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This Week’s Outsourcing Scan 4-4-2016

1) National: Jeremy Mohler of In the Public Interest ties together new statistics on racial bias in school discipline in charter schools and the question of accountability. “We should be deeply troubled by these statistics at any public school, charter or not,” Mohler writes. “But there’s a crucial difference between charter and traditional public schools: Despite being publicly funded, many charter schools are managed by private groups unaccountable to the public. This lack of accountability makes it harder for communities to address injustice at charter schools, and for parents to have a say in what school ‘success’ looks like.”
 
2) NationalThe Real News Network asks “Is the U.S. Postal Service the Next Target for Corporate Plundering?” Megan Sherman reports “community members converged at a panel discussion hosted at Coppin State University to voice their concerns over planned budget cuts to the United States Post Office. This event is the first of many organized by a Washington based group called the Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.”
 
3) NationalThe Nation backs up calls for democratic accountability in ‘public private partnerships.’ “Jeremy Mohler of [In the Public Interest] says via e-mail that P3 partnerships are intrinsically mechanisms of compromise: ‘In principle we wholeheartedly support public financing, control, and operation of public infrastructure. But given the dominance of austerity and the resulting neoliberal tactics taken by many municipalities, sometimes lawmakers feel as though a P3 is the only way to quickly gather the capital to make a project happen…. We are not advocating for P3s; we are advocating for the people when lawmakers turn to the private sector on their behalf.’”
 
4) NationalKali Holloway analyzes how Campbell Brown became “the new leader of the propaganda arm of school privatization.” Brown, “as the head of the Seventy Four, under the guise of providing hard-hitting education news, … leads one of the key media efforts to push the anti-union, pro-privatization message of the charterization movement, all while keeping its billionaire backers out of the picture and off the front page.”
 
5) National: Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton answer questions on privatization posed by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE). Sanders “said private contractors can be more expensive than federal workers and cited the government’s decision to use federal airport screeners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. ‘While this system is not perfect,’ he said, ‘I think most people would agree that airports are a much safer place today as a result of a federalized airport security workforce.’” Hillary Rodham Clinton “recalled her opposition to George W. Bush administration efforts to privatize federal jobs. ‘As President,’ she said, ‘I will oppose efforts to contract out work unless doing so is necessary, in the best interest of the federal government and is clearly cost effective.’”
 
Republican primary candidate Donald Trump came out last week in support of for-profit prisons, saying “I do think we can do a lot of privatizations, and private prisons it seems to work a lot better,” to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
 
6) CaliforniaAFSCME Local 3299 wins a significant victory after “UC Berkeley announced that it would offer employment to nearly 100 workers contracted to work on the campus through private companies on Mar. 18.” 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said “this agreement is an important first step that … ends the exploitation of our colleagues at UC Berkeley … and reduces the drain on the California’s taxpayer subsidized social safety net by pulling nearly a hundred families out of poverty.”
 
7) ConnecticutPublic employees denounce Gov. Malloy’s plans for massive layoffs. “State officials have called on union members to consider concessions, including health insurance and pension plans, but more than 300 union leaders rallied at the State Capitol [last] Tuesday denouncing any concessions to a contract that they say is fair and in effect until 2022.”
 
8) District of ColumbiaIn a surprise move, the D.C. Public Service Commission reverses itself and approves the merger of Pepco with Exelon. It’s unclear “how the commission came to its determination,” says Sandra Mattavous Frye, the D.C. people’s counsel. Grid 2.0, a clean energy group, has filed a motion for the PSC to reconsider its decision, and if the commission proceeds anyway, “opponents would still be able file an appeal at the D.C. Court of Appeals.” The merger has also become an issue in the Maryland Democratic senatorial race. DC PSC Chairman Betty Anne Kane cast the dissenting vote. “She worries about the conflicts between Exelon’s business model as a power generator and the District’s push for clean-energy goals.” Rate hikes could come as early as this summer. Similar concerns about a public asset grab by private interests were raised in Louisiana last week (see below).
 
9) FloridaThe Miami Herald says the “state still clams up on prison deaths.”  The newspaper reports that “it’s yet another account of governmental entities doing more to obscure than shed light on what’s still amiss in Florida prisons, in spite of some improvements since Corrections Secretary Julie Jones has come on board. But what look like cover-ups continue, and if elected officials and state bureaucrats allow them to go unaddressed, then they, too, are culpable.”
 
10) Florida: The privatization industry is grousing about Florida’s new ‘public private partnerships’ law, which requires P3s to go through an FDOT Financing Corporation and then the State Bond Authority. But they love the fact that the law, signed last week by Gov. Rick Scott (R), allows unsolicited P3 proposals to be exempt from FOIA requirements. [Sub required; CS/SB 124]
 
11) Florida: Republican state senator Don Gaetz explains how the media and a bipartisan group of electeds trumped the usual expectations and got a private contracting anti-corruption measure turned into law. “Here’s why the cobra and the mongoose teamed up and why the new law is serious trouble for those whose business model is ‘crony government.’ The trend towards privatization of some government functions has put private contractors in the place of government to operate food concessions, design and build schools, construct bridges and roads, landscape public property, pick up garbage, administer scholarships and much more. I support leveraging private sector expertise and infrastructure to do many public services faster, cheaper and better. But sometimes cronyism replaces straightforward best-price, best-results contracting and pals of politicians wind up with lucrative contracts.”
 
12) Illinois: The Better Government Association digs into the political strategy of the water privatization industry. BGA says companies aiming to privatize Illinois municipal water system are pumping cash into politicians’ coffers. “Aqua America and American Water—which successfully pushed for a state law, passed in 2013, to make it easier to acquire a water system and raise rates—want a bigger share of that business. They’re aiming to get more governments—struggling with aging infrastructure and declining revenue—to turn to private business to run their municipal water systems. They face opposition from some municipal officials who say privatization can lead to problems, including big rate increases. They point out that when a private company takes over a water system, decisions about rate increases are decided by a state utilities regulator, not local officials.”
 
13) Iowa: As Gov. Branstad’s Medicaid privatization scheme takes effect, Progress Iowa says it will cause widespread hardship and risks to public health. “Medicaid privatization was a bad plan from the beginning and risks the healthcare of nearly 580,000 of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens. This week, we learned of a 9 year-old cancer patient who was denied treatment because of the transition. Thousands of others are being forced to switch providers or travel greater distances for care. Medicaid recipients in north Iowa will no longer receive care from the nearby Mayo clinic which did not accept the private management agreement. Governor Branstad’s ill-advised, fast-track methods are shameful, inexcusable and not in the best interest of Iowans.”
 
Rep. David Dawson, D-Sioux City, also says “problems are likely in the near future. Based upon case studies of other states that implemented similar plans, it can be expected that the costs of Medicaid will rise for the state. History shows Medicaid privatization is unlikely to save taxpayers money and is even less likely to improve patient care.”
 
14) Louisiana: In a surprise move similar to the DC Public Service Commission’s approval of a buyout of the public utility by a private for-profit company (see above), the Louisiana PSC reverses itself and approves Macquarie’s buyout of Cleco. After a previous rejection, the PSC accepted revised terms which had been criticized as weak. “Not all Commissioners were pleased. PSC Chairman Clyde Holloway remained steadfast in his opposition. Previously, he told the New Orleans Advocate that Cleco was ‘in great shape today.’ ‘So why in the world do they need to sell?’ he asked. “Wall Street greed.” (…) Before the February rejection, a Louisiana Administrative Law judge recommended greater scrutiny over the proposal to take Cleco private, casting doubt on customer benefits and a loan scheme that would move tax money into the pockets of investors.”
 
15) MassachusettsFall River’s 23-year old mayor breaks the city’s contract with the Teamsters on trash collection and street and highway workers, a move seen as paving the way for privatization. The union will file a complaint with the state labor relations board. Herald News columnist Marc Munroe Dion says “Correia knows that stepping all over the guys at the bottom will get him the applause of people still further down. It’s a cynical, repulsive move that reveals a deep lack of leadership.”
 
16) Montana: Bill Cunningham, who has been leading guided wilderness trips for 40 years, denounces Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte for hinting he will transfer ownership of American public lands to the state. “This might sound good to followers of Cliven and Ammon Bundy, but ‘local management’ of American public lands is simply an unworkable idea that would put Montana’s taxpayers on the hook for fighting fires on an additional 27 million acres of public lands – at a cost of more than $100 million in dry years. It would also come with many other costs that would, when added up, force the state to sell our public lands to the highest bidder and prioritize resource extraction over public access on the public lands that remained.”
 
17) New Mexico/National: The American Federation of Teachers and its New Mexico affiliate strike back against cheap attacks by the New Mexico public education department and the Albuquerque Journal on AFT’s shareholder activism to reform Pearson’s behavior. The Albuquerque Journal has been often been sharply criticized for biased reporting.
 
18) New York: As controversy continues to swirl around charter school disciplinary practices, suspensions decreased in regular New York City schools by nearly 32 percent. “The significant drop in suspensions bolsters Mayor Bill de Blasio and city schools chancellor Carmen Fariña’s citywide school discipline reform, a main goal of which has been to reduce suspensions in city schools.”
 
19) New York: Dr. Frank Proscia, president of the Doctors Council of SEIU, talks to WBAI’s Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash about the crisis facing the underfunded New York City public hospital system, which faces a $1.2 billion budget gap. [Building Bridges, March 28, 7 pm]. Last year, Proscia was one of the leading voices calling on Mayor De Blasio to terminate Corizon’s contract for Rikers Island, which he did.
 
20) New York: New York City’s schools get a $1.4 billion increase in state funding, but UFT president Michael Mulgrew says “the battle to prevent the privatization of schools continues, and we will fight to see that charter schools—as recipients of taxpayer funds—are compelled to admit and keep all students.”
 
21) North Carolina: Speakers at the first of three public hearings on Medicaid reform ask why the state wants to change the program at all. “The state Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to ask the federal government to approve major changes in Medicaid that will have most of its beneficiaries sign up for health plans run by insurance companies, hospitals or other providers. Privatization of Medicaid—the government program for low-income and disabled citizens—was a priority for legislators last year.”
 
22) Ohio: The Dayton Daily News reports on how the state’s privatized prisons are doing. Despite claims of improvement from the Kasich administration and private prison companies, both the ACLU and Ohio Civil Service Employees Association see continuing and future problems. “Our belief is the overall trajectory of these facilities is that because of the profit motivation, because of the lack of qualified staff and the cost-cutting measures that the private prisons employ, it is overall going to be a losing proposition for the taxpayers in Ohio,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the ACLU of Ohio. “It will only be a matter of time before these facilities go back into disarray and poor management.”
 
23) Ohio: The Cleveland Dispatch calls on the state to “end the chaos at the top” of the Ohio Department of Education. The charter school scandal, “the influence of campaign donors and the churn in the leadership of the Department of Education argue for a return to a governance structure for the Ohio Department of Education that insulates the department from politics and that allows the department’s leadership and staff the freedom to implement long-range policies—based on education expertise and best practices—and see them through.”
 
24) South Dakota: The attorney general has filed charges against a former state official “in connection with a troubled program that aimed to attract investment dollars from wealthy immigrants in exchange for easier entry into the United States. (…) The state directed Bollen’s company, SDRC Inc., to create the fund at the center of the charges as part of its privatization contract to manage the EB-5 program. He was not supposed to divert money from it for his own use.”
 
25) TennesseePlans to privatize the state parks have been put on hold. “Even after Governor Bill Haslam approved $55 million in golf course improvements, the bids just didn’t come in.”
 
26) Texas: Abengoa, the Spanish renewables firm which is skirting bankruptcysells 80% of its stake in the Vista Ridge pipeline in San Antonio to Missouri-based Garney Construction, which beat out offers from Blackstone, Brookfield, and John Laing. “Should the deal be approved, Garney will assume control of the project, and Abengoa will be reduced to a ‘silent 20 percent equity partner,’ according to a San Antonio Water System (SAWS) statement. The 142-mile pipeline is expected to provide 20 percent of San Antonio’s water starting in 2020. An Abengoa-led Vista Ridge Consortium won the $3.4 billion contract to develop the project in 2014.” The SAWS board will consider the acquisition proposal at its meeting tomorrow. [Sub required]
 
27) Think Tanks/Michigan: The right-wing National Federation of Independent Business leaps to the defense of scandal-ridden privatized prison food services in Michigan in Michigan Capitol Confidential, the Mackinac Center’s propaganda arm. NFIB has been funded by Freedom Partners, which Politico calls “the Koch brothers’ secret bank,” and by the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS.
 
28) Think Tanks/Massachusetts: The  Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University finds that “corporate and financial executives hold a large share of seats on the boards of Massachusetts charter schools, giving them more influence than parents, who are comparatively underrepresented.”
 
29) Think Tanks: The Cato Institute, which has right-wing megafunder David Koch on its board, calls for the full privatization of the U.S. Postal Service and the “repeal its legal monopolies.”
 
Legislative Issues
 
1) California: Gov. Brown’s transportation budget draws criticism for doubling Caltrans’ private contracting staff and extending the ‘public private partnership’ program until 2027.
 
2) HawaiiA bill to privatize Honokohau Harbor and possibly extend it to smaller harbors statewide is reportedly gaining steam. But it would come at the price of ending local control. “That’s disappointing to Kona Rep. Nicole Lowen, who introduced the house version of a concept that was also pushed forward by Kona Sen. Josh Green. ‘I’m not happy with the amendments that took out community-based management as an option,’ Lowen said. ‘I think privatization is the least preferable option, after options of better state management, community-based management or county management.’”
 
3) KentuckyAs the state’s new ‘public private partnerships’ bill clears the legislature, critics warn of disaster and urge Gov. Bevins to veto the bill. John Lackey, a member of the Madison County School Board, says “we used to call these bills ‘Turkeys.’  Now they are ‘partnerships,’ or ‘P-3’).” He continues: “Public-Private Partnerships threaten many local governments, especially Franklin County, with absolute devastation.  There are so many public leases in Franklin County between private developers and the public that their exemption might bankrupt the Franklin County School System and the Franklin County Government.” 
 
Tom Marshall points out in the Lexington Herald Leader that “if regulations are not promulgated by the end of this year, the bill allows local governments to go ahead and act on contracts without approval by the Kentucky Local Government Public-Private Partnership Board. This is an outrageous statutory framework. Who wrote this bill? Who does it benefit? This bill has real potential to be expensive for the taxpayers, utility ratepayers or whoever else may have to pay.”
 
4) Michigan: Charter school interests go on the offensive to try to secure a place in Detroit’s school reform process. “A recent addition to the pending legislation overhauling Detroit Public Schools is rekindling a long controversy on whether the charter school model of education itself has succeeded in Detroit.”

 

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