- Do we value what we say we value?
- Public parks must stay public
- Is privatization on the school cafeteria menu?
First, the Good News…
1) National: Donald Cohen and Jeff Hagan of In the Public Interest, writing in Jacobin, say public sector strikes are about aligning our society with its stated values. “One problem with neoliberalism is that its definition of success isn’t whether a problem has been solved, but whether a good or service has been spun off from government and into the market.
“But many in the United States and other nations believe that we have a greater responsibility to each other. We believe that when we say we value education, we must value it in practice — with higher pay, with respect for the dignity and expertise of educators and school staff, and by taking appropriate measures to provide education in a universal and sustainable way. Likewise, when we say that we value health care, we must guarantee those who provide it a decent living, and we must make it truly available to everyone.
“Underinvestment in what we claim to value is felt most acutely by the workers who staff these public programs. They are located at the point of friction, where the rubber meets the road and our stated values disintegrate. Through withholding their labor, they can force our society to reckon with the discrepancy, and to address it immediately with material changes like higher pay and better working conditions. Ultimately, this is what public sector strikes are really about: aligning our society with its own conscience.”
Internationally, among the major upcoming public sector strikes is a rolling action by Britain’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT), which has announced “three days of strike action to affect 14 train operating companies during July, on Thursday 20 July, Saturday 22 July and Saturday 29 July. In addition, the ASLEF union, have announced action short of a strike across 16 train operators from Monday 3 July to Saturday 8 July. This action involves ASLEF members withdrawing from working overtime during the six day period.” Workers in Britain’s privatized public sector workforces also understand that public sector strikes are really about “aligning our society with its own conscience.” Here’s the impressive leader of the rail union, Mick Lynch, weighing in on the subject. [Video, about 8 minutes]
2) National/Pennsylvania: Good enough for government work, says Gov. Josh Shapiro (D). “They said it couldn’t be done. There was a pessimism in the air—one that’s lingered over our Commonwealth for too long. Today, we proved them wrong. 12 Days. I-95 is open.”
3) National: The Biden administration’s move to regulate “forever chemicals” in water is a win for public health and infrastructure, says Meghan K. Miller in The American Prospect. “The proposed rule and accompanying funding discussed in this report represent a small but critical step to ensure safe drinking water for all. Further research into PFAS and the extent to which all Americans, specifically disadvantaged communities, are exposed to them will likely call attention to the need for greater, more stringent regulation.”
With all the anti-science crusading going on in the U.S. right now, including the physical targeting of experienced experts, it is important to honor the many scientists and researchers who have labored for years to get the government to do something about PFAS chemicals. One example: the chemicals safety team at the Environmental Defense Fund, whose Tom Neltner and consultant Maricel Maffini have labored in the vineyard for many years on the issue and held FDA’s feet to the fire.
4) National: As we head into summer, Jeff Hagan reminds us of the perks of parks. But while parks are appreciated by the public, we need to do more. “The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included funds for parks and recreation for populations and households disproportionately affected by the pandemic, which included parks and recreation facilities. The National League of Cities encouraged cities to direct its funds toward getting children outdoors and into nature, and creating opportunities for play during and beyond the school day. ARPA funded nearly $16 million for Michigan state parks, $13 million for parks and recreation improvements in Riverside, California, and $5.5 million for parks and fields for Starkville, Mississippi. Those are just a small fraction of the funds states and local governments set aside for public parks,” Hagan writes.
“But ARPA funds were once-in-a-lifetime cash infusions. What we need is to fully recognize the value of our parks not just by visiting them but by supporting them in every way we can. They are essential public goods–available to all–that need to be in every local, state, and federal budget. It should be a no-brainer. You can say it’s a walk in the park.”
5) National: Jeff Bryant, chief correspondent for Our Schools, reports that community schools can transform parent involvement for the better. “The community schools approach, while achieving different outcomes in different places, has at its core a commitment to address the holistic needs, rather than strictly the academic needs, of students and families and to make schools essential hubs of services and activities for their surrounding communities. The hope among community school advocates is that as the approach catches on in more states and school districts, it may also address widespread misapprehensions of how parents and schools can work together.”
6) National: Chris Geidner reports that “in the wake of ProPublica’s latest, Judiciary Chair Durbin & Sen. Whitehouse announce that ‘when the Senate returns after the July 4th recess, the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up Supreme Court ethics legislation. … [I]f the Court won’t act, then Congress must.’” See here, here, and here.
7) National: Spelman, a renowned HBCU, has created a ‘safe haven’ for Black feminist and queer studies. “‘I just feel really lucky, happy that those of us at Spelman are not as impacted by the negative trends,’ Kuumba said. She said this motivates her to ‘work even harder to make sure the theoretical perspectives that encapsulate our experiences, which are the areas of thought that they’re trying to make illegal, are actually valued at Spelman.’”
8) National: Dolly Parton is sending free books to all Illinois kids 5 and under. “The state is partnering with music icon Dolly Parton to help get more books in the hands of young kids. The legendary country singer and philanthropist just inked a $1.6 million deal between the state and her reading program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program will mail ‘free, high-quality books’ to Illinois children from birth to 5 years old, no matter their family’s income. Imagination Library has already partnered with a few cities and school districts around the state, but the deal made with Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration will take the program state-wide. Pritzker said in a statement the partnership will ‘bring Dolly to every doorstep.’”
9) Arizona: Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) is on a roll. She has vetoed a bill “that would have prevented public entities in the state from requiring a company to implement an environmental, social, and governance policy as a condition for obtaining or renewing a government contract for goods or services,” [Sub required] and issued an executive order that effectively bars county attorney generals in the state from prosecuting abortion cases.
10) Texas/National: The San Antonio Public Library welcomed young French NBA draftee Victor Wembanyama with a graphic showing him taller than the iconic Central Library and the offer of a free library card.
11) National: Paid parental leave for teachers is happening in more states and districts, Education Week reports. “This spring, at least three states—Oklahoma, Tennessee, and South Carolina—have enacted new laws giving paid maternity leave for educators. Chicago public schools, the nation’s fourth-largest school system, recently implemented this type of paid leave, too. (…) ‘It’s not just the fact that you have a baby, it’s the fact that you’re healing physically and possibly dealing with things emotionally and mentally as well,’ said Marianna Ruggerio, a high school physics teacher in Rockford, Ill., who is expecting her second child in early April. ‘I think there’s a lack of recognition of how intense and difficult that can be.’” [Sub required].
12) National: Like the dog that caught the car, school privatization activists are sounding distinctly nervous about whether all that money being thrown at “school choice” in Republican-led states will be a flop. “Over the years,” the conservative Real Clear Education website says, “school choice has suffered from a low participation rate, with fewer than 1 million students partaking in state programs today, mostly to attend religious schools, in a nation with about 50 million public school students. The big question is whether universal laws, paired with the flexibility of ESAs to customized learning, will spur a major exodus to private schooling.”
13) Colorado: Two charter schools have been cleared to open in North Denver’s Adams 14 district despite continuing legal challenges. “The school district north of Denver had tried to block both schools — University Prep and Be the Change—from opening, but the State Board of Education last month took away the district’s exclusive say in approving or denying charter schools within its boundaries. Adams 14 is under state reorganization orders after years of low test scores, and a majority of State Board members said it seemed the district showed a pattern of being unfair to charter schools. Because the district lost its chartering authority, the two schools were able to apply through the state agency, the Charter School Institute. Now, both schools are expected to open in fall 2024.”
14) Michigan: Researchers from Wayne State University’s Detroit Partnership for Education Equity & Research “found that schools in Detroit continue to significantly undercount the number of students experiencing homelessness, as well as other forms of housing instability. (…) The researchers estimated that as many as 16% of the roughly 100,000 K-12 students in Detroit experienced homelessness or housing instability during the 2021-22 school year, with roughly three-fourths of those students not being identified as homeless by their school during that time frame. That gap is critical, because it points to potential underutilization of support services available to those students.”
15) Montana: Who is defending the state constitution, public interest groups or the Republican-dominated legislature?Hungry Horse News has the details. “On Wednesday, the Coalition, the League of Women Voters of Montana, Billings public schoolteacher and parent Jessica Felchle, Kalispell public schoolteacher and parent Beau Wright, and others filed a lawsuit to prevent what they claim is an effort to privatize education in Montana through House Bill 562. Board member Wayne Jacobsmeyer opposed renewing the dues, claiming the coalition was going against the will of the state Legislature and most of the voters in the district. He wanted the issue tabled until incoming Superintendent Cory Dziowgo was able to weigh in.”
Doug Reisig, executive director of Montana Quality Education Coalition, said “the Legislature cannot funnel public money to private institutions. The health of our society depends on a free, high quality public education system. We vow to stand against school privatization activists’ incursions into Montana. And the great news is, we have the Montana Constitution behind us.” The Columbia Falls School District 6 Board voted 5-2 to support the coalition.
16) Nevada: Just signed into law: Senate Bill 231, which “creates a statewide $250 million pot of matching funds to encourage school districts to give raises to teachers and school support staff. The matching funds will go to traditional public school districts, but not charter schools.”
17) New York: Writing in Left Voice, Jai Geller and Jia Lee, members of the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators, say the new UFT contract would expand “virtual learning” and open the door to further school privatization. “During the height of the COVID pandemic, it was the Right that demanded in-person education in opposition to the supposedly ‘lazy’ and ‘over-sensitive’ teachers’ unions. However, online learning has long been the domain of corporate charter schools such as the Zuckerberg-funded Summit Learning Program, and scandal-ridden for-profit companies like K12 Online School and Connections Academy. For these companies and the privatizers that back them, online schooling is a gem in the marketplace of education models because it offers the twin benefits of savings on building maintenance and bussing, coupled with the ability to offer student-teacher ratios that would be unacceptable in brick-and-mortar buildings. The end goal is nothing short of the end of public education as we know it.”
18) North Carolina: Writing in the Citizen Times, Christina Mason takes issue with the privatization of school food services. “I’m the parent of a rising first grader at Isaac Dickson Elementary who purchases full-priced school lunch most days. We oppose Asheville City Schools misguided plans to privatize school nutrition. The Board is currently in contract negotiations with Chartwells, a subsidiary of UK-based Compass Group, a multinational corporation boasting profits of $1.4 Billion. While ACS has created the public impression that Chartwells is a North Carolina company that will bring only improvements, the reality is much more complicated. It is disingenuous to call Chartwells local; it is not a mom-and-pop, it’s a publicly-traded global enterprise. This company has, and will, put profit ahead of people. As Citizen Times reported, there are serious concerns about how outsourcing would hurt workers and students. This contract is not a done deal. Anyone concerned about its impact has until the June 29 board vote to speak out..”
19) Tennessee: The ‘Tennessee 3’ created a historic teachable moment. Will schools be allowed to teach it? “ What I’ve learned these last few weeks is that democracy is incredibly fragile,’ said Bassow, a senior at Nashville’s Hume-Fogg High School, as he cheered Pearson’s reinstatement in the shadow of the Capitol building. ‘But because of the power of the people,’ he added, ‘we were able to fix this.’ Less certain, the students said, is whether the controversial ouster of the two young Black Democrats by the House’s all-white GOP supermajority would be fully discussed at their school, or any public Tennessee school, as part of a course in U.S. government, civics, history, contemporary issues, or social studies. While Republican leaders maintain the ouster was not racially motivated, the racial optics were undeniable, as was the supermajority’s suppression of legislative voices with whom they disagreed.”
20) National: The Biden administration is expected to make a “major” infrastructure announcement today (June 26, 2023) to kick off an infrastructure PR campaign. “The White House next week will launch a travel blitz to promote the administration’s legislative accomplishments, with officials set to visit more than 20 states in three weeks. (…) ‘During the tour, President Biden and leaders across the Administration will travel directly to communities benefitting from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda,’ the White House said. As part of the tour, which begins as lawmakers are out of town for the Fourth of July recess, officials will highlight key legislative accomplishments from Biden’s time in office, including the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
21) National: Lawmakers have introduced the bipartisan Military Housing Readiness Council Act, “which would provide a platform for oversight and accountability of privatized military housing to give military families a voice and bring together experts to ensure military families have the safe housing they deserve. Originally introduced in 2022, this legislation would create a council that would monitor the Department of Defense’s implementation of the tenants’ bill of rights and creation of a public complaint database and would provide public reporting on all its activities.”
22) Arkansas: Is it legal for private entities to gain exclusive control over public tax proceeds? Pine Bluff City Council Member Glen Brown Sr. says no. “Ironically, pulling the DRBA funding proves that the five-eighths-cent tax is exclusively under the control of Go Forward—in violation of Arkansas law. You simply can’t have a tax that is entirely controlled by an individual private entity. Thus, we believe the Go Forward public-private ‘partnership’ violates Arkansas law and the state constitution. Article 12, § 5 of the Arkansas Constitution prohibits cities from ‘obtain[ing] or appropriat[ing]’ money to private organizations or individuals. Ark. Const. art. 12, § 11. See, e.g., Ark. Att’y Gen. Op. 2023-025.”
23) New York: Did a major political contribution grease the skids for the extension of a parking garage privatization dealin Westchester County? “‘I told you what our ‘marching orders’ were in the Democratic caucus.’ —Legislator Damon Maher, D-New Rochelle. ‘Purely coincidental,’ insists Westchester Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins. Not so, says county Legislator Damon Maher, D-New Rochelle, who recalls instructions from the former chair of the Board of Legislators in describing a culture of influence-peddling in Westchester County’s public sphere. ‘We got our marching orders,’ Maher recalls hearing. These dueling views have emerged as details surface about developer Louis Cappelli’s jumbo-sized political contributions to the Westchester County Democratic Committee and Jenkins’’ campaign committee for the 2025 county executive’s race. Those donations came during the final six months of talks over the extension of Cappelli’s lucrative privatization deal at the Westchester County Airport parking garage.” [Sub required]
24) New York: Newsday reports that “a new charter school is under construction in the heart of Wyandanch’s downtown as part of a $500 million revitalization effort and its administrators have asked Babylon Town’s nonprofit development arm to issue bonds for $42.1 million for the project. (…) The school is seeking the bonding through the town’s Local Development Corporation, or LDC, which was formed in 1988 to work with businesses to spur economic growth. “Bonding through the LDC will allow the school to have tax-exempt repayments of the debt and better interest rates,” LDC attorney Matthew McDonough said in an interview. The new charter school will be the first nonresidential or commercial space created as part of the town’s ongoing Wyandanch Rising revitalization effort, a $500 million public-private partnership between Babylon and master developer Albanese Organization Inc. of Garden City.” [Sub required]. A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for today.
25) Pennsylvania: Newberry Township is to hold a special meeting today to discuss the possible sale of its sewer system. “At the township’s May board of supervisors meeting, a packet was shared with attendees to discuss the reasons for the potential sale. According to that document, the process for selling the sewer system began in February 2022. The reasons cited included bringing in a company that is more experienced to govern the sewer system, which is currently run by the township, so that township officials can focus on other governing matters. Officials have already enlisted financial and legal counsel to assess this move, and they have received bids from potential buyers.”
A change.org petition is circulating to Stop the Sale of Newberry Township Sewer Plant. “The sale of Newberry Township Sewer Plant would create a significant increase in the cost of sewer for residents. This decision will have a negative impact on the community, and we need to take action to stop it. According to available documents, sewer rates will increase significantly even after the rate freeze is over. This means that families and businesses will have to pay more for essential services, putting a strain on their finances. We believe that selling the sewer plant is not in the best interest of our community. We urge those responsible for this decision to reconsider and find alternative solutions that do not burden residents with higher costs. Our goal is to gather as many signatures as possible from concerned citizens who want their voices heard. Together, we can make a difference and protect our community from unnecessary financial hardship. In addition to signing this petition, please email Newberry Township Supervisors and tell them you want this to be voted against.”
26) International: With Jair Bolsonaro apparently being sidelined with legal and political troubles in Brazil, the possible right wing successor to run against President Lula Da Silva, currently governor of São Paulo, is using the privatization of public works and services as his main issue. “São Paulo, Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous state, recently announced a plan to advance with various concessions, PPPs and privatizations with potential political implications. Governor Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas (pictured) authorized the structuring of concessions for highways and urban rail networks, along with plans to advance with the privatization of state water utility Sabesp. Freitas assumed as governor in January after serving as Brazil’s infrastructure minister between 2019 and 2022 under Jair Bolsonaro.”
27) National: The far right Republican Study Committee has released a 167-page document that “proposes turning Medicare into a premium support system that would subsidize private insurance options that compete with traditional Medicare, a nod at the kind of privatization of the program that Republicans have pushed for years.”
28) National/New Jersey: Multiple organizations are publicly calling for the closure of the Elizabeth Detention Center, which is operated by the private, for-profit prison corporation CoreCivic. Organizers say that a June 17 gathering was the start of a summer series of events “to guarantee that the pipeline funneling community members into ICE custody is closed, that people are released, and that the EDC is never used to detain people again. First Friends of NY/NJ are seeking donations for bonds and commissary funds.” At the event, “there was music as well as poetry. The Filthy Rotten System Band, a New York-based Catholic Worker band that frequently performs in front of ICE detention camps, performed a dramatic rendition of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Deportee,’ among other songs. Among the signs and banners were allusions to Boubacar Bah and Victor Ramirez-Reyes, two persons who died as a result of severe medical mistreatment.” The EDC is New Jersey’s last operational ICE facility.
29) California: PEN America has rejected a move by Huntington Beach to consider a legal study to restrict books from minors. “A proposal by council member Gracey Van Der Mark passed narrowly on a 4-3 vote shortly after 1 a.m., with the council’s conservative majority asking the city attorney and city manager to return with options for study in September. More than 100 people spoke during the five-hour-long meeting and another 600 emailed; a large majority opposed the idea put forward by Van Der Mark to adopt a new system to screen books for children. ‘Let’s be clear: This is a proposal motivated by a desire to censor books, based on one council member’s ideas of what’s appropriate for all to read,’ said Allison Lee, PEN America’s Los Angeles director. ‘In this case, the council voted along party lines to endorse this censorious idea, which flies in the face of our Constitution, despite overwhelming community objection.’”
30) Colorado: The Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee of the Denver City Council moved one step closer last week to outsourcing the management of its response to migrant needs. “GardaWorld Federal Services of McLean, Va. would receive $40 million for nine months to shelter and feed migrants arriving in Denver from Venezuela. Company representatives said Wednesday they are looking for a site where up to 1,000 migrants could be sheltered. They said they would not share any information about the people they serve with immigration authorities.” GardaWorld is an international security company.
31) Massachusetts: Diana DiZoglio, the new state auditor, is defending the practice of releasing audits of state agencies with redactions. But the ACLU wants to do away with the redactions. “‘Even if there is underlying confidential information that informed the audits, the audit results should not be confidential,’ the ACLU said in a press release. ‘Our government should always strive for transparency and openness—especially when it relates to the life and death of people in its custody.’ In an interview, DiZoglio said she would like to release the audits without any redactions but worries that doing so would increase the vulnerability of the agencies. ‘To do so would mean jeopardizing the security specific to cybersecurity issues and cyber-attacks in the agencies being audited,’ she said. ‘So it is our office’s responsibility to make sure that we’re not identifying cybersecurity risks to hackers and others who want to cause harm.’”
32) International: Over the past few months, the union representing SaskTel workers in Canada has been running a campaign to “Stop SaskTel Privatization.” Unifor Local 1-S president Dave Kuntz says “I call it privatization by stealth and death by 1,000 cuts. They’re slowly using contractors. It’s not wholesale, 500 jobs at a time. It’s five jobs here, 10 jobs here, 40 jobs here. (…) He said the company is not laying off workers, but also not filling jobs when people retire or leave. He said those jobs are being combined, changed into part-time positions or contracted to workers outside of Saskatchewan. Unifor represents 2,700 SaskTel employees across the province. Kuntz said in recent months companies in Alberta, Manitoba and the Maritimes are doing work in areas like sales, IT and installation that could have gone to SaskTel workers. He said seeing Alberta licence plates on vehicles installing SaskTel services is ‘frustrating.’”
33) National: Veteran union organizer Jane McAlevey says upcoming union negotiations can swing the 2024 election—and help rebuild democracy. “A decade of organizing—including high-profile contract negotiations and strikes—by revitalized teachers’ unions in Chicago and Los Angeles has educated the electorate about the true causes of each city’s challenges: privatization and tax breaks to corporations, real estate developers, and the rich, which have been steadily draining resources from public education, affordable housing, and key social services. How ‘crime and disorder’—a Trojan horse for racist messaging and divisive fearmongering—will play in the presidential election is yet to be seen. But nationwide negotiations by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Auto Workers (UAW) have the potential to provide swing-state voters with their own political education in the lead-up to the 2024 election.”
34) National: What are the key elements of IT outsourcing contracts? Attorney Piotr Jać has an overview, mainly targeted to private company outsourcing of IT to third parties but relevant to government outsourcing. For an industry-side view of best practices in government IT outsourcing, see this; for a labor-side view see this. However one comes down on the question, the need for across-the-board government software upgrading is real.
35) National: Bloomberg reports that due to a mistaken information release by the FDIC it has been revealed that Sequoia Capital got a $1 billion investment covered by the FDIC. “The $1 billion that Sequoia, the firm famous for backing iconic companies including Apple, Google, and WhatsApp, had at SVB made up a fraction of its $85 billion assets under management. In addition to maintaining its own accounts at the lender, the firm also recommended every startup it backed do the same, Michael Moritz, a partner at the firm, wrote in the Financial Times. A representative for Sequoia declined to comment on the depositor list.”
36) Illinois/National: How did Chicago go from Milton Friedman to now breaking the “neoliberal fever”? Writing in In These Times, Miles Kampf-Lassin takes us on a tour of the past seven decades. “This year’s municipal elections saw a historic number of progressive candidates elected to City Council, while labor organizer Brandon Johnson toppled privatization zealot Paul Vallas in the mayoral race. These results signal a sharp turn away from the economic orthodoxy that has dominated Chicago politics for decades. And despite the coming impediments and obstructions they’ll likely face, the new political leadership is set to embark on a novel pathway for urban governance hatched through a reinvigorated labor movement and years of community organizing for social justice.”