First, the Good News

1) National: The Network for Public Education releases Public Schooling in America 2024, which rates the states on 42 factors that impact public education. [Full report]

“From book bans to teacher qualifications, our new national report examines the laws and policies that support or undermine each state’s public schools and the students who attend them.

We rate states on:

  • Privatization Laws: the guardrails and limits on charter and voucher programs to ensure that taxpayers and students are protected from discrimination, corruption, and fraud.
  • Homeschooling Laws: laws to ensure that instruction is provided safely and responsibly.
  • Financial Support for Public Schools: sufficient and equitable funding of public schools.
  • Freedom to Teach and Learn: whether state laws allow all students to feel safe and thrive at school and receive honest instruction free of political intrusion.”

2) National: Kyle Huelsman, senior director for legislative affairs at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), says the time is now for a movement for tax justice. “The tax justice movement has arrived at a historic inflection point. One path leads toward massive cuts in government spending, divesting unprecedented levels of funding from our schools, our affordable housing stock, and our broader social safety net. The other path leads toward the ultrawealthy and corporations paying what they owe in taxes, enabling us to fund our future. The next two years will determine whether we can build together, across states and across movements, to fight for the second path, and realize a government that works for us all; or whether we will be overpowered by our opposition and become resigned to the worst possible outcome.”

3) National: Kyle Spencer, the founding editor, reports the launch of Reporting Right, “a weekly guide for local journalists covering democracy in the disinformation age, has officially launched! Tips, info, sources, data—it’s all here.” Comes out every Wednesday. “Tips, hints, data and more for local reporters covering threats to our democracy at the school board, town hall, and state leg.”

4) National: States are moving to cut grocery taxes, Route Fifty reports. “Oklahoma is just the latest in a growing number of states that have eliminated or are looking to eliminate sales taxes on groceries, according to Aidan Davis, state policy director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, or ITEP. In his State of the State last week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for the sales tax on groceries to be permanently abolished. The governor had temporarily suspended it as part of his 2022 budget. ‘If it reduces inflation for families from 4% to 3%, even if it only puts a few hundred bucks back in families’ pockets, it’s the right thing to do,’ he said. In November, Utah voters will have the option to change the state constitution, which would indirectly get rid of the grocery tax. Similarly, an effort is underway in South Dakota to get a measure on the ballot in the fall that would eliminate the 4.2% state sales tax on groceries. In recent years, Virginiaeliminated its state grocery sales tax, and Kansas OK’d a phase-out of the tax that will be complete in 2025.”

5) National: The Biden administration has announced new efforts to boost the nation’s housing supply. “The move, according to the Federal Housing Administration, will allow states and localities to build or preserve 38,000 affordable rental homes over the next decade. The National Council of State Housing Agencies praised the decision to continue the Housing Finance Agency Risk-Sharing Initiative “at a time when affordable housing is scarce for so many people who need it so much,” the group said. The program ‘is an important and effective way of helping to build and maintain apartments for low- and moderate-income families.’”

6) California: PowerSwitch Action has released a new report on corporate efforts to eliminate the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and limit California worker’s rights.

“Key findings of A Shrinking Toolbox include:

  • PAGA is crucial to enforce labor laws where workers have signed arbitration clauses. PAGA filings have increased in direct proportion to the explosion in forced arbitration clauses since the early 2000s.
  • Between 2018 and 2021, worker whistleblowers have filed more than 4,208 PAGA notices with the LWDA in the following strategic high violation industries: agriculture, auto repair, car wash, garment, janitorial, restaurant, retail, and warehouse. This is nearly three times the number of inspections the Bureau of Field Enforcement was able to conduct during the same time period.
  • PAGA liability creates a market incentive to comply with labor laws. Corporations are incentivized to invest in compliance with labor and employment laws when noncompliance presents a significant threat to their profits.
  • PAGA penalties fund labor law outreach, public enforcement, and education. Last fiscal year, PAGA generated $209 million for the LWDA.
  • PAGA suits address wage theft and other serious violations. More than nine out of ten (91%) of PAGA claims allege wage theft, including overtime violations (79% of cases) and failure to pay for all hours worked (76% of cases).”

7) Kentucky: A Campbellsville High School custodian has received an award “from the Campbellsville Independent school board for going above and beyond his work as a coach and custodian for the district.” Tommy Allen, an alumnus of Campbellsville High School class of 2004, “now coaches football and has been the custodian at the high school for the past seven years. ‘It’s great, you know, you just don’t wake up every day wanting to be recognized for your work. You do what you do, but it feels good to be recognized,’ said Allen. The awards are based on six elements, which spell the word Eagles. The elements are the foundation of the Change Award and are strong attributes of the award recipient.”

For additional information about the role and importance of educational support professionals and the issues surrounding outsourcing, read the In the Public Interest report “School Support Services Outsourcing: The Original Privatization of Education.”

8) Ohio: The state Senate has “passed a bill that included $1.27 billion in bonds for state government agency facilities, K-12 classrooms, local subdivisions’ capital improvement projects and conservation projects. The bill, HB 27, was originally intended only to give students more information about college fees and loan repayment. And Senate Democrats voiced reservations about spending they claimed was tacked on at the last minute.” The House has also balked. “House Bill 2includes a $350 laundry list of one-time funding projects, including $1 million for a professional women’s soccer stadium in Cleveland. The Senate has reportedly objected to some of those projects.” [Sub required]

9) Think Tanks/California: LAANE has the receipts on why scaremongering about raising hotel worker minimum wages was nonsense. “The Sky Never Fell: An Analysis of the Predictions and Outcomes of the 2014 Raise LA Hotel Worker Minimum Wage Ordinance (2024). In 2014, Los Angeles City Council passed the Citywide Hotel Worker Minimum Wage Ordinance, known as Raise LA, which raised wages for hotel workers. As part of the legislative process, Council commissioned three reports to study the potential impact of the wage increase, two of which—conducted by Blue Sky Consulting Group and Beacon Economics—largely predicted negative economic outcomes for the hotel industry, workers, and the broader city economy. Industry leaders and hotel owners echoed these predictions and claimed the economic consequences would be disastrous. Analyzing the data today, it’s clear these claims did not materialize. LA’s hotel industry grew by every measure, either outperforming or on track with comparator markets in California and New York City.” [Full report]

10) International/Mexico: Iberdrola, a Spanish multinational electric utility company, has completed the sale of 13 power generation plants to the government. “The transaction was announced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who emphasized the importance of preventing CFE from monopolizing the electricity generation sector. Iberdrola stated that the deal was closed as planned and is part of the company’s strategy to fulfill its decarbonization commitments.”


11) National: Jeff Bryant, writing in The Progressive, picks up on a first by education secretary Miguel Cardona—Cardona calling out the right wing specifically for waging an assault on diversity, equity and inclusion in the nation’s schools to promote privatization. “Cardona called new laws passed by Republican state lawmakers to eliminate DEI programs ‘a deliberate attack on efforts to try to make sure schools are inclusive, welcoming places for all students—in particular, students from different backgrounds.’ But more than just defending schools for embracing DEI, Cardona went further to call out the intention behind these attacks on the programs, calling them ‘very deliberate attempts to seek division in our schools so that a private option sounds better [emphasis added] for parents.’ ‘Every year, there’s something to stoke division in an attempt to disrupt our public schools and decrease the confidence in our public schools,’ he said. ‘Four years ago were the masks. [Critical race theory] was a year after that. [Now,] DEI, [and] banning books.’”

12) Iowa: Robin Opsahl, writing in the Iowa Capital Dispatch, reports that “House lawmakers heard from Iowa teachers, school district staff and parents in a public hearing Wednesday on their proposal to make changes to Iowa’s Area Education Agencies. Some speakers remained concerned about potential privatization of special education services, while others urged more control for school districts. Legislators held the public hearing to discuss House File 2612, a bill approved by the House Education Committee last week and available for consideration by the full House.”

13) Maryland: The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) reports on legislative action in the state capital. “MSEA, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2250, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 were among the witnesses that provided testimony on Wednesday to the House Ways and Means Committee for House Bill 1175, to put guardrails around subcontracting in public schools and make such contracts more transparent and with stronger oversight and employee protections. Bus driver and AFSCME Local 2250 President Martin Diggs described subcontracts that create unequal working conditions in disregard of negotiated agreements. MSEA Treasurer Colleen Morris described times when subcontractors’ lack of familiarity with the education policy, students, and schools where they were temporarily assigned created unsafe consequences and additional staff workloads. MSEA President Cheryl Bost and lobbyist Christian Gobel emphasized the need to keep for-profit contractors from filling public school jobs and to make sure any contracts are transparent.

14) Ohio: WOSU reports that school voucher usage has exploded in suburban Columbus districts. “A 2022 lawsuit in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas argues that the EdChoice expansion is unconstitutional. Dozens of public school districts have signed on, including Columbus, Bexley, Gahanna-Jefferson, Reynoldsburg, South-Western, Westerville and Worthington. William Phillis, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy in School Funding, which is spearheading the lawsuit, said Ohio’s constitution calls for a ‘thorough and efficient system of common schools’ and prohibits the state from funding private, and specifically religious, schools. Vouchers have, at times, been used to segregate, and Phillis argues that’s happening again. ‘Recent data is that a disproportionate percentage of the people taking the vouchers are white,’ Phillis said. ‘And so, the voucher program has a segregating effect. It segregates people along racial lines, ethnic lines, economic lines.’”

15) Texas: Rural Republicans, along with Democratic public education supporters, continue to stand in the way of Gov. Abbott’s vouchers scheme, says the Hechinger Report. “The governor worked to court support by tying the passage of his voucher plan to a $7.6 billion funding boost for public schools that included teacher pay raises. Still, a stalwart group of 21 House lawmakers, most of whom represent rural areas and fear the measure would pull resources away from their public schools, sided with state Democrats to torpedo the legislation. ‘Abbott wanted them to bend the knee and kiss the ring, and they’re just not going to do it. That ain’t Texas,’ said Rev. Charles Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, a public-school advocacy group. ‘It is Texan to vote in the interest of your community and constituents.’”

16) International/Ireland: European Parliamentarian Mick Wallace reports that the housing crisis is driving a teacher shortage in Ireland. “Ireland has a shortage of Teachers which is having a dramatic impact on students – Plenty of teachers are qualifying, but the #Housing Crisis means they struggle to find affordable accommodation. Neoliberal Policies of successive Irish Governments have been a total disaster.”


17) National/Think Tanks: Lawmakers across the country are seeking to curb utility spending on politics, ads and more extras. “After a string of scandals and amid rising bills, lawmakers in statehouses across the country have been pushing legislation to curb utilities spending ratepayer money on lobbying, expert testimony in rate cases, goodwill advertising, charitable giving, trade association membership and other costs. At least a dozen states have considered bills to limit how gas, water and electric utilities can spend customers’ money, according to a tracker maintained by the Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog group funded by environmental and climate-focused foundations that concentrates on utilities and fossil fuel interests.”

18) National: A bill has been introduced in Congress that would allow tax-exempt bonds to be issued for space infrastructure. Spaceports would have the same access to low-cost financing as air and seaports. “The legislation calls for spaceports to be treated like airports under exempt facility bond rules, allowing for the issuance of tax-free private activity bonds that would be exempt from the state volume cap. (…) Space investment, which has gained popularity among private investors, faces high capital costs and limited revenue-generating ability. ‘This strategic policy change empowers our state and national leaders to leverage the power of financial markets to accelerate space infrastructure development and bolster the economy,’ said Rob Long, president and CEO, Space Florida, the state’s aerospace finance and development authority, in a statement. In Florida, there has been more than $2.1 billion in private investment across 44 spaceport infrastructure projects since 2012, according to the group. Space Florida wrote a letter last year to IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel urging the move.” [Sub required]

19) California: Disney’s proposal to privatize California streets has kicked off a protest. “We previously reported that not everyone is a fan of the plan, with a grassroots campaign named ‘Save Our Anaheim Streets from DisneylandForward’ asserting that ‘[b]uried in a 17,000-page document are plans to narrow existing streets around the Resort, back out of past deals to complete roads Disney promised, and even close some of the streets we use daily to access the freeway!’ Other Anaheim residents are beginning to raise more concerns about the privatization of California streets, according to KTLA. For example, in a recent Planning Commission workshop, a resident named Randy Lewis pushed against it, saying, ‘Magic Way is near and dear to my heart. I love Magic Way. I do not love the idea of closing Magic Way. It’s a great way for residents to bypass a lot of traffic.’”

Here’s the petition. It says, in part, “Yes, Disney is a massive corporation but, by standing together, we can make our voices heard. This petition asks Anaheim leaders to consider alternatives that benefit both tourism and taxpayers. Additionally, we call for increased truth and transparency in these dealings. ”

20) California: We don’t need to weaken environmental regulations to create more housing, say Joel Reynolds and Tom Soto. Reynolds is western director and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Santa Monica; Soto is a former alternate member of the California Coastal Commission and a Natural Resources Defense Council board member.  “If the coast of California is a state asset worth trillions of dollars—and it is—why is the state agency that has successfully protected that asset for 50 years under assault? The answer—’unnecessary permitting delays’—is unfounded. Yet California’s exceptional history of coastal protection is in greater jeopardy today in the halls of our state Capitol than it has been for generations.”

21) Florida: The Florida Times-Union’s Nate Monroe is covering the high profile JEA get-rich-quick privatization scheme in playing out in a Florida courtroom. “The alleged get-rich scheme, prosecutors have said, was tied to an effort also moving forward in the summer of 2019 to privatize JEA. Although the conspiracy and fraud charges against CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannemacher are not directly tied to that potential sale effort — which was ultimately canceled shortly before Christmas in 2019—prosecutors have argued that too was the result of an elaborate effort to dupe the board into believing that a sale was the only way to save JEA from financial ruin.”

“Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva on Wednesday questioned former JEA board member Alan Howard in depth about the lead up to the privatization effort, including revisiting financial presentations Zahn and his team delivered the board that prosecutors believe cast JEA’s finances in an overly negative light. One of those slides, for example, had an illustration of a frog in a pot—a reference to an old parable about a frog in gradually warming water being unaware it’s slowly boiling until the point of death. The information from JEA’s executives, Howard said Wednesday, left him believing there were ‘storm clouds on the horizon’ if drastic action weren’t taken.”

22) Maryland: Pointing to staffing shortages, Baltimore officials have approved a private contracting deal at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. “Under the contract, signed last year by the city, the company has taken over operating certain parts of the plant previously run by city staff, said interim Director of Public Works Richard Luna. The 40 city staff members in those areas have been transferred to other places in the facility. The contract represents an expansion of private operation of the Back River facility, where corporations already have a sizable footprint. But city staffers were adamant during Wednesday’s Board of Estimates meeting that it did not represent privatization of the plant, but rather a temporary fix to staffing struggles.”

23) Massachusetts: The Boston Globe reports that “a local environmental group that serves as a steward of Franklin Park joined 15 residents in a lawsuit Tuesday to halt the redevelopment of White Stadium in the park into a home for a new professional women’s soccer team, arguing the proposal was fast-tracked without adequate community input, and would privatize public parkland. The lawsuit is the first to be filed by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy in its roughly 25-year history—an action its leadership said they took reluctantly, but seriously.”

24) Texas: Privatized segregation? Now happening down the road from Greenwood in Austin, “opponents, who filed a lawsuit seeking to block the central Capital Express project in January, warn the expansion will worsen I-35’s historic role as the city’s racial dividing line. The city of Austin has crafted a plan to try to diminish the barrier with a series of bridges and caps covering the highway, but it remains uncertain whether the city can meet the roughly $900 million price tag.” [Sub required]

Public Services

25) National: The staff shortages in nursing homes that contributed to elevated death rates during the pandemic continue. “Many Americans prefer to believe the Covid pandemic is a thing of the past. But for the nation’s nursing homes, the effects have yet to fully fade, with staffing shortages and employee burnout still at crisis levels and many facilities struggling to stay afloat, according to a new report published Thursday by federal investigators. The report, by the inspector general’s office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that the flawed infection-control procedures that contributed to the 170,000 deaths at nursing homes during the pandemic were still inadequate at many facilities. And while the uptake of Covid vaccines was initially robust when they first became available, investigators found that vaccination booster rates among staff workers and residents have been badly lagging. The findings were directed at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”

For more see “‘They Were Traumatized’: How a Private Equity-Associated Lender Helped Precipitate a Nursing-Home Implosion.”

26) National/Oregon: How might the U.S. Postal Service’s consolidation plan affect smaller and rural communities? Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger spell out some of the issues in Counterpunch. “Through this consolidation plan, many postal processing and distribution facilities in smaller communities will be converted to Local Processing Centers with reduced functions. USPS has not yet disclosed a full list of facilities to be affected by the plan. But in numerous reported cases, consolidation will result in packages and mail traveling long distances from outlying areas to urban regional processing centers.

“How might this consolidation plan affect smaller towns and rural communities, where residents tend to rely most heavily on the public Postal Service? Unfortunately, USPS has published very little analysis to back up their claims about the expected benefits of the consolidation plan. This report uses available information to examine the potential impacts on just one facility: a postal processing and distribution center in Medford, Oregon.”

27) National: More than 17 million low-income households will experience service disruptions if internet subsidy ends, Route Fifty reports. “Funding for the ACP, which provides a $30-a-month subsidy to eligible low-income households for internet access, is set to run out at the end of April unless Congress provides more money to continue it. The FCC, which surveyed ACP households in December, also found that more than two-thirds of respondents had inconsistent or zero connectivity prior to enrolling in the program. Of that group, 80% cited affordability as the reason.”

28) Florida: The state Senate is seeking to level up salaries of private prison workers to bring them in line with state levels. “Florida has offered bonuses and raises to corrections officers, but only those directly employed by the state. Corrections officers at state prisons received raises years ago. Now the Senate wants $8.5 million to keep pay commensurate at private prisons. The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee in its latest offer continues to seek $8.5 million for private prison operations. Senate President Kathleen Passidomos Office said that’s money entirely intended for officer pay, and to create parity with salaries at the Department of Corrections (DOC). (…) But to date, the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee has not agreed to dedicating any money to private prison salaries. For the last few years, the Legislature has passed wage increases for public corrections officers, which is all facilitated through the DOC.”

29) Montana/ Arizona: Montana prisons are still overcrowded even after a transfer of inmates to a private (CoreCivic) Arizona prison. “The transfer of 120 male inmates to CoreCivic’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona last year—the result of an almost $4 million annual appropriation that Republican lawmakers slipped into a prison infrastructure bill in the latter days of the 2023 Legislature—did allow for 212 state inmates previously housed in county jails to be placed at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Department of Corrections Director Brian Gootkin said Tuesday. But, according to department data, about 345 state inmates are still being held in county facilities while they await placement elsewhere, including 103 who are in jail pending free space at the state prison.”

30) North Carolina: Republican lawmakers have opened a crusade to privatize the DMV, and roasted its leader on Thursday. “Goodwin told lawmakers that agency leaders have taken a variety of steps as they’ve dealt with the challenge of losing “over half of our staff during the pandemic.” He noted the DMV has filled more than 250 vacancies but still has a challenge filling contractor position[s], as they don’t qualify for state benefits. The DMV set up an appointment system for customers. But, after seeing about 25 percent of those appointments ended up being no-shows, they moved all appointments to morning hours and left the afternoons for walk-in services. It can be challenging to make appointments as some offices have no availability for the next three months. ‘While we’ve made a host of changes and improvements over the last two years, we recognize that this agency is not perfect. None of us are. And, we have a lot to learn and a lot to do,’ said Goodwin. He said the agency has entered into an agreement with the state of Arizona with the goal of modernizing ‘aging mainframe systems.’”

31) International/Canada: Last Tuesday, the Registered Nurses’ Union of Newfoundland and Labrador and allies took their message to Confederation Hill “to demand the provincial government reduce its spending on private agency nurses as a stopgap measure to address the province’s nursing shortage. ‘We’re here today because when health care is under attack, we fight back!’ said Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador President Yvette Coffey. (…) The rally comes less than two weeks after a Globe and Mail investigation into the provincial government’s contract with a private, for-profit company based in Toronto and public money spent on private travel nurses. The investigation found that public spending on private nurses has drastically increased since the pandemic. Between April and August of 2023, the province spent $35.6 million on agency nurses, a considerable rise from the pre-pandemic annual average of just over $1 million. The Globe also reports that Canadian Health Labs, contracted by the Andrew Furey government, was in some cases paid the hourly wage equivalent of more than $300 per nurse, an amount exponentially higher than the average rate of pay for nurses in the province.”

32) International/United Kingdom: A new study, led by University of Oxford researchers and published in The Lancet“has concluded that hospitals that are privatized typically deliver worse quality care after converting from public ownership.” Lead author Dr. Benjamin Goodair says “this review challenges the justifications for health care privatization and concludes that the scientific support for health care privatization is weak. Overall, hospital privatization may reduce costs, but does so at expense of quality of care. (…) Increases in privatization generally corresponded with worse quality of care, with no studies included in the review finding unequivocally positive effects on health outcomes. Additionally, hospitals converting from public to private ownership status tended to make higher profits. This was mainly achieved by reducing staff levels and reducing the proportion of patients with limited health insurance coverage.”

All the Rest

33) National: Corporate giants are aiming to hobble the National Labor Relations Board, Taylor Giorno and Julia Shapero report in The Hill. “Amazon, Starbucks, SpaceX and Trader Joe’s are all facing complaints from the NLRB over their alleged harassment, intimidation and illegal firings of unionizing employees. The companies have responded by challenging the constitutionality of the NLRB in federal court, which could upend the structure of the New Deal-era agency. The NLRB is at the center President Biden’s mission to be the most ‘pro-union’ president ever and a bulwark for a rising tide of union activity. But the organization could suffer a serious blow to its power if the companies challenging its legality succeed. ‘This energy in the labor movement is at least in part fueled by the knowledge that workers have that they are protected when they undertake these kinds of activities,’ said Sharon Block, a former NLRB member who now works as a professor and executive director for the Center for Labor and a Just Economy at Harvard Law School.”

This is not the first time that corporate behemoths have tried to strangle the NLRB by getting courts to decare it unconstitutional. Leading right wing organizations in the 1930s, such as the American Liberty League (p. 26) and the National Association of Manufacturers (now headed by, among others, Johnson & Johnson, Rockwell, ExxonMobil, Dow Inc., General Motors, Caterpillar, Pfizer, and Toyota) also tried to kill it off but were defeated.

34) National: Cheap jail and prison food is making people sick. It doesn’t have to, says the Vera Institute. “Maneuvering around constraints imposed by the ubiquitous Keefe Group—which supplies food and other services to correctional facilities nationwide—Matthew worked to make eating behind bars tolerable, even enjoyable. He resisted serving food he considered substandard and, whenever possible, heeded his peers’ requests and preferences. ‘[Food is] a sense of relief; when you can go to the kitchen and get a good meal [it’s uplifting],’ he said. ‘I always tried to produce that for people.’ Still, despite Matthew’s ingenuity, his efforts were ultimately that of an individual person attempting to alleviate and make up for institutional failures to provide adequate, healthy food—a misconceived cost-saving measure that’s lucrative for corporations.”

35) National: Republican lawmakers are butting heads against service chiefs who want to upgrade the military’s skills at things like HVAC repair and maintenance, Stars & Stripes reports.  Despite privatization disasters such as the privatized military housing program, the efficiency arguments have now given way to warfighting arguments.

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