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- The capitol riot was the result of decades of attacks on government and centuries of racism.
- Which federal agency has funded more charter schools facilities than any other? The U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- The Trump administration is taking a final shot at the Affordable Care Act by trying to privatize its state exchanges.
1) National: In a dramatic week that witnessed the certification of the election of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President, the Democratic Party’s retaking of the Senate by virtue of an historic election win in Georgia, and the response to the violent attempt to overturn the election by a right wing racist mob inspired and possibly directed by Trump, America’s institutions wavered but ultimately held the line. Public officials from all 50 states did their duty and sent in the certifications of the Electoral College results; a Joint Session of Congress confirmed, recorded and announced them; and the Georgia Secretary of State rejected Trump’s effort to corrupt his state’s vote. The inauguration takes place next Wednesday. Election administrators, politicians, and the voting public should be proud.
2) National: Labor and local government leaders responded forcefully to the violent attack on Congress.
Partnership for Working Families Executive Director Lauren Jacobs said, “it was hard for many of us to watch, the brazenness of the actions of these insurrectionists and the anemic response of the municipal and capitol police forces, compared to their rubber bullet, helicopter menacing, tear gas response to racial justice protests this summer. This political tendency did not disappear with the election and it will not disappear with the inauguration. We will have to continue to confront this anti-democratic, white supremacist, authoritarian impulse in the years to come.”
AFSCME President Lee Saunders said “we call for the resignation or, failing that, the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, a clear and present danger to these foundations. ‘The president has flagrantly violated the oath he swore to preserve, protect and defend our democracy. As a public service workers union, AFSCME takes its responsibility to the public seriously, and we uniquely understand the need to hold accountable those who do not. And given AFSCME’s strong civil rights history, we have a visceral grasp of the hypocrisy and double standard clearly at play—people of color marching peacefully for justice are often met with violence, while those wearing MAGA hats and carrying Confederate flags were allowed to loot and riot on Wednesday with impunity.”
Route Fifty reports, “Democratic state and local leaders were quick to react as the situation at the Capitol unfolded. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called it ‘one of the darkest days in American history.’ Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called it an act of ‘terrorism’ while Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings described it as ‘treason.’ Some elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, described what happened on Wednesday as an attempted coup. Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp also condemned the violence, calling it ‘a disgrace and quite honestly un-American.’”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said “Today, Donald Trump made clear why he shouldn’t be president. He enabled terrorists who stormed the U.S. Capitol and threatened the lives of duly elected officials while the world watched in horror. This reprehensible failure of the executive to protect the legislative branch is unconscionable, and for the safety of this country, Trump cannot leave office soon enough. Today was not a protest, it was an insurrection; President Trump, his accomplices and allies are guilty of incitement and must be held accountable. That starts with Trump’s immediate removal from office.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “Emboldened by an Electoral College system that creates an avenue for insurrection instead of simply certifying the candidate with the most votes, this is an effort to violate the constitutional rights of every law-abiding American and the labor movement will not stand for it. Not today. Not ever.”
3) National: Want to stay in touch with the world of election administration between voting days? Follow or join the National Association of Election Officials and/or the National Association of State Election Directors. See also, of course, the National Association of Secretaries of State. These positions are more politically important than ever, and will be sharply contested by the right wing.
4) National: In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler says racism has always been central to the project of attacking a progressive role for government. “The silver lining is that knowing this history gives us a road map for getting out of this mess,” including by fighting for:
- Government that works for all of us, not just the wealthy, connected few;
- Public safety that actually keeps everyone safe;
- The use of all the necessary public power to fight the pandemic;
- Adequate funding of public schools, libraries, and other public institutions, especially in communities that have been historically underfunded.
HillTV’s Krystal Ball has blamed “decades of anti-government politics” for the massive unemployment backlogs and other U.S. failures amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “‘We literally cannot do anything,’ Ball said. ‘We can’t fight a pandemic, we can’t administer stimulus, we can’t distribute a vaccine. Special thanks to all the free market fundamentalists who made it happen.’”
5) National: A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously blocked Trump’s policy allowing state and local government officials to refuse to resettle refugees in their jurisdictions. “Melanie Nezer, a senior vice president of the Silver Spring, Md.-based HIAS, one of the agencies behind the lawsuit, applauded the court’s decision. ‘Especially right now, at this moment in history, it is really affirming and validating to see the court affirm the importance of the program,’ Nezer said Friday. ‘It will take a lot of work to rebuild a system that the Trump administration has broken down over the last four years,’ she said.”
6) National: As we move into a potential transition from “an extraordinarily chaotic and dysfunctional period in American government—topped off by the unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol—to a future in which our government can better fulfill its fundamental responsibilities,” what role can philanthropy play? “Philanthropy can play a crucial part in making this transition successful, but it must first recognize the enormous challenges ahead,” writes Loren McArthur in Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Decades of disinvestment in government at all levels has resulted in weakened institutions that are less capable of addressing our most challenging societal problems. And anti-government campaigns during the past several years have left us with a public that no longer trusts government institutions. In the face of these failures, philanthropists cannot simply step into the breach and try to replace government. Instead, philanthropy should insist on government’s essential role in protecting the welfare of its residents and dedicate itself to restoring the ability of governmental institutions to fulfill that role.”
MacArthur recommends that philanthropic organizations “invest in strategies to shift public attitudes about government and strengthen trust in the institution. Groups such as FrameWorks Institute, Topos Partnership, and the Narrative Initiative have developed strategies for transforming the public discourse about the role of government. Donors can work with these and other groups to transform the dominant narrative about government’s critical responsibilities.”
7) Georgia/National: Amid all the darkness of last week there was the great outcome of the runoff elections in Georgia, showing that positive change is possible. The victory was a product of years of hard work by leadership, grasstops and grassroots organizations. “Anoa Changa, an Atlanta-based journalist who covers electoral justice and voting rights, says the Democratic victory in the state is down to grassroots organizers. ‘Organizing and the amazing work that has been done by a broad coalition of multiracial, multiethnic organizers across the entire state, from rural to urban to suburban communities, really is the true story of what has been happening in Georgia,” Changa told Democracy Now!
8) Songs for the Common Good: Remember to keep the date and buy tickets. On February 7 at 11 am PDT/ 2pm EDT Karine Polwart will be performing a Zoom concert. Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest says “Karine wrote and performs this in anticipation of the 2021 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. It will blow your mind and make you smile.”
9) National: “Horror, shock, and calls for peace reverberated on Wednesday,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, “as college leaders, along with the rest of the nation, watched a violent mob—incited by President Trump—disrupted a key moment in the peaceful transfer of power in the nation’s capital. (…) ‘Knock, knock,’ tweeted Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University. ‘The fascists are here.’
10) National: Trump’s faithful education secretary, charter school and for-profit college enthusiast Betsy DeVos, jumped ship as soon as the headlines started rolling in.
11) National: The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss reports that “there are growing calls from across the political spectrum for the federal government to allow states to skip giving students federally mandated standardized tests in spring 2021 — but the man that President-elect Joe Biden tapped to be education secretary has indicated support for giving them. (…) Critics say that the results have no value to teachers because the scores come after the school year has ended and that they are not allowed to see test questions or know which ones their students got wrong. There are also concerns that some tests used for accountability purposes are not well-aligned to what students learn in school—and that the results only show what is already known: students from poor families do worse than students from families with more resources.”
12) National: Which federal agency has funded more charter schools facilities than any other agency? Why it’s the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides loans and grants that go to rural charter schools. At least according to Chicago-based Wert-Berater, LLC, the “leading” company that helpfully facilitates this lucrative corner of the charter school industry by providing “feasibility studies.”
13) California: A right wing Orange County charter school backer, John Kruger, has given $500,000 to an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). “The burgeoning effort to unseat Newsom received its first six-figure infusion last week courtesy of an Orange County-based limited liability company called Prov 3:9. The firm had a virtually nonexistent business presence and no record of political spending, fueling questions about its true funder. Signature gathering for the recall move has gained momentum in recent months as frustration mounts over the governor’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. A representative of the company making the donation said Tuesday that the funding had come from Kruger, who objects to Newsom’s orders limiting religious gatherings in an effort to limit the coronavirus’ spread.”
14) Florida: A Pinellas charter school dean “faces charges that he and his wife provided their teenage babysitter and her underage friends with alcohol and marijuana for two years, deputies say. The couple left the teen with alcohol and marijuana while she babysat their two young children, then went out to bars and drank themselves, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Then they’d come home and smoke marijuana and drink some more, deputies say, this time with the babysitter—and sometimes with her teenage friends.” “Get drunk! Pass the (f–k) out!” said an October text message that deputies say wife Misty Mitchell-Thayer sent the teen. “If you want to smoke Adam has weed there.”
15) Florida: The COVID-19 pandemic which is roaring through Florida is hitting its charter schools. 7 new COVID-19 cases have been reported at The Villages Charter School, which ran into trouble over reporting its infections several months ago. That represents 47.3 percent of the 93 cases reported across the Sumter County School District.
16) Georgia: State lawmakers will be taking up the issue of vouchers in their new session. “The pandemic could help motivate a renewed push to give state money to parents to pay for private or home schools, with proponents arguing that parents should be able to bail out of a group of school districts that went months without providing in-person classes. In recent years, school choice advocates have been pushing education savings accounts, with the state putting money into a special account that parents could then spend on tuition and other needs. Opponents say Georgia already spends more than $100 million a year on school choice, mainly through a private school scholarship tax credit. Proponents could limit efforts to expanding Georgia’s current special needs scholarship program benefitting students with disabilities. A similar bill passed the Senate last year but failed in the House.”
17) Indiana: The Gary City Council unanimously backed a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools in support of state legislation being introduced by a Gary lawmaker. “State Sen. Eddie Melton said he is filing a bill establishing a permanent moratorium because the school district’s progress would be hindered by another charter school. Melton, D-Gary, criticized Mayor Jerome Prince for proposing a charter school in collaboration with Purdue University in his recent virtual state of the city address. Melton’s past attempts to curtail charters in Gary have failed in the legislature. He’s hoping the bill gains traction this year since voters approved the $72.1 million referendum in November. State Rep. Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary, plans to file a similar bill in the House. The council resolution disputes the success of charter schools, stating charters haven’t consistently outperformed students in the Gary Community School Corp.”
18) Louisiana: St. Landry Parish school officials and representatives from a newly approved charter school scheduled to open this year in Opelousas “are locked in a dispute about who should occupy a former elementary school campusthat has been shuttered for nearly two years. As of now, the St. Landry Charter School, approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in December, does not appear to have a designated site for the 220 students the school plans to educate starting in 2021 in grades kindergarten through fourth grade. On Thursday night, school board members unanimously denied a request by a St. Landry Charter representative to use Southwest Elementary in Opelousas, which has remained vacant since the board reorganized Opelousas public schools beginning in 2019. Instead, the board, also without opposition, approved a committee recommendation to have Superintendent Patrick Jenkins sign an agreement that allows the use of the Southwest campus as an active shooter training center for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Department.
19) New Hampshire: The governor and executive council have accepted controversial funding for the expansion of charter schools in the state, openi9ng the door further to private, for-profit school operators. “The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee had blocked the federal grant when it was controlled by Democrats, but that changed at its last meeting now that Republicans represent a majority on the committee. The Executive Council voted 4 to 1 for the state Department of Education to accept the grant with the lone Democrat on the Council, newly elected Cinde Warmington, voting no. ‘I have serious concerns that this is not the right time…,’ Warmington said, to further burden taxpayers for lost funding to local schools.”
20) Pennsylvania: In a letter to the editor, Schuylkill County school district business managers have spoken out on charter school funding. “Recently the United States Department of Education awarded a five-year $30 million grant to Pennsylvania Brick and Mortar Charter Schools to increase their academic success. All the while, many Pennsylvania Public Schools are cutting programs in order to continue to pay for charter school costs, some even becoming financially distressed due to this burden. Our local state legislators have failed by not providing a fair funding for charter schools while draining public schools and increasing the burden of further expenditures on the local taxpayers. Contrary to the general public belief, charter schools are not free. Schuylkill County Public Schools pay tuition per student ranging from $10,000 to almost $30,000 per student.”
21) Pennsylvania: The Scranton Times-Tribune reports that “Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools used federal COVID-19 relief funds to purchase technology and cleaning supplies and send Target gift cards and phones to families. Many of the expenditures, revealed through Right to Know Law requests by The Sunday Times, have traditional public school educators questioning why cyber charter schools require the funding when their students already learn from home.” School administrators are furious. “‘The increased costs that have been brought to school districts because of the coronavirus are massive,’ said Valley View Superintendent Michael Boccella, Ed.D. ‘We at Valley View and all of the other schools around us are seeing increased expenditures at the same time we are seeing decreased revenue. I don’t know how the coronavirus has added any new costs to these cyber charters, but their revenues are going through the roof.’”
22) Texas: Surprise, surprise. The first voucher bill has already been introduced into the legislature. H/t Carol Burris of NPE. Charles Luke of the Coalition for Texas Education says “Do we really have time to rehash this? The legislature has only voted vouchers down repeatedly for 25 years!”
23) Wisconsin: Seven candidates for state superintendent faced off in the first online forum ahead of the Feb. 16 primary on issues such as learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how to eliminate inequities in public education. “Asked about their support for private school vouchers and independent charter schools in two separate yes or no questions, most of the candidates said they do not support either. Henricks-Williams said she ‘supports great schools’ when asked about support for private school vouchers, and that she supports ‘parents’ option for enrolling their child in a high performing school’ when asked about support of independent charter schools. Kerr said she supports ‘one system of accountability and full transparency because this is the law’ when asked about private school vouchers. Briggs said she doesn’t support independent charter schools under the current system.”
24) Colorado: Nestlé has applied for a new 10-year permit to pump 200 gallons of groundwater a minute from Ruby Springs Aquifer (Nathrop, Chaffee County) and truck it to Denver for bottling. Nestlé’s plan has drawn sharp criticism from Chaffee County locals. “Citing myriad concerns, residents objected vigorously. Concerns are mainly focused on environmental issues. Locals worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related.
“Opposition groups are critical of what they describe is a lack of real oversight of the operation by the County. Opponents also point to fights other communities have had with Nestlé, and to the things that have changed in the past 10 years: 1) the county’s population is booming, 2) drought is ravaging the state, and 3) plastic is increasingly polluting the planet. Across the country, Nestlé Waters has been targeted by conservation groups as it continues to expand its water-bottling operations. Finally, Nestlé is about to sell its North American water brands.”
25) New York: Local leaders are looking forward to the additional power that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) will bring to the state when he ascends to the position of majority leader. “The majority leader’s perch will give Mr. Schumer the ability to steer funding for infrastructure projects like a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, and leverage to push policies that are of local concern, like easing federal limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes.”
26) Pennsylvania: Delaware County residents have suffered a reversal on maintaining control of their water system as a County Common Pleas Judge “thwarted the county government’s attempt to block the $276.5 million sale of the regional wastewater system known as DELCORA to Aqua Pennsylvania — theoretically bringing an end to one of Delco’s long-running, will-they-won’t-they political feuds.”
But it’s not over yet. “The pending deal will go before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for a vote unless the county appeals. If it is approved, the deal would result in the largest privatization of a public water system in the state. But the county may not go down quietly. It has 30 days from the date of Dozor’s order to continue the fight. ‘The county will determine in advance of the Jan. 27, 2021, deadline whether to pursue an appeal to Commonwealth Court. Pending that decision, the county continues to press our objections to the transaction before the PUC,’ Adrienne Marofsky, the county’s public relations director, said in a statement to WHYY News.”
27) Pennsylvania: Conshohocken’s Borough Council is looking at privatizing its sewer system. “In recent years (due to the change in a state law), selling a sewer system has become a way for municipalities to obtain a cash windfall. The effort is often met with opposition, which claim that privatization of sewer systems will lead to rate increases. Norristown recently attempted to sell its system but was met with opposition from an organization called NOPE, which obtained enough signatures to force the repeal of the two ordinances passed by Norristown’s Council (this is permitted under a home rule charter). Aqua, which has bought several systems in recent years, pulled out of the deal. Plymouth Township considered a sale of its system in 2019 and 2020 but eventually decided not to pursue it.”
28) Revolving Door News: Derek Kan, who used to work in the Trump Transportation Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget, has glided into an advisory role with Oaktree Capital Group’s transportation and infrastructure group. “While Kan will be advising Oaktree, he is not an employee, one of the sources said. Many firms work with a bench of advisors who aren’t full-time employees. This classification is important because employees are compensated through the management fees of the funds, paid by the fund limited partners. Outside advisors often have different compensation arrangements, all of which need to be transparent to the LPs.”
Criminal Justice and Immigration
30) Alabama: State officials are still negotiating lease agreements over three proposed men’s prisons, and have not finalized contracts, “but are staying mum about whether any issues have emerged,” Brian Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser reports. “Amanda Gilchrist, a spokeswoman for Nashville-based CoreCivic, which is set to build two prisons in Escambia and Elmore counties, also declined comment. In an email Tuesday, Gilchrist wrote that the company was ‘proud and appreciative of the opportunity to proceed to this next phase of the State’s procurement process.’ The state is contracting with CoreCivic and Alabama Prison Transformation Partners, a group of companies that includes Birmingham-based BL Harbert International, to build three new men’s prisons in Bibb, Elmore and Escambia counties. Each facility would hold between 3,000 and 4,000 inmates. The state plans to lease the facilities from the companies. Corrections would staff the new prisons.”
Construction of the Bibb County facility has drawn opposition from residents in Brierfield, “who say their area lacks the services to support a large prison and have expressed worries about the impact on local drinking water. Elmore County residents have also voiced opposition to a proposed facility.”
31) Hawaii/Arizona: A Hawaii inmate being held at CoreCivic’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona has died of COVID-19, according to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety.
32) South Carolina: Gov. Henry McMaster (R), whose plan to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds on private or religious schools was thrown out by the courts on constitutional grounds, has decided how he wants to spend the money instead. “The governor’s new plan announced Tuesday sets aside $8 million for South Carolina technical colleges to allow 3,100 people who lost jobs in the pandemic to take classes for free for jobs in health care like certified nursing assistants or in manufacturing, criminal justice or computers. McMaster also will spend $7 million to expand full-day pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds. The program is free for families whose children are on Medicaid or make just under double the federal poverty level. South Carolina’s 4K program uses both private educators and public schools. McMaster said he will send $5 million to First Steps, which works with private programs, and $2 million to public schools through the state Department of Education. The governor said if public schools show more interest, he will give them more money.”
33) Tennessee: An inmate at the Silverdale Detention Center “told a Hamilton County Criminal Court judge that he had to ‘cause a scene’ at least twice in order to receive his prescribed daily medication and that inmates weren’t being provided with masks or cleaning supplies to help protect themselves from COVID-19. (…) Since the last hearing on Dec. 18, the Hamilton County Jail has been closed and all inmates transferred to Silverdale. CoreCivic, the private company that operated Silverdale, ended its contract with the county, meaning operational control of the facility has returned to the sheriff’s office. That is why Poole has held multiple hearings—to ensure Lyons doesn’t see a lapse in care during the transition.”
34) National: The Trump administration is taking a final shot at the Affordable Care Act by trying to privatize its state exchanges. “Critics insist the new rule would actually do the opposite of what CMS claims, diminishing enrollment and increasing customer costs while raising the likelihood that individuals and families end up in substandard plans that leave them with gaps in coverage in the event of illness or injury. ‘Allowing states to privatize the ACA by eliminating any public marketplace would likely reduce overall enrollment and would surely lead to massive disruption and consumer confusion,’ said Joel Ario, managing director with the consulting firm Manatt Health and former director of the Office of Health Insurance Exchanges in Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services.”
35) National: Declines in state and local government employment grew deeper in December with total job losses compared to before the coronavirus pandemic approaching 1.4 million. “Labor Department figures released Friday showed that state and local employment dropped by a combined 51,000 jobs last month, with the number of local government jobs shrinking by 32,000 and state jobs by 19,000. A decline of 19,900 education jobs drove the state losses, and was offset by gains of about 800 jobs in other parts of sate government. Almost all of the month’s local losses were unrelated to education. Compared to February, state and local employment levels in December were down by roughly 1,385,000, based on the latest Labor Department estimates, with employment now totaling around 18.5 million. Many of the losses have been in education jobs.”
36) National: Can we find a better way to melt snow? “America uses tons of rock salt to de-ice roads, but the chemical is harmful to the environment and concrete. Emerging methods could reduce the need for machines, salt, and high snowplow budgets,” Governing reports. “Any of these approaches might prove to be a groundbreaking innovation. They could prevent DOTs from having to hire expensive labor, buy and maintain large amounts of equipment, and spread salt in an annual process that costs millions and harms the environment.”
37) California: Joshua Schank, the Chief Innovation Officer at LA Metro, joined “transit evangelist” Paul Comfort on his podcast to talk transit. Good stuff. Listen here. [Audio: 35 minutes.]
38) National: Will Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be privatized before Trump leaves office? The issues were laid out before the Supreme Court in a recent oral argument in Collins v. Mnuchin. The conservatives seem somewhat confidentthat the privatization will go through. We shall see.
Photo by Blink O’fanaye.