Your weekly rundown of news and analysis about the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods—and about the people fighting back. Not a subscriber? Sign up.
- A libertarian think tank wants to privatize the moon. Really.
- Nebraska moves to end privatized management of child welfare cases after a troubled history
- The school-to-casino jobs pipeline? A Las Vegas charter school would be the first adopted by a hotel-casino.
First, the good news…
1) National/Nebraska: Nebraska moves to end privatized management of child welfare cases after a troubled history. “Nebraska would close out a troubled chapter in child welfare under a bill given first-round approval by state lawmakers on Friday. Legislative Bill 1173 would repeal a law allowing private contractors to manage child abuse and neglect cases in Douglas and Sarpy Counties and end 12 years of privatization attempts. It also would start work toward a shared strategic direction for child welfare in Nebraska. The work would be done through two groups that bring together representatives of all three branches of state government, with a number of others involved in child welfare.”
2) National: Whatever happened to public goods? And how do we get them back? Donald Cohen, co-author of The Privatization of Everything, joined Francesca Rheannon of Writer’s Voice for an hourlong discussion of the decades-long capture of public goods, infrastructure and services by for-profit companies and their allies in right wing think tanks, municipal and state administrations, and legislatures across the country—and the road map for recapturing control of these public goods by the public.
Donald will also be appearing on two upcoming events, one of them tomorrow at 4 pm Eastern at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School [Register]; and on a webinar on March 7 at 7 pm Eastern on the Indivisible Georgia Webinar [Registration link here]
3) National: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced a bill to prohibit the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from charging inmates copayments for health care visits. District of Columbia Code felons are housed by the BOP.
4) National: The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has issued over $277 million in grant funding to further develop the U.S.’s broadband infrastructure, a key component in President Biden’s infrastructure goals, Alexandra Kelley reports in Route 50. “Most of the projects receiving this funding are middle and last-mile developments that bring internet connectivity to remote locations with limited to no service. The largest beneficiary is the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which will use the funds to bring network connection to 12 counties statewide. Missouri will receive $42,000.”
5) Minnesota: CCX Media Community News reports that “the Robbinsdale School District received a grant to create full-service ‘community schools’ at Cooper High School, Robbinsdale Middle School and the Sandburg Learning Center. ‘It’s not just the academic component, but the wraparound support that all students and families need,’ said Anthony Williams, executive director of community education for the district. The first step is community outreach to see which services like mental or dental care, food shelves, mental health support or extended school days are needed at which facility.” [Video, about a minute and a half].
Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center) “made an emotional plea to the House Education Finance Committee Tuesday in support of HF3587, which she sponsors. It would appropriate $90 million in fiscal year 2023 to support full-service community schools, prioritizing current grant recipients and schools identified as low performing under the federal Every Child Succeeds Act.” See here. Bill text.
6) Michigan: Tonight at 7 pm Eastern there will be an information session to learn more about legislation that will make prison calls free for incarcerated people and their loved ones in Michigan. Michigan Center for Prison Reform and the MI Criminal Justice Program will host the event. H/t Worth Rises.
7) National: Peter Greene of Curmudgucation zeroes in on the issue of privatization costs and school “reform.” He writes, “Not one of these ideas is about providing a better education for students; they are all about finding “efficiencies,” about finding ways to cut the cost of providing the service so that a company can get more money out of it. I’ll say, as I always do, that there is nothing wrong with a business trying to make money. That’s part of its basic function. But that basic function makes business incompatible with the running of public businesses. There is another related problem, most visible in education—the amateurism problem.”
8) Illinois: Greenville Community schools have taken a strong role in educating students about Jacksonville’s “active role in the Underground Railroad.”
9) Indiana: Susan Daoust, a teacher in the Anderson Community Schools system in Indiana, has won the 2022 Best of Madison County Educator of the Year.
10) Nevada: The school-to-casino jobs pipeline? A Las Vegas charter school would be the first adopted by a hotel-casino. “The east Las Vegas campus, which received approval from the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority in November, is part of a national network of schools.” The story was reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by the Adelson casino-owning family.
11) Pennsylvania: The River Valley School Board has rejected an application to put a charter school in Saltsburg. “In a document that was part of the proposed agenda for the meeting, the board listed several reasons for rejecting the application, including failure to provide a physical address for the school, failure to provide how an education at the proposed charter school would be different from an education in the district, and that the group failed to explain how they will provide custodial services and school meal programs, along with a realistic timeline to open the school.”
12) Tennessee: Sam Stockard of Tennessee Lookout says Gov. Bill Lee (R) and Republican lawmakers are keen to invite a private right-wing religious college in to expand the state’s charter school network. “Whatever the number, Hillsdale is making inroads in Tennessee—through the governor. Legislation in the General Assembly would ‘grease the skids’ for them to proliferate. Mainly, it would enable them to bypass school boards and go straight to a state charter commission, appointed by the governor, after three rejections in three years and after approval of one charter school. The measure was postponed for two weeks so an amendment could be tacked on. But opponents say it still contains the details they dislike.” Game show host Pat Sajak is chair of the Hillsdale Board of Trustees.
13) Texas: The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas AFT President Zeph Capo “slammed a PAC for funneling big money to a pro-charter school candidate running for the State Board of Education,” and for trying to buy seats in order to bring more charter schools to Texas. “The Charter Schools Now political action committee provided more than $200,000 in support to Omar Yanar, a charter school operator running in the March 1 Democratic primary to represent the El Paso area on the state board. ‘Candidates who accept these outrageous charter-school PAC donations are marking themselves as bought, ready to grease the wheels and pave the way for massive charter-chain expansion—all at the expense of our true public schools,’ Capo said in a statement.”
14) Wisconsin: Republican State lawmakers are pushing a massive school privatization bill, the Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson reports. “On top of all that, Assembly Republicans passed a bill dramatically expanding the state’s private school voucher programs. The bill is expected to pass the Republican-controlled state Senate before being vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, a former state superintendent of public instruction. But if a Republican defeats Evers in November, the bill would likely become law. Vouchers are a major Republican program to pull money and students out of public schools, sending them to private, often religious ones. Wisconsin has the nation’s oldest voucher program, which was focused on low-income students in Milwaukee. That program has shown mixed results across multiple studies, but Republicans are all about any program that will defund public schools, so they love it.”
15) Think Tanks: Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education (NPE) has issued a call for additional conference panels for their 2022 Conference. “Exciting news! Due to the positive response to our upcoming April 30-May 1 conference in Philadelphia, we are pleased to announce that we can add a few more panels to our outstanding lineup. We will consider panels on the following themes: Book bans, resistance to state legislation that interferes with teaching and curriculum (e.g., Anti-CRT, Anti-LGBTQ), discrimination in charters and vouchers, community schools, and anti-public education legislation. Please fill out a short form here if you would like to submit a panel proposal. We will take panel requests until March 7, 2022.”
16) National/Think Tanks: Beware unsolicited bids for public infrastructure, a new policy brief by In the Public Interest warns. Some states and localities allow for private developers to submit unsolicited proposals for public projects using a “public-private partnership,” or “P3,” model. Private developers may submit unsolicited bids to invest in and develop public projects that they view as profitable. Private investors may also submit unsolicited bids to take over and rehabilitate existing public infrastructure. If your state and/or locality allows for unsolicited bids, this brief highlights a number of reasons to be wary of these types of offers.
17) National: Writing in The National Law Review, Tycko & Zavareel LLP have some suggestions on how to keep billions of dollars in federal broadband funding grants from ending up in the wind. Use whistleblowers. “Contractors certifying that funds have been distributed any other way than the above constitutes fraud. Government IT spending continues to increase year over year, with General Dynamics ($3.8 billion), Leidos Holdings Inc. ($3.2 billion), and L3Harris ($2.6 billion) having the most government IT contracts in 2021. The False Claims Act, with the aid of whistleblowers, can hold government IT/broadband contractors accountable. Under the False Claims Act, employees of broadband providers can report government contracts fraud and may be entitled to 15-25% of the government’s recovery.”
NTIA has received more than 550 comments on broadband programs in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
18) National/Mountain West: Republican politicians in the West are ignoring voters’ conservation priorities, writes George Ochenski in The Missoulian. “Comparing those results with the policies of Montana’s current political leadership begs many questions. Why is so much time, energy, and money being spent trying to save Colstrip? Why, after 40 long years, do the Butte and Anaconda Superfund sites remain unremediated? Why is Senator Daines still trying to get rid of Wilderness Study Areas? Why does Governor Gianforte want to emulate Texas and privatize our elk herds and public lands? And why did the governor and Republican-dominated Legislature weaken our water quality laws when water quality is visibly declining?”
19) California: Philip Mattera, director of the Corporate Research Project, has a powerful and detailed examination of what he calls PG&E’s Ongoing Crime Spree. “Recently, PG&E completed a five-year period of felony probation, with the presiding judge issuing a scathing report on the company’s failure to change its ways. ‘Rehabilitation of a criminal offender remains the paramount goal of probation,’ wrote U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California. ‘During these five years of criminal probation, we have tried hard to rehabilitate PG&E. As the supervising district judge, however, I must acknowledge failure.’” [H/t Gary Storrs]. And PG&E has done all this “public interest” work while receiving more than $1.5 billion in public subsidies.
20) Maryland/National: The Center Square, a Koch-affiliated website, is singing the praises of the long delayed and overbudget Purple Line light rail so-called public-private partnership. See the report by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and House Appropriations Committee and Maryland Transit Administration for the gory details of the project’s poor performance.
Not to be outdone by the Koch privatization boosters, Public Works Financing has run a front-page encomium on the troubled project as an example of what P3’s can do, though the road privatization industry seems to have lost some of its swagger and former braggadocio: “Once it is all said and done,” says PWF, “it will have been the most complex restructuring of an ongoing, under‐construction Public‐Private Partnership in US history. Let us all hope it retains that title for a very long time.” [Public Works Financing, February 2022; sub required] History tells us that is a rather vain hope, and the anxiety about P3 deals in the industry itself is palpable (“an increasing number of high-profile defaults of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) and Public-Private Partnerships”).
But when hope is in doubt, there is always cringeworthy hubris: “What transpired will likely be underappreciated in the future.” Seriously?
21) New York: Harlem tenants are protesting the privatization of public housing as the city finalizes a deal. “Harlem River tenants opposed to the takeover fear that their new landlords will only make conditions worse. Some other NYCHA developments that were recently privatized have been plagued by botched renovations, while C+C — one of the new managers at Harlem River—dealt with continued utility outages shortly after taking over a Brooklyn NYCHA complex in December. Find out what’s happening in Harlem with free, real-time updates from Patch. In recent weeks, Harlem River tenants have been asked to sign ‘Temporary Move Agreements,’ asking them to vacate their homes during the renovations—stoking fears that they will be prevented from returning once they leave. To that end, many have refused to sign new leases with C+C, according to the advocacy group United Front Against Displacement, which is working with tenants opposed to PACT.
22) New York: A privately owned airport in East Hampton is scheduled to reopen on May 19, 2022. “The East Hampton Town Board has voted to delay deactivation of the East Hampton Airport and activation of the new private-use airport. Originally it was to close on February 28th and reopen within days but some temporary roadblocks to that plan have occurred. An attempt to get a restraining order to halt the process was defeated in court just this last Friday. The new plan has the East Hampton Town Board deciding to postpone the deactivation of the East Hampton Airport until 11:59 p.m. on May 17, 2022. The new private-use airport will open at 9:00 a.m. on May 19, 2022. This timeline has been discussed at length with the FAA and the FAA has indicated that it does not foresee any obstacles with the new, private-use airport opening on May 19, 2022.”
Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, said, “We are pleased the East Hampton Town Board is starting to listen to common-sense solutions and delayed their plans for the airport to allow for more discussions and alternate solutions. For everyone’s best interests, we ask that all sides stop filing lawsuits and implore the town not to rush ahead with their misguided plans to close the airport. Instead, we suggest that all of the impacted parties come together to find a solution that works for all.”
23) Tennessee: The Tennessee Valley Authority, the massive iconic public utility built with Roosevelt’s support, has bid on Memphis’ electrical supply. The bid is essentially a contract proposal between two entities owned by the public.
24) West Virginia/National: As if the state’s environment and people haven’t been ravaged enough by profit-making enterprises, a bill has been introduced in the state Senate to privatize state parks. You’ll never guess who’s a main co-sponsor of the federal version of this “bipartisan” monstrosity. “‘The [state] bill means a private contractor could come in and build a casino, a racetrack, an amusement park, or anything else on state park property,’ explained Walt Shupe, who recently retired after 33 years in West Virginia’s state park system.”
25) International: Shareholders of Brazil’s state-run power company Eletrobras have approved the terms for a privatization of the company. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads early polls for the October presidential election, said his Workers Party opposes privatization of state-run companies and warned investors not to buy Eletrobras. “Selling Eletrobras for the price of bananas means selling a state asset and increasing unemployment,” Lula said in a radio interview. “I’d tell investors to think twice before buying Eletrobras.”
Criminal Justice and Immigration
26) National: Is the right to prison healthcare being enforced? “Since a 1976 Supreme Court ruling, incarcerated individuals are the only group of people in the United States to have a constitutional right to health care. Under Estelle v Gamble, being deprived of “reasonably adequate medical care violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.” But, who decides what is ‘reasonably adequate,’ particularly when the healthcare system for patients in prison lacks uniform standards? The answer, according to University of Pennsylvania researchers Katherine Rohde, Taylor Ross, and Caitlyn Kim, ‘is not so clear.’”
27) National: GEO Group, the for-profit [prison and immigration corporation, has released its latest 8-K reporting its fourth quarter 2021 and full year 2021 results. Summary:
Fourth Quarter 2021
- Total revenues of $557.5 million
- Net Loss Attributable to GEO of $49.8 million or ($0.41) per diluted share, as a result of tax charges and expenses related to previously announced change in corporate tax structure
- Adjusted Net Income of $45.5 million or $0.38 per diluted share
- Adjusted EBITDA of $124.1 million
- Adjusted Funds From Operations (“AFFO”) of $0.65 per diluted share
Full year 2021
- Total revenues of $2.26 billion
- Net Income Attributable to GEO of $77.4 million, $0.58 per diluted share
- Adjusted Net Income of $159.2 million, $1.32 per diluted share
- Adjusted EBITDA of $467.0 million
- AFFO of $2.48 per diluted share
28) National: Whistleblowers in the federal prison system say they’re bullied for exposing prison abuse. “As the federal Bureau of Prisons faces increased scrutiny over its latest scandal—allegations staff and even a warden sexually abused inmates at a women’s prison known as the “rape club”—people striving to hold it accountable say they’re being attacked for speaking up. (…) Federal law protects whistleblower employees from retaliation, but [John Kostelnik, the Western region vice president for the correctional workers union (AFGE)] said such protections don’t really exist in the cloistered Bureau of Prisons, where wardens control staff discipline and people who speak up are essentially blacklisted. Bosses routinely ask would-be whistleblowers to write memos detailing problems, effectively forcing them to put down their names and compromise anonymity, Kostelnik said.”
29) Tennessee: Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, Tennessee’s largest and newest prison, should improve health conditions or be shut down, a lawsuit demands. “In a lawsuit, Terry Deshawn Childress’ family claims CoreCivic is allowing people housed in its prisons to “die needlessly” and is putting profits ahead of safety. ‘According to one of its own former employees, CoreCivic—a private prison corporation that operates Trousdale Turner Correctional Center for profit—is driven by “the power of the almighty dollar,” their attorney, Daniel Horwitz, wrote in a civil complaint. “As a result, CoreCivic severely understaffs Trousdale Turner Correctional Center while willfully disregarding inmate safety there.””
30) International/Revolving Door News: Contracts for South Africa’s billion-Rand-a-month (US$ 66 million a month) private prisons were negotiated “in bad faith,’ Independent Online reports. “It has come to light that three correctional services officials, Pieter Jordaan, Steven Korabie and Frikkie Venter, negotiated and signed the contracts with G4S and GEO Group before joining the same companies after the contracts were signed. (…) ‘There is no doubt in my mind that these officials negotiated in bad faith and for self interests. These private firms, that are foreign owned, are making a killing while our government is losing billions in these deals,’” said Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts former chairperson Themba Godi.
31) National: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) says Medicare should take broad, quick steps to end the Trump-era privatization program. “‘Direct Contracting is a major threat to Medicare coverage, hidden in bureaucracy,’ said Jayapal. “While I’m glad to see the administration taking steps to transition away from this flawed program—waiting 10 months to roll back a program they agree is flawed will only embolden the private investors that are already taking advantage of the system. More needs to be done, and I will continue to fight against any and all efforts to privatize Medicare.” This harmful initiative to privatize Medicare was executed under the radar of seniors directly affected and lawmakers until Congresswoman Jayapal led a letter signed by more than 50 members of Congress urging the Biden Administration to end the DC program. That letter followed an earlier effort by Congresswoman Jayapal to stop the privatization of Medicare.”
32) National: So who leads the league table for vacuuming up subsidies that could be used to fund public services and pay for good union jobs? Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker has the answer, in this order:
33) Kansas: The city of Wichita “is changing the terms of a proposed contract to privatize the city’s golf course operations after KemperSports presented data that understated how much money the private company stood to gain on the deal,” Matthew Kelly reports.
34) Pennsylvania: Tavern owners have concerns about the latest liquor stores privatization bill. “There is concern that large, well-funded players will have an advantage in a new liquor world,” says Tom Tyler President, Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. “Major players would view HB 2272 passage as an opportunity to rework the liquor code, tilting it in their favor. We’d rather see the glass half full by improving upon HB 2272 to protect small business, but with the potential for unintended consequences it looks half-empty.”
35) International: Alberta’s public healthcare workers are worried that a wave of privatization may be coming in the 2022 budget. “‘I would like to see some recognition that we have very significant deficits of beds and personnel that we need to invest in,’ [United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith] said. ‘Unfortunately, what I think we’re going to see is more of the [United Conservative Party (UCP)] privatization drive.’ Smith said a key area of concern is surgeries. Premier Jason Kenney told reporters Tuesday the province will move ahead with plans to increase the proportion of surgeries it contracts out to private facilities from 15 per cent to 30 per cent over the next several years under the Alberta Surgical Initiative, which the UCP announced in 2019.”
36) International: The North Bay Health Coalition in Ontario is organizing an emergency summit on March 22 to fight hospital privatization. “‘Anyone who cares about our local health care system is asked to attend,’ said Henri Giroux, representative with the North Bay Health Coalition. ‘We are warning about the unprecedented new plans by the Ford government plan to privatize our health care system,’ Giroux added. ‘We will be launching a Fight Back campaign in the region to safe guard our public health care service and stop privatization and cuts.’ (…) ‘The objective of the meeting is to educate the region about what is happening with the cuts of bringing in private hospitals and the 18,000 beds that are turning private and motivate the group here in the region to try and go out there and stop this government from doing this. We don’t need private hospitals and we don’t need 18,000 beds going to for-profit, so we will have guest speakers talk about it,’ said Giroux.”
37) National/Desert West: Is green energy good for deserts? Joshua Frank has some reservations. “Certainly, there is money to be made off of this massive energy transition, and on paper, a few do appear to be far less damaging than coal-fired power plants and natural gas operations. That’s if, of course, you ignore the toll these energy ventures have on the lands and people they exploit. Right now, not far from where I live in Southern California, solar companies are gobbling up public and private lands for future solar and wind projects. Across the border in Nevada, even more desert is set to be developed in the name of fighting climate change.” [Sub required]
38) International: Some background reading on privatization in Russia and the Ukraine.
39) Solar System: A “libertarian” think tank’s proposal to privatize the Moon has been met with derision: “Asset strippers who asset stripped Earth to the brink of ecocide claim that if we give them a whole other celestial body to asset strip, THIS TIME the wealth will trickle down,” says Dr Craig Dalzell.
Photo by Roan Fourie.