent report by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Partnership for Working Families, and In the Public Interest—Unmasking the Hidden Power of Cities. The report calls for strengthening “the myriad of institutions that determine local policies—including counties, school boards, and air quality and water districts—and, ultimately, to drive statewide changes.”

5) National: Prof. Dan Immergluck of the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University says the fact that Fannie Mae has now paid $47.5 billion more to the Treasury than it received after the 2008 takeover, and that Freddie Mac has paid $40.8 billion more than it received, “argues for 1) keeping GSEs in conservatorship or, better , 2) turning into government corp. Housing market=too big to *really* privatize. If another catastrophe, govt will to step in, so govt should gain from upside. Plus ‘privatization’ = riskier & hurts most vulnerable.”

6) National: Dr. Rick Staggenborg, a former VA psychiatrist and member of Veterans For Peace, says that despite the praise it has received from some major veterans organizations, the recently passed MISSION Act will actually fuel privatization of VA services. “There are many reasons why this is not common knowledge, not the least of which is propaganda from a group backed by those who would profit most from privatization. Highly misleading claims are being promoted by Concerned Veterans of America, a Koch brothers-funded organization with little veteran representation. Their strategy is to portray the VA as failing, making privatization seem a better alternative. What they don’t mention is that the diversion of VA funds to pay for private care makes it impossible to address the problems they claim are inherent flaws of the VA.”

7) National: Estaban Guevara analyzes the dismal state of prison healthcare in the U.S. “Healthcare in many prisons and jails has been contracted out to private companies. The largest are Corizon Health and Wexford Health Sources, providing health care in 571 U.S. correctional facilities. They maximize profits by cutting health services. Prisoners and their families have filed lawsuits against Corizon charging gross negligence and civil rights violations in Georgia, New Mexico, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado and California. Wexford is the subject of similar suits for wrongful death.”

8) National: Jeff Bryant reports that the back-to-school season has been marred by chronic underfunding and endless charter school scandals. “With a new school year starting across the nation, families, teachers, and communities may be feeling a sense of renewal and possibility, but much of the news from schools is still mired in negative reports of underfunded buildings, beleaguered teachers, and charter school corruption.” Austerity continues to drive privatization: “charter schools use deteriorating conditions in public schools as fodder for their marketing campaigns—for instance, in Detroit, a local charter used the city’s decision to cut off water in city schools as a marketing pitch for parents to go charter instead.”

9) National: Steven Singer, a teacher and public school advocate, saysthere’s virtually no difference between nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. “This is a situation rife with the possibility of fraud. It is a situation where the deck is stacked against the public in every way and in favor of charter school operators. But most people don’t want to take such a strong stance. They’d rather find good and bad people on both sides and pretend that’s the same thing as impartiality. It isn’t.”

10) California/National: Schools, ports, and private entities are teaming up to help bring more young people into transportation and logistics careers. “At California State University-Long Beach, the Center for International Trade & Transportation (CITT) has partnered with the Port of Long Beach and Cabrillo High School to establish the Academy of Global Logistics. The goals of the academy, according to CITT Director of Trade and Transportation Programs Angeli Logan, are to prepare students for college and other higher education opportunities and entry-level career opportunities in global trade and logistics.”

11) California: A water remunicipalization battle is headed to the polls in the Monterey Peninsula. Both sides are publically celebrating a judge’s ruling on the content an d wording of Proposition J, a ballot initiative that will decide whether the Monterey Regional Water Management District will have to “conduct a feasibility study of a public buyout of California American Water, and if it’s found to be feasible, initiate a public takeover.”

12) California: The San Diego Union Tribuneruns lengthy and substantive Q&As with the two candidates for state school superintendent, Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond. Tuck: “There are unintended consequences of charters, that need to be addressed with policy and given that I’ve led both district public schools and charter public schools, I can kind of see some of the differences and I can lead on this the right way.” Thurmond: “I got some tough views on charter schools. (…) I just don’t get how any school could make $54 million dollars and be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and then say that’s public education and then when you look at the data you find that some of those students weren’t very well served.”

13) California: Imagine Schools at Imperial Valley in El Centro has ceased operations “after it elected on Thursday to withdraw its petition requesting the State Board of Education to overturn denial of its charter renewal.” The schools’ “faculty and staff were notified of the decision on Friday morning, as were parents. The charter school plans to further notify its campus community of the decision through its website, social media and letters sent to former students’ homes.”

14) Florida: In a major victory for public school supporters, including the Florida League of Women Voters, the State Supreme Court removed a ballot measure that would have wrested control of charter schools from local districts and given it to the state. “Plaintiff Patricia Brigham, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, celebrated the result. ‘That is indeed fantastic news,’ Brigham said. ‘It is truly a victory for Floridians. The court saw right through what the [Constitution Revision Commission] was doing with that very vague language.’ The League is a vocal critic of Florida’s expansion of charter schools, which are paid for with taxpayer money but operated by private groups. Along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the League challenged Amendment 8 by arguing the proposal’s ballot title and summary hid the purpose of the measure: to fuel the expansion of charter schools by easing oversight.”

15) Florida: A small town’s need for its own hospital is derailed by a much larger hospital 40 miles away, which fears it will lose money. “The move has upended people’s hopes around Immokalee and delayed any plans to start building the hospital for months. Maybe for good. ‘It’s just horribly mean,’ Dr. Braden said.” The larger hospital, Naples Community Hospital, is part of the Cleveland Clinic network.

16) Georgia: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has ordered ICE detainees removed from the city’s detention center. “The order also declares the city will no longer hold any federal detainee.” Bottoms told reporters “Atlanta will no longer be complicit in a policy that intentionally inflicts misery on a vulnerable population without giving any thought to the horrific fallout. As the birthplace of the civil rights movement we are called to be better than this.” But will she sell off the jail and to whom?

17) Florida: Parkland residents protested against a proposed charter school at a 10-hour meeting last Wednesday. “Michael Raskin referred to the charter school as a ‘corporate factory’ and said that it’s no surprise that the supporters were wearing green. ‘…A factory whose Deerfield Beach location ranks 818 out of 1000 middle schools in the state. A factory in which teachers don’t need college degrees. Half their factories have a B,C or D rating—what we call a Parkland F.’”

18) Illinois: The Chicago Teachers Union has elected a new president, Jesse Sharkey, who has led the union in recent years as veteran CTU leader Karen Lewis battles illness. “The CTU is currently gearing up for a contract fight on behalf of CTU educators in CPS-run schools, as well as ongoing contract fights in the union’s charter division, which represents union educators in 34 charter schools. Those charter fights are building to the possibility of one or more strikes against charter operators—possibly as early as this October—in what would represent the first strike against one or more charter operators in the history of the United States.” For the wider picture see Mike Elk, “Which States Will Teachers Strike in Next?”

19) Iowa: With two months to go before election day, the two leading gubernatorial candidates are sparring over privatized Medicaid. “Hubbell has advocated for bringing the program back under state control. He acknowledged the process would take time but said it would begin immediately if he’s elected in November. ‘The good news is that when it was privatized, there was no bill that went to the Legislature, so the governor has the authority—with an executive order—to reverse that process,’ he said. ‘And, frankly, I don’t think we want to wait for the Legislature to decide how to redo the process; we need to get started right away on day one.’”

Last week the Des Moines Register called for state payments to AmeriHealth Caritas to be withheld for performance violations. “Many months later, AmeriHealth has yet to pay as much as $14.6 million owed to Iowa care providers, a Des Moines Register investigation shows. The company’s outstanding bills include $1 million in claims from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and $541,000 from Broadlawns Medical Center.”

20) Kentucky: Jeff Bryant maps out how charter school operators are acting to expand their presence. “Kentucky was, until recently, one of just a handful of states to not yet allow charter schools. Opposition to these schools in the state is intense and bipartisan. Even after state lawmakers made the schools legal, a bill to fund charters died in the legislature. Charter proponents, nevertheless, have waged a campaign to push their schools, taking actions that challenge ethical, if not legal, boundaries.”

21) Maryland: Tesla and Boring Company chief Elon Musk may be having a rough time of it lately, but Maryland transportation secretary Pete Rahn gave a gushing booster talk to an industry think tank in late July about the wonders of Musk’s Hyperloop operation, which is trying to put together a project connecting DC and Baltimore running under public land. The Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalitionsays what the state really needs instead of Gov. Hogan’s plan for a $9 billion road widening ‘public private partnership’ is a serious commitment to investing in mass transit, specifically for “trains running all day, every day, on a network that stretches from Elkton to Frederick and from Waldorf to Towson.” A rally will be held for “Trains Not Tolls” in Frederick this Thursday.

In January 2015 Hogan hired Rahn, who previously served as transportation chief in Missouri and New Mexico and is an ardent proponent of road ‘public private partnerships.’ In the aftermath of a New Mexico controversy over a Koch Industries-backed P3 road, retired Republican State Sen. Billy McKibben said, “in my opinion, Pete Rahn is a guy who really needs to be watched. Look at what he did to New Mexico. The whole legislature was against it, but it happened all the same. I want to warn business and government leaders in Illinois and Missouri: Be very, very cautious about turning your money over Koch Industries or to Pete Rahn.”

22) Maryland: The Poe Homes, Baltimore’s oldest public housing development, may be headed toward redevelopment and privatization. “The 78-year-old public housing project in West Baltimore this week received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funds will be used to plan the future of the overhaul of the community, a spokeswoman for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City said Thursday.”

23) Minnesota: The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) has applied to a federal program that would privatize some of its oldest public housing units. “‘I came as a refugee from war,’ an unnamed Elliot Twins resident told MPHA officials during the hearing, according to a transcript of the meeting posted on the agency’s website. ‘We wonder if you will kick us out and bring others in. I would like to know the truth. This is the only home that I know.’” Business Insider reportsthat “At current salary levels, teachers in many cities across the US can’t afford to live near the schools where they teach. In San Francisco, less than 1% of homes on the market are affordable to the city’s schoolteachers, according to a new study from real estate website Trulia.”

24)Missouri: The looming deal to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport is looking a lot like the disastrous Chicago parking meters privatization, says Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest. “The process St. Louis is using has many of the same features — plus some—that got Chicago in trouble. There is far too little transparency and public involvement. The city is making decisions without rigorously and objectively exploring the options. They don’t appear to be looking carefully at the financial risks and downside of using expensive private investor capital. And they may not be anticipating how much decision-making power they’ll give up along the way.”

25) Nevada: Repairing a municipality’s credit rating, which lowers borrowing costs for infrastructure and services and avoids privatization, can involve taking the tough step of broadening its tax base to include companies opening up new operations there, North Las Vegas finds. “The community of 243,000 bordering Las Vegas has benefited from the growth in the national and local economies and from diversifying its tax base. Amazon.com Inc. in April said it was building the state’s fourth facility there, and Sephora, a cosmetics company under Paris-based conglomerate LVMH, broke ground on a distribution center in July.”

26) New Hampshire: Concord opens a new charter school in an old department store. “Many malls are now empty, but this is one way to repurpose and shape the community of the malls across America!” For example, “we will also be able to travel down to the food courtto add some hustle, bustle and positive vibes and noise to the mall!”

27) New Jersey: Democrats are split over Hudson county’s renewal of a jail contract with ICE. “The vote has caused a split among the Democratic leadership in the county over what its relationship with the Trump administration should be. All of the members of the freeholder board are Democrats. And soon after the vote, the City Councils of Hoboken and Jersey City, both led by Democrats, passed resolutions urging the freeholders to terminate the contract. ‘The county and cities shouldn’t be in the business of profiting off human misery,’ said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop who, along with Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla, has criticized the county’s decision to renew its contract with ICE.”

28) New York: An application to open a charter school in Poughkeepsie has been withdrawn for now. “The applicant group plans to resubmit a proposal early next year. Before it does, ‘our team will develop cross-sector partnerships with corporate businesses, collegiate institutions and leading charter management organizations,’” said Robert Watson, an educational consultant who’s been leading the charge to create the school.

29) New York: John Maranzana, president of the Monticello Teachers Association, opposed a new charter school for the districtat a public meeting on Thursday. “Charters receive taxpayer funding but are not subject to the same oversight or public requirements as public schools,” he said. “Maranzana also took issue with how charter schools are run by a board that’s not elected by the public. ‘We firmly believe that communities should govern schools by electing the school boards like the one I’m speaking before now,’ he added.”

30) Ohio: A Smithville charter school “resource” officer decides it’s a good idea to set off a taser to wake a sleeping student. “I thought it was a joke, honestly,” said the school principal.

31) Pennsylvania: Decision time is coming for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. Mayor Bill Peduto has given PWSA until the end of the month to come up with a proposal “for a 12-year plan of improvements that will eliminate all lead water pipes and guarantee the city safe drinking water for the next 50 years. He said the city would seek proposals from private companies at some point during the last four months of the year.” Peduto “is adamant about maintaining PWSA as a publicly owned system, but he’s open to suggestions from private enterprise on a partnership that would generate additional revenue.” The Tribune-Review reports that “residents and activist groups such as Pittsburgh United have opposed any type of private involvement with PWSA.”

32) Pennsylvania: An intense battle over water and sewer utility privatization is being waged­ in the Philadelphia suburbs. “The merger frenzy was set off by a 2016 state law that encourages the consolidation of smaller water and wastewater systems under private ownership. Act 12 allows investor-owned utilities to charge ratepayers for the appraised fair-market value of an acquired system, rather than its lower depreciated cost. The new law, combined with a 2012 act that allows a utility to spread the acquisition costs to all its ratepayers across the state, creates an industry-friendly environment for private water utilities to expand their reach. Pennsylvania American already has 658,000 water and wastewater customers. Aqua Pennsylvania, which filed for a 15.4 percent water rate increase on Aug. 17, has 450,000 customers.”

33) Think Tanks: The Urban Institute has produced an interactive tool to explore how different policy changes would affect a given state’s prison population.

Legislative Issues

1) California: Thomas Ultican says outgoing California schools superintendent Tom Torlakson “has formed an Action Team to review laws governing charter schools. (…) Ninety percent of the state’s students attend public schools yet 23% of the Action Team are charter school management executives. Also, 23% of the team are graduates of Eli Broad’s unaccredited school administrators’ academy. (…) The California charter school law is causing real damage. In The Public Interest (ITPI) published ‘Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts’ written by University of Oregon Professor, Gordon Lafer, which reports that ‘the California Charter School Act currently doesn’t allow school boards to consider how a proposed charter school may impact a district’s educational programs or fiscal health when weighing new charter applications.’”

2) Mississippi: The Clarion Ledger looks at what some of the players are trying to get out of the special legislative session on infrastructure called by Gov. Bryant (R)to deal with the state’s long neglected, collapsing infrastructure. “Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has often said Jackson has a $2.5 billion infrastructure issue. Funding for road and bridge repair and maintenance is consistently one of the major challenges facing the city. ‘Jackson’s infrastructure needs are well known,’ Lumumba said. ‘But I think it’s important to also recognize the importance of Jackson to the state of Mississippi. The greatest opportunity exists in Jackson. Revenue that could be generated here would benefit the entire state unlike any other city,’ Lumumba said.” Despite the poor state of its bridges and roads, last year the Mississippi passed the largest tax cut in its history.

 

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