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- The California town of McFarland is thinking about turning the town library into a police station.
- California Gov. Gavin Newson (D) has vowed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to protect the right to abortion.
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday that Texas would consider challenging a 1982 Supreme Court decision requiring states to offer free public education to all children, including those of undocumented immigrants.
First, the good news…
1) National/California: Following news of the apparent imminent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, the public sector in several states is stepping in to protect the rights of women to an abortion. In California, Gov. Gavin Newson (D) vowed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to protect the right to abortion.
Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Governor Newsom said in a joint statement “California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased. We will fight. California is proposing an amendment to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution so that there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state. We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution. Women will remain protected here.”
Other sanctuaries include or will soon include New York State (though there’s “still more to do”), Oregon. and the District of Columbia. Abortion rights are a particular concern in DC, where Black people have officially been the District’s largest racial group since the 1960 Census. As Rafia Zakaria observes, the Supreme Court’s draft abortion opinion is poised to revive some of the worst traditions of white patriarchy. “Since the exercise of the right to choose now maps more visibly onto women of color than it has before, the opposition to a woman’s right to choose translates much more directly into opposing the right of a woman of color having control over her own body. In 2022, opposing abortion is not only sexist; it is also racist. For all its rhetorical flourishes and bids for legal and political legitimacy, the draft opinion in Dobbs highlights men’s perverse obsession with controlling the bodies of women of color.”
2) National/North Carolina: “When it comes the public sector,” writes ITPI Communications Director Jeremy Mohler, “more state and local governments are bringing privatized services back in-house, improving services and job quality.” Moher sees the jobs shortage as actually a good jobs shortage. “A few weeks ago, Nebraska lawmakers voted to end the state’s decade-long experiment with the privatization of child welfare case management services. As we concluded in a 2019 brief on bringing privatized services back in-house—known as ‘insourcing’—such a move often both improves service quality and saves costs. It’s encouraging to see more and more local and state governments waking up to this truth. And we all should be pushing our own communities to join the club.”
3) California: L.A. County is seeking bids to bring high-speed internet to poor Black and Latino areas. “Big telecom companies have long fought to keep government out of their business: Barriers to municipal broadband are in place in 18 states, making it hard for localities to establish their own networks, thanks to industry lobbying. Even in California — where legislators lifted a restriction on public broadband in rural areas in 2018 — publicly owned networks are still rare. Now, however, $65 billion in broadband funding included in last year’s federal infrastructure bill has changed the dynamic, fueling a nationwide rush by state and local governments to connect residents to the internet. Los Angeles County is at the forefront among municipalities with a public-private partnership to offer free broadband internet to its poorest residents in Watts, Boyle Heights, Sun Valley and four other communities as soon as year’s end. These are neighborhoods that are heavily Latino and Black.”
4) District of Columbia: Washington, DC, was rated the best big city park system in the country for the second consecutive year. “The city scored well on all ParkScore rating factors. Twenty-four percent of land in the District of Columbia is reserved for parks, among the highest in the United States. The District also outperformed on ParkScore’s park access and park equity metrics. Washington, DC, neighborhoods where a majority of residents identify as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American, or Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are equally likely to live within a 10-minute walk of a park as neighborhoods where a majority of residents are white. Park space per capita is also distributed nearly equally in Washington, DC.”
5) Indiana: The far right has been routed in its effort to take over the Republican-controlled state legislature, Daniela Altimari reports in Route Fifty. “They ran with the goal of moving the Republican-controlled Indiana legislature further to the right on issues ranging from abortion and gun control to LGBTQ civil rights and the public school curriculum. But most of the social conservatives on Tuesday’s ballot failed to unseat establishment Republicans. The candidates backed by the Liberty Defense political action committee spent close to $100,000 and succeeded in ousting a Republican state representative who had held his northeastern Indiana seat since 2002. Apart from that race and three other contests, the Liberty slate appeared to fall short, according to unofficial results. Two conservative lawmakers who were allied with the slate also lost their reelection bids.”
6) New York: Colleges in New York State are now barred from withholding transcripts as a means of collecting student debt. “Democratic governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation Wednesday prohibiting the practice known as “transcript ransoming,” calling it in a statement “an unfair, predatory practice that prevents our students from reaching their full potential.” The law applies to all private and public universities in the state, according to The New York Post.”
7) National: Raymond Pierce, president and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, says we must protect public education funds from for-profit charter schools. “Recently,” he writes, “the U.S. Department of Education issued proposed rules that, among many other things, seek to bring what I believe is much-needed structure for and focus on charter schools. At issue is the question of ensuring that charter schools that receive federal grants serve and are accountable to the communities in which they are situated. I believe that rules highlighting and clarifying this important responsibility are absolutely necessary.” A new Biden administration rule would require fund recipients to document community engagement. “At Bain & Company and Grads of Life, we’ve developed a framework of five core areas of business operations that effective [Diversity, Equity & Inclusion] strategies span. Four of these areas of operation are internal, while the fifth—external engagement—looks outside a company’s walls to embed DEI in things such as supply chains, customer and product strategy, community engagement, and communication with the general public.
As crucial as community engagement is for successful charter schools, it is also important for traditional public schools. Some districts now realize that among the most important reasons for this is to build support for school funding. For example, after failed bond issue vote, Michigan’s Marshall Public Schools have turned to community engagement.
8) National/Texas: Here it comes. The radical right is taking the opportunity of the Supreme Court’s abortion decision leak to attack the right to education, which is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) “said Wednesday that Texas would consider challenging a 1982 Supreme Court decision requiring states to offer free public education to all children, including those lacking legal immigration status.”
9) National/Think Tanks: The Brookings Institution reports that community schools are important in Appalachia. “Community schools in three counties in Kentucky have opened the doors for high school students to mentor younger students on their way to postsecondary education, for retired teachers to support schools and their own financial well-being, and for family members to engage in enriched learning opportunities. Ten years ago, ‘full-service community schools’ started to blossom in Kentucky because of existing funding for family resources and youth services centers, and they grew stronger when U.S. Department of Education funding was expanded. The organization Partners for Rural Impact (formerly Partners for Education) has increased funding for community schools by bringing together partners and districts to apply for funding—as well as combine programs that improve academic outcomes and build on the strengths of local communities for long-term results.”
10) Maryland: According to Fox News Baltimore, a charter school in west Baltimore is refusing to answer questions about how a student who missed the first 140 days of school was marked present in class and somehow received passing grades. “When it comes to student performance, ConneXions is a charter school that appears to be struggling. Project Baltimore analyzed the most recent state data. In 2021, ConneXions reported 516 students with a graduation rate of 60 percent, nine points below the district average of 69 percent, and 27 points below the state average. In that same year, 81 percent of ConneXions students were chronically absent. That’s well above the district average of 49 percent and nearly four times the state average of 22 percent.”
11) New York/Revolving Door News: New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks has joined the board of the New York City Charter School Center, an organization that advocates on behalf of the sector. Kaliris Y. Salas-Ramirez, a member of the Panel for Educational Policy of the NYC Department of Education, says, “Tell me we have an administration that wants to privatize our public schools without telling me you wanna privatize public education. I am heartbroken and so disappointed that this is where we are. @DOEChancellor. I just want to know why?”
12) North Carolina: The state board of education has published its annual charter schools report. Among the findings: The total number of charter schools has doubled since the General Assembly lifted the state’s cap on charter schools in 2011; 21 charter schools have had their charters revoked by the state board of education; charter schools serve a smaller percentage of English language learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students compared to traditional public schools; ethnic and racial demographics at charter schools are similar to the general public school population, except for Hispanic students (roughly 20% in local school administrative units vs. 12.6% in charters); and a grant program is helping charter schools become more diverse.
The State Board of Education on Thursday “unanimously agreed to terminate Torchlight Academy’s charter due to ongoing concerns about the school’s finances and governance. The board’s decision means more than 500 K-8 students from Wake and surrounding counties will be forced to find new schools in the fall. The school will close on June 30.”
13) Pennsylvania: Julia Bojalad of North Huntingdon writes in to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to take exception to a George Will column boosting charter schools. “George Will’s April 24 column “Crippling charter schools” falsely states that “charter schools are the most accountable public schools.” In fact charters make up 6% of public schools in Pennsylvania but account for about 25% of the lowest performing schools. They have a large negative effect on the test scores of white students, and cyber charters have a larger consistent negative effect on all outcomes.
In 2021, Pennsylvania spent $3 billion of taxpayer money on charters with little oversight. They have no elected school boards, no budget audit and few regulations. Charters receive generous funds from school districts but have few of their costs. Charters are a shell game; they may be nonprofit, but they hire for-profit management companies to operate the school. They game the system. They pilfer money and students from cash-strapped district schools.” She urges Pennsylvanians to vote for public officials who support Gov. Wolf’s legislation to tighten up quality control and regulation of charter schools. “Before you vote, find out where the candidate stands on vouchers and charters. Don’t let them use our tax dollars to privatize our children’s education just to make some millionaire even more wealthy.”
14) Texas: Switching from a charter school to Dallas ISD helped this scholar thrive, says Gene Davis. “A former charter school student, Robert chose to attend Dallas ISD’s IDEA for high school and says, ‘It was one of the better decisions I’ve made. I’ve been able to meet people in the fields I’m interested in going into—marketing and real estate. And I’ve been able to participate in a lot of activities at my school. It’s helped me to step out of my comfort zone. Even my thought patterns have changed since coming to IDEA.”
15) Wisconsin: A northern Wisconsin tribe’s decision to open a charter school has made it the center of an ongoing debate between state Republicans and Democrats over public versus private schools. “‘I am vetoing Senate Bill 695 in its entirety because I object to further complicating our school funding system,’ [Gov.] Evers (D) said in a written statement to the Legislature.” Evers, the first-term Democratic governor, previously served as state superintendent of public instruction from 2009 until his term as governor began in 2018. He routinely vetoes efforts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass bills that expand charter or voucher programs. Evers often cites funding as the reason for the vetoes, as he did with tribal charter school expansion bill.”
16) National/Think Tanks: Heads up from Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) on its new working paper showing that taking public control of utilities can help cities meet their climate goals. “Part Four: A Public Partnership: The Role of Reclaimed Utilities in Meeting Cities’ Targets. Here we show how the prospects of cities reaching their decarbonization targets would be greatly improved if the incumbent utilities were reclaimed to public ownership and issued a new pro-public mandate. In the context of discussions on energy transition and the role of cities, comprehensive reclaiming builds on the approach developed by progressive municipalism, while shifting the focus of political attention towards the incumbent companies themselves.” Check out the other TUED working papers.
17) National: This Friday at 2 pm Eastern, EARN will be holding a talk on “Leveraging federal infrastructure dollars for good jobs in communities that need them most. How states can use local hire policies to set equitable hiring and labor standards for public infrastructure projects.” [Register]
18) Maine: Maine’s Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in two cases that could determine the fate of Central Maine Power’s stalled Western Maine transmission line project. “It means a return to the spotlight for the controversial power line project that has been on hold since late last year. CMP wants to build the 145-mile line to bring Canadian hydropower onto the New England grid under a deal to help meet Massachusetts’ climate change goals. Confusingly, the state Bureau of Public Lands, represented by the attorney general’s office, is the defendant in both cases. This is because the state enforces the law enacted by the voter referendum, and it also issued the public lands lease that is at issue in the separate appeal.”
19) Michigan: All of the pieces are lining up for Michigan to finally address its long overdue infrastructure crisis. But “communities will not achieve those goals by following tattered playbooks, said Sue McCormick, former CEO of the Great Lakes Water Authority and a current member of the Water Asset Management Council. She emphasized that the next path is carved out of collaboration—not only between governments, but also within departments. Road projects should be coordinated with water main replacements. Communities, rural and urban, ought to band together on regional projects. The objective is controlling costs.”
20) National: What would the end of Roe v. Wade mean for pregnancy behind bars? Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg of The Appeal has the story. “In a country where incarcerated people can still be shackled when they give birth, where they can be denied sanitary napkins or tampons at a guard’s whim, where gynecological exams can be more akin to assault than healthcare, what will it mean for prisoners if Roe v. Wade is overturned? Largely, that answer depends on where they are incarcerated. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe, as it appears poised to do, states will once again be permitted to criminalize abortion. As a result, people could soon be subject to prosecution and prison time for seeking these medical procedures, providing them, or helping others access them.”
“If Roe is overturned, state and local lockups will likely abide by their state laws, said [Carolyn Sufrin, associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine], meaning that abortion may no longer be an option for incarcerated people in over half of the country. While some people in the community may be able to travel to another state to access abortion, it’s extremely unlikely that incarcerated people would have that option, she said. ‘We are going to see this disproportionately impact incarcerated people,’ Sufrin told The Appeal. ‘They’re going to feel the restrictions in an even more pronounced way.’” As for private, for profit prisons, would this mean GEO and CoreCivic will be making money off forced childbirth behind bars?
21) National: Contracted trainers with far-right connections are training police all over the country, Reuters reports in a major story. “On social media, Richard Whitehead is a warrior for the American right. He has praised extremist groups. He has called for public executions of government officials he sees as disloyal to former President Donald Trump. In a post in 2020, he urged law enforcement officers to disobey COVID-19 public-health orders from ‘tyrannical governors,’ adding: ‘We are on the brink of civil war.’ Whitehead also has a day job. He trains police officers around the United States. The Idaho-based law enforcement consultant has taught at least 560 police officers and other public safety workers in 85 sessions in 12 states over the past four years, according to a Reuters analysis of public records from the departments that hired him.”
22) National/California: After suffering a reversal in federal court on its ban of private prisons in California, the state is getting a rehearing, offering some hope for progress. “This rehearing means that California will now face off against the Biden administration. When the previous administration lost its coup attempt and left office on January 20, 2021, the new administration took over in urging the courts to block AB 32. ‘Biden’s Justice Department has backed the Trump administration’s position and argued that federal law does not authorize state regulation,’ the Chronicle reported.”
23) National: GEO Group, which reported its financial results last week, is under pressure on a number of fronts and appears to be hanging its hopes on the possibility that the Biden administration will end Title 42 and generate a new wave of immigrant detainees for its facilities. “We believe GEO is well positioned to help deliver diversified services and solutions to assist the federal government” in such an event, Zoley told analysts. GEO is also nervously watching the rehearing in the abovementioned case on California’s private prison ban, which is scheduled for late June. [See the earnings call transcript].
Meanwhile, the company has still not come to agreement with its creditors about refinancing its debt. Company revenue was down 4.4% over last year. There was also a rather lengthy discussion of the revenue implications of GEO’s electronic alternatives to detention business.
24) National: Wall Street TV personality Jim Cramer says “stay away from CoreCivic.” In their earnings call last week, CEO Damon Hininger said, “In the first quarter of 2022, we generated revenue of $453 million, which was consistent with the prior year quarter, despite the non-renewal of contracts with the United States Marshals Service, or USMS, at our Leavenworth Detention Center and our West Tennessee Detention facility in 2021. The non-renewal of our contract with Marion County, Indiana at the managed-only Marion County Jail effective January 31, 2022 and the sale of 5 facilities in our Property segment during the second quarter of 2021. Collectively, these 8 facilities accounted for $28 million reduction in revenue in the first quarter of 2022 versus the prior year quarter.”
Hininger also said, “The termination of Title 42 is expected to result in an increase in number of undocumented people permitted to enter the United States to claim asylum and could result in a significant increase in a number of people apprehended and detained by ICE, which continues to be our largest government customer.”
25) California: State auditors are not just bean counters. They look at critical performance issues in the public interest. Witness LA’s Taylor Walker reports that “A new state-level audit of five police agencies in California, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), found biased conduct among law enforcement officers and little accountability for such behavior. The other four agencies were the San Bernardino, San Jose, and Stockton Police Departments, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which runs the state’s prison system. The auditor’s team looked at the online posts of approximately 450 officers across the agencies, and 25 investigations departments had undertaken in response to complaints from the public or colleagues about biased behavior or remarks. The report highlights three cases in which incidents lead to internal investigations by the CDCR.”
26) Pennsylvania: A graduation ceremony “was held for the first class of cadets enrolled at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility Training Academy since the facility was de-privatized on April 6 and placed under full operational management control by the County of Delaware,” Delaware County reports. “Since the de-privatization of the County jail, the Training Academy has undergone restructuring and the curriculum has been updated under the leadership of Richard Leach Jr., a twenty-year veteran of the facility and new Major of Training Operations. New classes of cadets will attend the George W. Hill Correctional Facility Training Academy each month until all vacancies are filled, with new classes scheduled to begin training…”
27) National: Public service and public servants should be celebrated, writes Bob Lavigna in Route Fifty. “The dedication of these public servants stands in sharp contrast to the often-heated budget battles and rhetoric about the size, function, scope, and effectiveness of government. This debate frequently generates harsh—and usually unjustified—criticism of the public servants who deliver essential services. And this is a shame, because government employees perform vitally important work that affects us all every day. We continue to ask government to solve some of our nation’s toughest and most intractable problems, which have been underscored and even intensified by the battle against the coronavirus.”
28) National: Is the private credit market finally warming up to a new role for public banking? David Dubrow, a partner at ArentFox Schiff who specializes in public finance, seems to be leaning in that direction. “There is value and incentive for states, localities and other governmental entities to create a public bank to localize their financial incentives for investment in their communities and provide low-cost financing for those communities. (…) While some have concerns, properly designed public banks would be safer than private banks and collateralization of deposits of public monies in a public bank does not make sense from a financial or policy perspective. Let’s start with why a public bank makes financial sense. A public bank allows a governmental entity to leverage its own monies for public purposes as opposed to a private bank leveraging public deposits for its private profit-making purposes. To understand why this makes sense we will first discuss how private banks leverage public deposits.” [Sub required]
29) National: Maximus, the government health services contractor, reported $50 million in quarterly profits last week and $1.18 billion in quarterly revenue. Last year the National Employment Law Project released a report detailing how Maximus keeps wages low. “The report also spotlights that Maximus has opposed our efforts to form a union, which prevents us from being able to negotiate higher pay. One key detail in the report we should pay attention to is that Maximus call center workers make significantly less than federal call center workers directly-hired by government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA). We do similar work at Maximus but directly-hired call center workers at the IRS and SSA earn an average of over $50,000 a year!”
30) California: McFarland is thinking about turning the town library into a police station. The community has expressed opposition to the closure of McFarland’s only public library. “Analuz Hernandez and Yazmine Olivera, both 11, were there hanging out when I visited. ‘We’re surrounded by a bunch of land!’ Analuz said, referring to the acres upon acres of cotton fields and almond groves that make up McFarland’s biggest industry. ‘They can’t build something new on all that land?’ Yazmine, meanwhile, suggested a different location for the police headquarters. ‘They should go to the east part,’ she said. ‘There’s more emergencies on the other side of here.’ (…) ‘They learn to love to read and study here,’ [retired professor now library tutor Bertha Cuate] said. ‘Denying them this would be a tragedy.’ Angie Maldonado showed up to pick up her son. The lifelong McFarland resident remembered the excitement when the library opened in 1994. ‘We have nothing else here for kids,’ said the 42-year-old. ‘We have no theater. You take this out, kids either stay home bored or go out on the streets.’”
31) California: 55,000 L.A. County workers threatening to strike if contract talks stall. “Service Employees International Union Local 721 represents roughly 55,000 county employees in a range of areas, including health care, social services, mental health services, public works, parks and public safety. The vote does not mean a strike will automatically occur, but authorizes the union to call one if contract negotiations stall. The union is in the midst of contract talks with the county, saying it is pushing for higher wages, protection against privatization of jobs and improved health benefits. The union’s contract with the county expired at the end of March. Union President David Green told reporters more talks are scheduled ‘bright and early Monday morning.’”
32) International: In the wake of regular outsourcing scandals, the British government seems to be trying to get up to speed on what constitutes good practice in outsourcing and procurement. Simon Harris and Benjamin Obinali of Gowling WLG break it down. “The Cabinet Office has produced a range of Procurement Policy Notes (PPNs) in the last two years, mainly to support contracting authorities and their suppliers in mitigating the immediate impact of COVID-19. PPNs provide guidance on best practice for public sector procurement, and include valuable supporting documentation and Frequently Asked Questions. Each PPN will have different ‘In-Scope Organisations’ that it will apply to, for example, Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies. The PPN will also state the contract value at which the PPN will apply, when the provisions need to be applied and their duration (if relevant). We have summarised in this insight the key PPNs from the last two years. All PPNs and accompanying guidance notes are available on the Cabinet Office website.”
33) National: As debate over freedom of online expression grows more heated, the issue of public vs. private roles and mandates is gaining importance. For some of the questions raised, see The Privatization of Censorship: Modern Challenges for the First Amendment by Philip Brain is Spectacles.
“For now, it is not clear that anything can really be done through legislation,” Brain writes. “It would take a constitutional amendment or landmark legal precedence to establish any clear guidelines about the illegality of anti-democratic agitation or anything similar, and—though some countries like Germany, Taiwan, and South Korea do this—it’s not even clear that’s a wise path. The First Amendment is a tremendous right which must be preserved for the sake of a healthy society. As it is, though, we’ve put ourselves in a corner which empowers companies to take darker paths in the future, and the alternative solutions don’t seem very promising.”
34) National: The government board that disciplines corporate auditors (the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board) trumpeted a recent enforcement action against KPMG as setting a record and sending a strong message, POGO says, but the message it sent was mixed at best. “In some ways, the case showed how, as the Project On Government Oversight reported in 2019, the audit cop has been a weak enforcer of its own rules.”
35) National: At least one-third of private sector employees don’t have access to retirement plans at their jobs, according to Pew. Thus state-facilitated retirement savings programs are a necessary lifeline for private sector workers—and for public budgets. “Consider Pennsylvania. A 2018 study found that employees’ insufficient retirement savings has led to every county in the Keystone State experiencing increased public assistance costs, reduced tax revenue, decreased household spending, and lower employment. The price tag for Pennsylvania taxpayers of these savings deficiencies? An estimated $15.7 billion over 15 years.” See the report.
36) International: A public backlash has met the U.K. government’s decision to privatize Channel 4, one of the country main networks. “The assertion by Julia Lopez, minister of state for media, data and digital infrastructure, that C4 needs private ownership to survive is ludicrous. It has by far the biggest youth audience of any channel, is building financially buoyant online services to underpin its broadcast output, and last year generated its biggest ever surplus — in marked contrast to Netflix and some of the other much-vaunted streaming services that are suddenly revealing the fragility of their business models. Channel 4 has contributed to the global success of British television over the past 40 years. This is because it has had a clear public-service obligation to address attitudes, engage audiences and commission content from all over the UK (what some might call levelling up).” [Sub required]
Photo by Imseong Kang.