1) National: Drawing example after example from In the Public Interest’s new report on how privatization disproportionately hurts poor individuals and families, The Nation’s Michelle Chen urges us to evaluate major issues in the presidential campaign “in terms of the track record of government privatization over the years, and how they relate to the issue that neither of the leading candidates is talking about enough: inequality. (…) According to Jeremy Mohler of In the Public Interest, ‘Privatization is inseparable from the right’s decades-long political project of austerity…. Many public budgets have gotten tighter, which has provided cover for privatization’s ideological basis. But when you look at the big picture, privatization as a whole is increasing inequality in very dangerous ways because people often rely on public goods and services in the most vulnerable moments in life.’”
2) National/International: American journalist Frederika Randall describes how she “found heaven in a public hospital” in London. “Government-provided healthcare in itself is utopian for us Americans.” But Britain’s National Health Service is under attack by the Conservative government, which is squeezing its budgets, further exploiting its young doctors, and seeking to import a version of the American privatized HMO model.
3) National: Corrections Corporation of America announces the dates of its 2016 Third Quarter profit report and conference call. The financial results will be released after market close on Wednesday, November 2, and the conference call will be held at 11 am eastern time the next day.
4) National/Georgia: The National Association of Charter School Authorizers Leadership Conference is taking place today through Thursday in Atlanta. Georgia is in the midst of a controversial campaign over a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to assume control of “failing schools” and place them in a statewide “opportunity school district.”
5) National: A surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told a group of urban school superintendents in Miami on Friday “that Trump would seek to do away with ‘corrupted, incompetent’ public school systems in America’s cities, replacing them with charter schools and vouchers for private schools.” Carl Paladino, Trump’s New York State co-chairman, drew “audible boos from an audience composed largely of people who run the school districts Paladino criticized.” Mildred Otero, a surrogate for and former senior adviser to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, told the meeting it was wrongheaded to believe that there are no examples of success or improvement in urban education. “Paladino also is a developer and school board member in Buffalo, N.Y. who has a financial interest in several Buffalo charter schools, according to the Buffalo News. He repeatedly criticized his own school system as a dysfunctional failure, saying that it spends approximately $27,000 per student for exceedingly poor results in terms of student achievement.”
6) National: The Wall Street Journal reports that “Homeland Security officials are quietly scrambling to find 5,000 more prison and jail beds to handle a record number of undocumented immigrants being detained in the U.S.,” according to unnamed “officials.” The WSJ says “ICE is holding more than 40,000 people in detention centers—more than it has ever had in custody before—and has warned budget officials that it needs a quick infusion of $136 million more just to keep running detention centers until early December, according to internal Department of Homeland Security documents and officials. (…) ICE officials are scrambling to sign contracts with jail or detention facilities, whether it is private contractors or state and local jails. They need so many new beds so quickly, according to officials familiar with the work, that they may have to temporarily ignore requirements adopted five years ago to ensure minimum quality standards for immigrants likely to be deported.”
Last week CCA announced that ICE has amended the contract with it for the management of a 2,400-bed detention facility in Eloy, Arizona. The new deal involves a lower fixed monthly payment and extends the contract through September 2012.
7) National: Education secretary John King has called for a lifting of what he calls the “arbitrary” cap of the number of charter schools. The Christian Science Monitor reports, “While charter schools once received bipartisan support, new revelations about the privately managed institutions have caused Democrats and Republicans to split over the issue. Donald Trump proposed a $20 billion school choice program in September that would focus largely on a voucher-based system. Conversely, Hillary Clinton’s support of charters has waned.”
8) National: The Defense Department is doubling down on its plan to privatize military housing.
9) California: Former Los Angeles city controller Laura Chick (D) warns that “Charter Amendment RRR makes the [Department of Water and Power] less accountable and transparent to the public, and opens the door to privatization of the nation’s largest municipal public utility. (…) I don’t have the silver bullet to fix the issues at the DWP, but I do know that Charter Amendment RRR is misguided. We need city leaders to go back to the drawing board and come up with a reform measure that genuinely addresses the persistent problems at the DWP by providing more accountability to residents throughout the decision making process—not less.”
10) District of Columbia: Silence reigns—with the notable exception of the Georgetown Hoya—among the media and politicians three weeks after the DC auditor issued a scathing report on the management of food service contracting by the DC public schools, and recommended the food service be tightened up and insourced. DCPS rejected the findings, and the auditor stood by them. Washington Times columnist Deborah Simmons said, when the audit was released, that “what’s in store, now that the auditor has become a whistleblower, is the mother of all school cafeteria fights: The auditor has proposed food services to return to an in-house program. Meanwhile, the bureaucrats are saying ‘No, we got this.’ The politics of it all means the kids still won’t eat the ‘free’ food, and neither the bureaucrats nor the elected officials will have the kids’ best interests in mind.”
11) Georgia: A contractor slammed a student to the ground repeatedly, leading to the amputation of his leg, the student’s attorney says. “Mosley is a behavioral specialist for Mentoring Behavioral Services, which provides contract work to the Muscogee County School District. (…) Tucker said the family plans to file a lawsuit against the school district within the next two months. It will focus on failure to supervise and provide medical attention, negligent training and negligent hiring.”
12) Illinois: Decatur’s decision a year ago to keep sanitation public is paying dividends, and privatization is no longer on the agenda. “The financials are better, city leaders are more content and sanitation employees whose jobs were threatened are happier and more relaxed. (…) Sanitation employees said they’re happy to hear that city leaders have moved past privatization. ‘I’m glad he (Kyle) said that,’ Carter said. ‘It makes us feel like our jobs are secure.’ Garbage truck driver Andy Robinson called finding out that privatization is no long is under consideration ‘the best news.’”
13) Illinois: Corrections officers call for increased safety at Logan County prison. “Two shifts of Illinois Department of Corrections employees held a demonstration outside of Logan Correctional Center Monday to call for improved employee safety measures at the women’s prison. (…) Shaun Dawson, AFSCME Local 2073 president for Logan Correctional Center, said that an average of 24 assaults on employees take place there each month and that some have resulted in employee hospitalization and long-term injuries. (…) The union claims that 340 attacks have taken place there in the last 20 months and that those incidents make the prison the second-most-dangerous corrections institution in the state. They attribute the violence to an increased number of inmates with severe mental illnesses housed there.” [Alanea’s Story, an injured DOC employee (video)]
14) Illinois: The Chicago Teachers Union has overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that includes a cap on the number of charter schools at 127 campuses. CTU head Karen Lewis “said the fight would now shift to Springfield as Chicago officials ask state lawmakers to change the system to ensure ‘equitable’ funding for districts like Chicago, which have a high number of students whose families are considered to be below the poverty line.”
15) Iowa: The Des Moines Register takes aim at Gov. Branstad’s dubious “data” on the state of Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system. “Iowans do not know what is being saved, gained or improved by the privatized Medicaid model Branstad foisted on this state. What we do know: Health care for vulnerable people has been disrupted, providers have been run out of business and for-profit insurers are pocketing millions of public dollars. And the governor says things are great.”
16) Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which has been at the center of months of controversy over its privatization plans, hires the McKinsey consulting firm to advise it on pursuing even more privatizations. “The September contract indicates that consultants will focus on making its subway, light rail, and bus lines more efficient through “new operating models.” The contract, which pays for a month and a half of work at a $156,000 rate, also suggests that its bus operations could be particularly vulnerable for outsourcing. ‘For example, the presence of a viable external market for bus operations and maintenance, and the upcoming renewal of the Red and Orange line fleets could indicate areas of particular focus,’ the contract said.” The Boston Globe reports “McKinsey has done similar work for the MBTA before. The company was retained by the state to create a special panel that essentially paved a roadmap for the ways Governor Charlie Baker’s administration would try to remake the agency.”
17) Massachusetts: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh joins hundreds of union workers outside State House demanding an end to privatization of the MBTA—“one of the few times Walsh has publicly disagreed with Gov. Charlie Baker.”
18) Massachusetts: The MBTA is continuing to resist demands that it release a consultant’s report on its leave policies. “In ordering the T to comply in a letter sent Sept. 29, Jonathan Sclarsic, the director of Healey’s Division of Open Government, wrote the transit agency should do so ‘promptly.’ But the order included no specific timeline and as of Friday, the AG’s office had yet to receive anything—though a Healey spokeswoman said officials ‘continue to be in touch’ about it. An MBTA spokesman said the T’s attorneys are still working in the hopes of responding ‘as soon as possible.’”
19) Massachusetts: The Milford School Committee joins more than 170 school committees across the state who have voted to oppose a Nov. 8 ballot question asking voters to raise the cap on charter schools and expand enrollments. Milford Teachers Association president Nicholas Molinari “made his case at a meeting last month, detailing several reasons why a ‘yes’ vote would spell even more financial woes for local school districts. ‘In my opinion, one of the most disturbing things about Question 2 is that it promotes a separate and unequal education system within the framework of public education in Massachusetts,’ he said.”
20) Minnesota: The Northfield School Board has approved a new charter school policy mandated by the state. “The legislature approved Minnesota Statute 124E to tighten the application process and eliminate conflicts of interest, like construction done at in the district by a company linked to the charter school, between charter schools and the entities that authorize them. Authorizers may also be a charitable organization or colleges, but some nonprofit entities are created for the sole purpose of authorizing charter schools. According to Superintendent Matt Hillmann, these are the type of authorizers that may have more challenges with the change in statute.”
21) New Hampshire: Richard Gulla, the president of State Employees’ Association of NH/SEIU Local 1984, says Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu, a supporter of Donald Trump, has taken thousands in contributions from the private prison industry. Although lawmakers have resisted previous efforts to privatize prisons in the state, the discussion could come up again, says Gulla. “The GEO Group, the world’s largest private prison corporation, has donated nearly $10,000 to his campaign. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), another leading private prison corporation, has donated another $5,000. And its connection isn’t limited to just Sununu—they’ve got their claws in his family’s business, too. Profile Strategy Group, a lobbying firm that represents CCA in New Hampshire, is owned by Sununu’s brothers, Michael and James. They’ve spent countless hours trying to win contracts for CCA, while at the same time CCA is pouring money into Chris Sununu’s campaign. The brothers also lobby for Securus Technologies, a company which provides criminal justice technology for New Hampshire prisons. And when Securus was about to lose a large contract in our state, who fought for its delay in the Executive Council? Chris Sununu.”
22) New Jersey: The showdown between the Christie administration and Atlantic City is expected to come to a head this week. City officials are to reveal the details of their recovery plan today. “The water utility, which operates as an independent government authority funded by ratepayers, is one of the city’s most valuable assets. State officials have urged the city to monetize it, either through selling it, or by boosting revenue by having the city or county run it and implement budget cuts and rate increases. Atlantic City residents and officials have long suspected the state wants to sell off the utility, which they fear would lead to lower water quality and higher residential rates. [Mayor Don Guardian (R)] said the proposed land sale is a ‘poison pill’ designed to protect the water utility from privatization. Potential buyers, he said, wouldn’t want to be saddled with $110 million in debt.”
23) New Jersey: A study has found that many charter schools have a poor record meeting their obligations to serve meals to poor kids. “Seven districts required to participate in the program served breakfast to fewer than 1 in 10 of their low-income students last year, the report shows. These included four charter schools, Trenton Stem-to-Civics, Englewood on the Palisades, Soaring Heights in Hudson County, and Queen City Academy in Union County, and the districts of Guttenberg, Kearny, and Belleville. Trenton Stem-to-Civics served only 3 percent of those eligible, or only 5 of 175 students, while Kearny’s 7 percent participation rate meant more than 3,100 low-income students did not get breakfast. On the other hand, three districts with more than half the student body eligible fed breakfast to more than 9 in 10 students. All three were charter schools: Hope Academy in Monmouth County, Greater Brunswick, and Atlantic Community.”
24) Ohio: At the urging of consultants KPMG, Wright State University wants to privatize its parking system in an attempt to plug a budget hole. “The school has been studying OSU’s agreement and talked with its officials on how they formed the plan. It will discuss the prospect with third parties.” In 2013 KPMG faced conflict of interest questions over its audit of JobsOhio, the state’s privatized economic development agency.
25) Ohio: Ohio State has received expressions of interest from 10 private companies for its 50-year plan to privatize the university’s energy management system, and will now prepare an RFP for six bidders.
26) Pennsylvania: The outcome of the state auditor general’s race, pitting incumbent Eugene DePasquale against John Brown, the Republican executive of Northampton County, could have an important bearing on charter school accountability. DePasquale says that in his second term he “would advocate changes to the state’s charter school law, which he criticized last month when he released audits detailing financial relationships between the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and other entities tied to the school’s founder. He wants private companies that manage charter schools to be made subject to the state’s right-to-know law and the auditor general’s scrutiny; to ensure that charter schools are not reimbursed for leasing buildings that they own; and that funding for cyber charter schools is amended to reflect the actual cost of educating students.”
27) International: In a major setback for international trade deals that critics say would promote wholesale privatization of the public sector and erosion of democratic means for protecting the labor rights, the environment and consumer safety, Belgium said it will not be able to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada. Although the mainstream media is largely depicting the story as one of intransigence by one small region of Belgium refusing to accept the deal, there is massive opposition to it across the continent. Joyce Nelson writes, “in fact, the European Trade Union Confederation, representing 45 million workers across Europe, is solidly opposed to CETA, as is the European Public Service Union, representing 8 million European public service workers. As well, 3.5 million individuals from all EU member states and Canada have signed a petition opposing CETA, along with 120 civil society organizations. In a report released on Oct. 18, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) states ‘more than 2,000 local and regional governments in 13 EU countries have declared themselves TTIP/CETA free zones, often in cross-party resolutions. National and regional parliaments, too, worry about CETA, for example in Belgium, France, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Ireland, and the Netherlands.’ Dozens of Canadian municipalities are also officially opposed to CETA.” [PSI Canada statement on CETA; Corporate Europe Observatory report; Canadian open letter supporting Wallonia]
28) International: The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says the Trudeau government is tilting towards privatization on infrastructure and “must get back on course.” CUPE says “privatization doesn’t just increase costs. It also leads to greater inequality, as user fees increase and operators reduce wages and benefits for workers, but increase compensation for CEOs. (…) These recommendations also open the door to higher foreign ownership of Canadian infrastructure, posing its own set of problems. Foreign ownership leaves our governments open to being sued by private interests under trade deals like NAFTA, CETA and the TPP.”
29) Think Tanks: The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reports that “a new website created by Demand Progress aims to give the public unfettered access to thousands of taxpayer-funded nonpartisan and unclassified reports, previously available only to anyone who paid for access or was staffing Congress. The new site shares all reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that were available on Congress’s internal website—over 8,000 in total. (…) EveryCRSReport.com sorts everything into 31 subjects, and each subject has an RSS feed that will update anyone interested in following specific policy research published by the Congressional think tank.”
1) National: Private prison companies continue giving to Senate candidates. “Those donations from the political action committee for the GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies, have expanded six fold this campaign season, compared to the 2012 cycle, from $22,000 to around $136,000. That’s based on a Roll Call analysis of the most recently available campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics.” Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America “has largely has given to the state’s two Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander. Alexander, for his part has a personal connection to one of the founders of the company—Thomas Beasley, who previously served as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, rented a garage apartment from Alexander while in law school. In addition, during Alexander’s tenure as governor, he conferred with Beasley about alternatives to traditional incarceration, according to Tom Ingram, who served as Alexander’s deputy and chief of staff and would later work as his Senate chief of staff.”
2) Wisconsin: Newly released figures from the state “prove Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP legislative majority are willing to shortchange neighborhood public schools to appease their pro-voucher donors,” says state Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb). “‘What is most disturbing about these aid deductions is that these totals are just the first year of the formula funding vouchers,’ she said. ‘With the cap of voucher students in the WPCP growing at 1 percent per year and the cap to be lifted after 10 years, we cannot view this as a sustainable path to adequately fund our public schools in the future.’ Pope said Wisconsin must choose whether to continue its tradition of supporting nationally recognized, strong public schools or continue to privatize and sell children’s educations to the highest bidder.”
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