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- The Brooklyn Public Library has announced that any teenager in America is now eligible for a Brooklyn Public Library card.
- A Pennsylvania administrative law judge has recommended the state reject Aqua Pennsylvania’s proposed $17.5 million acquisition of a Chester County town’s sewer system.
- An effort to form the first union by Colorado charter school teachers has been crushed by the governing board of the New America Schools system.
First, the good news…
1) National: In the Public Interest Executive Director Donald Cohen joined Nomiki Konst to discuss the privatization of everything. [Video, about 25 minutes]
2) National: With implicit bias hurting patients, some states are stepping in to train doctors. “States are aiming to reduce the gaps between White and minority populations in health outcomes, especially for women after giving birth. Since 2019, at least four states—California, Maryland, Michigan and Washington—have adopted policies requiring at least some health care workers to take implicit bias training, some as a prerequisite for professional licensure or renewal. Most came through legislation, but Michigan’s was a gubernatorial directive. Bills on implicit bias training in health care have been introduced in state legislatures over the past two years in many other states, including Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont. Minnesota passed a law last year requiring obstetrics units to offer implicit bias training. The measures have generally been initiated by Democrats but have received Republican votes as well.”
3) Idaho: From Reclaim Idaho: “Big news: By a unanimous vote of its annual Delegate Assembly, the Idaho Education Association has ENDORSED the Quality Education Act. Thank you Idaho educators!!” The hard working folks at Reclaim Idaho say they expect the school funding initiative to be on the ballot in November. Listen to this interview with Reclaim Idaho’s Luke Mayville on “organizing in the heartland.” Audio, begins at 12:00].
4) Minnesota: American Rescue Plan funds are flowing into Minnesota and bolstering its budget. “The governor’s supplemental budget proposes two uses for the remaining ARP flexible dollars. He proposes that $1 billion go to payments to frontline workers in health care, child care, grocery, food service, transportation, public safety, retail, long-term care, manufacturing, and other sectors. The administration reports that this translates to payments of $1,500 each to about 667,000 workers. The remaining $150 million of ARP flexible funds and $350 million of general funds would go toward a COVID-19 emergency response account to respond to emerging needs more nimbly, similar to the Immediate COVID Response Fund enacted last year.”
5) Louisiana: Wi-Fi government contracting scams are already beginning to roll in, but pushback is coming. The New Orleans city council is standing up against a “smart cities” scam contract. “Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s ambitious vision of turning New Orleans into a ‘smart city’ with internet-connected streetlights and more public Wi-Fi is under fire from City Council members, amid signs of ties between winning bidders on a city contract, outside consultants and Cantrell administration officials. City Council President Helena Moreno, who has warned that a pending ‘smart city’ agreement between the city and telecom giant Qualcomm, an investment firm co-founded by basketball great Magic Johnson and other vendors may be illegal.”
Council Vice President JP Morrell said “there is a third-party company that no one’s ever heard of called Frontera. That we didn’t know existed, that on the 16th of April, the mayor, and Jonathan Rose issued a $2 million one-year contract to circumvent counsel oversight to begin the process of doing this infrastructure work.” On Thursday, the New Orleans City Council opened a formal investigation into Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s plan to provide free Wi-Fi services in the city over concerns top members of her administration are personally benefiting from the plan.” The council approved the investigation Thursday on a five to zero vote. A further meeting on the issue will be held this week.
6) National/New York: The Brooklyn Public Library has announced that any teenager in America is now eligible for a Brooklyn Public Library card. Teens can sign out ebooks and audiobooks from wherever they live. The move is designed to combat censorship, with some titles listed as “always available.”
7) Pennsylvania: An administrative law judge “has recommended the state reject Aqua Pennsylvania’s proposed $17.5 million acquisition of a Chester County town’s sewer system, a roadblock in the race by private utilities to acquire public water and wastewater systems under a 2016 law that encourages the private ownership of municipal water utilities. (…) Watson said the harm the transaction would cause with higher rates for Willistown’s customers, as well as Aqua’s existing water and wastewater customers, outweighed any public benefits derived from the sale. The PUC is not obligated to adopt the recommendation,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
8) Upcoming Event: Tomorrow at 10 am a Senate subcommittee chaired by Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) will hold a hearing next week focused on the “mistreatment of military families in privatized housing.” It will be streamed online at this link. Watch the trailer.
9) National: In a new episode of the Class Matters podcast, Adolph Reed Jr. spoke with Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey and Prof. Daniel Moak about what’s behind renewed criticism of our public schools. Are our schools failing our students and communities? Or are these attacks fueled by efforts to privatize schools for private profit? And how are teachers’ unions and parents working together to protect and expand public education? [Audio, about 45 minutes]
10) National: Republican governors have banded together to fight a federal rule that would require charters to prove that a school district they want to join is “over-enrolled” and in need of a new school. But “education organizations in the state who have also been pushing for full funding of a public education overhaul called the ‘Fair School Funding Plan’ support the federal change, and say it benefits public school students, instead of for-profit schools. ‘For too long, for-profit charter schools have taken precious resources from our communities and the public schools that serve 90% of Ohio’s students,’ said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association. ‘Any school that receives public money must be held to the same standards as traditional public schools.’”
11) California: An Oakland-based coalition of schools and port workers has called for a Day of Action Against Privatization this Friday, April 29. “‘The billionaires are after our public resources here in the City of Oakland,’ according to a Schools and Labor Against Privatization (S.L.A.P.) media statement. ‘The Oakland School Board has recently voted to close 11 public schools, despite overwhelming opposition from the community. School closures disproportionately harm communities of color. They are part of a long-term plan by corporations to destroy public education—selling them off to real estate developers or converting them into charter schools.’”
12) Colorado: An effort to form the first union by charter school teachers has been crushed by the governing board of the New America Schools system. “I feel really un-listened to,” said Collette Simkins, a drama and art teacher at the system’s Thornton campus, following the vote. “These [board members] are not in our classrooms. So I don’t know how they feel that they know what is best for us and for our students when the only time I see them outside of a board meeting is at graduation.”
Teacher Audrey Immonen said “our union would ensure that we have a strong voice in critical school and classroom decision-making to more effectively teach and empower our hardworking immigrant students. This is a slap in the face to all of us who are dedicated to our students and community.” New America “has struggled with high teacher turnover and low student enrollment in recent years. Union supporters say a recognized teacher union could play a constructive role in solving those problems. Ten Democratic state legislators signed a letter urging the board to recognize the union.”
13) Hawaii: Hawaii decides to prove that paying teachers more money helps end teacher shortages. “Recently, two states have decided to try something novel: Offer up meaningful salary raises that might bring up a special education teacher’s standard of living to moderately decent. Guess what? NPR has been reporting on the issue of special education teachers and the shortages seen across the U.S. According to the report, 48 states have reported special education teacher shortages over the last year. However, in the last couple of years, Hawaii and Detroit have added meaningful salary bumps. Unlike most areas of the country, they have seen their losses contract. In 2020, Hawaii lifted special education teachers’ salaries by $10,000 a year. ‘Before the incentive, in October 2019, almost 30% of the state’s special education positions were vacant or staffed by teachers without appropriate licenses, district data shows. By October 2021, that number dropped by half, to about 15%.’”
14) Louisiana: After years of controversy and foot dragging, a New Orleans charter school named after a Confederate official and segregationist has been renamed. “After months of input from community meetings, surveys, committees, study groups and an outside consulting company, the board last week that it would consider four names when the Advocates for Arts-Based Education Board met Saturday at 9 a.m. The finalists were revealed as: Mosaic, Branch, Legacy and Lionheart. But when the board met Saturday, those four ‘finalists’ also were rejected, in favor of The Willow School, a derivation of Willow Charter School, a name that had been proposed last November.”
15) Nevada: Is breaking up the huge Clark County school district and moving to a community schools-based model a good idea? Voters may soon have the opportunity to decide. “Multiple districts would create competition for the best educators, [said Bill Hanlon, a retired CCSD teacher and administrator who now works as an education consultant]—a win-win. And educators could further their careers while staying in town. Currently, CCSD teachers and other staff who don’t want to leave the valley only have choices in the area’s limited (though growing) charter and private school scenes.”
What would the initiative do? “This petition amends NRS Chapter 386 to give incorporated cities the ability to opt out of a county school district, and to create a new ‘community-based’ school district. To form a new Community School District, a city’s governing body can either pass a resolution or ordinance subject to a referendum of the voters, or place the question directly on the general election ballot for voter consideration.”
16) Pennsylvania: Easton Arts Academy Elementary Charter School has “settled a lawsuit out of court with a former principal who claimed administrators rigged grades and abused their authority. Former principal Susan Bostian received a $50,000 payout, and the law firm of Hahalis & Kounoupis of Bethlehem got $25,000 for representing her, according to the settlement.”
17) National: $230 million, around 10% of the new 2023 military construction budget, is earmarked to go to privatized military housing.
18) Mississippi: Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the Mississippi Legislature failed to provide enough help to the capital city, “which faces dire infrastructure and crime problems decades in the making. (…) Lumumba pointed out the infrastructure funding Jackson did receive came with strings attached and oversight no other cities face. Lumumba said this raises ‘the question of whether Jackson has an equal-protection claim against the state of Mississippi,’ although he later clarified, ‘I’m not announcing a lawsuit.’ Lumumba said he believes there is a push on the state level to privatize Jackson’s water and sewer services. And, Lumumba also noted, lawmakers earmarked more than half as much—$13 million—for a Jackson golf course as they did for fixing the city’s crumbling water and sewerage system, at $25 million (which the city is matching using federal funds).”
19) Pennsylvania: Officials seem poised to vote for the privatization of Towamencin’s sewer system. But opposition is fierce. “A lengthy and at times heated debate followed, with residents reiterating concerns that the for-profit company would raise rates higher than a township-owned system would, that their rates would go to a for-profit company’s shareholders, and that the fee hikes would harm those on fixed incomes the most. For the first time in the debate, two local businesses added their voices. Jim Lee, general counsel for Clemens Food Group located on Forty Foot Road, said that company is one of TMA’s biggest customers, paying roughly $850,000 in sewer bills annually. ‘We believe that our rates would likely double to about $1.6 million, which will significantly impact our operations in Hatfield. In the spirit of transparency, we decided to come here today, to express our concern publicly, and also advise the township, as well as the residents, that if this sale does go through, and the rate does increase significantly, we are all looking at all options, to either reduce or eliminate our flow to TMA,’ he said.”
20) International: Wasting no time, the Rand Corporation is already out with a proposal to reconstruct Ukraine by turbocharging privatization.
21) Think Tanks: The World Bank’s Public-Private Partnership Legal Resource Center has released a report on Assessing Value for Money of the PPP. “VFM analysis typically involves a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Qualitative VFM analysis consists of sense-checking the rationale for using a PPP. This involves asking whether a proposed project is of a type likely to be suitable for private financing, and whether the conditions are in place for the PPP to achieve value for money—for example, that the PPP has been structured well, and that competitive tension is expected during the bidding process. This often takes place at a relatively early stage of PPP development—as such, qualitative VFM analysis may constitute part of the PPP screening described in Screening for PPP Potential.”
22) National: Dexter Murray writes on the exploitation of Blackness by mass incarceration profiteers. “In a series of emails circulated during February 2022, which were overlaid with the red, green and yellow colors of the African freedom flag, the company JPay purported to ‘celebrate Black History Month’ by ‘helping you stay connected with your incarcerated loved one’ and making ‘every Tuesday during February a ‘Free Reply Tuesday.” But what does it mean to celebrate Black history when you profit from a prison system that harms the Black present? As I know from my personal experience, JPay is only one of several companies that enjoy enormous profits from ‘correctional’ facilities that are disproportionately comprised of Black and brown people. Others include Securus, JPay’s parent company, Global Tel Link, and Access Corrections. Those companies charge exorbitant fees to family members seeking to add money to their locked-up loved one’s commissary accounts.”
23) National: A coalition of immigrant rights groups has issued a report, Sabotaging Sanctuary: How Data Brokers Give Ice Backdoor Access to Colorado’s Data and Jails, on how ICE is using corporate data brokers to get around sanctuary laws. “Data brokers are for-profit companies that collect vast amounts of personal data to package and resell, often to government entities such as police and intelligence agencies. In June 2021, ICE contracted with data broker Appriss Solutions for the express purpose of getting around sanctuary laws. Appriss enables ICE agents to access real-time booking data through a platform called LexisNexis Accurint Virtual Crime Center. This software gives ICE agents real-time alerts when people on its target lists are booked into county jails, allowing the agency to identify and apprehend them upon their release.”
24) National/Mississippi: Conditions at Mississippi’s horrendous Parchman maximum-security state prison farm prison violate the Constitution, the U.S. Justice Department says. “In a 59-page report, the DOJ said the prison had failed to protect inmates from violence at the hands of others, provide adequate mental health treatment or take sufficient suicide prevention measures. The report said penitentiary officials had subjected prisoners to ‘prolonged isolation in solitary confinement in egregious conditions that place their physical and mental health at substantial risk of serious harm.’”
Parchman once held the Freedom Riders trying to end apartheid in Alabama and elsewhere, subjecting them to deliberate abuse. “On June 15, 1961 the state government sent the first set of Freedom Riders from Hinds County Prison to Parchman; to make the protesters as uncomfortable as possible, they were put to work on chain gangs. The first group sent to the farm were 45 male Freedom Riders, 29 blacks and 16 whites. A call went out across the country to keep the Freedom Rides going and ‘fill the jails’ of Mississippi. At one time, 300 Freedom Riders were imprisoned at Parchman Farm. The prison authorities forced the freedom riders to remove their clothing and undergo strip searches. After the strip searches, Deputy Tyson met the freedom riders and began intimidating them. He began by mocking the Freedom Riders, telling them since they wanted to march all the time, they could march right to their cells, and he would lead them. The guards at Parchman Farm were relentless even after all of this mockery.”
25) National: Vice News reports on how private prisons are still making billions even after President Biden signed an executive order ending federal contracts. “A year on, the companies have already found loopholes. Private prisons have been proven to be less safe for inmates and staff, and have higher rates of violence. But the companies have read the tea leaves and have expanded into new profit areas. Will there be a repeat of their desire to put profits over people?” [Video, about 10 minutes]
26) National: So which institutions increased their holdings in GEO Group last quarter? These include Diversified Trust Company, Raymond James & Associates, and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, which boosted its stake by a substantial 22%. What’s wrong with this picture of teachers investing in incarcerating migrants for profit and in the school to prison pipeline?
27) Florida: The Miami New Times reports that “time is ticking on one of the most high-profile and controversial real estate deals in Miami history, and one local documentarian predicts that if Miami city commissioners vote to approve it, the act itself will strike midnight on their careers.” This Thursday “the Miami City Commission is scheduled to vote on a 99-year, no-bid lease of the publicly owned Melreese Golf Course property to Inter Miami CF co-owner David Beckham and his partners Jorge and Jose Mas to create Miami Freedom Park and a Major League Soccer stadium. The vote on the controversial deal has been delayed four times since February, with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez citing the absence of City Attorney Victoria Méndez as the cause of the most recent delay, though commissioners have suggested that the postponements had more to do with a lack of locked-in votes.”
Documentarian and activist Billy Corben has “released a mini-documentary on social media slamming the Melreese deal and urging residents to call their elected officials and petition them to vote against it. The star narrator of the two-minute mini-doc? One of the main players behind Miami’s other sports stadium boondoggle: former Miami Marlins president David Samson, whom Corben calls the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ to Mas’ ‘Buffalo Bill.’” Watch the mini-doc. [About 2 minutes]
28) Louisiana: David Mamone of the Acadian Advocate blows the lid off how much money taxpayers are losing because of ‘bed guarantees” in ICE New Orleans detention centers. “A controversial funding mechanism that compels the federal government to pay private prison firms a minimum for beds that may not be filled in NOLA ICE detention centers is costing an extra $8 million every month to U.S. taxpayers, data reviewed by The Advocate show. (…) In Winn Correctional Center, a facility run by Ruston-based private firm LaSalle Corrections, an average of 743 people were detained during fiscal year 2022, according to ICE. The 2022 Overview Budget presented by the Department of Homeland Security to Congress for approval showed the U.S. government paid $95 a day for a guaranteed minimum of 946 immigrants detained.”
Homero Lopez, an immigration attorney who works as Legal Director at ISLA Immigration, says “guaranteed minimums just demonstrate our government’s way of doing business. They are typically the same representatives who are up in arms about spending on social services willing to indiscriminately waste taxpayers’ funds on these horrible conditions.”
A GAO report last year said “GAO’s review of ICE’s documentation found that 28 of 40 of these contracts and agreements did not have documentation from ICE field offices showing a need for the space, outreach to local officials, or the basis for ICE’s decision to enter into them, required by ICE’s process.”
29) Maryland: In Baltimore’s backlogged courts, defendants pay for their own home detention or risk years in jail pretrial, The Real News reports. “Unlike bail, home detention fees are not returned to the client after their trial. A scathing 2021 study by the George Washington University Law School details the proliferation of such monitoring devices, which confine people to their homes, intrude on their privacy, undermine personal and family dignity, extract wealth from those who can least afford it, and set up people to fail and face reincarceration. In his new book, Understanding E-Carceration,author and ‘survivor of prison and e-carceration’ James Kilgore asks, ‘Why are [electronic monitoring devices] tools of incarceration and punishment instead of vehicles for change?’”
30) National: The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is demanding that President Biden, U.S. Senators and Representatives save the VA from facility and service closures and privatization. It is circulating a petition to get action. “On March 14th, VA Secretary Denis McDonough issued recommendations destined for review by the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, a board created by the 2018 VA MISSION Act, a bill designed to promote vast privatization of VA healthcare. (…) It’s time for VA workers, veterans, and all Americans to demand that our local, state, and national leaders put a stop to this assault on veterans’ care. It’s time to let the air out of the AIR Commission, halt the Senate confirmation of AIR commissioners, and repeal Title 2 of the MISSION Act. Closing VA facilities must be entirely off the table. Our promise to veterans will not be broken and this closure commission must be stopped.”
31) National: Auto workers and climate groups teamed up to demand union-made, electric postal vehicles, reports Brian Wakamo, an Inequality Research Analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-editor of Inequality.org. “Fellow activists from the Blue-Green Alliance and the Sierra Club stressed that labor and climate groups need to work together to make a green transition as just and strong as possible and this joint fight over electric postal vehicles is just the beginning. The UAW has embraced their demands for green postal trucks — not gas guzzlers. Despite urging from the EPA and climate activists, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has refused to commit to having e-vehicles make up more than 10 percent of the new fleet, claiming the Postal Service can’t afford to buy more.”
32) National: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has submitted shareholder proposals calling for Waste Management, Republic Services, and Stericycle “to conduct independent civil rights audits of their company operations. Separately, Parnassus Funds has called for Republic to undergo an environmental justice audit.” Michael Pryce-Jones, the Teamsters’ senior governance analyst, says “these companies are putting out very grand statements, but we don’t see them backed up when the frontline workers, over half of which are minorities, are facing all the risks, especially during the pandemic.”
33) International: How does privatizing care homes damage the prospects of patients and their communities? Watch this brief video report on the battle to resist privatization of Roseway Manor in Nova Scotia. Posted and narrated by Darren Stoddard. [About 13 minutes]. “For profit homes have poorer outcomes.”
34) International: The Civil Society Policy Forum met on April 7 to discuss how IMF and World Bank loans, policy advice and research profoundly affect the fiscal space available for investment in public services and what needs to change in the light of COVID-19 and the climate crisis. An early report card as the world heads into economic turmoil.
Some points from the notes:
- Public education is underfunded and understaffed as a result of decades of austerity, due to neoliberal policies, which have been exacerbated by Covid19.
- IMF policy advice can create an environment where public services are funded.
- The IMF should tackle country issues, not only from the side of expenses but also payment – tax evasion, fiscal paradise, etc. IMF (and other IFIs) should have better control on countries to avoid this
- Mechanisms increasingly promoted as a solution (such as PPP) are not a silver bullet, may be treated with care (pose liability on the public, are not transparent)
David Archer of Action Aid commented “it is true there’s been a bit of support to countries to open-up to public services during the pandemic, but then a rapid return to fiscal consolidation in country programmes. We are seeing a return to austerity. Public sector bill should be central – expending on social services is not protected. In our study we see relentless push by IMF and ministers to cut expenses of GDP in public sector. Every single country was encouraged by the IMF to reduce percentage of GDP in social services expending below the global average.”
35) Think Tanks: Waste Today has an interesting history and overview of one of the most important our public services—waste and environmental services—and of the most important issues in that sector—landfills, the legislation governing them, and their longevity. “While the origins of today’s waste management industry are centered around WM, Republic and Waste Connections, Mittelstaedt says the capital-heavy nature of the industry will keep waste businesses and their private equity financiers active. ‘The industry is far, far more capital-intensive today than it was 30 years ago,’ he says. ‘The capital-intensive nature of the business continues to go up. Private companies are competing with larger public companies who have a far lower cost structure and lower capital structure, so it’s harder for them to be competitive on the street with the larger public companies.’”
36) National: Writer Joe Costello has a terrific review of Alexander Zaitchik’s excellent new book, Owning the Sun: A People’s History of Monopoly Medicine from Aspirin to COVID-19 Vaccines. “There is absolutely no economic argument against an exponentially more public patent process, while the political argument to breaking up these mega-corporations is irrefutable, if you want democracy anyway. ‘Owning the Sun’ is a masterful history of the politics of information. Compared to previous human history, industrialism required massive amounts of information, its control proved defining in every way. As a new technological era spills forth, information is even more fundamental and ubiquitous. Presently, the world lacks the politics, institutions, and thought to in anyway constructively engage this challenge.”
37) National: What is the case for public space exploration? What are the alternatives to the privatization of space? 1Dime has a good video exploring some of the issues. “This is a video about The Space Economy and the Geopolitics of space exploration. Under capitalism, the privatization of space poses serious concerns, but what could a socialist vision of space exploration look like? Often people on the left (such as Bernie Sanders) dismiss Space Exploration as a waste of money and time. However, there are many benefits to space exploration, especially under a more egalitarian society. Enjoy the trippy visuals (:”
38) International/Think Tanks: Cambridge University Press has published a new book on privatization, The Right Privatization: Why Private Firms in Public Initiatives Need Capable Governments, by Sergio G. Lazzarini of the Insper Institute of Education and Research in Brazil. Check out the chapter headings and summaries.
Photo by Antonio Bonanno.