Your weekly rundown of news and analysis about the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods—and about the people fighting back. Here’s a direct link to this blog post. Not a subscriber? Sign up.


First, the good news…

1) National: Under the heading “Conservatives change their tune on big government,” The Hill is reporting on the sharp and selective reversal by Republicans of their hostility to an active role for government, and are now attempting to weaponize government for their reactionary agenda—such as using the power of government to prevent private corporations from adopting public health measures against the pandemic, to sanction the privatized suppression of abortion rights, and to block teaching on the history and structure of American racism

“Meanwhile, intra-conservative debates about the reach of government have also gone beyond the corporate world into other areas, such as education. Conservatives in the recent past generally supported devolving as much power as possible to local school boards, which they saw as a counterweight to the heavy hand of centralized government. But as some school boards have moved to impose mask and vaccine requirements in response to the pandemic, they have found themselves in the crosshairs of the right.” 

The good news is that there is pushback on all of these fronts along the crucial line of what is in the public interest. “On the left,” The Hill says, “there is long-standing skepticism about whether the GOP really has any consistent principle at all about the appropriate role of government.”

2) NationalDrought-stricken Western towns are saying no to developers. ““It scares me,” he said. “There may be a mad rush for people to hurry and build, and if we’re not careful, we’ll be out of water again. If [drought] just keeps coming and we see no change, it could lead to an unsustainable situation. It could be dire.” As neighboring communities and cities throughout Utah grow at a rapid pace, Richins thinks such expansion is not sustainable. ‘The state is trying to ask people to conserve water,’ he said. ‘Well, for the love of Pete, why are you allowing all this building to go on?’” 

3) California: “Here I am. It’s because of the union!” says Denise Meyers, who benefited from a joint union-state government apprenticeship program to fulfill her longtime wish to become a Registered Nurse. The LA Report’s Weekend Edition has the story. SEIU 1000 is the union. Meyers works for California Correctional Healthcare Services, which provides care that includes medical, dental and mental health services, to California’s prison inmate population at all 35 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) institutions statewide.

4) California: As Orange County sanitation workers negotiate on a new contract, Teamsters Local 396 looks back on the gains that public service union solidarity have brought to working families. “Over the last 40 years, Teamsters Local 396 has bargained contracts that initially fought back against the poverty jobs created during the initial privatization and contracting out of public sanitation services. But after several strikes, Unionized workers in the Orange County sanitation industry have won Union contracts with wage increases that are now knocking on the door of middle-class life. Sanitation workers nationwide have seen significant improvements in their standard of living. This is a result of both solid wage increases in Union contracts, but mostly the abundance of available overtime to virtually all workers. This is due to a major shortage of commercial truck drivers.” 

5) New ResourceThe Labor Guide to Retirement Plans: For Union Organizers and Employees by James W. Russell. “A critical resource for labor activists, who are defending retirement security both at the bargaining table and in the legislative/political arena.” says Steve Early, former International Union Representative, Communications Workers of America, and author of Save Our Unions.


6) National: Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education (NPE) has an op-ed in the Washington Post responding to the charter school industry’s gloating about increased attendance during the pandemic. “The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has been broadcasting a 7 percent surge in charter school enrollment during the 2020-2021 pandemic school year. Parents are “voting with their feet,” according to its new report, preferring charters to their local public schools. What the authors of the report avoid telling readers is that much of the increase — and likely most of it — was in virtual charter schools, the worst-performing in the charter sector. This occurred even at the expense of brick-and-mortar charters.”

7) National: The GAO has released a report on Challenges Locating and Securing Charter School Facilities and Government Assistance.

8) California: Over 100 students, teachers and parents from Garfield High School held a protest in East Los Angeles last week against the planned construction of a new charter high sc hool. “East Los Angeles unincorporated area has become saturated with private charter schools, causing a crisis in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) public schools. Mother Antonieta Garcia spoke about the damage another charter school will cause to public schools and the environment. GHS students led chants denouncing the charter school. Garfield High School is being threatened with the construction of a new Ednovate Charter High School only a block away. Ednovate is a corporate charter school operator with wealthy investors in its board and plans to expand. Ednovate plans to construct a two-story building with 16 classrooms for a high school a block from GHS.”

9) California: The Santa Clara County Board of Education, which oversees Bullis Charter School, has approved a plan addressing unequal enrollment representation at the charter school. “At the [Los Altos School District] board meeting Oct. 4, trustees and staff gave their own take on the proposal from BCS. LASD trustees were underwhelmed by the BCS proposal to change its enrollment lottery, giving higher priority to children who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch who reside within LASD, with a cap at 10% of openings at each grade level. A second 10% enrollment cap for similar students living outside district boundaries was also added, but ranked next to last in the tier of lottery preferences. “In their notice of concern, the county has listed four demographics,” trustee Jessica Speiser said. ‘Only one of those demographics is included in this preference, which is the socioeconomically disadvantaged students. This leaves out Hispanics, special education and English-language learners.’”

Vaishali Sirkay, president of the board, “echoed the thoughts of other trustees, recommending that the board consider sending a letter to BCS. ‘We have been here before, and I think that we have gotten to the point where we are beyond good intentions and nice words,’ she said. The LASD board plans to revisit the matter at a future meeting. ‘I think, given the history, I do feel it is different this time,’ Sirkay said. ‘The county has issued a letter of concern that if BCS is not in compliance with the law, their charter can be revoked.’” 

10) California: Republican State Senator Melissa Melendez of Riverside County is calling for an end to the moratorium on the establishment of new non-classroom based charter schools.

11) California: Fitch Ratings has assigned a high-quality investment-grade ‘AA+’ rating to some Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) general obligation bonds that will go to market probably next week. 

12) ConnecticutDemocrat Ben Lee, 37, is running for Board of Education in Stamford. He makes his case: “In my four years on the Board of Representatives, I have demonstrated leadership on every major issue related to the schools, from proposing alternatives to school privatization to the Long-Term Facilities Committee, and which is currently working on a plan to renovate and rebuild our schools. I have the experience to get the job done.”

13) Indiana: In a letter to the editor, Tony Lux of Crown Point weighs in on a debate on charter schools between Carol Burris and Nina Rees. “No one is claiming that individual charter schools, their teachers, their administrators, are somehow making undisclosed ludicrous profit. Just the opposite, individual charter schools have been purposely created to be low cost alternatives to traditional public schools. Charter management companies, on the other hand, as Ms. Burris points out, are making ludicrous profit from state tax dollars all of which is hidden from the public due to legislative protection. Individual charter schools are publicly funded, privately operated, and they are not truly public. They are public in name only.”

14) MinnesotaParents are suing the operator of a Minnesota charter school for racism, “alleging that the school failed to prevent ‘racist, unfair, hurtful and at times dangerous interactions’ at the hands of both students and staff. The students—all minors and unnamed in the suit—are all current or former students at one of two campuses run by Duluth Edison Charter Schools, or DECS. The suit alleges that the school disproportionately disciplines Black students, who make up less than 3% of the student body, often disciplining only them in any altercations with White students. The suit further alleges that years of complaints about the use of racial slurs and taunting by White students went unaddressed.”

15) New Jersey: Despite the fact that 57,000 students along with teacher and staff have been attending Newark schools for the past few weeks, no one knows how many COVID-19 cases have popped up. “Marion P. Thomas is the only one of Newark’s 17 charter school operators that posts its COVID case count online, according to Chalkbeat’s review of their websites. Newark Public Schools, the state’s largest traditional school district, also does not publish school-level COVID data, though the superintendent shared the overall case number for the first time last month. (As of Sept. 28, 75 of the district’s 37,000 students had tested positive, he said.)”

16) New York: An expansion of Riverhead Charter School on Long Island to include grades 11 and 12 drew a sharp response from community members, “some of whom argued during a public hearing that the Riverhead Central School District cannot afford to fund the increased enrollment. (…) Ten speakers spoke during the public hearing and half favored expansion while half were against. An overwhelming number of submissions received online were opposed to the expansion. Lisa Rheaume, the district clerk, said there were 51 submissions and all but one opposed expansion. ‘Until New York State funds schools differently, I believe that we should put on hold any expansion to the charter school,’ said Chris Butt erfield, a social studies teacher at Riverhead Middle School.” 

17) TennesseeThe Tennessee Public Charter School Commission has overruled Metro Nashville Public Schools, approving an application by Nashville Classical Charter School to open a second school in West Nashville. “According to the report, MNPS’ second denial, which hinged on the reasoning that the school was not likely to find enough students to support itself, was ill-conceived. The review committee found, the report said, “detailed evidence that the school had a high likelihood of reaching its initial enrollment projection of 81 kindergarteners in Year 1.” The report cited focus groups conducted by the school as well as studies of demographics using census, private school and MNPS enrollment and capacity data. It also noted that the school had reached many area parents and had already received some intent-to-enroll surveys back from them.”

18) Tennessee: The state has launched 18 committees to study ideas for reforming the state’s school funding model. The “Parent Choice and Voice Subcommittee” will be headed by Derwin Sisnett, a Tennessee Public Charter School Commission board member. “But skeptics already are questioning whether it can effectively incorporate suggestions into a financial plan.” [Sub required]

19) Virginia: Charter schools have become a big issue in the November 2 gubernatorial election between former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. “Youngkin’s plan calls for several changes to school systems, most prominently, perhaps, the expansion of Virginia’s charter school system. Investing in charter schools, he said, would ‘give parents a choice’ in how their child is educated.” McAuliffe has the strong backing of the AFT and Network for Public Education Action, which says “McAuliffe previously held the office from 2014-2018. In 2017, NPE Action named then Governor McAuliffe a Champion of Public Education for vetoing a group of bills that would have advanced privatization in Virginia. The bills he vetoed not only would have expanded charter schools and virtual schools, one would have established Education Savings Accounts (ESA), the worst of the  voucher programs. McAuliffe’s 2021 opponent, Republican Glen Youngkin, has proposed spending $100 million to increase the number of charter schools in the state.”

20) Revolving Door News/MassachusettsBarnstable School Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown is leaving to head up a charter school. “After about four years on the job and while the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging, the Barnstable School Committee on June 10, 2020, voted 3-2 against extending her contract to 2023. At the time, some school committee members criticized her salary—which stood at $234,731 as of this summer—and said they would prefer to wait until this current year to see about negotiating a new contract. But on June 1 this year, Mayo-Brown wrote a letter to the school board saying she was not seeking a contract beyond June 30, 2022, putting an end to uncertainty about her future with Barnstable.”


21) National/California: Well guess who got to the PG&E settlement money first before the victims and public could? “In the year after PG&E left bankruptcy, 20 hedge funds dumped two-thirds of their stock, worth $2 billion. Seven funds sold off their entire PG&E stake. That’s according to a KQED/California Newsroom analysis of hundreds of securities filings.” 

KQED’s intrepid reporter, Lily Jamali, reports “that gigantic stock giveaway, which handed $1.5 billion worth of PG&E stock to the hedge funds, is widely acknowledged to be the largest of its kind in the history of corporate bankruptcy. Under the agreement, known as an equity backstop, PG&E gave the hedge funds 169 million shares in the company in exchange for a guarantee the hedge funds would buy more stock if no one else stepped forward as the company prepared to leave bankruptcy.”

Apart from the further pain and suffering this fleecing will cause to victims, it also serves to leave the cupboard bare for any effort to fix the transmission lines and other infrastructure that caused the wildfires in the first place.  “Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), said that while PG&E is improving when it comes to wildfire safety, the legacy of the hedge funds is clear: ‘The high debt makes it hard for the company to invest in infrastructure,’ Toney said.”

22) NationalGuess who slipped a pro-corporate provision into the bipartisan infrastructure bill? None other than Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). “Odds are, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—which is still up for debate but is expected to be passed by Congress later this month—will incentivize privatization in some form or fashion. As it stands, the bill would allow for more use of private activity bond financing. Private activity bon ds, or PABs, are a key financing tool for so-called ‘public-private partnerships,’ or P3s.” In addition, ‘the bill would also require the use of a problematic procurement tool—called a ‘value for money’ analysis—that’s been causing issues for state and local governments for years.” 

23) NationalTransit agencies are leasing property to raise cash. “Agencies have been experimenting with scrapping or reducing fares or adding service to bring back riders and ensure access for disadvantaged communities. During the pandemic, the majority of people who continued to ride buses and trains were essential workers with low incomes, often people of color. The plunge in ridership also prompted many transit agencies to look at various ways to diversify their funding beyond relying on fareboxes and federal, state and local dollars. Some are considering selling ads and naming rights. Some are continuing to look to transit-oriented development projects with developers or public-private partnerships.”

24) International: Thousand marched yesterday in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, to protest President Nayib Bukele’s economic and judicial policies. “Head of the Salvadoran Trade Union Front Wilfredo Berrios told AFP he had come to the protest to march against water privatization, as Congress debates a law that would guarantee water access for the whole population and ban any private takeover.”

Criminal Justice and Immigration

25) National: A coalition of immigrant and racial justice organizations have filed a civil rights complaint “denouncing Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s brutal assaults against African asylum seekers. The complaint details incidents that took place before or during deportation flights to Cameroon in October and November of last year. ICE officers are accused of placing asylum seekers in five-point shackles and further immobilizing them in a device called ‘the WRAP’ for hours.” Last month a federal judge refused to throw out a lawsuit claiming that ICE’s use of private contractors such as G4S to make arrests is illegal.

26) National/Arizona: The IRS has closed an audit of $29.5 million in tax-exempt refunding bonds for an Arizona law enforcement center without changing their tax-advantaged status. “For jail bonds to retain their tax-exempt status, no more than 10% of the payments for debt service can come from private parties. Private activity bonds are tax exempt only if they fall into specified categories — none of which include jails or correctional facilities.” [Sub required]

27) NebraskaIs privatization on the cards for the state’s prisons? Nebraska is facing a staff shortage crisis “More recently, the situation has escalated at the combined Lincoln facility and Tecumseh prison. In September, NDCS announced that the Lincoln facility would shift to consolidating activities to four 12-hour days—Monday through Thursday. Friday through Sunday, inmates are rarely out of their cells with no programming or visitation. (…) Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln on Wednesday raised a concern she has voiced previously: That the administration intends to let the prisons fail so private entities run them instead. Frakes said he does not support the operation of prisons as private entities. ‘I have no interest whatsoever and won’t support and won’t be a part of having prisons run by private entities,’ he said.” 

28) New Mexico: The state is on track to sign leases with CoreCivic and the GEO Group for privately run prisons in Grants and Santa Rosa. “Corrections Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero said the state has completed a lease with Tennessee-based CoreCivic to run the Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Grants and is working with the Florida-based GEO Group to finish details on a lease for the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa. The state will officially take over day-to-day management of both prisons Nov. 1, Tafoya Lucero said.”

29) Texas: The New York Times has detailed reports of horrific abuse at Texas juvenile detention facilities. “At five state juvenile detention centers, the day-to-day conditions are relentlessly violent and oppressive, with guards often resorting to force, according to a complaint filed to the Justice Department. In 2019, prison staff used force against incarcerated children almost 7,000 times—equivalent to six times per child who was confined that year.

Over the years, nearly a dozen staff members have been arrested on charges of sexual abuse against juveniles, and complaints about mayhem inside the facilities—gang wars, fights and suicide attempts—are common. Now the Justice Department has begun a wide-ranging investigation into the detention centers, part of a broader effort to overhaul the country’s most troubled prisons.” 

The DOJ investigation came after two Texas advocacy groups—Disability Rights Texas and Texas Appleseed—filed a complaint urging the federal government to intervene. Issues with the agency have been around for years.

30) Think Tanks: The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has issued a report suggesting how oversight of Customs and Border Protection can be tightened up. Steps would include:

  • Reforming recruitment and training
  • Changing CBP’s culture of stonewalling
  • Improving management of complaints and discipline
  • Conducting a review of efforts to improve CBP integrity
  • Reevaluating CBP’s jurisdiction
  • Reinvestigating flawed agency responses to excessive uses of force and custodial deaths

Public Services

31) National: Public pools or private pools? In the Public Interest’s Donald Cohen sings the praises of his local public pool: “It’s inexpensive and accessible—just three or four bucks but for older folks (like us!) it’s one dollar. We grab our dollar bills or scrounge for quarters and head off to the PUBLIC pool.  That’s certainly not enough to maintain and run the system so the rest is covered by the city’s Park and Rec budget.”

But where private pools proliferate, friction follows, as Alexander C. Kaufman and Hermes Ayala Guzmán write in The Battle over the Last Piece of Puerto Rico That Wasn’t For Sale. “Beaches are supposed to be open to all. But as privatization sweeps the debt-smothered territory, treasured shorelines face new threats. (…) ‘This is a war zone,’ Miriam Juan Rivera said, shooting a steely glare at the police. What began this spring as a local protest over the construction of a private pool on a public beach where endangered reptiles nest had, by the end of summer, evolved into a symbolic battle over the future of this island’s treasured waterfronts.”

32) Missouri/NationalSmall businesses will benefit from Medicaid expansion in Missouri, says David Chase of Small Business Majority. “Twelve states have yet to expand their Medicaid programs, and it’s costly for their states’ uninsured and economies. Expanding eligibility for Medicaid across the country would reduce uncompensated care costs and help maintain a healthy workforce, which is essential to keeping the economy running. This would also help small businesses that are unable to offer health insurance coverage on their own. My organization supports President Joe Biden’s recent call urging the remaining states that have yet to expand Medicaid eligibility to join the rest of our nation. Missouri has taken a step in the right direction, but we need more lawmakers to take action for the good of our economy.”

33) Puerto Rico@deviIette says “thousands in Puerto Rico are protesting the imposed U.S. government privatization of the electricity grid that’s left unprecedented outages & billing increases since June. The large scale protest demands the cancellation of the contract with LUMA.” @midnucas says “one of the key ways the media lies about Puerto Rico lately is by saying that ongoing protests against LUMA (the US-imposed private electric monopoly) are actually protests against PREPA (the public utility it replaced, which is still operating generation stations).” Thread.

Meanwhile Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy deal with its creditors is hanging by a thread, though its lawmakers were able to extract some concessions. “Puerto Rico’s leaders indicated they would back legislation to support the Oversight Board’s proposed Plan of Adjustment after the board made concessions to them Thursday afternoon. (…) On Thursday the board agreed to many of the legislative leaders’ demands. ‘With this announcement justice is done to the retirees, the municipalities, the students, and the university community, who for years have been demanding the protection of their resources and today those desires are becoming reality,’ [Puerto Rico Senate President José Luis Dalmau] said. [Sub required]

Everything Else

34) National/International: Wall Street is drawing fire from environmentalists for creating a new asset class that will monetize and privatize nature. “Though described as acting like ‘any other entity’ on the NYSE, it is alleged that NACs ‘will use the funds to help preserve a rain forest or undertake other conservation efforts, like changing a farm’s conventional agricultural production practices.’ Yet, as explained towards the end of this article, even the creators of NACs admit that the ultimate goal is to extract near-infinite profits from the natural processes they seek to quantify and then monetize.”

35) Think Tanks: As negotiations continue around President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, the Roosevelt Institute says “the bottom line remains the same: We can’t afford not to invest in climate, education, and care.” Roosevelt experts have explained “why private markets can’t or won’t address these urgent needs, and how these overdue public investments would promote equity and boost the economy.”

Photo by Fight Back! News/staff.

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