- Laid off tech worker? Have we got a job for you (actually a million)
- Christian nationalist charter schools on the rise
- Are your tax dollars funding Catholic schools?
1) National: They might not carry perks like ping pong tables, but public service jobs might help you find purpose,” says ITPI Communications Director Jeff Hagan. “The last few months have not been good for tech workers. Groupon laid off 500, Spotify laid off 600, Yahoo cut 1,600, PayPal 2,000, Salesforce 7,000, Microsoft 10,000, and Alphabet–Google’s parent–laid off 12,000. Meta—the company behind Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, just pink-slipped 10,000 of its workforce—after laying off 11,000 in November. And that’s just the household-names. Swiggy, Fandom, Sophos, and GoMechanic announced double- and triple-digit workforce cuts. At the same time, vacancies in federal, state, and local governments totaled 1,080,000 positions at the end of 2022.”
2) National: The New Republic’s podcast, “How to Save a Country,” has a new episode stoutly defending the “administrative state” in the face of attacks by right wingers like Steve Bannon. “But what would the United States look like without the administrative state? And what can progressives do to protect it? This week on How to Save a Country, Felicia and Michael ask those questions of K. Sabeel Rahman, who served as associate administrator at the small but mighty Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, or OIRA, in the Biden administration until earlier this year. He is the co-founder and co-chair of the Law and Political Economy Project, the former president of the think tank Demos, and the author of the books Democracy Against Domination and Civic Power: Rebuilding American Democracy in an Era of Crisis (co-authored by Hollie Russon Gilman).”
You can listen to “The Administrative State Is Under Attack: Why progressives must protect institutions that help safeguard the public” here. [Audio, about a half hour].
3) National/Think Tanks: Heads up from Alondra Nelson, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and winner of the 2023 SAGE-CASBS Award, who says an important public access milestone has been reached: All peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from NSF-funded research will be made freely available and publicly accessible in NSF-PAR, without embargo or delay. Check out the 28-page plan.
4) Connecticut: Solidarity among school workers in East Lyme has saved 19 of them their jobs. “According to Patricia Hesney, the president of AFSCME Local 1303-138 (Council 4), which represents East Lyme’s secretaries and library aides, the COVID-19 pandemic, rising health insurance rates and inflation had led East Lyme’s Board of Education to propose cutting the 19 positions. ‘Once we found out about the elimination of our union members’ jobs, we collaborated with the teachers’ union (Connecticut Education Association) and the paraprofessionals’ local, AFSCME 1250, and strategized how we could get the board of education to keep those jobs,’ said Hesney.”
5) Florida: Despite DeSantis’ anti-union law, the Florida’s teachers’ union has gained 5,000 members. “DeSantis and his anti-union allies thought their legislation had dealt a death blow to Florida public unions. Many unions were worried that they would lose tens of thousands of members as they struggled to get members to give their bank account information so that unions could manually deduct dues. However, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar says the attacks have backfired. The Florida Education Association says that it actually gained 5,000 members in the month since DeSantis signed the bill in May. Indeed, many non-union teachers, particularly younger teachers, startled by DeSantis’s attacks on gays, immigrants, and minorities, have sought to join the union to fight back against the governor’s attacks.”
6) Illinois: Chicago’s new mayor, Brandon Johnson, has announced a new plan under which public school teachers will have essentially the same parental leave policy as city workers. “‘With the creation of this policy, our teachers and school leaders cannot only show up for their students but for their own families during a very critical time in their lives,’ Johnson said. The CTU and former Mayor Lori Lightfoot battled over the district’s parental leave policy at the start of the year, with the union highlighting the discrepancy between the maximum two weeks of paid parental leave that CPS employees previously received and the three months granted to city employees as of Jan. 1.”
7) Maryland: Lawyers for Good Government report that “in a resounding victory for transgender rights, Maryland has become the 11th state to proactively protect gender-affirming care through a critical Executive Order. Maryland’s Order sends a strong message about its commitment to equality and inclusion and shields trans individuals and healthcare providers from attacks from states like Florida and Texas. Lawyers for Good Government, in collaboration with the National Center for Transgender Equality and Trans Formations Project, worked closely with Maryland Governor Wes Moore’s office to draft and advocate for this groundbreaking order!”
8) Mississippi/National: The EPA has announced that the City of Jackson, Mississippi “will receive $115 million to support critical water infrastructure investments that will help ensure safe and reliable drinking water for residents. The funding comes from a $600 million Congressional appropriation championed by President Biden as part of the 2023 Federal budget.” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said “President Biden and I pledged to do everything in our power to help deliver clean, safe drinking water for the Jackson community, and this action reaffirms our commitment.”
9) National: As the religious right intensified its attack on secular public education, the Network for Public Education is out with a 34-page report delving into the movement’s leaders, structure, targets and funding. “The report carefully lays out the case that the new breed of charter schools is designed to attract families with Christian nationalist beliefs. They have student bodies that are whiter and wealthier than other charter schools and district public schools. And it exposes how, despite prohibitions on teaching religion in charter schools, such schools have deep connections with the conservative Christian movement and, in some cases, conservative Christian private schools. Few doubt that the religious right has decided to stake its claim on the next generation of hearts and minds with its unrelenting push for vouchers and book and curricular bans. This report exposes the lesser-known third part of the strategy—the proliferation of right-wing charter schools. It should be a wake-up call to those with progressive ideals who have embraced charter schools. A movement you support is now taking a sharp turn right to destroy the values you cherish.”
For historical background on the Christian Right’s assault on the constitutional separation of church and state, see Fred Clarkson’s Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, and Sara Diamond’s Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States.
10) National: Matthew Lynch, an author at The Tech Advocate, says privatizing public schools creates negative student outcomes. “Nothing’s perfect, but at present, public schools are prospering. Students earned the maximum test scores ever with the highest graduation rates and the lowest dropout rates. What exactly are the privatizers planning to improve in our schools that aren’t already present? It’s quite easy to identify the truth behind privatizers. The truth lies in the money. Privatizers view reform to hand over public schools to private management, which’s a common practice amongst religious schools. Schools that serve a particular religion lack public funding because taxpayer dollars cannot be utilized to maintain and develop these schools.”
11) National: Politico’s Liz Crampton reports that Democrats have flexed their new power in state capitals this year by boosting public education funding to record amounts. “Now, as legislative sessions wrap up, they’re touting that infusion of dollars to attack Republicans who they say are fixated on harmful agendas like targeting transgender children and stoking other culture war issues. In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz last month signed an education budget with more than $2 billion in new spending, the biggest increase in state history. Michigan lawmakers are debating two education plans that would each augment spending significantly. And in Maryland, Gov. Wes Moore launched a service year program for high school graduates and set aside $900 million for future education needs.”
12) Florida/National: The Hechinger Report has published an in-depth article by Kathryn Joyce, the investigate editor of In These Times, taking us inside Florida’s “underground lab” for far-right education policies. “The scope of the contracts, charged Support Our Schools, was ‘so broad and expansive, it in effect turns over the keys to the school district to the company.’ But that, they said, was the point. In 2021, when the district was at war with itself over masking, Carol Lerner, Lisa Schurr and a handful of other local parents and educators founded Support Our Schools to counter the conservative education movement. At first, Schurr told me, they’d been baffled ‘that anybody could have an issue with wearing a mask to protect the lives of other people. But we quickly learned that these issues were in many ways a distraction, and the real issue is the destruction through privatization of public education.’”
13) North Carolina: Jeff Bryant, chief correspondent for Our Schools, asks “Did a North Carolina Democratic lawmaker throw the party under the bus for the charter school industry?” Tricia Cotham’s defection to the Republican Party has deep roots in the right-wing “school choice” movement, he writes. “A deeper dive into Cotham’s voting history and her professional life in between her two tenures in the legislature reveals that Cotham found the gateway for her path to the Republican Party in the right-wing political faction promoting charter schools and school choice—a political issue that formerly captured the interests of many Democrats but now is a source of divisiveness in the party.”
“Yet McGuireWoods’s footprint in the charter school industry is much larger than what Cotham and Sevier represent in their filings. Another of Cotham’s colleagues at the firm was senior adviser Harrison J. Kaplan. According to the McGuireWoods website, Kaplan has been a ‘lobbyist at the North Carolina General Assembly for over 30 years’ and is ‘at the forefront on many crucial public policy issues, particularly in the areas of education and health care.’”
14) Ohio: Republican lawmakers are pushing for more income tax cuts and a phased-in universal voucher program in their $86 billion budget proposal. “The proposal also would phase in a universal voucher program with higher scholarship amounts than the House or Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s versions of the budget have envisioned. Families at or below 450% of the federal poverty level, or around $135,000 for a family of four, could receive $6,300 for K-12 students and $8,400 in taxpayers’ money for those in grades 9-12 to attend private schools. Families making above 450% would receive scholarships on a sliding scale, with the amount decreasing as income increases. But all families, regardless of income, would be guaranteed to receive a scholarship of at least 10% of the current voucher amounts. Other elements include a provision to shift oversight of K-12 education from the Ohio State Board of Education to an official appointed by the governor—drastically changing who makes decisions on academic standards, curriculum and district ratings.”
Commenting on the proposals, Tanisha Pruitt of Policy Matters Ohio says, “With their recent budget proposal, Senate leadership has shown they are willing, even eager, to sacrifice Ohio’s kids to ram through a universal voucher scheme they’ve been planning for years. The Senate plan would make EdChoice vouchers—worth $8,407 a year for students in grades 9-12, and $6,165 a year for those in grades K-8—available to households with incomes up to 450% of the federal poverty rate. (For a family of four, that’s about $135,000 a year.) And they wouldn’t stop there: Senate leadership would also allow households making more than that to get 10% of the value of EdChoice vouchers, subsidizing a discount on private school tuition for the children of the wealthiest Ohioans.”
Her conclusion: “Ensuring a ‘thorough and efficient system of common schools’—as Ohio’s constitution requires—means correcting disparities created by bad policies of the past, which still harm kids today. We do that by prioritizing public schools, cutting spending on vouchers, and paying teachers what they’re worth, so every student in every district in every school can thrive.”
15) Oklahoma/National: Will taxpayer dollars be funneled to a Catholic private school? The stage is being set for one of the most crucial confrontations over the constitutional separation of church and state after Oklahoma officials approved the nation’s first Catholic charter school. “Although there were concerns about how the school would address special education students and general matters of state oversight, the largest debate centered around the legality of a charter school with a religious curriculum. ‘There are compelling and competing visions here,’ board member Scott Strawn said at Monday’s meeting as he announced his support for the application. The board has received competing legal advice about the question before them.” [Sub required]
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is preparing legal action to block Oklahoma’s effort to use public money to fund religion. “It’s hard to think of a clearer violation of the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public-school families than the state establishing the nation’s first religious public charter school,” says Americans United. “This is a sea change for American democracy. Americans United will work with our Oklahoma and national partners to take all possible legal action to fight this decision and defend the separation of church and state that’s promised in both the Oklahoma and U.S. Constitutions. State and federal law are clear: Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and open to all students. No public-school family should fear that their child will be required by charter schools to take theology classes or be expelled for failing to conform to religious doctrines. And the government should never force anyone to fund religious education. In a country built on the principle of separation of church and state, public schools must never be allowed to become Sunday schools.”
Noah Feldman, a columnist for Bloomberg, writes, “it is possible that the Supreme Court could allow it as part of its ongoing revolutionary transformation of the law of church and state. That would put us in a brave new world where states come under legal pressure to fund all religious education equally—an outcome that seems sure to increase strife over government-funded religious beliefs, not to mention public education. (…) The school in question is to be an online institution called St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School. The name alone is astonishing. I first encountered Archbishop Isidore (560-636) in a history class at my private Jewish high school, where we learned how he proposed the law that took Jewish children away from their parents to ensure they got a Catholic upbringing. He also successfully proposed the law that banned Jews (including those who had converted to Catholicism) from holding public office and wrote an anti-Semitic classic, De fide catholica contra Iudaeos (“Of the Catholic faith against the Jews”). You would think anyone seeking a test case for state funding of religious teaching would have preferred to name the school after a more ecumenical saint.” [Sub required]
16) International: Contract flipping is leaving food service workers at the public University of New Brunswick (Canada) fearing job losses. “Speaking at a panel organized by Tertulias and the United Campus Labour Council in support of UNB’s food service workers on April 13, Workman said, ‘Universities are very sensitive to the optics… There’s a real sense you have to display what you might call privatization savvy.’ ‘The irony is that when this sub-contracting or contracting out occurs, money isn’t really saved…. What happens is the offloading of labour headaches, the university is basically privatizing their labour headaches, so that the subcontractor is then responsible for organizing the labour force,’ said Workman.”
17) National: Henry Grabar, author of Paved Paradise and a staff writer at Slate, joined Emma Vigland on The Majority report to discuss “Why Parking In America Is A Total Nightmare.” Among the topics: the disastrous Chicago parking meters privatization deal, in which big investors reaped a huge profit while Chicagoans lost control of their parking infrastructure and public space.
“Henry Grabar dives right into the absurdity of having a car-centric society, with land dominated by parking lots, where the constant question is ‘Why no parking?’ He first tackles the base desire for free, convenient, and available parking, and the problems that each one of these elements creates, ultimately generating a lack of available parking in high-density areas and/or suburban sprawl, alongside the ‘if you build it [parking spots] they [more drivers needing to park] will come’ nature of the issue. Next, Grabar walks Emma through the history of parking as a planning issue, beginning with the popularization of the Model-T at the start of the 20th Century, with the US ultimately settling on various requirements for the creation of parking alongside any new buildings, and how this, once again, created a misappropriation of land to parking, disincentivized the creation of myriad types of housing, from broader affordable housing to architectural models like rowhouses, and spurred NIMBYism. Wrapping up, they parse through the various environmental impacts of the parking issue, and how various levels of politics are tackling the issue.” [Video, about 25 minutes]
18) National: The White House has launched a website that maps and tracks infrastructure projects and private investment to highlight the impact of laws enacted by the administration over the last three years, The Bond Buyer reports. “The website, Invest.gov, maps thousands of public infrastructure projects and private manufacturing investments spurred by the American Rescue Plan Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act. More than $220 billion in federal money has been allocated from the BIL and other laws, according to the administration. Private investment in manufacturing, including high-tech sectors like electric vehicles, computer chips and clean energy, totals $479 billion over the last three years.”
19) National: The House Ways and Means Committee has approved legislation “renewing aviation taxes for five years, a key piece of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization that’s a must-pass Congressional priority this summer. HR 3796 passed along party lines, with Democrats complaining the bill was rushed and contained a surprise border patrol earmark benefiting a top Republican lawmaker.” The Bond Buyer reports that “also attracting Democratic ire was a provision that requires the government to cover costs for border patrol agents at airports located within 30 miles of northern or southern borders. The measure is expected to apply to only a small handful of airports, including one in the district of Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. ‘I just find this really objectionable,’ said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.” [Sub required]
20) California: The trade press is reporting that a public-private partnership for a Santa Clara water project is to be the subject of a Request for Proposals in September. [Sub required]. Respondents will be shortlisted and invited to submit. Valley Water reports that the Purified Water Project “is part of Valley Water’s water resources strategy to provide a reliable water supply from a diversity of sources (see Valley Water’s Water Supply Master Plan 2040). In addition, the Purified Water Project will help to avert local groundwater depletion that could result in ground surface subsidence. Valley Water’s objectives to meet these goals are to:
- Implement an indirect potable reuse supply project that provides 10 million gallons per day (MGD) production capacity (11,200 AFY) of sustainable water supply for long-term/future demands.
- Design-construct-operate the project so that it reduces or minimizes environmental impacts.
- Deliver the project in such a manner that is cost-effective and provides value to the ratepayers.
The project will be delivered via a Public-Private Partnership (P3) utilizing a fixed-price design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) procurement method.”
The Santa Clara Valley Water District has been wrestling with its water purification project for years, and as Public Works Financing reported two years ago was subject to more delays. “This is not the first time SCVWD P3 has started the procurement process—or the second, for that matter. The reuse project, in some form, has been in planning and consideration as a P3 for more than half a decade. It has a long history. Back in 2015, the District was considering procuring the system as either a P3 or as a Progressive Design‐Build project. But in 2016, the decision was made to run a ‘dual track’ procurement, effectively running two procurements at the same time for both a P3 and a Progressive DB project. The District would eventually shortlist three teams for the Progressive DB version of the project and two teams for the P3 version.” [Public Works Financing, April 2021]. Perhaps the district board now has something up its sleeve. Its regular meeting is on September 12.
21) Hawaii: Funds raised through community-centered investible municipal finance products will be used for a number of projects in Maui, including the Community Water Authorities, which have already been approved. The public procurement group is wary of the pitfalls in dealing with investment managers, and is consulting with groups in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere on best and worst practices. The pitfalls are real. See, e.g., “Groundwater Gold Rush: Banks, pension funds and insurers have been turning California’s scarce water into enormous profits, leaving people with less to drink,” by Peter Waldman, Sinduja Rangarajan and Mark Chediak, Bloomberg. “Beyond a chain-link fence next to her trailer, water rushes south in the canal, swollen by the heavy rains, headed for almond and pistachio trees tilled by many of the biggest institutional investors on the planet. Maria says she’s never thought about why water flows next door to a million acres of farmland, yet her baby bathed in brown water and the family couldn’t flush their toilet for days. ‘That’s for them,’ she says, gesturing to the canal, ‘not for us.’” [Sub required].
22) Florida: Having dodged a financial bullet with the exposure of the disastrous effort to privatize its public utility, is Jacksonville now heading back in the wrong direction over its negotiations with the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team over “a re-imagination of the entire stadium and adjacent property”? As Florida Politics has reported, potentially more than a billion dollars could be on the table for a deal. “Unless you’ve been under a rock (and with housing costs what they are, who could blame you), you know the Jags lease with Jacksonville is elapsing at the end of the decade. The price of another commitment of 25 or 30 years is a long-term resolution to the current stadium situation and the surrounding property.
“The overall deal is a 50/50 split, but the devil is in the details and those details aren’t necessarily the razzle-dazzle renderings presented Wednesday of a stadium of the future, and a shining beacon on the water in the hype video. As for the stadium, the city would be on the hook for anywhere between $800 and $934 million two-thirds of the overall price tag. This cost share is smoothed out with a sports district development (that no one really asked for); with the Jags willing to shoulder 86%. Jacksonville may only be spending $100 million or less on that sports complex.”
23) Illinois: State lawmakers have “authorized the Illinois Department of Transportation to explore public-private partnerships for two potential projects: the state’s first implementation of managed lanes and construction of a south suburban airport for cargo purposes. ‘The department will be reviewing and evaluating both measures now that they have passed and determining next steps,’ said IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell. ‘Regarding the airport itself, IDOT continues to evaluate needs and potential uses of the project going forward.’ House Joint Resolution 23 gives IDOT authority to take the next steps by issuing a request for ideas, information, or proposals to gauge interest in a P3 to build managed lanes with tolling on Interstate 55.” [Sub required]
24) International: In a letter to the Financial Times, Elliott Sclar, noted privatization expert and Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, is warning that we need to change how we plan for the widespread use of EVs. Beside an expansion of power generation, a comprehensive solution “requires addressing the second challenge, the need for more mobility. Addressing that will require an extensive reconsideration of our contemporary approach to metropolitan land use planning. Contemporary patterns emerged under an implicit and powerful assumption that inexpensive, albeit environmentally harmful, power sources for mobility were sustainable. That assumption is no longer viable. Even as we phase out internal combustion, we must also rethink the spatial patterns in which our mobility-oriented lives are to be lived. Urban sustainability, as a matter of mobility, is thus a three-pronged challenge: to expand the use of EVs, expand the use of renewable energy to power them and change land use patterns to lessen the need for EVs.” [Sub required]
25) National/Think Tanks: As North America struggles with the hazards of smoke from the Canadian wildfires, we should remember that wildfires, a permanent feature of the environment, are a stark challenge to state and local governments, and that privatization is not the answer. For more see In the Public Interest’s report, Fighting Wildfires Is Lucrative For Private Contractors, Which Is Making Fires Bigger and More Deadly.
“A number of those experts recently spoke to ProPublica about the dire need for more managed, intentional burning of uninhabited land. ‘We need to get good fire on the ground and whittle down some of that fuel load,’ an environmental sociologist told reporter Elizabeth Weil. number of those experts recently spoke to ProPublica about the dire need for more managed, intentional burning of uninhabited land. ‘We need to get good fire on the ground and whittle down some of that fuel load,’ an environmental sociologist told reporter Elizabeth Weil. But another front in the battle against wildfires rang loud and clear: Fire suppression is big business, especially for private contractors. Before 1999, Cal Fire—the state’s fire department—never spent more than $100 million a year. In 2017-18, it spent $773 million. Then there are federal disaster funds divvied out through the U.S. Forest Service. Much of that money flows to corporations, from Lockheed Martin, which provides 747s to drop fire retardant, to the private equity-owned company that manufacturers the retardant chemicals. But another front in the battle against wildfires rang loud and clear: Fire suppression is big business, especially for private contractors. Before 1999, Cal Fire—the state’s fire department—never spent more than $100 million a year. In 2017-18, it spent $773 million. Then there are federal disaster funds divvied out through the U.S. Forest Service. Much of that money flows to corporations, from Lockheed Martin, which provides 747s to drop fire retardant, to the private equity-owned company that manufacturers the retardant chemicals.”
26) California: AMR, one of the largest private, for-profit ambulance companies in the country, is suing Sonoma County for insourcing its ambulance service. “The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously agreed to award its exclusive ambulance contract to Sonoma County Fire District, all but ending American Medical Response’s 30-year reign in the county. AMR, known locally as Sonoma Life Support, has alleged that the bidding process was tainted by conflict of interest and favoritism toward the fast-growing and ambitious fire district and said it would challenge the decision. (…) On Tuesday, county health services officials said AMR scored lower than the district in two categories. AMR’s proposed base rate for ambulance service was $3,900 while the district proposed $3,100. In addition, AMR failed to submit several years of financial statements. Health Services Director Tina Rivera said the fire district also ‘provided better answers during the proposal presentations.’ The county issued a request for proposals in early November 2022.”
27) International: The Trades Union Congress (U.K.) has some trenchant observations and suggestion about austerity and the pandemic. “The first module of the UK-Covid-19 Inquiry will focus on Resilience and Preparedness. Public hearings that begin on 13 June will include senior political figures taking the stand who served in government in the decade before the pandemic. The TUC has ‘core participant’ status for this inquiry module. As well as providing evidence on behalf of our 48 affiliated unions and their 5.5 million members, we will use this role to encourage the inquiry to focus on the impacts of austerity on the UK’s resilience and preparedness. After a decade of relentless spending cuts, our public services went into the pandemic in a severely weakened state. This included backlogs in health and justice, spiralling levels of unmet need in social care, and the fragmentation of service provision. Cuts to health and safety infrastructure left regulators under-resourced and unable to effectively deter employers from putting workers and the public at risk.”
28) National: Chartwells, the multination corporation that specializes in outsourcing food services in public schools and hospitals, is leveraging its influence by developing a fleet of robots to do food delivery with its partner, “Starship Technologies.”
29) National: The U.S. left must rebuild broken links to soldiers and veterans, Suzanne Gordon and Steve Early say in an interview in Jacobin. “The lack of engagement between the US civilian left and soldiers and veterans seems striking, and even a bit alarming. While the armed forces carry out the mission of US imperialism, millions of working people sit at the heart of that machine, many of whom enlisted out of economic desperation and are skeptical of power and authority. Moreover, once enlisted, grievances among rank-and-file soldiers pile up — over racism, misogyny, poverty, and the military’s reckless attitude toward troop health and safety. This chasm is all the more puzzling given the Left’s proud history of military organizing and of veteran leadership in historic U.S. worker and social movements.”