First, the Good News…

Anchor1) National: “Scores of rightwing U.S. extremists were defeated in school-board elections in April, in a victory for the left and what Democrats hope could be effective for running against Republicans in the year ahead,” The Guardianreports. “Fortunately, the voters saw through the hidden extremists who were running for school board–across the [Chicago] suburbs especially,” JB Pritzker, the Democratic governor of Illinois, said after the results came in. “Really, the extremists got trounced yesterday.” Pritzker added: “I’m glad that those folks were shown up and, frankly, tossed out.” (…) Teachers’ unions, including the Illinois Education Association, endorsed candidates in school board elections around the state. The IEA backed candidates in about 100 races, and about 90% of those candidates won, said Kathi Griffin, the organization’s president. “I would hope that the tide is turning, to make sure that people who want to have those [school board] positions because they want to do good for our kids, continue [to get elected],” Griffin said.”

2) National: The well paid army of union busting consultants may finally be facing some exposure. “Early in 2023, the Biden administration’s Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment released a 43-page report containing over 60 recommendations meant to promote union organizing and increase union membership nationwide; increased reporting of ‘persuader activity’ is a Task Force recommendation that the proposed rule implements. The Department of Labor (DOL) explains that the purpose of these persuader disclosures is to promote transparency, particularly among federal contractors, which are not permitted to use federal funds to pay for ‘persuader’ costs.”  [Read the proposed rule].

3) National: Christopher Harris has some good ideas on how to support your local librarians. Harris is a school district library director in western New York and a senior fellow in the American Library Association’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office. “The outrage we see on the news is not a reflection of our small towns: It’s imported by groups that aim to overwhelm and tear down our public schools and libraries. Book challenges of yesteryear were often sparked by a child bringing home a single book that prompted parents’ concerns. Today’s attempts to ban books are overwhelmingly driven by externally generated lists. This outrage over diversity in literature does not reflect the increasing diversity in our small towns. According to the Housing Assistance Council, in 2018 there were more than 2,000 rural and small-town census tracts where racial and ethnic minorities made up the majority of the population. In another study, the Movement Advancement Project in 2019 showed that an estimated 3 million or more LGBTQ+ people called rural America home.”

4) National: The National League of Cities and the U.S. Labor Department are teaming up to help solve the construction labor shortage. “NLC and the Labor Department will pick 12 cities to work with federal experts from various agencies to come up with plans to find these workers. ‘It’s really a kind of a whole government approach,’ said Michael Bartlett, program manager for postsecondary and workforce success at NLC. ‘This is going to be a very hands-on process with cities, where they’re receiving active coaching and support from national experts.’ Cities have until April 28 to apply. In a sign of how great the potential interest is in the academy, Bartlett said 325 cities were part of an informational call with the association about the initiative last week.”

5) National: The now-ended federal free school lunch program, implemented during the pandemic, is being carried on by a number of individual states. “Nine states have passed a temporary or permanent universal school meal policy in the past year. Another 23 have seen legislation introduced during the past three years, according to recent data from the Food Research and Action Center. ‘As a former teacher, I know that providing free breakfast and lunch for our students is one of the best investments we can make to lower costs, support Minnesota’s working families, and care for our young learners and the future of our state,’ Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said when signing his state’s universal school meals bill on March 17.”

6) Colorado: State lawmakers have moved closer to restricting state and local involvement in civil immigration detention, sending HB23-1100 to the governor’s desk. “If Gov. Jared Polis signs it into law, the bill would, by Jan. 1, 2024, prevent state and local government entities from entering or renewing any contracts with federal immigration enforcement to hold people suspected of civil immigration violations, and it would prohibit state and local governments from opening or in any way facilitating new immigration detention facilities run by private companies.”

Anchor7) Missouri: State lawmakers soundly rejected anti-Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) language, and restored library funds in the Missouri budget. “Over two days of work, the committee added more than $3 billion to the House-approved budget for state operations in the coming fiscal year. The biggest items added Wednesday were $300 million for the Department of Mental Health to build a new psychiatric hospital in Kansas City and $461 million to increase the pay of personal care workers who assist people with developmental disabilities. The committee also restored $4.5 million for state aid to public libraries, cut in the House because the Missouri Library Association and the ACLU are suing over legislation passed last year intended to block children from accessing sexually explicit material. The biggest new item overall was $2 billion for widening Interstate 70, added on Tuesday.”

8) North Dakota: A Red State Republican governor has vetoed a private school voucher bill. “Proponents of the bill say it would help families meet the needs of their children despite their financial status. Meanwhile, those opposed say public funds should be reserved for public schools. In a memo sent to lawmakers explaining his decision, the governor said, in part: ‘In its final amended form, this bill is not the comprehensive solution we need. If falls short of meaningfully enhancing school choice—especially in rural areas far from any existing nonpublic schools—and lacks incentives to expand nontraditional options for K-12 education. The bill also lacks public transparency and accountability standards for the actual use of the proposed tuition offset payments.’”


9) National: How should classroom teachers respond to right wing smear campaigns? Katy Swalwell & Noreen Naseem Rodríguez of Education Week have some useful recommendations for educators, administrators, and families and community members. “We opted not to list recommendations for students because they should never be in the position to defend themselves. And they don’t need our advice! Many are already strategically advocating equity and justiceorganizing and building coalitions while too many adults stay silent. Whatever we do, we cannot choose to ignore this moment or shrink from scrutiny. That will not make these problems go away. It simply offloads them onto the shoulders of youth. And of any of the options before us right now, that is the least conscionable.” [Sub required]

10) National: Think the extreme right wouldn’t dare to put the elimination of public education on the agenda? Think again. “Should the edifice finally break and a state decides to take the plunge into full privatization, the market will surge back with a vengeance and provide more options, and do so more affordably than is currently available.”

11) CaliforniaAre charter schools playing a role in what Hechinger’s calls “hidden expulsions”? “Twice a week Ricky Carmona, 16, leaves his La Verne home to attend school in makeshift classrooms a few doors down from the Boot Barn at a nearby strip mall. He ended up at Options for Youth charter school in Upland after he was suspended at the start of the 2022-23 school year from Bonita High for vaping in the bathroom. Less than a week after the suspension, Stephanie Carmona, Ricky’s aunt and guardian, received a letter: The principal had recommended Ricky for an “involuntary transfer” out of Bonita. He wasn’t technically being expelled. But to Ricky, it sure felt like it.”

12) Connecticut: State lawmakers have rejected adding funds to the budget for the Danbury Charter School. “Republicans and Democrats were split over the amendment, which failed 20-33. Many Democrats who cast their vote against funding the charter school said they did so ‘regretfully.’ Democratic co-chairs Osten and Walker said that they were in support of charter schools, but would not vote in support of the amendment because they felt it went against the normal process for approving the legislature’s budget. Osten said she had asked Chaleski to withdraw her amendment.”

13) HawaiiSchool support staff are demanding pay equity. “A union representing nearly 7, 000 Hawaii public school employees other than teachers is claiming that pay equity for many of its members has been thrown out of whack by recent gains for teachers. The Hawaii Government Employees Association announced Wednesday that some of its school workforce members, a group that includes principals, teaching assistants, custodians, security personnel and others, were having issues of pay inequality ignored by the state Department of Education. Their concerns were raised as teachers stand to receive pay increases under a contract agreement reached Friday that followed pay gains for many teachers granted by the Legislature last year.”

14) Montana: Legislation to create new charter schools passes a House committee. HB 562 “is controversial because it would set up schools that use public money, but they would operate outside the traditional public education system. Opponents say the design in the bill is unconstitutional and standards are lacking, but proponents say parents and children need more options outside the offerings of the current public education system. After the meeting, Salomon said if the bill had died on a tied vote, it would have been “blasted” to the floor anyway—or pushed to the floor in a procedural move despite failing in committee. His arm was twisted, he said, and to save time at this point, toward the end of the session, he agreed to support it in committee.”

15) North Carolina: NC Newsline’s Rob Schofield says the latest school voucher expansion proposal would be a disaster. [Audio, about a minute.]

Anchor16) Ohio: More than 100 people spoke out against a massive education bill during a marathon meeting last Wednesday. “More than 500 people submitted opponent testimony to Senate Bill 83, which would, among other things, require American history courses and tenure evaluations based on if the educator showed bias or taught with bias, and prohibit university staff and employees from striking. (…) SB 83 primarily affects public schools, but would mandate that private schools that want to use public funds sign paperwork saying they are following free speech guidelines. (…) College students will look outside of Ohio if this bill passes, Westlund said. ‘We will seek education elsewhere that affirms our identities, supports the communities built among marginalized students and adequately prepares us to enter a diverse workforce,’ he said. ‘We will take our money out of Ohio universities, take our talent out of Ohio economies and take our energy out of Ohio communities.’”

17) Tennessee: The founder of the Tennessee Holler, a progressive news site that has reported regularly on school privatization and other issues in the state, says several shots were fired at his home last weekend.

18) Tennessee: CNX Today has a good rundown of education-related legislative issues and decisions in 2023. “Here are a couple highlights: As the General Assembly finished its business this week, legislation that would expand the state’s fledgling voucher program (now confined to Memphis and Nashville) to Chattanooga was finally passed. To be clear, it had been passed in the Senate before. The House, however, was eager to get vouchers into even more communities – and so added an amendment that would add Knox County to the mix. Ultimately, Knox County was NOT added—but let’s be clear: The legislature wants full-on privatization of the state’s public schools.” [Emphasis added]


19) National: The $42.5 billion high-speed internet plan has hit a snag, The Wall Street Journal reports. “Fiber splicers—the workers who install, maintain and repair wired broadband networks—are in short supply. ‘We’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off,’ says Jason Jolly, chief executive of Fiberscope LLC, a Sullivan, Mo.-based company that does contracted fiber-splicing work. Mr. Jolly says his five-person crew has been ‘getting nonstop calls for the last two months.’ And that’s before the money starts flowing from the government’s $42.5 billion broadband spending package. The industry is bracing for that spending to start flooding the market as soon as this year. (…) The result could be a worsening of the delays and cost inflation that already are plaguing wired-internet providers’ network-expansion projects, industry analysts and executives say. That raises questions about whether the new federal spending will be enough to end the so-called digital divide by the Biden administration’s target of 2030, or even at all.” [Sub required

20) California: The Congressional Research Service has produced an excellent 37-page report on issues and legislation concerning the massive Central Valley Project in California. “The Central Valley Project (CVP), a federal water project owned and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), is one of the world’s largest water supply projects. The CVP covers approximately 400 miles in California, from Redding to Bakersfield, and draws from two large river basins: the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. It is composed of 20 dams and reservoirs and numerous pieces of water storage and conveyance infrastructure. In an average year, the CVP delivers more than 7 million acre-feet of water to support irrigated agriculture, municipalities, and fish and wildlife needs, among other purposes. About 75% of CVP water is used for agricultural irrigation, including 7 of California’s top 10 agricultural counties. The CVP is operated jointly with the State Water Project (SWP), which provides much of its water to municipal users in Southern California.”

21) Illinois: Do governments sometimes act as fronts for private, for profit corporations in so-called public-private partnership deals? Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest gives us a great example in the disastrous Chicago parking meters deal. The concept of governments offering legal cover so the private “partner” can make money and/or lock in assets has been around for a long time, and indeed is a core concept of PPPs. But it’s alive and well in the U.S. “A 2021 lawsuit challenged the arrangement, alleging the unimaginatively named Chicago Parking Meters LLC (CPM) was a monopoly in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and was using its position to price-gouge and stymie public transit developments. U.S. District judge Matthew Kennelly tossed the suit out over a year ago, not on the grounds that CPM wasn’t a monopoly, but that Chicago’s municipal government enjoyed state action antitrust immunity and had the right to turn the meters over to the private for-profit firm. The city of Chicago acted, in essence, as a front, allowing a private company to benefit from a doctrine intended to protect the people.”

22) MississippiJackson’s water maintenance workers are denouncing the privatization of their jibs to a third party corporation. “Those present say they were told their last day with the city would be April 28, and that to stay employed, they’ll have to take a position with a private contractor. Victor Pickett, though, says taking a position with a private company will mean fewer benefits and worse retirement. ‘All we want to know is why we haven’t gotten a package offered to us, or severance pay, or writing on letterhead saying we’re not under civil service protection, and we just want to know why,’ he said, ‘why the city let us down like this.’ Pickett says workers haven’t gotten anything official but have heard through word-of-mouth. The protest comes months after the city’s water and water billing system were placed under the control of a third-party manager.

That manager, Ted Henifin, was tapped to take over the city’s troubled systems as part of a federal court order handed down in November.

23) New York: The state is going to market tomorrow with $151 million in Green Bonds. “Proceeds will be used to refund bonds that had been issued to finance or refinance eligible clean water and drinking water projects in the state. HilltopSecurities and RockFleet are the financial advisors. Squire Patton Boggs, Soeder & Associates and the Hardwick Law Firm serve as bond counsel.” The bonds are rated triple-A by Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings. “Moody’s said its rating ‘reflects the strength of the loan portfolio repayment stream across all indentures and the ability to tolerate a high level of unlikely loan defaults without impairing debt service payments over the life of the bonds.’ It noted NYS EFC’s strong balance sheet and long track record of successful program management and oversight are integral components of the credit quality.” [Sub required]

24) TennesseeThe crucial vote on whether a new NFL stadium should be built on Metro-owned land in Nashville is due to take place tomorrow. “The Titans and the NFL would contribute $840 million in private financing to the new stadium’s construction. The state of Tennessee would contribute $500 million in bonds, and Nashville would shoulder $760 million in revenue bonds to be paid using diverted sales taxes from transactions in and around the new stadium. The council and state previously authorized a 1% hotel tax increase to help pay for the facility, which is expected to bring in more than $10 million annually and will go into effect if and when the finalized deal receives council approval. Should council members approve the deal Tuesday, the city and state’s combined $1.26 billion contribution will mark the highest public subsidy for a stadium in NFL history.”

25) Tennessee: Republican Governor Bill Lee has signed new legislation “clearing the way for the state’s first public-private-partnerships meant to help cover the mounting costs of developing the state’s roadways. Tennessee is one of only five states that require road work be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis and the latest to leverage P3 arrangements in a race to meet runaway infrastructure costs. The state faces $61.9 billion in necessary infrastructure work through 2025 and its sole source of funding for roadwork prior to the bill’s signing, its gas tax which nets around $1.2 billion a year, wouldn’t be able to cover future costs, according to a report.” [Sub required]. Apparently, someone needs to tell The Bond Buyerthat P3s are financing mechanisms, not project revenue mechanisms. There is no free lunch, but higher interest rates on private lunch.

26) InternationalThe privatization of São Paulo’s water utility has run into opposition. “A São Paulo lawmaker affiliated with the Workers Party filed a petition with state audit court TCE against the privatization of water utility Sabesp almost immediately after the firm announced that the state authorized hiring the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private financing arm, to advise on the planned sale. Governor Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas, who was national infrastructure minister between 2019 and 2022, is in favor of the privatization, but the federal government does not want to start more processes. ‘The Workers Party and [the president] are historically ideologically opposed to any privatization. Part of the explanation is that a large portion of the workers’ unions of these state-owned companies are affiliated with the party and want to maintain these companies with their current labor models, which carries some privileges, such as job stability,’ Mário Sérgio Lima, senior political analyst at Medley Global Advisors, told BNamericas.”

27) International: Unions have come out in strong opposition to a proposal to privatize the Port of Auckland in New Zealand. “The Maritime Union local issued a statement rejecting the idea of privatization and saying “There is no need to mess with success.” Maritime Union Branch Secretary Russell Mayn said the confusion around the relocation of the port and now privatization is going to cause more problems for New Zealand’s supply chain security. ‘We have seen a major turnaround in performance at Ports of Auckland recently, and we risk undermining this good work,’ said Mayn. The union in earlier public statements had also said, ‘Our view is the Ports of Auckland is now on an extremely promising trajectory …. We need to let the Ports do its job.’ The union points out that the port is not a normal business and by its very nature is a monopoly. The port of Auckland is owned by the city. (…) The union dismisses the latest calls saying that the history of privatization has had a negative effect on New Zealand’s infrastructure. The efforts to reshape the port they contend are not good for Auckland.”

AnchorPublic Services

28) National: Writing in The American ProspectSuzanne Gordon and Steve Early expose the creeping privatization of veterans’ healthcare. “VA workers and their patients have their say in ‘Disadvantaging the VA: How VA Staff View Agency Privatization and Other Detrimental Policies.’ This recently released report (of which Suzanne Gordon is a co-author) was written by the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute, and is based on a workplace survey conducted by the National VA Council (NVAC) of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest of four major VA unions.” Gordon and Early also report that “similarly, President Biden’s FY2024 budget continues the funding imbalance that has shifted more and more dollars away from VA’s in-house clinical care budget and given more to the private sector. Between 2017 and 2021, funds allocated to pay for private-sector care have increased by 116 percent, while those devoted to in-house VA care have increased only by 32 percent.”

29) NationalThe public safety regulatory process is under assault by extreme right wing Republicans, for example on drug regulation and child labor. Jennifer Sherer, the senior state policy coordinator for the Economic Policy Institute, says of recent Republican efforts to expand child labor: “the question here is how much confusion does it sow for workers and employers, in terms of the political and legal issues? It’s a direct throwing [down] of the gauntlet to the federal Department of Labor, to see whether they’ll keep enforcing federal standards that still apply in multiple states—or whether the employers can step over these federal lines. Their longer game or their hope is to set up a ratcheting down of labor standards everywhere.”

Chris Lehmann adds, “You might say, indeed, that the school privatizers and corporate freebooters rushing teens onto the assembly line are building a bridge to the 19th century. ‘This was supposed to be one of those things that we as a society said was really bad, that we’re never going to do it again,’ [Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO] says. ‘This goes to show that nothing is ever really settled under capitalism.’”

30) California: Some critics are calling California’s new debit card tax refund system a system of “surveillance money.” Sam Lessin says, “If this is real… and California is issuing tax refunds on a debit card….. this is NOT ok / is a great validation for crypto-libertarians.  The government being able to directly track how you spend your refund (and ticking time bomb to limiting on what) is bad news.”

31) Hawaii: A proposal to outsource consultants to review building permit applications is getting pushback. Hawaii Government Employees Association Director Randy Perreira says “this (the proposal) is nothing but a band-aid approach to try to fix a bigger problem. (…) While Perreira does not completely oppose hiring outsiders, he’s concerned doing so could yet again compromise quality. ‘They (DPP) need to hire more people, because even if you utilize third-party now just to address the backlog, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be sustainable going forward,’ Perreira argued.”

32) Maine: As the world observed Earth Day on Saturday, some Maine students focused on the role of private water companies in promoting climate change and hindering sustainability. “As climate change and sustainability come to the forefront of many minds, we may overlook one of the most common multifaceted issues facing Maine and the world as a whole: where we get our water. University of Maine students testified in August to support a bill that would limit the power of corporate water companies in the state. Luke Sekera-Flanders, a first-year political science and Native American studies student at UMaine, sat down with Maine Campus Media on April 3, 2023 to discuss water privatization and its dire implications for our state, economy and climate.” A bill under consideration, LD 1111 “would give residents like those an opportunity to have some say over issues in their own hometown.”

33) Maryland: A new 120-page staffing audit has been completed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Maryland Council 3. It shows that “the state’s correctional facilities have an extreme staffing shortage of more than 3,400.” AFSCME 3’s president, Patrick Moran says “We are hopeful that this year’s report represents a turning point in addressing the dangerous understaffing in our state facilities. Vacancies in DPSCS are at an all-time high and AFSCME members across the state have said that this short staffing negatively affects their ability to safely carry out their job responsibilities and causes alarming levels of mandatory overtime, burnout and dangerous working conditions.” Mark Vernarelli, a spokesperson with DPSCS, says the new governor, Wes Moore, “has been very clear that it is a major priority of his to fill these roles and get the state government back to firing on all cylinders.”

34) Pennsylvania: Ray Landis, writing in the Pennsylvania Capital Star, makes the connection between anti-tax politics, government hiring and privatization. “Any position paid through taxpayer funds became suspect, and regressive elected officials at the local, state, and federal level moved to reduce workforces, cut salaries, and eliminate benefits. Sadly, many celebrated this result because their taxes did not increase. The few dollars the average American saved in taxes through these policies paled in comparison to the tax advantages granted to the wealthy, however. And when concerns began to be raised about the quality of health care, government services or education, the right-wing doubled down by promoting privatization, creating even more of a tiered system where the rich get the best services and everyone else is on their own. In this new world of non-competitive salaries, minimal benefits, and restrictive work rules, it is difficult to attract the best and the brightest to public sector jobs. Shapiro’s actions and proposals are well-meaning, but underwhelming.”

35) International: In a letter to the editor of The Meaford Independent, Norah Beatty and Brenda Scott, co-chairs of the Grey Bruce Health Coalition, demand a stop to the privatization of Ontario’s public hospital services. “We don’t need to privatize hospital services. Public hospital operating rooms are only open 5 days a week and close at 4 p.m. Many have been permanently closed. This is a direct result of chronic under-funding of existing infrastructure and lack of staff. It is a choice by government not to fund and open the under-used operating rooms we already have in our public hospitals. In a video by Dr. Warner, he explains that funding and opening existing operating rooms, in fifty hospitals across the province, would clear the cataract surgery backlog in fourteen weeks! It is not necessary to use public money to build new for-profit clinics to clear surgical backlogs. That is a deliberate choice by the Ford government to further their privatization plans.”

36) International: The state of Victoria, in Australia, is under fire for promising to insource prison healthcare then one month later turning around and hiring a GEO Group subsidiary to perform the services. “A key recommendation from the review, commissioned by the Victorian government, was to bring all custodial healthcare, which was contracted out to Correct Care Australasia, back into the public sector remit. ‘Health services are currently outsourced to a private provider, which is inconsistent with best practice and results in inconsistent and delayed healthcare for people in custody,’ the final report said. ‘We recommend a transition to a public health model for custodial healthcare, to improve the quality and clinical oversight of health services provided to people in custody and enable continuity of care.’ The Victorian government received this report at the start of December. Just a month later, it was revealed that GEO Australia, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based GEO Group, had signed a contract with the Victorian government to provide primary health services at 13 public men’s prisons in the state. The deal was worth $33 million a year.”

AnchorEverything Else

37) National: Here’s an article from a couple of months ago but is unfortunately becoming relevant again. “‘Catastrophic Financially.’ What It Means for Cities If the Debt Ceiling Isn’t Raised.”

38) National: Are you ready for a dystopian, authoritarian turn in the role of government? In a must-read analysis of Trump’s emerging vision for radically transforming and weaponizing government—light years from the small government ideology of 1980s conservatism—Isaac Arnsdorf and Jeff Stein of the Washington Post sketch out the emerging outlines of a radical right wing (some use the f word) assault on government should Trump take power. “Trump’s emerging platform marks a sharp departure from traditional conservative orthodoxy emphasizing small government, which was famously summed up in Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address: ‘Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.’ Trump, by contrast, is proposing to apply government power, centralized under his authority, toward a vast range of issues that have long remained outside the scope of federal control.”

39) International: India has come up with a framework to regulate and encourage privatization of the space sector. [Read the document]


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