First, the Good News

1) National/Think Tanks: To the surprise of absolutely no one, the right wing antigovernment Cato Institute, in response to the release of the proposed federal budget, is yet again calling for the privatization of procurement of air traffic control (ATC) services and infrastructure. They invoke the usual bogus “efficiency” argument to make their case. The good news is that we no longer need to rely on such clearly biased and flawed evaluation standards for procurement. We can use adult, professional-level models. See, for example, the new report by In the Public Interest and the Local Progress Impact Lab, “Harnessing the Power of Procurement: Issues, Considerations, and Best Practices to Advance Equity in the Contracting of Public Goods and Services.”

See especially the report’s Checklist of Best Practices (p. 56):

  1. Procurement Policies and Roles
  2. Analyzing the Decision to Contract Out
  3. Public Participation
  4. Ensuring High Performance and Quality
  5. Equitable Access to Contracted Goods and Services
  6. Job Quality
  7. Contractor Diversity
  8. Workforce Equity
  9. Environmental Impacts
  10. Transparency and Public Information
  11. Accountability and Contractor Oversight
  12. Special Issues in Technology Contracts

2) National/Texas: Apart from benefitting the people of Houston, ITPI’s Donald Cohen says the victory of labor and community groups over a water privatization drive also helps the effort to resist similar moves in other states and localities. “‘The key concern with the privatization of water is that loss of local control over the projects,’ Mary Grant, of the environmental group Food and Water Watch, told Governing. ‘Companies may be offering large sums of money to entice local officials to sell assets, but that’s not free money. That’s just a debt that your constituents are going to have to pay through their water bills.’”

3) National: The Biden administration has cut the federal charter school funding budget from $440 million to $400 million, and the charter school industry is complaining. But “President Biden’s Budget raises the bar in education by investing in evidence-based strategies and partnerships that will improve outcomes from cradle to career,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. ‘With these investments, we can deliver an excellent education to all students, improve learning conditions, build pathways to college and careers, and increase postsecondary education affordability and access.”

4) National/Ohio: Route Fifty looks at how one city, Columbus, Ohio, brought tax filings online. “Today, that room smells of fresh paint as it’s being redecorated and repurposed. The tax returns of yesteryear have all been digitized and moved to the cloud, and in the place of paper returns filed in person or by mail is CRISP, the city’s one-stop portal for filing taxes, making payments and tracking refunds.”

5) California: The newly launched California Fast Food Workers Union says history has been made: “Hundreds of fast food workers from across the state are rallying after the conclusion of the first #FastFoodCouncil meeting. We know that when we fight, we win. Estamos En La Lucha!”

6) Michigan/National: A federal bankruptcy court has denied a “bad faith” bankruptcy petition by the owner of a failed Michigan dam. “Several months after the state of Michigan was awarded a nearly $120 million default judgment against the owner of a failed mid-Michigan dam, a judge has denied his bankruptcy filing. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday announced the ruling against Lee Mueller, former operator of Boyce Hydro and the Edenville Dam, which failed in 2020, forcing the evacuation of more than 10,000 people and damaging thousands of homes and businesses. (…) The Edenville and Sanford dams both failed on the evening of May 19, 2020, during heavy rainfall. The subsequent flooding down the Titabawassee River caused two more dams upstream, the Smallwood and Secord dams, to also overflow. All four dams were owned by Boyce Hydro, which had its permit to generate hydro-power revoked in September 2018 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which had been preceded by more than a decade of safety and regulatory violations by the private company.”

7) Minnesota: Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect looks at the resurgence of labor-community militancy in Minnesota. “The week began with a picket line outside the high-rise office of one leading local corporation, conducted by Local 26 of SEIU—the city’s historically militant janitors’ union—in conjunction with CTUL (the Centro De Trabajadores Unidos En La Lucha), an organization of immigrant workers who clean buildings, work on construction, and do other jobs in which immigrants are frequently exploited by low-road employers and contractors. When I wrote about the emerging Minneapolis table a decade ago, CTUL, in tandem with Local 26, was organizing the night crews who cleaned the city’s Target stores, a battle they won when Target told its cleaning-company contractors to treat those workers with some respect. Those crews thereby joined and were covered under a Local 26 contract, and the two organizations have worked together ever since.” Sahan Journal reports that “the majority immigrant workforce is employed by several large subcontractors, including ABM, Marsden and Harvard, to clean buildings across the metro, including many downtown Minneapolis locations.”

8) West Virginia: West Virginia Watch says Sunshine Week is a good time to look at lack of transparency in West Virginia’s government. “Recent sessions have been marked by a lack of transparency and the 2024 session was sadly no different. Bills were fast-tracked with no debate or discussion, and expert testimony was ignored and even refused in some cases. (…) This raises the specter that important debates and policy discussions are actually happening behind closed doors. Of course, when these votes happen in caucus, citizens are robbed of the opportunity to hear the debates and see where their representatives actually stand. Closed-door debates also mean citizens don’t get to see the blatant disregard for expert opinion.”

9) International/Argentina: Argentina’s Senate has rejected President Javier Milei’s sweeping emergency decree to deregulate the economy, “in a major blow to the libertarian leader and his attempt to deliver reforms for the crisis-stricken country. Senators voted 42 to 25 to reject the decree, with four abstentions. Issued in December it modifies or eliminates more than 300 regulations affecting the housing rental market, food retailers, air travel, land ownership, and more.” [Sub required]

10) Think Tanks: The Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR) says All in All, Medicare Advantage Is a Scam.

  • Myth #1: Medicare Advantage Is Medicare
  • Myth #2: Medicare Advantage Saves Money
  • Myth #3: Medicare Advantage Is Necessary To Save Beneficiaries Out-of-Pocket Spending
  • Myth #4: Medicare Advantage Improves Health Outcomes
  • Myth #5: Medicare Advantage Offers Benefits That Traditional Medicare Simply Cannot Match
  • Myth #6: Medicare Advantage Is Necessary To Lower Healthcare Spending

11) Think Tanks: The National Conference of State Legislatures says “millions of American students and adults continue to be unfamiliar with how their government works at even a basic level, leading experts to sound the alarm about a crisis in civics education or, at best, to call for its revitalization.” But NCSL has stepped in to provide resources to change the picture. “Legislators, educators and civic-minded organizations are working to reverse this trend with the hope of reinvigorating American civics. This page provides resources and information not only for teachers, students and parents but for legislators and legislative staff who are interested in supporting and fostering civics education among their constituencies. Included below are specific resources provided through state legislatures, some aimed directly at children and students and also a view array of resources from organizations committed to bolstering the civic education of the American populace in general.”


12) National: Trump supporter Jeffrey Yass, the billionaire devotee of school privatization, is in the mix to buy TikTok if there is a forced sale, reports Jacob Silverman in The Nation. LittleSis reports that “despite going to public schools himself for most of his education, Yass has spent tens of millions of dollars towards efforts to privatize the U.S. education system. Worth nearly six times more than the DeVos family, Yass has supercharged the long-standing DeVos family strategy of attacking public education on a state level where their millions of dollars can go farther to influence elections and therefore state policy. Since 2021, Yass has spent over $23 million on federal school privatization PACs like the Club for Growth’s School Freedom Fund and the DeVos-backed American Federation for Children’s Victory Fund and Action Fund.”

13) Arizona: The State Board for Charter Schools intends to revoke the charter contract of ARCHES Academy. “Among more than a dozen other violations, the board found ARCHES failed to submit its annual audit on time and misreported payroll taxes and compensation to the Internal Revenue Service.”

14) Florida/National: In a continuing national attack on church-state separation, the Republican-controlled legislature has approved the presence of religious chaplains in public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union says “allowing public schools to establish paid or voluntary positions for chaplains will inevitably lead to evangelizing and religious coercion of students. This violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which, along with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, safeguards the constitutional right to religious liberty. Courts have repeatedly ruled that it is unconstitutional for public schools to invite religious leaders to engage in religious activities with students or to promote religious doctrine to them. Chaplains are trained to provide spiritual guidance. They do not have the experience necessary to ensure that they adhere to public schools’ educational mandates and avoid veering into impermissible religious counseling and promotion of religion.”

15) Georgia: A school voucher bill has emerged from the legislature with more momentum than in the past. “Voucher skeptics say because public schools are funded per child, taking kids out would leave struggling schools with less money to improve. Last year, those skeptics included 16 House Republicans, who joined nearly all Democrats to scuttle a voucher bill. Jones and other Republican leaders sought to make voting for this year’s effort more enticing by adding a raft of broadly popular education measures, including codifying teacher pay raises and allowing SPLOST money [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax—ed.] to be used for building or renovating pre-K facilities. This year’s bill adds some testing requirements—private schools would test voucher students in math and language arts and submit their scores to the state.”

16) Missouri: Voucher and charter school expansion has advanced in Missouri Senate. The legislation “would pave the way for public charter schools in Columbia, expand a state program that pays for private school expenses and raise teacher pay. The measure, which advanced on a 20-13 vote, with three Republicans joining with all 10 Democrats in opposition, still needs another vote before moving to the House for consideration. Democrats, who held up a vote on the legislation Monday, ended their blockade after Republicans unveiled revamped legislation Tuesday. The measure, if it becomes law, would require teachers to be paid at least $40,000 per year, up from the current minimum of $25,000.”

17) North Carolina: The high stakes charter school model is failing, say Donnell Cannon, Christine Hall, Sayre Man, Hayley Gearheart in EdNC. “In the last few decades, a more extreme version of the factory model has emerged in charter school networks,  commonly referred to as the “high-stakes model.” High-stakes schools primarily serve Black and brown youth, most commonly in inner-cities. The schools are characterized by efficiency and control. Every minute of the student’s day is planned and directed by adults, and every learning experience is designed to produce high scores on standardized tests. For years, this model was heralded as the answer for educating underserved communities. More recently, however, critics have raised concerns with low college graduation rates among students who attend high-stakes schools.”

18) Oklahoma: Should tax dollars funding education be used to promote the national political profile of far right school officials? Apparently when the media shine a light on possible malfeasance of this type, it produces results. “Update: One day after this story was published, FOX 25 confirmed the resignation of OSDE employee David Martin. OSDE spokesman Dan Isett said Martin’s last day is Friday. Isett noted Martin’s departure has ‘absolutely nothing’ to do with our reporting on the state’s contract with Vought Strategies, which found Martin’s name on the documents registering Vought as an Oklahoma LLC on the final day bids were accepted. Isett also said Martin’s name appearing on those documents was the result of a ‘clerical error.’” OKC’s Fox25 had reported that “A DC-based firm is pocketing tens of thousands of your tax dollars to promote State Superintendent Ryan Walters on a national stage.”

19) Texas: The Texas Education Agency proves to be just a minor grooved pavement on the highway of massive charter school misuse of public funds. “Just days after putting the state’s largest charter school network under conservatorship for misusing public funds, the Texas Education Agency agreed to let the network, IDEA Public Schools, carry out a major expansion. IDEA is allowed to increase student enrollment from 78,200 to more than 90,000 by the 2025-26 school year. The 10 new campuses will be mostly in Fort Worth and the Permian Basin, with two in Humble, near Houston.”

But Wall Street has not yet averted its eyes from the car crash. “S&P last assigned an A-minus rating and negative outlook to $45.6 million of bonds IDEA sold through the Clifton issuer in May 2022. ‘The negative outlook reflects the continued uncertainty associated with the Texas Education Agency’s ongoing investigation and any potential outcomes, although we understand there is no concern at present regarding IDEA’s charter, which extends through June 2025,’ the rating report stated. ‘In addition, while we believe IDEA’s tenured staff provides significant continuity and leadership at various tiers of the organization, the negative outlook reflects the potential impact, in our view, on the school’s demand profile, financial measures, and fundraising due to the nature of major transitions.’” [Sub required]

20) Virginia: Should school crossing guard positions be privatized? The Virginian-Pilot reports on the issue. “Adam Bryan, founder and CEO, of Connecticut-based Crossing Guard Services, has met with officials from several Hampton Roads cities to pitch a way to keep crossing guards but to reduce the administrative burden on police departments. His company privatizes the job, handling the difficult-to-staff positions. Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach all met with Bryan to hear more about the proposal, though officials from each city said no commitments have been made. Bryan said the limited hours available and resulting lack of benefits for crossing guards means there is often limited interest in the positions. But, he said those who take the job often love it, just like Mack. ‘Recruiting is a lot of work,’ Bryan said.”


21) California: Writing in CalMatters, Ben Christopher tells us what we need to know about California housing and corporate landlords. “Some of the state’s most powerful legislators want Big Landlord out of California’s single-family neighborhoods. The Legislature will consider at least three bills this year to keep so-called institutional investors from gobbling up too many of the state’s widely coveted single-family homes. Apartment buildings have long been an asset of interest for big investment companies, but the Big Money-owned single-family rental is a 21st Century invention. During the Great Recession new companies began cobbling together rental empires out of the nation’s glut of foreclosed single-family homes.”

“‘Who are we fighting for? Are we fighting for the corporate interests?’ San Diego Assemblymember Chris Ward, chair of the Assembly’s housing committee and author of one of the three bills, said on the Assembly floor last month. ‘Or are we fighting for Californians, for their dream of homeownership?’ For all the debate, open questions about the industry’s size and its effect on the state’s affordability crisis abound. That’s in part because publicly available data about rental properties is scarce—something some state lawmakers have tried, but failed, to remedy in the past.”

22) Illinois: “If the Chicago Bears were expecting their pledge to pony up $2 billion in private money for a new stadium would warm up Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s previously chilly response to their plans, they likely were disappointed when he addressed the media this morning,” reports Crain’s Chicago Business. “Though the Johnson administration has tentatively signaled a willingness to engage in a public-private partnership with the Bears under the right circumstances, Pritzker today again threw cold water on the idea of state financing—at least not based on what’s been pitched so far. ‘I haven’t heard a proposal that goes along with that $2 billion private investment that says the state should be involved in anything,’ Pritzker told reporters regarding the Bears’ latest overture.” [Sub required]

23) Iowa: Who will be left to pay for rural Iowa’s roads? asks Iowa Capital Dispatch’s Nolan Monaghan. “Privatization of road stretches that service an individual household could be a potential solution, or transitioning stretches of road that service no households or fields into a lower level of maintenance or back into farmland could also shave costs for local governments. Ultimately, most roads still service some farmers and households, and a sustainable solution seems unlikely. Roads can’t be consolidated like school districts, so costs will continue to balloon, or the maintenance of this vital infrastructure will have to slip lower on the priority scale for cash-strapped towns and counties.”

24) New Jersey: The Garden State has enacted a new law giving charter schools access to “low-interest loans to finance the construction, expansion, and renovation of their facilities. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) will play a crucial role in administering the new financing program as the entity that will be responsible for managing the application process, evaluating and determining program eligibility, and disbursing low-interest financing to qualified public charter and renaissance schools. (…) Charter schools and renaissance schools that are operated by a for-profit management company, or entities leveraging program funds to make loans to such entities are not eligible for the program. If an eligible borrower receives a loan under this program, it is not prohibited from simultaneously seeking or accepting private funding to support the undertaking of a school facilities project.”

25) Maryland: The poster child of P3 train wrecks just keeps on giving. “Gov. Wes Moore and the state’s chief financial officers approved nearly half a billion dollars in extra funds for the Purple Line on Wednesday, even as they condemned the embattled project’s mounting delays and escalating costs. Nearly seven years after construction began, transit authorities returned to the Board of Public Works yet again this month, this time seeking an additional $425 million for the light-rail project. It was the fourth such request since 2016 to supplement the Purple Line’s original $5.6 billion budget. Maryland Matters first reported the latest cost overrun on March 1.”

Just for laughs (not), this bombshell is hitting exactly as Maryland’s local school budget shortfalls “are in turmoil, class sizes are rising or lowering, and superintendents are under pressure to figure it out fast.” But “the legislature wasn’t going to add nearly $3.8 billion a year to education funding over a decade without ensuring that the state could account for the money. So if school systems do not adhere to spending guidelines of the Blueprint, the state can cut future spending for education to the county in question.” Gee, wonder what would happen if construction and finance companies “do not adhere to spending guidelines.”

26) Tennessee: Well, it seems that yesteryear’s major crisis in the privately financed dormitory sector has effectively disappeared in the rearview mirror. The P3s are back, complete with structured financing, Special Purpose Vehicles and lots of assurances, growth boosterism and groundbreaking ceremonies, just like last time. Let’s hope a new pandemic doesn’t break out and land those deals onto school or other public balance sheets again.

27) Texas: How bad does a corporation have to be to get sued by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton? Could racial politics have anything to do with it?  Paxton is suing the Houston-area developers of Colony Ridge, “accusing them of deceptive sales, marketing and lending practices that allowed their sprawling housing development to flourish. (…) Residents of Colony Ridge filed dozens of complaints for years about the development to state agencies, but Texas had little to show for addressing those concerns, according to a Texas Tribune and Houston Landing investigation. Paxton announced his office’s investigation last fall, after right-wing media conflated the development’s growth with high levels of illegal immigration at the Texas border.”

Public Services

28) National: The Financial Times has a major story on the corporate attack on the National Labor Relations Board, which during the Biden administration has taken an aggressive stance in the public interest on corporate violations of labor law and regulations. You can’t make this up. The corporations, which have a stranglehold on the American court system at all levels, both formal and informal, are complaining about NLRB’s “in-house judges,” which they call, don’t laugh, the “very definition of tyranny.”

“Trader Joe’s tried a novel defense against charges that the U.S. grocery chain had illegally retaliated against workers who supported its nascent labour union,” the FT reports. “Its lawyers argued to a judge that the small federal agency accusing Trader Joe’s of breaking labor laws, the National Labor Relations Board, was itself unconstitutional. Trader Joe’s is one of four large employers now challenging the structure of the NLRB, which is responsible for enforcing U.S. laws on collective bargaining and unfair labour practices. With about 1,200 staff and a budget of less than $300 million, the agency has become the Joe Biden administration’s primary tool for implementing labor policies as bills designed to strengthen protections for workers have languished in Congress.”

But the case, which is reminiscent of the right wing’s famous showdown with Franklin D. Roosevelt over labor law in the 1930s, suggests that the mega corporations are after bigger game, Cornell’s Kate Bronfenbrenner says. “If this goes in favor of these companies, it is not just the NLRB. It’s every single federal agency that uses administrative law judges.” [Sub required]

29) National: More federal business for the prison companies. The GEO Group, the second-largest U.S. private prison company after CoreCivic, has just signed a five-year contract, through its subsidiary GEO Transport, to provide air operations support services for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under ICE’s contract with CSI Aviation. “The new five-year contract is expected to generate approximately $25 million in annualized revenues for GEO.”

30) Arizona: In a letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), Jon Benda of Midtown warns of Trump’s plan to privatize Medicare. “If Trump wins in November, he plans to make Medicare Advantage plans the default program for everyone who is newly eligible. Medicare Advantage is privatized insurance; unlike traditional Medicare, it puts an insurance company between you and your health treatments. Traditional Medicare has no such “middleman”; the government pays for your healthcare. Medicare Advantage plans put profits before people, regularly denying coverage for essential treatments and services, forcing patients to forgo the care they need and putting their health and lives at risk. Meanwhile, private insurance CEOs rake in the money, at the expense of seniors and those with disabilities. (…) Voters need to tell Trump: No privatization of Medicare!”

31) California: The Huntington Beach City Council will consider privatizing its public library operations at its meeting tomorrow, March 19. “If the city does move forward with changing management of the library, it would have to meet with labor unions representing library staff. Carol Daus, a member of the nonprofit Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library, said she doesn’t expect the ‘vast majority of our 900 members’ to feel comfortable volunteering at a library run by a for-profit company. ‘You cut all the volunteers out, you are going to have a real hollowed-out library in terms of community support, books and services,’ Daus said. The Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library gives the library around $250,000 a year through sales from its used book store and gift shops inside the library, Daus said. She said she expects the Maryland-based Library Systems & Services would win a bid since it has ‘virtually no competitors.’ ‘When you get into a national company coming in and trying to use its business model for providing services for the community, it becomes quite different than what a public library is,’ Daus said.”

32) Massachusetts: Sam Seder of The Majority Report spoke with John Samuelsen, International President of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), about the dangers of privatized rail and the prospects of a commuter rail worker strike in Boston, where they’ve been without a contract for over 200 days.

33) International/Canada: The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) salutes “Auditor General Paul Martin’s investigation into the management of private agency nursing contracts in New Brunswick. This is why CUPE 1252 (representing over 9,000 healthcare workers in NB), along with the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions (over 4,400 long-term care workers) are demanding a broader inquiry into other facets of healthcare privatization. While the spotlight has been primarily on the substantial costs associated with travel nurse contracts, CUPE asserts that privatization extends far beyond this aspect. Notably, private resident attendants’ roles are also being outsourced instead of being handled in-house, leading to significant financial burdens for New Brunswick residents.”

The battle against privatization is going on all over Canda. In Ontario, rallies took place across the province to protest plans to privatize the Liquor Control Board; and in Alberta, where CUPE members and other members of the public rallied “against a plan by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to privatize over half the city services and workforce.”

All the Rest

34) National: Can a public official block constituents on social media? “The U.S. Supreme Court brought clarity to that question on Friday in a pair of unanimous decisions that find public officials can indeed block someone on their personal social media accounts or delete their comments as long as they are not acting on behalf of the state.”

35) California: “California isn’t on track to meet its climate change mandate —and a new analysis says it’s not even close,” CalMatters reports. “After dropping during the pandemic, California’s emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other climate-warming gases increased 3.4% in 2021, when the economy rebounded. The increase puts California further away from reaching its target mandated under state law: emitting 40% less in 2030 than in 1990 — a feat that will become more expensive and more difficult as time passes, the report’s authors told CalMatters. ‘The fact that they need to increase the speed of reduction at about three times faster than they’re actually doing—that does not bode well,’ said Stafford Nichols, a researcher at Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles-based economics research firm, and a co-author of the annual California Green Innovation Index released today. ‘As we get closer to that 2030 goal, the fact that we’re further off just means that we have to decrease faster each year.’ The state is even further away from meeting a more aggressive goal set by the Air Resources Board in the state’s new climate blueprint.”

36) Idaho/National:  Lauren Necochea, chair of the Idaho Democratic Party, shares some ominous news about the fate of democracy in the Gem State and the rest of our country. The Republican platform “seeks to repeal the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows the voters to elect their U.S. senators directly instead of having the state legislature appoint them. Idaho voters have been electing their senators for over 100 years. There are many more dangerous provisions, like the privatization of Social Security. We must bolster and protect seniors’ retirement security, not squander precious dollars by inserting a corporate middleman. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act with no replacement would allow health insurers to again deny coverage for preexisting conditions, eliminate the tax credits that tens of thousands of Idahoans use to purchase coverage through Your Health Idaho, and take Medicaid away from 95,000 Idahoans. If you don’t want to let a patient die when a medical procedure would save them, if you want modern economic policy tools at our disposal, or if you respect the right of the people to elect their senators, Chair Dorothy Moon would say you are not qualified to hold office as a Republican. The future of our state is on the ballot this November. Voters must reject this new Idaho Republican Party that generations of Idahoans don’t recognize and elect more Democrats to restore the political balance that prevents extremism from taking root.”

Image: Courtesy Friends of Huntington Beach Public Library

Related Posts