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Here’s this post on the In the Public Interest website.
- Teen Vogue covered the community schools movement.
- There’s a new play—a musical comedy of all things—about “public-private partnerships.”
- Gary Hodge, vice chair of the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition, points to a vitally important set of issues that are implicitly on the state’s upcoming primary ballot: whether or not ill conceived and risky so-called public private partnerships promoted by the banks, construction industry, and their allies in the political world will be subjected to strict scrutiny in the public interest.
First, the good news…
1) National: Teen Vogue’s Mary Retta covers the Community Schools movement. “We now have a strong body of scientific evidence that supports our understanding that students learn best when their holistic needs are met—when we address their social, emotional, and academic development,” Karen Quartz, director of the UCLA Center for Community Schooling, told Teen Vogue. “Community schools strive to create school environments where strong, trusting, and loving relationships are at the center. Through relationships, students practice the skills and receive the support they need to solve problems, engage in their learning, and reach their full potential — skills that will help them succeed in school and beyond.”
2) National: The U.S. Department of Education has announced it will provide $68 million in grants to support students through full-service community schools. Education secretary Miguel Cardona says “these grants will help community schools provide quality wraparound services to students and their families, from access to health care and nutritional assistance, to tutoring and enrichment opportunities, to mental health supports and violence prevention programs. For low-income rural and urban communities hit hard by the pandemic, Full-Service Community Schools will help us meet the holistic needs of students, drive our recovery, and pave the way to a more equitable future.” The Institute for Educational Leadership says “Ready, Set, Apply.”
3) National: As the National Governors Association winds up its meeting, state finances are generally in good shape, according to NASBO. (Note that their report says zero out of fifty states used privatization as a strategy to manage their budgets, Table 10. That is progress). “Governors’ budgets for fiscal 2023 call for a 4.2 percent increase in general fund spending compared to estimated levels for fiscal 2022. This follows 13.6 percent spending growth in fiscal 2022, the highest annual increase recorded in the Fiscal Survey of States in more than 40 years. As states spend down their revenue surpluses from fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2022, mostly on one-time expenditures, this has led to larger than usual fluctuations in spending from year to year. Looking at average spending growth for states over three years – fiscal 2021, fiscal 2022 (estimated), and fiscal 2023 (recommended)—the median annual growth rate is 5.3 percent.” [NASBO, The Fiscal Survey of States 2022, p. 9.]
4) California: IndyBay reports that there’s a new play—a musical comedy of all things—about “public-private partnerships.” The San Francisco Mime Troupe strikes again. “WorkWeek interviewed [playwright] Michael [Sullivan] about the history of the play and the growing corruption and contradictions in capitalism. With one corruption scandal after another in San Francisco City’s government, the play focuses on the public private partnership which is privatization of public services and Sullivan and his troupe have nailed it again.” Check it out. “The funniest action unfolds at the S.F. Housing Center, where lovable Norman Gee plays homeless Herbert. Herbert is waiting for Zoe and Ms. Olivia to find a place for him to live before the 5:00 PM deadline on his housing voucher. But neither Zoe nor Ms. Olivia can locate his paperwork in a HUGE pile of documents. The Housing Center is pitifully feeble. Like most city agencies, they are underfunded and swamped with poor clients. So, they fire the good people and, typically, take the most capitalist solution: they choose PPP: public private partnership.” [There’s audio of the whole play too. It’s great. About an hour]
5) New York: Dolphins are returning to New York Harbor, delighting residents and visitors alike. After years of public anti-pollution efforts (otherwise known as government regulation by the administrative state), the waters are cleaner now than at any time since the Civil War. Humpback whales are also seen in the area alongside the dolphins. Some photos from the Wall Street Journal.
6) Oregon/National: Oregon and the federal government have launched a new 988 crisis intervention hotline. “The Legislature allocated $7 million in 2021 for staffing Oregon’s two 988 call centers and about $40 million for community mental health programs that include the mobile services. Holton expects a steady increase in the volume of calls as people become acquainted with the service. ‘The 911 folks tell us that it takes time,’ Holton said. ‘It’s really an incremental process of getting people used to it. But we’re planning (on the volume) to double here.’”
7) Intergalactic: NASA, funded by the American people, releases a full batch of images and data from the massive James Webb Space Telescope that provides a first look at cosmic mysteries yet to be untangled. NBC News’ Tom Llamas was joined by America’s top astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, to analyze what these images mean for the future of space exploration. [Video, about five minutes]
8) Pennsylvania: Robert Gleason and Eugene DePasquale have made a passionate bipartisan appeal for passage of charter school reform legislation. “As long-time public servants representing both major political parties, and as concerned citizens who care about public education in the Commonwealth, we are writing to express our great disappointment and frustration with the continued inaction by our state legislature despite broad-based, statewide, bipartisan support for charter school reform. The fact that more than 85 percent of locally elected school boards (434 of 500), in a state as diverse as ours, have passed formal resolutions calling for a substantive charter school law overhaul should send a clear message to policymakers – It’s time for reform.”
9) Tennessee: Republican Governor Bill Lee has announced that his administration “will immediately begin rolling out his long-blocked school voucher program after a judge lifted an injunction that had prevented it from being implemented. (…) Christopher Wood, representing parents opposed to education savings accounts in one of the lawsuits, said he would have to consider asking for the program to be quickly blocked again if the state were to press ahead for the next school year. ‘It doesn’t seem possible. School starts in less than a month,’ Wood said. ‘If the state really is intending to do that, I think we would obviously have to seriously consider whether we are going to file for another injunction.’”
10) Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott seems about to relaunch another crusade to promote publicly funded school vouchers, but the Herald Democrat is having none of it. “Proponents of school voucher schemes have a number of reasons to cheer these days, from a Supreme Court ruling ensuring that they can be used at religious schools, to growing programs in states such as Florida, Arizona and—if Gov. Greg Abbott has his way—Texas. We are not among those cheering. Vouchers have long been framed as a matter of educational freedom and parental rights—but that misses their obvious downsides: A near-certain raid on public school funding and the fact that tax dollars spent on private schools likely won’t come with the accountability that lawmakers have had the good sense to attach to public spending. None of that stopped Abbott at a May rally in San Antonio from promising to put vouchers on the table next legislative session.”
11) Think Tanks: Will public education be able to survive right wing operatives on university school boards and preferred pronouns? In an email to supporters, the Heritage Foundation brags that it now has “someone on the inside” thanks to Glenn Youngkin appointing “Heritage expert Lindsey Burke to the board of George Mason University.” Heritage also points to one of the reporters at its Daily Signal publication who attended the NEA conference and was able to report on such horrors as the presence of “preferred pronouns.” “One of our authors at The Daily Signal attended the National Education Association conference last week. She couldn’t believe that the NEA wants to ignore reality and let young children choose from infinite pronouns. You can read more about what happened at [this link]. In addition to reporting leftist abuses of power, Heritage Action is also getting parents involved. They recently held a training for 100+ grassroots leaders in CA and will do another one in VA this August. I’m also really proud that Heritage is placing conservatives into positions of power to guide our schools in the right direction. Governor Youngkin just appointed Heritage expert Lindsey Burke to the board of George Mason University. She’ll be a great advocate for things like free speech on campus and higher education reform.”
But, of course, Heritage isn’t really concerned with pronouns. It’s concerned with shutting down our public schools and, until then, blocking them from telling kids the truth. For more see the National Education Association’s “The Cost of Privatization in America.”
12) National/Maryland: As voters in Maryland go to the polls for tomorrow’s primaries and again this November for the general election, will they support politicians who stand up for the public interest? Writing in Maryland Matters, Gary V. Hodge, vice chair of the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition, points to a vitally important set of issues that are implicitly on the ballot: whether or not ill conceived and risky so-called public private partnerships promoted by the banks, construction industry and their allies in the political world—specifically the I-270 toll lanes privatization project and the Purple Line P3—will be subjected to strict scrutiny in the public interest.
“The coming months will determine whether the public good or private profit will dominate Maryland’s transportation policy for decades to come,” writes Hodge. “Votes are already being cast in this year’s primary election. With a dozen candidates running for governor, a few hundred votes could decide the outcome. And whoever is elected governor on November 8 may be in a position to decide the fate of this misguided project after taking the oath of office in January. Now is the time to study the candidates’ positions on this critical issue, and choose wisely. Every vote counts.”
The P3 industry is facing serious headwinds, which will certainly be exacerbated by rising interest rates (which make traditional public financing of infrastructure more attractive). Macquarie is involved in several infrastructure projects in the US, but has been considering selling down its 40 per cent stake in a joint venture with Transurban to build express lanes in Maryland. Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton said in May that the $5 billion Maryland express lanes project had “quite a few issues” including COVID-19 related delays, and it was uncertain if financial paperwork would be signed off by the end of the year. The Maryland project has been challenged in court by a rival bidder, Cintra, a subsidiary of Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial. Cintra alleged that Transurban had submitted its bid at “unrealistically low margins”. (…) The Washington Post reported this month that a new governor in Maryland could potentially scale back or cancel the express lanes project if current governor Larry Hogan did not finalize its financial contract before his term ends in January.”
13) National/Pennsylvania: A rewrite of Pennsylvania’s P3 law [SB 382] has taken effect, leaving nine bridge projects in limbo. In a major decision that is bound to have repercussions across the country and even internationally on infrastructure policy, the Pennsylvania courts and legislature have blocked Macquarie’s bridge replacement project on tolling and due diligence grounds.
Transport Topics reports that “on June 30, Judge Ellen Ceisler issued an order voiding the PennDOT’s Major Bridge P3 Initiative for being in violation of Act 88 provisions that provide no authority for PennDOT to act on its own to determine whether a project is in the best interests of the Commonwealth nor allow PennDOT to carry out its duties on its own. Ceisler wrote that a multibillion- dollar transportation project was based on ‘a four-page PowerPoint recommendation’ from PennDOT ‘that failed to delineate which, or how many, pieces of public infrastructure the initiative would achieve.’ Earlier the judge temporarily halted the bridge tolling project before the court reached a final decision.” A meeting of the department’s public-private partnership board will be held this Thursday, July 21. “The Macquarie Group declined to comment.”
14) National: The White House has announced that over $40 billion in American Rescue Plan funds have been committed to strengthening and expanding the workforce. In a press release the White House said “President Biden and Vice President Harris have launched the Administration’s Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge to encourage immediate partnerships by the public and private sectors to ensure we have the diverse and strong workforce needed to help rebuild our infrastructure and supply chains here at home with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.” The funding would also be directed at “strengthening our care and public health workforce” and “expanding access to the workforce for underserved populations.”
15) National: Some states are falling all over themselves to throw billions in public money at private, for profit companies that promise big gains in jobs, and the federal government is greasing the skids. They may well rue the day.
16) National: Conservative West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin “has dealt President Biden and the Democrats’ Build Back Better bill a final blow, refusing to accept key tax and climate provisions and destroying any hope for reviving the muni market agenda before elections in November.” The Bond Buyer reports that Manchin’s refusal to back Build Back Better is “destroying any hope for reviving the muni market agenda.” [Sub required].
17) Texas: The state’s firearm and fossil fuel laws are hindering its ability to raise money in the debt market. The Bond Buyer reports that “laws enacted last year prohibit state contracts with companies, including banks that underwrite municipal bonds, that ‘discriminate’ against the firearm industry or ‘boycott’ energy businesses.’” [Sub required]
18) International: English water company bosses are being threatened with jail by the regulator for worsening sewage pollution, The Financial Times reports. “The call for tougher penalties came as the performance of the companies on sewage pollution fell to the worst level recorded in a decade, proving that they were “undeterred” by the penalties being issued by the courts, the agency said. There were 62 ‘serious’ pollution incidents in 2021, up from 44 in 2020, and the highest since 2013, the Environment Agency said. More than half of the serious incidents were by three companies: Anglian Water, Southern Water and Thames Water. The agency said the law allows for imprisonment but it did not specify what the pollution threshold for such a penalty should be.” The FT, the U.K.’s most prestigious business publication, is doing a deep rethink on whether water is just too precious a commodity to be privatized. [Sub required]
Criminal Justice and Immigration
19) National/California: The Fresno Bee reports that immigrant detainees at two Central Valley immigration detention centers are suing the GEO Group over wages. “‘On information and belief, the charges and discipline are retaliatory in nature, designed to force workers to continue to work for GEO at subminimum wages or for no pay at all,’ the lawsuit reads. The immigrant detainees say they were just trying to send a message. ‘When we launched this labor strike at Mesa Verde 77 days ago and at Golden State Annex 37 days ago, our demands were clear: to cease the exploitation of our labor by paying workers according to (California) minimum wage of $15 per hour…’ the detainees said in a Thursday news release.”
20) National/Georgia: WABE reports that attorneys and immigrant rights groups have filed a federal complaint to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice “on behalf of four immigrant women who say they were sexually assaulted by the same nurse while detained at Stewart Detention Center in Southwest Georgia.” Stewart is operated for profit by CoreCivic. The Intercept has run an in-depth story on the case. “The nurse ‘has repeatedly taken advantage of his position as a medical professional to isolate women at Stewart in curtained-off medical examination rooms, force or coerce them into giving him access to private parts of their body without medical justification or need, and [assault] them during his “medical exams,”’ the CRCL complaint reads. The allegations of sexual assault and harassment are part of a broader series of troubling complaints levied by women who have been detained in the facility, raising a concern that there is a pattern of medical neglect and abusive conditions.”
21) National/Texas: Attorneys have filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer Guadarrama, “a mother who alleges numerous failures by private prison giant Geo Group, Inc. led to her son’s preventable suicide at the Val Verde Correctional Facility in Del Rio, Texas. Geo Group is one of the world’s leading private prison management companies with annual revenue in excess of $2 billion. (…) Keegan G. Killin was 21 years old when he died alone by hanging himself on March 13, 2021. Killin had been a pretrial detainee at Val Verde Correctional Facility for 15 months without a conviction. He was not a serial criminal nor a violent offender. His mother says Killin had a documented history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and had previously attempted suicide, yet was placed in solitary confinement without justification, monitoring, or proper treatment.”
22) National: The Justice Department has named Colette Peters, the director of Oregon’s prison system, to run the federal Bureau of Prisons. “Peters, who championed steeply reducing the state’s inmate population in the last decade, will inherit a federal agency plagued by myriad scandals. Her hiring comes about seven months after Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal submitted his resignation amid mounting pressure from Congress after investigations by The Associated Press exposed widespread corruption and misconduct in the agency. In an interview with the AP, Peters stressed the importance of working to “create an environment where people can feel comfortable coming forward and talking about misconduct.””
23) National: Law360.com reports that the Biden administration and the private, for profit prison company CoreCivic “have urged a California federal judge to toss allegations that an asylum-seeker miscarried due to negligence and poor prison conditions, saying her pregnancy wasn’t viable even before she entered the U.S.”
24) National: Longtime AFSCME leader Jerry McEntee has passed on. McIntee “mobilized an army of AFSCME retirees and working members to defeat then-President George W. Bush’s reckless scheme to privatize Social Security,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement. “He cut his teeth in Pennsylvania, organizing public sector workers in his native Philadelphia and at the state level. As Executive Director of AFSCME Council 13, he was the driving force behind a historic victory securing collective bargaining rights for state employees in 1970.”
25) National: As the national Republican voter suppression campaign gears up, election officials face the risk of criminal charges under 31 new GOP-imposed penalties. “Under Iowa’s new omnibus voting law, election law violations like Moritz’s decision to give her poll workers an extra $3 to $5 an hour for working during the pandemic become potential felonies. Moritz said she is still waiting for results of the auditor’s investigation. ‘Here I am, it’s COVID, I’m just trying to do the right thing and pay my poll workers,’ she said, and then she faced potential criminal consequences. ‘If it’s a felony, I lose my voting rights. I lose my job.’”
26) National: “Value-Based Care” is a pretext for privatization, writes Kay Tillow, a union activist for single payer healthcare. “Later this month, right before Medicare’s 57th birthday on July 30, corporate health care and the government players who facilitate their lucrative businesses, will gather for a summit on value-based care. They will speak of driving health equity, of reaching underserved communities, of coordination of care, and accountable care. They will insist that physicians share in risk just like insurance companies. They will advocate the transformation of health care to value-based care, supposedly founded on payment for quality rather than quantity, value instead of volume, and outcomes not fee-for-service. They will assert that this transformation brings equity, improves care, and saves money. They have no evidence to back up their assertions. But the scheme to move to value-based care and to shove risk onto physicians imposes profit-making managers into the system, shifts the profit incentive from more care to denial of treatment, and expands opportunities for venture capital, private equity, and insurance companies.”
27) National: Waste Dive has produced a useful survey of the 2022 outlook for the industry, an important sector for privatized public services. “Finding enough CDL drivers and helpers to keep collection going has been a persistent challenge, especially as the booming e-commerce sector attracts more of those skilled individuals. Today, the industry’s pitch is further complicated in an economy in which workers of all types are quitting and changing jobs at record rates as they seek better pay, benefits, conditions and flexibility in the “Great Resignation.” With inflation rising, so too must wages increase, as companies have acknowledged. The recent shifts in the labor market will require further adaptations to what one union representative described as a ‘wage, benefits and respect shortage.’”
But are they listening? The Teamsters report that “close to 200 sanitation workers employed by Waste Management at facilities in Chino and Corona have voted unanimously to authorize a strike against the company. This step follows multiple contract bargaining sessions with the company since the workers’ contract expired in April. Little progress has been made in addressing worker concerns, including fair treatment and constant harassment on the job. These essential sanitation workers have worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that communities throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties were kept clean and safe.”
28) New York: The New York Times reports that New York City public services are suffering because workers are quitting in droves due to competition from the private sector “and the government’s balky hiring practices.” The Times says “the wave of departures has included health care workers, parks employees, police officers and child protective service workers. Some are high-ranking officials with decades of experience; others are younger employees, some of whom bypassed higher-paying private sector jobs because they wanted to make a difference. (…) The labor shortage has affected a wide array of city agencies. Nearly 25 percent of jobs at the Buildings Department remain empty. Resignations and retirements from the Police Department are the highest they have been in nearly two decades. A critical New York City inspection team, which responds to violations and complaints about lead paint, mold, heat and hot water, has been hampered by a severe staffing shortage, with 140 positions waiting to be filled.”
29) International: Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3251 rallied outside the Cornwall Civic Complex Monday night after the city walked away from bargaining. “CUPE 3251 president Caleb Roach, a wastewater operator in Cornwall, said in a statement that as workers who reside in the city, care is given to deliver quality public services, but it requires a stable and committed workforce. He wrote the city is struggling to retain and recruit experienced workers due to declining working conditions, referring to short staffing in both the wastewater treatment plant and finance department. Roach wrote the wastewater treatment plant has been understaffed since November, working with five operators instead of six.”
30) National/Wyoming: State lotteries are increasingly ceding control to huge firms, Tinashe Chingarande, Elizabeth Flood, Spencer Friedman and Daniel Lawall report. “Analysts who track the industry say the largest companies are trying to forge what one calls ‘enhanced partnerships’ with the states. What others refer to as ‘privatization’ programs will transfer most of the day-to-day management and strategic decision-making. The lottery industry in the U.S. is dominated by International Game Technology PLC and Scientific Games Holdings LP, and a handful of smaller companies including Intralot SA and Pollard Banknote Ltd. The market boasted $82 billion in ticket sales in the 2020 fiscal year. (…) There are limits to how much control states can pass along. Federal law generally prohibits private companies from operating lotteries, fearing their presence could lead to corruption.”
31) Wisconsin: Well that didn’t take long. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling overturning federal abortion protections, a candidate in the Wisconsin governor’s race is spinning so-called crisis pregnancy centers, many run by organizations campaigning against abortion rights, as “public-private partnerships,” the term coined by the privatization industry because the word “privatization” polls badly. A new phase of “partnership” washing is upon us.