First, the Good News

1) National: In the Public Interest, the Network for Public Education, and the Partnership for the Future of Learning have produced a new report on the community school approach. The right-wing’s ginned up panic over what’s being taught in our schools has been used to drum up support for charter schools and vouchers and to encourage hardline conservatives to take over local school board to purge schools of a dizzying (and often imaginary) array of left-wing calamities. Things like teaching that slavery existed. Unlike the phony, headline-hoarding “parental rights” movement of Trump and DeSantis, community schools take into account the broader needs of their student and family populations, responding with real solutions to real issues. And they have led to gains across a range of categories, from increased attendance and teacher retention, to improved test scores and graduation rates. [Read the full report]

The Network for Public Education says, “from the East Coast to the West, community schools are forging new bonds among families, schools, and community-based services to revitalize neighborhood public schools. Their mission is to promote the well-being of students and families and to make schools more responsive to the needs of those they serve.” See also the Partnership for the Future of Learning’s report, Financing Community Schools A Framework for Growth and Sustainability.

2) National/New Book: The Education Wars: A Citizen’s Guide and Defense Manual by Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, published by the New Press, is now available for preorder. “Berkshire and Schneider’s work demonstrates with powerful detail and moving testimonies how the Republican party is hellbent to privatize and destroy public schools, and thereby tear asunder the nation’s pluralistic future,” says David Blight, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Frederick Douglass and the graduate of four public schools and two public universities.

“Urging voters to speak out against harmful legislation is already a heavy lift,” Berkshire and Schneider write, “asking them to believe in a system that’s been corrupted by gerrymandering and dark money can feel impossible. And yet in communities that are successfully pushing back—against divisive culture war tactics and school privatization—the result is often not just the defeat of extreme candidates or bad bills. Local democracy itself emerges strengthened.”

3) National: The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a regulatory framework for states and public water systems to identify and assess restructuring alternatives to ensure that every community receives safe, affordable, and reliable drinking water. “The proposed regulations would: establish a new mandatory restructuring assessment authority for states; require states with primary enforcement authority (primacy) to develop mandatory restructuring assessment programs and submit primacy revisions for EPA review and approval; establish requirements for states and PWSs that implement system-specific mandatory restructuring assessments; and establish eligibility requirements and limitations for restructuring incentives under state-approved restructuring plans.”

4) National: It’s here. The Treasury Department and IRS have announced the full 50-state rollout of Direct File. “Direct File will be a permanent, free tax filing option and invited all 50 states and the District of Columbia to join in Filing Season 2025. This announcement follows a successful Pilot Program that saw 140,000 taxpayers claim more than $90 million in refunds and save an estimated $5.6 million in filing costs.”

The Economic Security Projects says, “as the IRS and Direct File team make more decisions about the shape of the tool in the coming months, we will continue to urge the IRS to expand the tool to more low- and middle-income taxpayers and streamline the filing process by pre-populating tax filing forms with data the IRS already has on filers, a feature that many Americans are asking for. We look forward to supporting this program as it grows to democratize access to the tax system for every American who needs it.”

5) National/New Book: Keep the date. On June 26, Sid Shapiro and Joe Tomain will discuss their new book, How Government Built America. The book “challenges growing, anti-government rhetoric by highlighting the role government has played in partnering with markets to build the United States.” In this webinar, “the book’s authors will share their research and insights about the government’s crucial role in building environmental policy, strengthening social safety nets, and entrenching the goals of social movements into public policy. They’ll be joined by Rogan Kersh of New York University.” [Register here]

6) National: Twenty-one states have joined the Biden administration in a bid to modernize the nation’s electrical grid. “That means in part focusing on ways to get more out of existing transmission lines, since building new ones can take a decade or more in some cases. ‘There are technologies we can use to optimize the current infrastructure we have,’ said Verna Mandez, director of transmission at Advanced Energy United, a clean energy trade group. Those include reconductoring existing lines to handle more juice as well as so-called grid-enhancing technologies, a suite of tools that include sensors, power-flow controls, software and hardware that can better deliver real-time weather data, among other technologies.”

7) Arkansas/National: The Biden-Harris Administration has announced $11 million for Arkansas schools to purchase clean school buses as part of the Investing in America Agenda. “These rebates will help school districts purchase over 3,400 clean school buses—92% of which will be electric— to accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles and produce cleaner air in and around schools and communities. Under the Program’s multiple grant and rebate funding opportunities to date, the EPA has awarded almost $3 billion to fund approximately 8,500 school bus replacements at over 1,000 schools.”

8) International: Time for some accountability for public pension plans over their disastrous investment in Thames Water’s Thatcherite privatization scheme? The Financial Times reports that “one of the UK’s biggest pension funds is under pressure from its members to explain its decision to invest in Thames Water, the troubled utility facing the threat of renationalization. The Universities Superannuation Scheme owns a 20 per cent stake in Thames Water that is in effect worthless after Omers, the Canadian pension fund that is the utility’s largest shareholder, wrote down the value of its stake to zero two weeks ago. This has prompted anger among the university staff who are members of USS and keen to protect the value of their retirement scheme. “We have asked (USS) about the original decision-making process [to invest in Thames Water] but they won’t tell us anything except that the decision went through their normal checks process,” said a spokesperson for UCU, the University and College Union, which represents USS members.” [Sub required]


9) National: What would religious charter schools mean for public education? Kevin G. Welner, who teaches education an law at the University of Colorado Boulder, gives us a heads up about a looming legal and political battle over religious charter schools. Writing in Education Week [sub required], he argues that although the Biden administration has largely focused its charter school agenda on issues of deception and damages to students, “that’s about to change.”

Welner writes, “this shift among Democrats was in response to concerns about fraud and mismanagement within the charter sector as well as access inequities tied to charter schools’ control over who enrolls and who stays enrolled, thereby underserving students with disabilities and English-language learners, among others. Importantly, the shift was not in response to the specter of religious charter schools.” But now, “the prospect of religious teaching in charter schools that are purportedly public is only the half of it. The second half involves the prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court holding that these religious charter schools have a right, under the U.S. Constitution’s clause protecting the free exercise of religion, to engage in faith-based discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and others. How did we get to this point that’s so far from the original goals of charters, such as community connectedness, curricular and instructional innovation, and a caring embrace of at‐risk student populations?” [Some background in FindLaw]

10) Georgia: Another charter school crackup story out of Atlanta. “At least four metro Atlanta charter schools are on the brink of closing their doors. Their demise seems to raise questions about the viability of charter schools versus more traditional public schools. The state set up charter school programs to add innovation to traditional public schools. When a community spends years getting accustomed to a neighborhood charter school, it is especially jarring when the school abruptly closes.”

11) New York: RiverheadLOCAL says local public bodies should work together where it counts—at the state capital where decisions on charter school policy are made. “The supervisor said town officials would be behind local school officials if they lobbied Albany for charter school reforms. Hubbard and the rest of the Town Board should pass a resolution supporting charter school reform laws. Send it to the state education department, the governor, the state legislature and our state representatives. It would be an understatement to say that current communication between town officials, school district officials and charter school officials is dysfunctional. The friction between these groups has caused damage to our community. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it definitely shouldn’t be this way. These are all institutions that serve the same people, and they need to be on the same page—for the wellbeing of the residents, the wellbeing of the community and, most importantly, of our children.”

12) South Carolina: A private school operator allegedly victimized a private religious college out of its loan money as its “regulator” looked the other way, The State reports. “The private Christian college behind South Carolina’s largest charter school district says it’s out $1 million after the operator of several schools the district oversaw defaulted on a loan deal. The transaction, revealed in a new lawsuit, raises the question why cash-strapped Erskine College loaned money to the holding company of a for-profit education management organization, or EMO. It also sows doubt that the taxpayer-funded Charter Institute at Erskine, which oversees more than two dozen charter schools, can objectively regulate schools in which its parent institution has a financial stake, experts said. ‘How do you engage in good faith oversight on behalf of the state when you have a financial interest in the thing you’re overseeing?’ said Derek Black, a University of South Carolina law professor who specializes in education law and policy.”

13) Texas: The Austin-American Statesman reports that Republican Governor Greg Abbott has declared victory in the school voucher wars because candidates he backed unseated three Texas House Republican incumbents who had voted against his voucher plan. “Texas AFT, which represents teachers statewide, blasted Abbott-backed victories as a result of out-of-state investment and called on the governor to instead fund public schools, whose finances have been crippled this year with budget deficits statewide. ‘I’m sure glad Texas public schools taught the governor how to count his chickens,’ AFT President Zeph Capo said. ‘I regret that we didn’t teach him to count them after they’ve hatched.’” [Sub required]

Reform Austin says not so fast. “Democrats Set To Flip GOP Strongholds And Defeat Abbott’s Vouchers,” they declare. “The upcoming primary election against Democrats and the potential for several key seats to flip could significantly challenge Abbott’s far-right agenda and disrupt his plans for educational reform. In last week’s episode of Texas Take with Scott Braddock and Jeremy Wallace, Braddock, journalist and political analyst, predicted that Democrats will flip as many as ‘nine or so seats’ this fall.”

The San Antonio Express-News’ Deputy Editorial Page Editor, Nancy M. Preyor-Johnson, says vouchers would hit rural Texas schools especially hard. “I wonder if residents in Mathis understand the implications when they choose to not vote or vote for Abbott and other candidates who support vouchers. Do they understand how vouchers for private schools would drain away funding that’s already inadequate? Or do they believe the rhetoric from Abbott and other pro-voucher Texas GOP members bankrolled by millionaires?”

14) Utah: Utah’s largest teacher union has filed suit against the state’s school voucher program. “’Utah already spends less on public school students than nearly every other state,’ said [Utah Education Association] President Renée Pinkney, noting Utah has long lagged behind other states when it comes to per-pupil spending, historically ranking last in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Though in 2021 Utah moved up a slot, to 50th in the nation, when it outpaced Idaho. ‘The voucher program diverts funds from already underfunded public schools, where 90% of our children learn, and places vulnerable students at risk by stripping away protections and accountability,’ Pinkney said. ‘This alarming situation should raise serious concerns about the future of public education in Utah.’” [Read the lawsuit; video report, about 4 minutes, includes Pinkney]


15) National/California: Frustration with high rates and poor service “is sparking campaigns to take over investor-owned utilities and make them nonprofit public entities,” Akielly Hu reports in Grist. Right now, San Diego is front and center. “What’s happening in Southern California reflects growing frustration with the high rates and lackluster service investor-owned utilities often provide—and a desire to accelerate the green transition. Similar campaigns are afoot in Rochester, New York and San Francisco, and Empire State lawmakers recently introduced a bill to buy out Central Hudson Gas & Electric and create a public power authority. ‘Across the country, people are talking about public ownership of energy,’ Sarahana Shrestha, a New York state assembly member who co-sponsored the bill, told Grist. ‘If we want a just transition—taking care of workers and making sure that it’s affordable and brings benefits back into communities—there’s no effective way of doing that while you’re still answering to shareholders.’” [For a similar battle taking place in Mexico at the national level, see #24 below].

16) National: State and federal officials are urging people to be on guard against a text-alert scam that claims people have unpaid toll fees and tries to get them to pay, Maryland Matters reports. “The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) said it has received more than 2,000 complaints since early March from people in three states, including Maryland,  who said they received texts claiming “an outstanding toll amount of $12.51 on your record” and directing them to a website to pay and avoid a $50 fine.”

17) California: State regulators have approved a community solar program “that clean energy advocates say would still leave the state a laggard at a time when the Biden administration is promoting the emerging sector. (…)  CPUC president Alice Reynolds, however, said the net value billing tariff proposal would have cost too much and could raise bills for other ratepayers. The decision approved Thursday, Reynolds said, meets the state’s twin goals of ‘how to provide all communities with clean energy and keep the most downward pressure on bills as possible.’ Commissioner Darcie Houck dissented from the decision, saying that the program would not do enough to incentivize new construction. Commissioner Matt Baker was not present for the vote.”

18) Maine/National: Another problem has cropped up concerning the decades-long practice of spreading liquid filth (“wastewater sludge” is the industry term; photo) over farmland. Forever chemicals (PFAS) are part of the sludge. Calls for public interest regulation are mounting. ‘The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and most state agricultural departments still promote land-spreading as a ‘beneficial use’ of sludge, despite knowing that the ‘forever chemicals’ it contains pose serious health risks, disrupting hormonal, immune and reproductive systems and increasing the risk of various cancers. Among more than 700 chemical compounds the EPA has identified in the residual wastewater sludge that industry terms “biosolids,’ PFAS are nearly universal. ‘What’s different about Maine is that we’re actually looking for it,’ says Sarah Alexander, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). To date, state agencies in Maine have found more than 70 PFAS-contaminated farms, a handful of which have had to cease all food production.”

19) New Mexico/National: Writing in The Progressive, Christian Thorsberg takes a closer look at America’s water crisis. “The Clean Water Act’s scope shrunk significantly as a result of the [2022 U.S. Supreme Court[ ruling, which removed federal protections for America’s small streams and wetlands that do not run with water year-round or are disconnected from major waterbodies. No state lost more than New Mexico, where an arid climate and mountainous geography make seasonal flows, isolated basins, and small channels the norm. Overnight, 96 percent of the state’s waterways—which in addition to supplying water for drinking and sanitation support the economies of subsistence fishers, growers, and a $2.4 billion outdoor recreation industry—were left federally unguarded, vulnerable to pollution and unregulated usage.”

Will New Mexico’s lawmakers step in? It’s complicated. “We have to be ready with some kind of state rulemaking and policy that we can get put in place immediately,” says Demis Foster, the executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico. “So we have a water coalition in New Mexico now that is working really intensely on how we can put the policy together. These new candidates are going to be key to getting that done for us.”

20) Texas/National: The Nation’s redoubtable architecture critic, Kate Wagner, often takes on a particularly hideous example of modern infrastructure—the McMansion. Here’s an annotated example.

21) International: Trade Unions for Energy Democracy South (TUED) hosted a meeting from May 6-9 dedicated to a “public pathway” approach to a just energy transition in the Global South. “The 3-day, 100-person, meeting included union representatives from: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Grenada, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as strategic allies from Canada, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, and others. The workshop and 3-day policy meeting comes at a time when there is growing support for a public pathway approach to energy transition and climate protection that can address the failures of the current ineffective and regressive profit-focused policies.”

22) International/Brazil: Chip off the old block. Flávio Bolsonaro, the son of right wing former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, is proposing to privatize Brazil’s amazing beaches to real estate developers.

23) International/Germany: The German government is inching toward privatizing UNIPER, the country’s public power utility. “Several banks and consultants have received an invitation to pitch for advisory mandates, the people said, declining to be identified because the information is private. Any such share sale is likely to occur as early as in the first quarter of 2025 and could be one of the biggest offerings of the year. Germany’s government owns more than 99% of Uniper after bailing out the company, the country’s biggest buyer of Russian gas, in 2022 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The remaining fraction still trades on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, where the company has a market value of €22.0 billion ($23.9 billion). Given how illiquid the stock is — an average of less than €500,000 has traded daily this year — it’s unclear if the market price is a good yardstick for the valuation the company can achieve in a share sale.”

24) International/Mexico: As Mexico holds national elections, a key issue is in which direction will Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist, take the country’s energy sector and “just transition” plans—public or private? Writing in the New Republic, Kate Aronoff offers background and context. “Private energy developers that have launched legal challenges to AMLO’s reforms under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, have argued that these changes threaten both their profits and climate and environmental goals. They point to the fact that the state-owned utility CFA’s generation capacity is largely fossil fuel–powered. ‘By that narrative, public energy is dirty and green energy is coming from the private sector,’ says Ackerman. The reality is more complicated. While AMLO has certainly emphasized a largely fossil fuel–powered vision of energy sovereignty, Ackerman notes—pushing through a refinery development in the southern state of Tabasco, and other infrastructure projects that have been controversial among environmental advocates—there’s no straightforward reason why state-owned companies are fated to be dirtier than private-sector energy developers.”

So, “depending on the success of Sheinbaum’s plans, it could also break new ground in another way: by forging a new balance between the public and private sectors’ respective roles in navigating the energy transition.” [See also #15 above]

Public Services

25) National: Thom Hartmann asks “Medicare Advantage: Why Are We Paying for ‘Sham’ Insurance? They’re competing unfairly with Medicare, and you and I are paying for it. It’s obscene.” Hartmann says, “These companies thus make much of their profit by routinely denying claims—1.5 million, or 18 percent of all claims, were turned down in one year alone—leaving Advantage policy holders with the horrible choice of not getting the tests or procedures they need or paying for them out-of-pocket. Given this, you’d think that most people would stay as far away from these private Medicare Advantage plans as they could. But Congress also authorized these plans to compete unfairly with real Medicare by offering things real Medicare can’t (yet). These include free or discounted dental, hearing, eyeglasses, gym memberships, groceries, rides to the doctor, and even cash rebates. You and I pay for those freebies, but that’s only half of the horror story. This year, as Matthew Cunningham-Cook pointed out in Wendell Potter’s brilliant Health Care un-covered Substack newsletter this week, we’re ponying up an additional $64 billion to give to these private insurance companies to reimburse them for the freebies they relentlessly advertise on television, online, and in print.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has written a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “responding to the agency’s request for information (RFI) on Medicare Advantage (MA) data and raising concerns that CMS does not collect adequate data to determine when vertically-integrated insurance companies in MA may be using anti-competitive tactics to raise health care costs and pocket extra profits. In particular, the Senator raised concerns that these giant conglomerates could be evading the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR), the statutory requirement for health insurers in MA to spend at least 85 percent of health care premium dollars on medical claims.”

26) National/Maryland: Will the U.S. Supreme Court criminalize poverty? We will soon see. “The Community Action Agency of Anne Arundel County, along with fellow members of the Coalition to End Homelessness, believes homelessness should not be punished but instead helped — like the Maryland General Assembly did this year by passing legislation to build more affordable housing and protect renters against eviction.”

How will this operate locally? Is it related to privatization? Yes. For example, Dwayne Yunker, a Republican real estate broker who formerly served on the Grants Pass, Oregon, City Council (the city at the heart of the Supreme Court case) and is now in the state legislature, “has also suggested that the city privatize all its parks, so police will be free to remove people.” And Brian Barth, writing in the Guardian, reports that public spending on private sweep contractors of homeless camps is soaring across [California]—and unhoused people allege poor treatment.

For more on this issue and the Supreme Court case, see Tracy Rosenthal’s terrific article, “The New Sundown Towns.” in the New Republic. Rosenthal was interviewed by the Trillbillies in a great podcast episode.

27) National: A new bill House would task the Veterans Administration with more actively promoting veteran transition assistance. “The bill—cosponsored by Reps. Colin Allred, D-Texas, and Byron Donalds, R-Fla.—would also compel the VA to make side-by-side comparisons of programs available to help veterans determine their best options, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Veteran Readiness and Employment program, which serves veterans and transitioning service members with ‘service-connected disabilities and employment barriers to prepare for, obtain and maintain suitable employment.’”

28) Colorado: Saying the quiet part out loud. “During his debate last week with primary foe Jeff Crank, Colorado Republican Party Chair Dave Williams, who’s hoping to replace Congressman Doug Lamborn as the U.S. representative for Colorado Springs, staked out maybe the furthest-right position on healthcare of any major party candidate this year: privatize and get the government out of it. Completely privatizing Medicare and Medicaid is an outlier even among the most conservative members of Congress in Colorado.” The primary is on June 25, and the two will debate again this Thursday.

29) Illinois: Public sector unions are raising concerns about new plans for drastically reducing the size of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Injustice Watch reports. “Officials acknowledge there may be challenges ahead, including getting local law enforcement, judges, and employee unions on board with the plans. The juvenile detention center currently employs 560 people. Staff may be offered an opportunity to work at the alternative centers, officials wrote in their project proposal, but the county will have to negotiate with labor representatives. In a statement to Injustice Watch, Anders Lindall, a spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represents intake and social workers at the JTDC, said they were concerned about the proposal to contract with private nonprofits, adding that for the last 30 years, Illinois has banned private prisons under state law. ‘The chief judge’s office has indicated to us that no privatization and no layoffs would result,’ Lindall said. ‘Even so, we question whether the chief judge and staff have been transparent about their plans and motives.’ The president of SEIU Local 73, which represents 30 mental health specialists, medical assistants, janitors, and others at the JTDC, said they learned about the proposal from Injustice Watch.”

30) International/Canada: 5,000 people marched and rallied in Toronto on Thursday to call for an end to the privatization of health care by the Doug Ford government. “The Ontario Health Coalition, an umbrella group that organized the march and rally, says it opposes hospital closures and provincial government plans to expand the number of surgeries and health-care services that private and for-profit medical clinics can provide. Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said the government is not properly funding health care in Ontario. ‘It’s never been so bad. The health care system has being really driven into the ground,’ she said. ‘Now it’s just devastating. We’re seeing whole hospitals closing down, at risk of closing down. We’re seeing literally millions of people can’t get a family doctor and they’re bringing in for-profit primary care to replace it where people have to pay,’ she said.”

31) International/Canada: A debate is going on in Canada about allowing private investment in airports. “The idea of privatizing airports has been previously promoted in Canada as a way to increase competition while providing a financial boost for federal coffers by selling the properties. But there are challenges too—including the uncertainty of whether it would improve service or lower ticket costs. While airlines grumble about mandatory fees and taxes, they also pass on charges that impact the affordability of air travel. The federal budget highlighted how a family of four flying across the country can be charged nearly $500 extra because of airline fees that can include pre-booking a seat, checking a bag and using Wi-Fi. For now, the federal government will start by looking at private investment in specific parts of an airport—like new gates or parking garages—but leaving the airport as a whole as a not-for-profit entity.”

All the Rest

32) International/United Kingdom: Is privatization making people ill in Britain? “Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, has urged Thames Water to ‘get a grip’ and test treatment works ‘urgently’ after it emerged over the weekend that the company had tested the water at only one property. Over the last two weeks, dozens of people in Beckenham, south-east London, have reported becoming unwell with diarrhea and vomiting. The symptoms in most cases have lasted for an unusually long time—up to two weeks. They have also been severe, with multiple people hospitalized, including an eight-year-old boy. Last Wednesday, Thames Water tested the water at the property of one person who had become unwell; the results came back clear. Since then others who are unwell in Beckenham have asked for a test. Thames initially said that since its initial tests came back clear, it did not need to conduct further tests. Thames has also not tested the wider supply or the treatment facilities specifically as a result of this suspected outbreak.”

Thames Water has been accused of years of neglect of maintenance to boost profits after England’s water and sewer systems were privatized to the company. But efforts to stabilize the company might even make things worse.  A few days ago, the Telegraph reported that the recovery plans now being contemplated might allow the private company to dump even more sewage in to the public waterways. The Financial Times reports that widespread outrage has greeted the idea. “For campaigners and politicians who argue Thames’s woes are largely of its own making, any kind of clemency is likely to be met with protests. Even if Ofwat were prepared to face those down, in reality the room to dish out special treatment should be limited.” The FT’s influential Lex columnist says the proposal is “unlikely to wash.”

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