First, the Good News

1) National: The Education Wars, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider’s new how-to book on defending public education against conservative assault, ships tomorrow. “A perfectly timed book for the educational resistance—those of us who believe in public schools Culture wars have engulfed our schools. Extremist groups are seeking to ban books, limit what educators can teach, and threaten the very foundations of public education. What’s behind these efforts? Why are our schools suddenly so vulnerable? And how can the millions of Americans who love their public schools fight back? In this concise, hard-hitting guide, journalist Jennifer C. Berkshire and education scholar Jack Schneider answer these questions and chart a way forward.” Order it here.

Listen to the authors’ conversation about the book with Laura Kelly of @NewBooksNetwork. [Audio, about 30 minutes].

And look for a Q&A with the authors next month in the other free newsletter In the Public Interest publishes each week. Visit here to see previous issues and for instructions to sign up.

2) National: This week, from Thursday through Sunday, the National Education Association will be holding its annual representative assembly in Philadelphia. “Over the four days, the RA’s work will reflect and touch upon the many victories NEA members have won over the past year, but also acknowledge and prepare for ongoing challenges—advocating for higher pay, better working conditions, mental health support and racial and social justice. This is a critical moment for millions of America’s educators and the families who depend on our public schools. Anti-public education forces are organizing to siphon off precious funding from public school and censor what teachers can and cannot teach in their classrooms.”

Education Week reports that “top of mind will be artificial intelligence. A task force, assembled last year during the previous representative assembly, will give its recommendations on AI use in the classroom to the NEA’s top decision-making body for the delegates to vote on. The rapid access to AI and its impact on education—from data privacy concerns, to cheating possibilities.”

3) National: Criminal justice reform may be under pressure, but it still has plenty of life, Route Fifty says. “To be sure, there are many examples of reforms being rolled back—both those that went too far and those that didn’t. Prosecutors perceived as too lenient have been tossed out of office, and stiff new criminal sentences enacted. But a simplistic narrative declaring a full swing of the pendulum fails to capture a much more nuanced landscape. At the federal, state, and local levels, there remains strong momentum for many significant and sensible changes that hold people and the system accountable while also promoting rehabilitation and reintegration.”

4) National/Ohio: Pressure is mounting from Ohio politicians and federal officials for passage of the Railway Safety Act in the wake of investigations into the East Palestine disaster.

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy issued a statement last week, saying, “Numerous times, Norfolk Southern delayed or failed to provide critical investigative information to our team. Twice, at the request of staff, I called Norfolk Southern stating I would issue subpoenas to get the information if it wasn’t immediately provided to our team. For example, in interviews with our team, SPSI—Norfolk Southern’s contractor—maintained that they did not take or keep written records on trending tank car temperatures. However, in later interviews with their employees, we found that they did keep those records…there were text messages between Norfolk Southern and SPSI employees. It took about two months before our team received those communications—two months before those communications were provided to our team.”

Ohio Capital Journal reports “other board members seemed dumbfounded at how much power the Association of American Railroads, a trade group, has over the industry’s regulation. ‘Those of us who come from the aviation industry I think are really mystified by the approach in rail,’ board member Thomas Chapman said, ‘where you do have, essentially the trade association setting the regulatory standards.’”

“In press releases, both U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, and J.D. Vance, R-OH, emphasized the necessity of passing their legislation. ‘The NTSB made crystal clear what we have been saying for over a year—stronger rail safety regulations are needed immediately,’ Brown said. ‘Congress needs to pass the Railway Safety Act to enact stronger safety rules and hold the big railroad companies accountable.’”

5) National: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2024. “Ranking Member Larsen (D) said “it will build on a decade of work to strengthen flood control, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure, keeping people healthy and communities protected. Critically, WRDA 2024 will help communities increase resiliency in the face of climate change.” For more details read this.

Forbes reports that “one example of work that WRDA supports is the Lower Alabama River Fish Passage Project, one of the most biologically important river restoration projects in U.S. history. Through this project, the Corps and The Nature Conservancy are working to reconnect more than 585 miles of Alabama rivers that have been fragmented by a series of locks and dams.”

6) California: Although privatization has been beaten back by the public in Huntington Beach, they are still fighting to block book bans. Supporters of the library say “25,000 librarians and others [are] currently attending the annual ALA Conference in San Diego. Big topics: book banning, budget cuts, and AI. Free People Read Freely!” Visit the ALA conference website. ALA urges everyone to report censorship.

7) Florida: State Democrats are aiming to use contests in every legislative district to undo the GOP supermajority, which has been used to turbocharge privatization of public education and an assault on freedom to read. Laws putting chaplains in public schools, banning “identity politics” in teacher training programs, weakening child labor restrictions, and expanding school voucher programs take effect today.

8) Missouri: Good things happen when privatization is blocked and the public stays in control. After years of defeating corporate right wing efforts to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport, the city council has followed up with a solid $650 million bond authorization package of development and operational funding for the airport. “‘This process was intended to start years ago,’ St. Louis Board of Alderman President Megan Green emphasized Friday afternoon. ‘The airport privatization efforts derailed the plans that we were putting in place today. With that behind us, we are moving forward full steam ahead.’ Full steam ahead, as long as Mayor Tishaura Jones signs off on it too.” [Watch the video. About 2 minutes]

9) New York: After a wave of criticism of New York City Mayor Eric Adams for slashing the public library budget, Adams and the City Council have restored funding $58 million in cuts and $53 million in budget cuts for arts institutions.

10) Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Supreme court has ruled that a religious charter school is unconstitutional. “The court voted 6-2 against the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa, which was set to begin its contract on July 1 with some 400 to 500 students and receiving some $2.5 million in state education aid in its first year. ‘Although a public charter school, St. Isidore is an instrument of the Catholic church, operated by the Catholic church, and will further the evangelizing mission of the Catholic church in its educational programs,’ Justice James R. Winchester wrote for the majority in explaining why the religious charter would violate a state constitutional provision that bars the state from using public money for the benefit or support of any religious institution.” [Sub required]


11) National: Education Week’s  Libby Stanford points to “the topic that didn’t get a single mention in [the] Biden-Trump debate”—K-12 education. “Trump has said he would dismantle the U.S. Department of Education and defund schools that teach ‘critical race theory’ and ‘gender ideology,’ while advocating for school choice policies that allow parents to spend public funds on private school tuition. A policy agenda assembled by Trump allies at the conservative Heritage Foundation, called Project 2025, proposes to dramatically scale back the federal role in education, ending Title I in a decade, distributing federal special education funds to states as block grants with no strings attached, and scaling back the federal government’s ability to enforce civil rights laws in schools.”

12) National: The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to gut deference to federal agency expertise could have a dramatic effect in many areas, including Title IX protections for transgender students. “The federal law that has barred sex-based discrimination in school settings for half a century is likely to get more complicated without Chevron,” says Politico. “Title IX has been at the center of a political tussle for the past decade over how and when schools investigate sexual misconduct allegations—an issue the Education Department has interpreted and reinterpreted three different ways across three administrations. The Biden administration’s new Title IX rule, which is slated to take effect in August, unravels many of the misconduct procedures setup by former Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which has directed schools to limit their investigations to “severe and pervasive” incidents. As a presidential candidate, Biden also blasted the DeVos rule’s expansion of due process rights for people accused of misconduct, calling them an effort to ‘shame and silence survivors.’”

13) National: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) has released a new report “detailing the coordinated and growing effort to undermine, dismantle, and privatize the American public education system.” The 20-page report says “taxpayers have traditionally funded public schools available to all, but privatization policies aim to redirect those public dollars to private education. School privatization policies in the form of private school vouchers are typically funded through state revenues and cover a portion of private school tuition and expenses or homeschooling for each eligible student. School privatization occurs when states or the federal government siphon off public funds to private school education. Public K-12 education is financed by taxpayer dollars: 44 percent local funding, 46 percent state funding, and 10 percent federal funding. Private school vouchers drain state tax revenues, often through line-item appropriations in the state budget or by cutting taxes for people or corporations who contribute funds in lieu of taxes to fund these policies.”

14) District of Columbia: The District council has maintained funding for the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund. “Several proposed rule changes are also expected to pass that could save money for the fund, including capping participants at 4,100 and limiting the program to workers with a child development credential or higher, said Adam Barragan-Smith, advocacy manager at Educare DC, which operates two centers in the city. Advocates are pushing to keep the salary increases and health benefits for child care workers in place, but expect to learn more about how the cuts will impact the program by September 3, when a task force is set to present its recommendations.”

15) Oklahoma/National: In a brazen violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has announced he will require Oklahoma public schools to use the Bible in instruction. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said in response, “Christian Nationalism is on the march across this country. It’s not just happening in Oklahoma; we’re seeing it from Texas to West Virginia, from Florida to Idaho.”

AU says “Public schools are not Sunday schools. Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters has repeatedly made clear that he is incapable of distinguishing the difference and is unfit for office. His latest scheme—to mandate use of the Bible in Oklahoma public schools’ curriculum—is a transparent, unconstitutional effort to indoctrinate and religiously coerce public school students.

This is textbook Christian Nationalism: Walters is abusing the power of his public office to impose his religious beliefs on everyone else’s children. Not on our watch. Americans United is ready to step in and protect all Oklahoma public school children and their families from constitutional violations of their religious freedom. It won’t be the first time: We’re already facing Walters and other state officials in court to stop the nation’s first religious public charter school.”

16) Oklahoma: Playing hardball at contract time can produce results for the public sector, not just the private sector. It even has a name: responsible contracting. You probably don’t remember way back when a private prison company threatened to sue Arizona for not keeping its lockup full of warm bodies, but nowadays the best wrangling takes place at contract negotiation time. For example, read this recent story about the raucous battle between the Oklahoma Board of Corrections and the GEO Group. “‘We had real options. So, when we go to the negotiation table, we don’t bluff,’ DOC director Steven Harpe said after the meeting. ‘We had real options that we could have chosen. At the end of the day, the GEO contract we’ll commit to in Lawton was the right thing for us to do.’ Outlining the terms of the FY 2025 contract (embedded below), officials said the revisions will relocate 238 inmates from the GEO Group’s troubled Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility and decrease DOC’s total payments to the company by about $1.7 million compared to the prior year.”

17) Pennsylvania: Writing in the Southwest Globe Times of Philadelphia, Brian Mazelis says “the ‘school choice’ argument is a bad-faith attempt at furthering the privatization of PA schools. (…) The worsening conditions of public schools is a direct result of their purposeful disinvestment – not teachers’ unions or whatever other scapegoat supporters of PASS decide to use. The current ‘teacher shortage’ is a result of low wages, unmanageable classroom sizes, and a lack of resources. When public school teachers inevitably fail at an impossible task, they are strategically blamed for ‘underperforming’ with no deeper analysis. In the words of Arthur Steinberg, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, ‘The crisis in public education funding in America could have been solved a long time ago if billionaires like Jeff Yass and Jay-Z simply paid their fair share in taxes instead of robbing needed money from public schools to fund failed voucher programs which hurt poor kids.’”

Mazelis is a program coordinator for the City’s poverty reduction initiative, The Promise, and contributes to the Southwest Globe Times.  He has a background in community organizing and outreach around issues that impact the working class.

18) Texas: Melissa Manno, education reporter at the San Antonio Express-News, reports that “months after being ousted by a board he helped create, the co-founder of The Gathering Place is accusing the San Antonio charter school of multiple violations of federal and state laws, including the confinement of students as young as 5 in closets as a disciplinary measure. Former CEO and co-founder Ryan York laid out what he called a ‘deeply troubling pattern of noncompliance’ and a ‘persistent disregard for legal standards’ in a formal complaint filed June 21 with the Texas Education Agency. (…) York said the TEA never performed a review of the school in the four years he was there. He said he expects the school to take legal action against him for submitting his complaint but that it gives the state the opportunity to prove that charter schools are held to the same standard as independent school districts.”


19) National: The massive floods in the upper Midwest have caused major damage to the region’s infrastructure. Government agencies are responding at all levels. “In recent days, the Army Corps of Engineers has provided more than 175,000 sandbags and several water pumps to try to protect critical infrastructure in Rice, Le Sueur, Jackson, Rock, St. Louis and Blue Earth counties.”

Things will get worse, and not just in the Midwest. Last week the Union of Concerned Scientists released a new map showing projected infrastructure damage from the impact of climate change. “The map tool is based on data from our new analysis and report, Looming Deadlines for Coastal Resilience: Rising Seas, Disruptive Tides, and Risks to Coastal Infrastructure. Covering the contiguous United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam, the analysis finds that by 2050, with a medium sea level rise scenario, seawater would flood more than 1,600 critical coastal infrastructure assets twice or more per year. This scenario projects roughly one foot of sea level rise by 2050 relative to a 2000 baseline and is consistent with the trajectory of observed sea level rise for most regions of the United States. With the map tool, you can see exactly which facilities in your community are at risk, which we hope sparks discussions and planning around how to cope with future sea level rise and flood risks.”

20) National: Four Democratic governors are seeking more say in their regional electric grid operator’s future planning, Maryland Matters reports. “Gov. Wes Moore and three fellow Democratic governors are seeking more say in the regional electric grid operator’s future planning. Moore, along with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, have written to PJM Interconnection, the grid operator for 13 states and the District of Columbia, seeking a ‘robust’ planning process, that includes the states, for using more carbon-free electricity.

The governors wrote that ‘close coordination’ is necessary between PJM and the states to achieve “a collective vision.” “Transmission planning is essential to delivering economic growth, electric grid reliability, and cost savings for consumers,” the governors said in their letter earlier this month. ‘Collectively, the undersigned states understand its importance to developing large-scale low-and-zero emission energy resources that will support the increasing demand for electricity as new industries emerge and grow our energy workforce.’

The letter comes in the wake of two significant recent actions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. Last month, FERC issued an order that requires states and utilities to plan for grid upgrades and to use more renewable energy—and just as important, to figure out who should pay for these changes.”

21) National: Blackstone Real Estate has completed the privatization of publicly traded Apartment Income REIT Corp. (AIR) for approximately $10 Billion. “Apartment Income REIT Corp’s portfolio comprises 77 communities totaling 27,385 apartment homes located in 10 states and the District of Columbia.” Blackstone Real Estate “Blackstone is a global leader in real estate investing. Blackstone’s real estate business was founded in 1991 and has US $339 billion of investor capital under management. Blackstone is the largest owner of commercial real estate globally, owning and operating assets across every major geography and sector, including logistics, residential, office, hospitality and retail. Our opportunistic funds seek to acquire undermanaged, well-located assets across the world.”

No prizes for guessing what “undermanaged” communities (er, “assets”) means.

22) International/Out in the Open Seas: The redoubtable Lily Lynch has a good piece on “seasteading,” a “utopian, libertarian-inflected vision of creating floating communities at sea beyond the tentacles of the state. The movement’s most prominent organization is the Seasteading Institute, which aims to ‘reimagin[e] civilization with floating communities’ and was founded by none other than economist and free market evangelist Milton Friedman’s grandson, Patri Friedman. The younger Friedman, a former coder at Google, received his seed funding from Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and the spy tech firm Palantir, to start the institute. As Thiel pronounced at the time: ‘The nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.’” Well perhaps it is if Thiel has his way, as for example by exploiting the privatization of Britain’s National Health Service.

23) International/Ireland: Bonuses for senior staff at the publicly-owned Uisce Éireann, formerly known as Irish Water) are drawing scrutiny. “The detailed figures show that two staff members earned between €250,000 and €275,000, nine between €225,000 and €250,000 and five between €200,000 and €225,000. Overall staff costs increased by €20m to €115m and the report states that ‘payroll costs were €20m higher, reflecting increased headcount and pay progression in accordance with agreements.’”

24) International/New Zealand: Will KiwiRail, New Zealand’s publicly-owned rail and ferry organization, be privatized? Government officials are still in the mumbling stage, but this story is sure to have legs. [Video, about four minutes].

Public Services

25) National/Colorado: National Nurses United members have rallied to demand that the Department of Veterans Affairs hire staff to support proper patient care. “The union said it wanted to raise awareness to the staffing shortages in the VA system. ‘It puts us into a mode of crisis staffing where we’re limited on the type of skilled nursing, staff to provide quality care to our patients,’ local NNU Director Sharda Fornnarino said. She said she believes the Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t hiring nurses due to budget cuts. The union calls it a ‘hiring freeze,’ and claims it’s impacting nurse-to-veteran care. ‘Our upper management, our congresspeople, VA secretary, we’re pleading to them that the veterans deserve better,’ Fornnarino said.”

26) National: The UNFTR podcast took a careful look at the United States Postal Service and how it is doing. “The United States Postal Service is one of the most derided institutions in the country,” they say. “Also, it’s one of the most highly regarded according to every poll conducted on government agencies. This essay digs into our complicated relationship with the Postal Service and examines the historical challenges facing this institution. We cover the controversy surrounding Louis DeJoy, the current Postmaster General and his ten-year plan to modernize the agency. And we finish with a recommendation for how it should ultimately be run that honors its original mandate.” [Audio, about an hour; read the full essay]

27) National: Amidst all the news flow last week it would have been easy to miss the Chevron doctrine case that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on, but the Federalist Society, many of whose members have been quietly campaigning for this earthquake for decades, was surely paying attention. As The Nation’s legal correspondent, Elie Mystal, wrote, “we just witnessed the biggest supreme court power grab since 1803.” The ruling, which strips federal agencies of the deference that was given to them by the courts in regulatory procedures, will affect every single public interest regulatory function and will likely undermine federal rules on workers’ rights, pharmaceutical safety, environmental regulation, airline safety, ecological rulemaking, education (see above) and much more. Read Kagan’s dissent.

Mystal: “In the biggest judicial power grab since 1803, the Supreme Court today overruled Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, a 1984 case that instructed the judiciary to defer to the president and the president’s experts in executive agencies when determining how best to enforce laws passed by Congress. In so doing, the court gave itself nearly unlimited power over the administrative state and its regulatory agencies…”

“The Supreme Court, constitutionally speaking, has no role in determining whether Congress was right to pass the law, or if the executive branch is right to enforce it, or how presidents should use the authority granted to them by Congress. So, for instance, if Congress passes a Clean Air Act (which it did in 1963) and the president creates an executive agency to enforce it (which President Richard Nixon did in 1970), then it’s really not up to the Supreme Court to say, ‘Well, actually, “clean air” doesn’t mean what the EPA thinks it means.’ For an unelected panel of judges to come in, above the agencies, and tell them how the president is allowed to enforce laws is a perversion of the constitutional order and separation of powers—and a repudiation of democracy itself.”

28) National: Thirteen states with Republican governors have opted out of the federal summer food program for kids. “Roughly 17 million households experienced food insecurity in 2022, according to the USDA, compared with 13.5 million in 2021 and 13.8 million in 2020. The agency defines food insecurity as limited or uncertain access to adequate food. In December 2022, Congress permanently authorized the Summer EBT program, with a start date of this summer. Since 2010, the USDA has rolled out several versions of this program through various pilot programs. In its evaluation of the program over a decade, the department found that the Summer EBT program reduced childhood food insecurity by a ‘significant amount’ and promoted a healthy diet.”

29) Maryland: Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Courtland Merkel, a staff attorney at Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, says we must fix Baltimore’s water crisis but do it fairly and equitably. “Since last year, when the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation to create the Baltimore Regional Water Governance Task Force, its goal has been to make recommendations to modernize the governance of Baltimore’s water. It was clear that the task force was leaning toward regionalization. Some have expressed concern that regionalization is code for privatization. However, the results of the task force were inconclusive. So, it voted to create a new work group that would conduct and review the matter in more detail. Regionalization is not a simple solution. It could introduce pitfalls and dangers, particularly for Black residents who are already disproportionately affected by existing issues. For instance, Baltimore City residents, who are predominantly Black, currently pay more for water than those in the county – an extra $176 or 12% more each year. A racial equality analysis is necessary to highlight these inequalities and to determine if regionalization could worsen them.”

30) Massachusetts: State Sen. Marc Pacheco, author of landmark “Pacheco Law” regulating privatization, is leaving Beacon Hill. Listen to this great 13 minute WBUR interview with Pacheco where he goes through the history, including the battle over privatization at the T and with the right wing Pioneer Institute. An oral history of the privatization wars in Boston. [Audio, 13 minutes]

31) International/Brazil: The next few months will be busy ones on the privatization front in Brazil, BNA Americasreports. “Stakeholders in Brazil’s water and sewerage sector are expected to be busy in the second half of this year, after several relatively quiet quarters with few significant moves. The coming months will see the long-awaited privatization of the country’s biggest sanitation company, SABESP, currently controlled by the government of São Paulo state, in addition to the offer of a PPP contract in Piauí state and a concession contract in Sergipe state. Although all three of these initiatives are seen as important and are eagerly anticipated by market participants, the privatization of SABESP is expected to be transformative for the sector.”

All the Rest

32) National:  The ACLU comments on the Supreme Court ruling that cities can punish unhoused people for sleeping in public, even if they have nowhere else to go. “We cannot arrest our way out of homelessness.” Roxanne De La Torre, the director of outreach for Xavier Mission, writing in America, the Jesuit magazine, says criminalizing homelessness is just one more way to ignore the homeless. “How can you punish people who have little, or nothing, more to lose? How do you issue a fine if it is just a laughable piece of paper, or arrest someone when a night in jail might just be a welcome respite from the outdoors? Instead of creating legislation to create more criminal offenses that do less than put a butterfly stitch on a gaping wound, we can redirect our efforts (and our tax dollars) toward humanizing those who are experiencing homelessness. It is not impossible to lower or even completely eliminate (one can dream!) the rising rates of homelessness and housing insecurity in our communities. But this goal requires that we stop relegating people to the sidelines of our society and commit ourselves to no longer allowing people to become invisible in public.”

“Homelessness is the result of a nationwide affordable housing crisis so that’s what we need to solve,” Eric Samuels, president and CEO of Texas Homeless Network, told the Texas Tribune.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg condemned Friday’s ruling, which he said “paves the way to criminalize homelessness.”

33) Connecticut: A Hartford resident complains that roping off a public park so you can charge for admission to a musical concert is a form of privatization. @JoeyDiZoglio says “the privatization of Bushnell Park for a concert this weekend is an utter embarrassment. It’s literally the park next to the state house. It should be freely accessible to everyone in the state. How much does the city charge to privatize a park for a weekend? Where does that money go? Do we really want to engage with the suburbs by promising them a space that will be violently policed to keep out anyone who can’t pay?”

Related Posts