Weekly privatization report

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1) National: As Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut wreak death and destruction, Patricia T. Bradt, associate professor emerita of environmental science at Muhlenberg College writes that the overwhelming signs of global warming “are enveloping our globe—rising seas, stronger storm surges, warming oceans, more flooding, more devastating hurricanes, more droughts, more disastrous fires, more human misery and property damages. Our country took no actions in response to the 1980s and subsequent overwhelming evidence. The U.S. continues to take no action. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?” In one small step, last week lawmakers agreed on a new water infrastructure bill that “will help coastal communities prepare for the growing risks of climate change.” For thoughts on how reckless outsourcing can contribute to climate change, see Donald Cohen’s “Privatizing Climate Change.”

2) National: In a major defeat for pro-privatization education secretary Betsy DeVos, a federal court has ruled that “the department’s postponement of the so-called Borrower Defense rule was procedurally improper.” See the 57-page complaint filed by the Public Citizen Litigation Group and the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School on behalf of two plaintiffs: “The need to protect student borrowers from predatory for-profit educational institutions has become ever more apparent over the past several years,” the complaint reads, “as investigations have revealed fraud and misrepresentation that have lured students into amassing significant student loan debt—under federal government programs—in exchange for low-quality and often useless educations. These predatory institutions stand on precarious financial grounds and close at alarming rates, stranding students and leaving federal taxpayers with the bill.”

3) National: History teacher Jesse Hagopian marks out a change in how public school teachers are now being treated in some corporate media.

4) California: The City of Adelanto “inadvertently double-paid $5.4 million to the private operator of an immigration detention center. Only recently, however, did the city respond to operator GEO Group’s multiple attempts to alert Adelanto of the mix up, according to city and GEO officials.”

5) National: States are allowing private, for-profit companies to seize private property. “As the spoils of fracking and the Trump administration’s pro-drilling agenda increase demand for new fossil fuel infrastructure, private oil companies are seizing private property from landowners to build oil and gas pipelines across the country. In most cases, state regulators and courts have granted private firms like Energy Transfer Partners eminent domain or “expropriation” powers by framing their for-profit pipelines as public benefit.”

6) Arizona: Moody’s Investors Service maps out how charter schools pressure the credit standing of traditional public schools. “Traditional districts lose revenue when a student leaves a district for a charter school, [Moody’s analyst William] Oh said. But the district is left with instructional, administrative and facilities costs for the student that cannot be reduced quickly. ‘Additionally, the negative financial impact of losing students to charter schools will likely increase as districts compete by adding programs, or are unable to find cost efficiencies and/or reduce expenditures,’ Oh said. ‘Further, as districts lose market share, they face the prospect of local voters failing to support capital improvement bonds or supplemental operations and maintenance tax levies.’” [Sub required]

7) Arizona: Columnist Elvia Díaz of the Arizona Republic says it’s up to Arizonans to do something about charter school gouging. “Arizonans are upset over state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth’s scheme to walk away from his charter schools with up to nearly $30 million of taxpayer dollars. The outburst of indignation and disgust is fitting, given that this is just the latest of Republic reporter Craig Harris’s stories exposing all sorts of schemes by charter school operators to enrich themselves. But now what? What are you going to do about it? Are you going to keep expressing indignation and merely wait for the next installment of charter schools’ sleazy financial dealings? This has to end, one way or another. And it has to come from you, the parent whose kids are struggling in crumbling traditional public schools while the likes of Farnsworth pocket millions.” For more, see Martin Levine in Nonprofit Quarterly, who gets to the heart of the matter: “The business of schools may be education, but this change is about real estate. Central to the transaction is the sale of four buildings to the new nonprofit organization.”

8) Arizona: Charter schools were a key concern for the two candidates for state superintendent of public instructionat their debate. Democrat Kathy Hoffman said “I do think that charter schools need to be held accountable, especially when there’s a lot of money at stake.” Republican Frank Riggs said “No charter school should be chartered, no charter school charter should be extended unless there are a majority of disinterested individuals on that charter holding governing board. (…) Number two, all of those individuals need to go through formal training in nonprofit and charter school governance, including their legal and fiduciary responsibilities.”

9) California: A key vote is coming up next week for the San Francisco Board of Education. “Resolution 186-26A2 mandates a full and open investigation of how charter schools impact San Francisco students and communities fiscally, educationally, and socio-emotionally. The policy also mandates a charter school oversight committee to increase transparency and accountability in existing charter schools.” Anabel Agloro Kingwood, Policy Director at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, a San Francisco-based student and parent-led organization advancing racial and economic justice in schools and communities, says “independently run charter schools exacerbate this funding crisis by siphoning off limited per-student taxpayer dollars from traditional public schools without being held to the same standards.”

10) California: After public pressure, Contra Costa officials have terminated their contract with ICE to keep immigrant detainees. Those not able to be bailed out have now been transferred to other facilities, including for-profit detention centers. “ICE was paying Contra Costa County $3 million per year to house immigrant detainees. Yet the sheriff didn’t hire any new employees with the money, according to Lee. Instead his department relied on overtime by the existing workforce. In a petition a year ago detainees complained they were being held in cells 23 hours a day, that there were no toilets in the cells, and that free time for calling relatives or taking showers was often canceled. One detainee asked to be deported in preference to continued detention. ‘County jails are the worst place to be an immigrant detainee, even worse than many of the huge privately operated detention centers,’ [Rev. Deborah Lee, director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity] charges.”

11) California: Solano County Office of Education leaders voted unanimously last week to deny the appeal of a Vallejo charter school petition “at a time of increasingly intensive debate over the role of charter schools in the state.” The vote “was among several such charter appeal denials in the past year, including one some months ago from a Vacaville charter school, Heritage Peak, which wanted to align itself with Vacaville Unified but was denied by that governing board, which also cited the petition’s unsound educational plan. Additionally, Wednesday’s decision came six days after the state Board of Education denied an expansion bid by Rocketship, which currently operates 18 schools in three states and Washington, D.C.”

12) Florida: An attorney for several Renaissance Charter School students who say they were molested by a teacher “says only the bare minimum was done to screen Falzone. ‘A safe background check is going to include verifying employment references and interviewing the employee etcetera, and if there are any gaps you need to find out why, and if you can’t, you don’t hire the person,’ Herman said.”

13) Georgia: Esquire columnist Charles P. Piece takes on a charter school’s “sadistic” plan “to beat students and bully their parents.” The plan by the Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics “does not seem classically innovative at all,” says Pierce. “In fact, it sounds like old-fashioned child abuse.” He continues, “what the CNN story doesn’t mention is that, if a parent were to say, ‘No, you morons. You don’t get to beat my kid,’ then the parent has to consent to a five-day suspension of their child. So this combines beating the student with bullying the parents. I sure am glad we have charter schools that are allowed to experiment with new pedagogical techniques without interference from those fuddy-duddy teachers unions.”

14) Hawaii: The Honolulu Civil Beat is asking the right questions about possibly building a new prison. “What doesn’t make sense is to proceed much beyond a site selection decision without a full public discussion on big issues—like how the new OCCC will be paid for and how long-awaited prison reform efforts will fit in to the picture. Gov. David Ige and Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda announced the new site earlier this month and pegged the cost as at least $525 million. They say the money could come through selling general obligation bonds or having a private prison operate the facility under a lease-back arrangement. Officials hope to have the new jail built by 2023. But given Hawaii’s experience with its current private-prison contractor, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America), the state needs to tread very carefully before pursuing the private contractor route again.”

15) Illinois: Privatization redux? The Chicago Sun-Times reports that William M. Daley, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who presided over the disastrous parking meter privatization deal, will throw his hat into the ring for Mayor today. William was a member on the executive committee of JPMorgan Chase.

16) Iowa/National: Governing magazine has taken a close look at Gov. Kim Reynolds’ claims that privatizing Medicaid saved money. “A number of health providers in the state have complained that the numbers are a little fishy. They say the savings have resulted in part from delayed compensation to them, or complete nonpayment for legitimate treatments. They contend, among other things, that a change in the coding of procedures means valid services that aren’t on the new list aren’t being paid for. In short, providers say, they’re getting stiffed. ‘The claims about savings were not a savings in services, but the fact that the Medicaid managed care companies simply weren’t paying the bills,’ says Peter Fisher, research director of the Iowa Policy Project, summarizing the argument. ‘They counted that as saving money.’”

17) Maryland: Maryland must properly fund its schools, says Rev. Grey Maggiano of  Baltimore, the rector of Memorial Episcopal Church. “It should not be this way. In a state with a $500 million budget surplus, we should not have kids who are shortchanged. And we shouldn’t pass that on to the most disadvantaged kids either. How many days will, as Morgan State University professor Lawrence Brown has noted, primarily black Baltimore students miss out on this year for heat and cold? Five? Ten? Over the one student’s lifetime in the schools that is 140 days of pre-K to 12th grade, or nearly an entire school year lost.” But despite the education funding gap, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is on the campaign trail proposing a billion dollar tax cut.

18) Massachusetts: New Bedford city councilors are pushing back on charter school expansion plans. “Ward Three Councilor Hugh Dunn says the City is already shelling out $15 million for charter school students in the 2018 fiscal year budget, receiving only $2.3 million in state reimbursement. Dunn says the Alma del Mar expansion would balloon the City’s charter school spending to roughly $30 million, about 10% of the City’s overall budget. ‘So, at the end of the day, we’re talking about raising taxes or laying people off. Laying teachers off, laying firefighters off, laying police off,’ said Dunn. ‘So, I think we really need to be careful going down this road.’”

19) Michigan: The state has fined a Detroit charter school over an administrator—again—“over questions about whether she’s continuing to run the school despite claims by the school that she is no longer functioning as a superintendent. The Michigan Department of Education has already withheld $100,188 in state aid from Detroit Community Schools (DCS), and the school still owes $122,387 in fines, said Bill DiSessa, spokesman for MDE.”

20) Missouri: Megan Ellyia Green, a 15th Ward Alderwoman in St. Louis and candidate for president of the Board of Aldermen in Spring 2019, says “So much for transparency and open govt. A dozen or so of us gathered on the front steps of city hall for a press conference about airport privatization and we were locked out of the building.

21) New Mexico: Students at the Alma d’Arte charter school in Las Cruces “staged a silent vigil on their campusFriday afternoon, and then gathered signatures for a petition they planned to present to the school’s governing council” this evening. “Approximately 75 students expressed outrage and dismay Friday over the departure of educator Michelle Paz, one of the school’s original faculty members. The teacher had recently moved into an administrative role.”

22) New York: Charter school supporters took a hammering in the Democratic primaries last week. “Jeff Klein, Jose Peralta, and Martin Dilan were among several Democratic state senators to lose their primaries after voting with Republicans on some issues, including charter schools.”

23) New York: Syracuse University has rebuffed demands that it commit to not invest in private, for-profit prison companies. “The Senate, SA and the GSO all passed resolutions during the 2017-18 academic year calling on the university to ‘publicly commit to not investing directly in for-profit prison companies and their major suppliers now and into the future.’”

24) North Carolina: Rocky Mount Prep, a charter school, has shown little improvement in student performance, and “some parents are concerned that decisions by school leaders are hindering their children’s academic growth.” It “maintains a D rating, though the school performance score showed a slight uptick from 45 to 46. Growth was not met this year, the same result as last year. The school’s overall performance is among the worst in the North Central charter school region. (…) The staffing component, especially at the high school level, is one of the areas that worry parents most. In a letter sent Aug. 21 to Dave Machado, director of the office of charter schools, a parent wrote: ‘It is very frustrating to sit back and watch the disarray unfold at Rocky Mount Preparatory School. … Many of the students have numerous online CORE classes. Some have substitute teachers that have limited knowledge in the subject area. Morale is low and teachers, the good, permanent ones, are still leaving. Hearing the excuse ‘all schools are experiencing high turnover’ is unacceptable.”

25) Ohio: The Democratic candidate for state treasurer says that, if elected, he will use the power of the state’s investment portfolio to promote civil rights, and his first target will be for-profit prisons. Rob Richardson, a labor attorney and former mayoral candidate in Cincinnati, said “I don’t think there’s any more simple issue than criminal justice reform. I think for-profit prisons have really no place in government. We as the state of Ohio invest quite a bit in for-profit prisons. I don’t think it’s right economically or morally.”

26) Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement Systemhas acquired a new stake worth almost $1 million in the GEO Group, which incarcerates inmates and immigrants for profit.

27) Pennsylvania: Delaware County Controller Joanne Phillips has raised concerns about substantial legal bills related to the procurement of an operator for its prison. “The 1,800-plus inmate prison is managed by Florida-based GEO Group and its contract with Delaware County expires Dec. 31. In conjunction with that, the prison board has been evaluating whether to stay with the private operator versus the advantages and disadvantages of bringing in a public operator.”

28) Texas: A Dallas charter school superintendent has abruptly resigned. “In Mimms’ two years on the job, the district’s enrollment dropped and the school failed to meet the state standard for student achievement receiving an ‘F’ grade by the Texas Education Agency. While student performance has remained low, records show spending by the school’s top officials has been anything but. Monthly statements from Mimm’s school issued credit card show trips to Atlanta, Washington D.C., San Antonio and San Francisco, with stays at high-end hotels and dining at expensive restaurants. Her credit card statements from the past two years also show dozens of charges to Southwest Airlines and valet parking at Dallas’ Love Field Airport.”

29) Texas: Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based immigrant rights group that has been tracking private prison companies for years, criticizes Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar for receiving private prison campaign money. Cuellar is the top Democratic recipient. “‘The moment is one where you have to ask: If you are taking these contributions, does it mean you are in support of these policies the administration is enacting that enrich these companies?’ Libal said. ‘Let’s be clear, these companies don’t give these contributions out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s their way of ensuring their interests are met.’”

30) Washington: Law360 reports that two immigrants held in GEO Group’s Northwest Detention Center have accused the federal government in a Washington federal court on Thursday “of suppressing their rights to free speech, after the facility’s guards allegedly threatened retaliation against them in order to halt a hunger strike.”

31) Revolving Door News: Less than three months after leaving his post as head of the EPA in disgrace, Scott Pruittis “in talks to become a consultant for Kentucky coal mining ‘tycoon’ Joseph W. Craft III. Craft is the chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners and a major Republican donor—Craft and his wife, Kelly Craft, donated more than $2 million to Trump’s campaign and inauguration. According to sources speaking with the Times, Pruitt is hoping to develop his own consulting firm. One said Pruitt would not be an employee of Alliance but rather the company would be a client of his.”

Legislative Issues

1) National: The House version of the 2018 Farm Bill “is an attack on all working people and out of step with our values of community and equity,” writes DeAnna R. Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, a national, member-driven advocacy organization that seeks to cut the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. Newly-released prisoners are especially hard hit. “As it stands,” Hoskins writes, “the bill introduces work requirements, expands the list of convictions that trigger a lifetime ban on benefits, and provides inadequate subsidies for workforce development. Proponents use the language of ‘workfare’—the idea that people must lift themselves out of poverty by their bootstraps—to justify the very cuts that undermine the ability of people to work.” Last week the New York Times Magazine ran a devastating piece on the flawed logic and damaging effects of work requirements imposed on low wage on families.

2) National: In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence the issue of privatization of the National Flood Insurance Program may make a reappearance. A few weeks ago U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, told a panel of Kentucky state lawmakers that “legislators were looking at some level of privatization. ‘As a result, our committee continues to work on reforms that would make the program fiscally sustainable so it would no longer need taxpayer bailouts,’ said Barr, adding Congress extended NFIP through November.” The Pew Charitable Trusts have produced some recommendations for Congress on improving NFIP, while sidestepping the privatization issue. “Specifically, should: Dramatically increase investment in pre-flood mitigation, because paying a modest amount upfront can save a lot later.”

3) Pennsylvania: State Auditor Eugene DePasquale says Harrisburg needs to get to work and revamp the state’s charter school law. “On Tuesday, he used the construction of a Bethlehem school as an example of why. One of the findings of DePasquale’s audit is a loophole that he says essentially allows charter schools to put up buildings without having to put the construction job out for public bid, including the $25 million Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts built four years ago. ‘The charter school did not do anything against the law, but the law needs to be changed,’ DePasquale said. DePasquale has an issue with a loophole he says only applies to charter schools when it comes to putting up new buildings.” DePasquale will be suggesting legislation “that would require foundations and management companies associated with charter schools to be subject to the same public bidding requirements as those of public school entities.”

4) Puerto Rico: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says the decision on whether to privatize PREPA should be Puerto Rico’s to make, not Congress’. “”We want the privatization to be a Puerto Rican product, not dictated by the Committee (on Natural Resources),” said Pelosi, who, if polls on the November legislative elections are correct, may be House Speaker again in January.”


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