Weekly Privatization Report 6-18-2018

1) National: In the Public Interest, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and the Partnership for Working Families release a new report on the unique power of cities to make progressive change. “We are in an unprecedented moment in U.S. history,”  write Roxana Tynan, Nikki Fortunato Bas, and Donald Cohen. “It is a time of resurgent racism and inequality, but also of newly energized and ambitious activism. We propose that the most effective way to take advantage of that momentum and reclaim American democracy is through investment in progressive organizing in the nation’s cities. Throughout the country, cities provide the diversity, social bonds, union strength, coalitional relationships and experience necessary to achieve governing power in the interest of the common good.”

On infrastructure, Trump’s “move toward privatization dramatically increases the need for progressive expertise and organizing capacity at a local level.” On services, “progressives have spent decades fighting the right-wing’s crusade to privatize government services, the result of which is often low-wage, dead-end jobs, inferior work product, and back-ended costs.” See LAANE Executive Director Roxana Tynan’s summary of “Unmasking the Hidden Power of Cities” on Medium.

2) National: The Partnership for Working Families joined thousands across the country on Thursday protesting against family separation policies of the Trump administration targeting migrants and refugees, saying “Children belong with their families, not in detention centers or tent cities. Join @familiesbelong to say #FamiliesBelongTogether! Find an event close to you.”

The Daily Beast reports that private, for-profit contractors are cashing in on immigrant children’s detention. “Separating refugee and immigrant children from their parents isn’t just an emotionally wrenching policy. It’s an enterprise that is benefitting intelligence and defense contractors. Those contractors—including one with a history of scandals—have advertised a flurry of jobs in recent weeks to support the infrastructure surrounding undocumented children whom the Trump administration has taken from their families. One of them, from Virginia-based MVM Inc., seeks a compliance coordinator to help in San Antonio with the ‘rapid deployment of an Emergency Influx Shelter for unaccompanied children.’

Veteran researcher and author Tim Shorrock writes
 “MVM has been a major contractor for ICE and the US Marshals for years. During the Obama years MVM managed the deportations by air of thousands of deported immigrants under ICE/Marshal contracts.” MVM was founded by Charles Vance, who sold his interest in the company in 1984 and went on to form Vance International (Virginia-based VI, since bought out by GardaWorld) which, according to John Logan, a researcher on union busting, claimed “to be the nation’s ‘largest and most respected provider of labor disruption security.”

Neil Gordon, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight, says “it looks right now that the Trump administration’s policies regarding immigration is proving to be a relatively lucrative area for private contractors.” TYT Network reports that one of these contractors is Global Traveler Security, founded and run by Barry McManus, “a veteran of the CIA’s clandestine service, having begun his career as a bodyguard for CIA Director William Casey. There he spent over 20 years as an interrogator.”

Private contractors are also making big money trying to help Customs and Border Protection deal with a combination of plummeting morale and hiring woes. “The agency’s morale last year ranked 315th out of the 339 federal offices tracked by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. Attrition remains a major problem at CBP, and the congressional budget document noted that the agency expects to lose more Border Patrol agents this year than it hires, marking at least the sixth year in a row that this has been the case. What Accenture would actually be paid to do was unclear when it won the $297 million contract. CBP’s solicitation requested help ‘managing the full life cycle of the hiring process’ for entry-level Border Patrol agents and creating a system to track that process.”

3) National: The Nation’s Michelle Chen reports that “Trump’s crackdown has been partially enabled by a massive security apparatus developed largely under Bush and Obama since 9/11. Trump has planned to drastically expand this regime, largely through lucrative private security corporations and bigger budgets for the militarization of border patrols.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told The Nation’s Joan Walsh there is a stark difference between publically-run and unionized facilities in the Bureau of Prisons versus privatized ICE facilities. “Because there’s no place to keep them [in Texas], they’re being transferred around the country. Interestingly, we do have an immigration detention center in Tacoma, but that’s full because Trump has ramped up detention so dramatically—most of those centers are full now. So these women were transferred to a Bureau of Prisons federal facility that is used to keep everyone from pretrial detainees to the highest-level federal criminals in top security. It’s owned and operated by the federal government. It’s not contracted out. It’s all unionized employees—and that is why these women said this is the first place they felt treated like a human being. There are standards at these government-run facilities.” (…)

“JW: So normally they’re held in private facilities, with lower standards? PJ: Yes, they’re contracted out—both CBP and ICE facilities, so many of them are contracted out to for-profit and private contractors. JW: How did you wind up getting in so quickly? Is it because of that? PJ: Well, that is interesting, I do think it was easier because it’s a federal Bureau of Prisons facility. We called the warden on Friday. We were on the phone with the BOP folks, with ICE nationally and locally, but because it’s a BOP facility it was easier to get access. ICE often requires two weeks advance notice. The BOP essentially let us in immediately.”

4) National: NBC News, in partnership with the Hechinger Report and the Nation Investigative Fund, ran a report last night on charter schools and segregation. “But some residents say that policies at the school make it hard for black families to enroll their kids: Land’s End uniforms they can’t afford, and the fact that the charter doesn’t provide bus transportation to and from school, while the other public schools do. To many in this starkly divided county, this public charter school doesn’t seem all that public.”

5) National/Pennsylvania: The Philadelphia Tribune says it’s time to reform the profit-driven and unfair cash bail system nationally, coming behind the city’s new progressive DA. “Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced earlier this year that prosecutors would no longer seek cash bail for people accused of some misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, a significant and long overdue policy shift that should be adopted on a national level.” The class-basedbail system has grown into a $2 billion industry.

6) National: The Financial Times has thrown in the towel on Trump’s infrastructure plan. “Now, nobody expects much traction on the infrastructure plan before the midterm elections in November, that is likely followed by a whole new set of battles with a changed Congress. By then the Staten Island Pizza Rats will have become the plain old Yankees again, after their five-game summer streak. And commuters across the country will still be gritting their teeth, girding themselves for a daily rush hour that is all too often a trip back in time.” [Sub required]. And Jeremy Mohler of In the Public Interest weighs in with news that “the internet is simultaneously laughing and crying at a new ad campaign by Domino’s offering to fix potholes that ‘cause irreversible damage to your pizza during the drive home.’ That’s right. The pizza chain is literally partnering with towns to fill potholes in exchange for spray-painting their logo on the fresh pavement. But actually, it’s not that far off from Trump’s infrastructure plan.”

7) National: The American Federation of Government Employees has welcomed AFSCME’s joining with it in a case to fight against the Trump administration’s efforts to deny federal workers their legal right to representation at the worksite. “The executive order at issue in AFGE’s lawsuit is one of three directives from President Trump that chip away at due process and collective bargaining rights for federal employees. ‘These executive orders strip agencies of their right to bargain terms and conditions of employment and replace it with a politically charged scheme to fire employees without due process,’ AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.”

8) National: GAO has released a report on how federal oversight of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure on tribal projects can be improved. “We found that the Indian Health Service (and other federal agencies that fund tribal water projects) spent about $370 million on these projects in 2016. However, they didn’t always prioritize projects in areas that lacked safe drinking water or wastewater disposal. We recommended that IHS and the Department of Agriculture update their processes to prioritize tribal water infrastructure projects in communities that currently lack safe drinking water and wastewater disposal.”

9) California: San Francisco Bayview reports that “recently, there have been many notable accomplishments in our public schools in the Bayview. Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School’s principal was awarded Principal of the Year. Students at the Willie Brown Academy just won a statewide competition on healthy eating. And Malcolm X Academy’s fifth grade math and English test scores beat out KIPP Middle School’s fifth grade scores—that’s the charter chain that wants to take space away from Malcolm X. (…) In fact, KIPP Bayview Elementary wants to push into Malcolm X next year, likely taking over just those spaces that support the school’s most vulnerable children to do much better. This year they’ll be taking over the garden and art classrooms; later, it could be the Wellness Center.”

10) California: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has won a major settlement on behalf of California students who were victimized by private, for-profit Corinthian Colleges. “Under a settlement reached this week with Balboa Student Loan Trust — which holds the loans of 34,971 former Corinthian students across California — Balboa will stop all debt collections from the former students and forgive their remaining balances, totaling $67 million, Becerra said. These include 7,368 students in the Bay Area.” For a full report listen to the Pacifica Evening News story (at 36:20).

11) California: Wealthy backers of losing pro-charter school gubernatorial primary candidate Antonio Villaraigosa are having a hard time making nice to winner Gavin Newsom. “Newsom advisor Sean Clegg hinted at possible repercussions for the final salvo against his candidate. ‘At this point, they can talk to the hand as far as I am concerned. My grandfather told me friends come and go, but enemies accumulate,’ he said. ‘When someone spends $4 million [in negative advertising] saying you don’t do your job, it’s kind of hard to get over that.’ For his part, Newsom was more circumspect, saying he will continue to support nonprofit charters with increased accountability.”

12) Idaho: The Lewiston Tribune’s Marty Trillhaase cheers Idaho Board of Correction member Cindy Wilson of Boise for asking the right questions. “Monday, the board learned Idaho will need a $500 million prison expansion to make room for a burgeoning prison population. The state’s prisons and jails are crammed solid, requiring Idaho to rent space for 250 inmates at the GEO Group-operated Karnes County Correctional Center in Texas. Wilson, the Democratic nominee for Idaho superintendent of public instruction, asked the right questions: Why is Idaho locking up so many people? How come so many of the incoming inmates are serving time for drug offenses? ‘I mean incarcerating people because they have an addiction doesn’t work,’ she said.”

13) Kansas: The Topeka Public Schools are getting ready for Kansas Central School Bus as the district’s new provider, replacing Durham School Services. “The vote came after many reported incidents involving Durham drivers, including a driver going the wrong way and missing stops as well as a mom claiming her deaf child was left on a Durham bus the entire day. Kansas Central is part of North American Central School Bus, which is based out of Joliet, Illinois.”

14) Nebraska: The city of Omaha is fining Waste Management $27,634 after trash complaints pile up. “In addition, the city will reduce its payment to Waste Management for failure to provide separate yard waste collection across the city. Currently, only 6 of 20 Waste Management collection routes are staffed.  The city could reduce the monthly tipping fees at the landfill, reduce the amount paid per household for separate yard waste collection, or a combination of both. ‘Waste Management needs to own this problem,’ said Mayor Stothert. ‘We’ve been patient for four years. There is a shortage of CDL drivers, I understand that, but Waste Management needs to abide by the contract.’”

15) Ohio: The Youngstown Vindicator says “Republicans can’t avoid responsibility for ECOT,” the scandal-ridden virtual private charter school that operated under their watch. In a five-year period, “Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow charter diverted $591 million from local school districts in Ohio, including $24 million from those in the Mahoning Valley. (…) The charter-school industry has operated in Ohio for more than two decades with comparatively limited oversight because Republicans in state government have been held hostage by the campaign contributions and other largess from the charter operators. As a result, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on this experiment in education that has largely proven to be a failure. Nonetheless, Republican decision-makers in Columbus continue to insist that charter schools are a necessary alternative to underperforming public schools.”

16) Pennsylvania: A York County judge has ordered Helen Thackston Charter School to close by the end of the month. “The legal battle commenced because the audit reports Thackston handed in on time included disclaimers, as its auditing firm noted missing documents prevented it from rendering an opinion on the financial situation of the charter school.”

17) Tennessee: Transparency and public input matters. All of Memphis’ applicants to open a charter school need to reapply. “None of the 10 hopefuls who submitted applications to open 18 charter schools in 2019 cleared the first hurdle for approval from Shelby County Schools. District officials said some were too vague, others didn’t have the performance record to justify opening another school, and still others appeared to have too few leaders to handle their start-up plans. And for the first time, district officials in Memphis got public feedback during the charter school application process. Brad Leon, the district’s chief of strategy and performance management, said 162 comments came in after the applications were posted online in April.”

18) Tennessee: Northeast State Community College is considering facilities outsourcing, “a push that has been seen across Tennessee and met with backlash.” WJHL reports that “The Tennessee Board of Regents confirmed with News Channel 11 on Wednesday that Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) is targeting the state’s 13 remaining community colleges that have not currently outsourced their facilities services. The investment management company will make proposals to these colleges, including Northeast State, in the upcoming months.”

19) Texas: The Houston Independent School District has reversed its position on allowing a charter school network to operate. “Earlier this year, a local charter school sparked so much controversy at the Houston school board, a scuffle led to two women arrested at the meeting. Now the board has decided to continue doing business with that charter group. Energized for Excellence was the charter school that the Houston school board briefly considered giving temporary control of several struggling schools. That plan was dropped after public outcry. But Energized for Excellence, along with seven other charter schools, will get their contracts renewed with the Houston school district. Together, the contracts are worth about fifty six million dollars.”

20) Texas:The founding superintendent of Houston’s Varnett charter school, Marian Annette Cluff, and her husband, Alsie Cluff Jr., the school’s former facilities manager, have been sentenced to 10 years and 3 years in prison, respectively, for running an embezzlement and tax scheme that bilked low-income parents. The federal judge compared them to villains from a Charles Dickens novel who steal from the poor.

21) International: El Salvador bishops call for laws defending the human right to water, and urge preventative legislation against the privatization of water sources. “It added that leaving the allocation of water to private entities is ‘absolutely anti-democratic.’ El Salvador legislators have begun debate on a national water law. Some lawmakers are pushing for more private-sector involvement in managing water in the country. (…) ‘It is up to the State to be the legitimate guarantor of the right to water for all,’ the El Salvador bishops said in their letter. Therefore, the committee that governs such a guarantee must have equal and strong citizen representation.” Opponents rallied against the proposed privatization.

22) Think Tanks: A group of dedicated researchers at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona has created amarvelous Environmental Justice Atlas, an inventory of social conflicts around environmental issues. Though the atlas is global in focus, it contains information on the U.S., such as conflicts around the privatization of water in New Orleans and the water privatization battles in Stockton. Contributions on other environment-related privatization battles in the U.S. are welcome.

Legislative Issues

1) National: @PICOcalifornia calls on everyone to contact their elected officials and demand they co-sponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill (S. 3036) to “bar children from being taken from their parents at the border.”  The bill says “the terms ‘agent’ and ‘officer’ include contractors of the Federal Government.” It directly targets a key Trump policy goal: “(b) Prohibition on separation.—An agency may not remove a child from a parent or legal guardian solely for the policy goal of deterring individuals from migrating to the United States or for the policy goal of promoting compliance with civil immigration laws.”

2) National: Under proposed legislation [H.R. 3923] currently languishing in the House, standards would be set for DHS detention facilities, whether public or private. The bill would strengthen transparency on detainee treatment by making reports subject to the Freedom of Information Act—and would make contracts public. “(d) Classification of documents for purposes of FOIA.—The reports under subsections (a) and (b), and any contract between the Department of Homeland Security and a private or public entity which provides for the use of a facility not owned by the Department of Homeland Security to detain aliens in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security are considered records for purposes of section 552 of title 5, United States Code, and do not qualify for the exception under subsection (b)(4) of such section.”

3) Iowa: Iowa’s Medicaid director told lawmakers last week that he is sure privatization has saved taxpayers money, but can’t come up with a number. “What I heard was rhetoric,” Sen. Amanda Ragan told reporters afterward. “She pointedly asked Randol whether his savings estimates included purported improvements to Medicaid members’ health or millions of dollars in unpaid bills to agencies that provide care. He said they did not.”

4) Rhode Island: Mayor Jorge Elorza‘s scheme to “monetize” the Providence Water Supply Board is encountering resistance. Providence resident Gillian Kiley presented the House Committee with a petition signed by people opposed to the legislation. “If you look at other cities that have experimented with this, it tends to go very badly,” said Kiley, “Including in the City of Indianapolis. Mayor Elorza mentioned that Steven Goldsmith is helping [to] advise on this. About ten years after Mayor Goldsmith finished his time there, Indianapolis paid $29 million to reclaim control over that water system.”

5) Rhode Island: The state senate has passed legislation that would require representation from the community on the state’s charter school boards. “Charter schools were designed to more independently experiment to find creative approaches or ideas to improve education for our young people,” Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) said. “It is an innovative approach to education, and these new approaches or ideas would be shared with the public schools. However, this independence should not come at the expense of full public transparency or accountability.”

 

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