1) National: As Wall Street celebrates what it sees as its biggest political win since the 1920s, In the Public Interest publishes a detailed report on how major banks are propping up and profiting from mass incarceration and deportation. ITPI researcher Benjamin Davis says “they need Wall Street to survive, given their business model. They are dependent on the debt.”
With Trump supporters pointing to Japanese internment camps during WWII as a possible legal model, and Trump saying he will round up and detain up to 3 million people, banks may face a stark choice about whether they will invest in potentially illegal and unconstitutional programs operationalized by private prison companies.
The Banks That Finance Private Prison Companies shows that six banks have played large roles in bankrolling CoreCivic and GEO Group: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, and U.S. Bancorp. It says, “the banks highlighted in this report should cease providing debt financing for private prison companies. Until banks do so, their clients and shareholders—including endowments, churches, universities, socially responsible investors, municipalities, states, and pension funds—should exert pressure on the banks to cut ties with CCA and GEO Group. With a successful, concerted effort, CCA and GEO Group will be unable to obtain debt and continue contributing to and enabling mass incarceration and the criminalization of immigration.”
2) National: As Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan moves to privatize Medicare (see Danielle Keeton-Olsen’s excellent backgrounder in Talking Points Memo), Paul Krugman of the New York Times asks “why try to destroy this successful program, which is in important respects doing better than ever? The main answer, from the point of view of people like Mr. Ryan, is probably that Medicare is in the cross hairs precisely because of its success: It would be very helpful for opponents of government to do away with a program that clearly demonstrates the power of government to improve people’s lives.”
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), rumored to be the next Secretary of HHS, says Congress will tackle Medicare privatization next year. “As HHS secretary, Price would have opportunities to undermine Obamacare through the regulatory process, such as loosening restrictions for the states on Medicaid or not enforcing the individual mandate. Price and his team would have to decide how aggressively to peel back the health law through the regulatory process while Congress works on repeal legislation.”
3) National: Legal teams are “on deck and ready to fight back” against any efforts by the incoming Trump administration to privatize 640 million acres of public lands. ”We’re getting ready for an onslaught of anti-environmental policy, and we’re arming up to litigate,” says Erik Molvar, the executive director of he Western Watersheds Project. ”The Trump administration is going to find it very difficult to take away all of the federal laws which have been adopted over the past 40 years.” Resistance to the Trump agenda is also coming together on a number of broader fronts.
4) National: Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education asks if Donald Trump’s plan to cut the federal government’s involvement in education will lead to a “race to the bank.” Burris says “the most shocking instances of charter school scandal and fraud consistently appear in states that have embraced the choice ‘market’ philosophy. Are we willing to watch our tax dollars wasted, as scam artists and profiteers cash in?”
5) National: Prominent Democratic attorney Ron Klain warns Democrats and others that Trump’s infrastructure plan is not a jobs creator, but a massive corporate tax break dressed up as an answer to the critical need for infrastructure renewal. “Because the plan subsidizes investors, not projects; because it funds tax breaks, not bridges; because there’s no requirement that the projects be otherwise unfunded, there is simply no guarantee that the plan will produce any net new hiring,” he said. “When the plan is passed and those voters see that it fattens investors’ and contractors’ pockets (but not workers’), creates few jobs, depresses wages and damages our environment, they will sour on it and turn against its backers.” [Writer David Dayen talks about Trump’s infrastructure plan on Ring of Fire Radio (audio)]
Nevertheless, transnational corporations are scrambling to get to the tax breaks, including those wanting to build more oil and gas pipelines, with the enthusiastic support of the building trades unions, “half of whose members spend part of each year working on energy projects,” according to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has made a plea for a definition of infrastructure that goes beyond asphalt and pipelines, saying “I would like us to think about affordable housing as part of our critical infrastructure.” Trump is reportedly being advised on energy issues by lobbyist Mike McKenna, the president of MWR Strategies. Up until June of this year, McKenna was a lobbyist for Koch Companies Public Sector on “pipeline safety” issues. He is a vocal climate change skeptic.
6) National: Shirley Ybarra, the former Virginia transportation secretary and former privatization activist for the Koch-funded Reason Foundation, is working on the transportation transition team for Donald Trump. The Washington Post says “there’s talk that she may be a candidate for the job herself.” Plans to privatize TSA have also resurfaced. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) raised objections Friday to what he described as “an attempt by House proponents of air traffic control privatization to include language in a defense policy bill that would effectively squelch militar
y objections to the plan. Nelson described his concerns in a letter Friday to Senate Armed Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) the committee’s senior Democrat.”
7) National: Donald Trump nominates Jeff Sessions, a hard-line opponent of sentencing reform and immigration reform, to be attorney general, which could be a boon to the for-profit prison and detention industry. Sessions faces a tough confirmation fight. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund lays out “what you need to know about Jeff Sessions.” The D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute estimates there are about 820,000 unauthorized immigrants with criminal felony and misdemeanor convictions.
The New York Times says Sessions, with his “history of racism and bigotry … has been the Senate’s most ardent opponent of fixing the immigration system. In 2015 he proposed a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone re-entering the country illegally after being deported. That could increase the federal prison population by as much as 30 percent. As Mr. Trump’s chief law enforcer, he is likely to fully support efforts to enlist local law enforcement in a widening dragnet for people without papers. He also, during the campaign, endorsed the idea of a ban on Muslim immigrants.”
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) have launched a joint effort to defend immigrants’ civil rights. “President-elect Trump’s promise to terrorize, incarcerate, and expel immigrants has already ignited a bottom-up effort to defend and fight for the rights of immigrants and those targeted by his divisive rhetoric,” Pablo Alvarado, the director of NDLON, said on Friday.
8) National: As Donald Trump meets with school privatization activist Michelle Rhee, a possible contender for education secretary in the new administration, the Huffington Post’s Peter Tucker denounces the Washington Post for ignoring Rhee’s controversial record as DC schools chief and (her successor) Kaya Henderson’s censure for ethical lapses. “This is just the latest example of the Post downplaying the Rhee/Henderson era’s serious shortcomings and scandals, which have included: widespread cheating on standardized tests; the widening of an already vast achievement gap; shortchanging ‘at risk’ students; and lead in schools’ water. Additionally, under Rhee and Henderson, the teachers’ union was weakened and DCPS experienced unprecedented instability due to mass teacher firings and separations.” Trump also met with right wing donor Betsy DeVos, a proponent of charter schools and vouchers.
9) National: Donald Trump has reversed course and settled fraud suits by former students of Trump University. The set of cases are only one of a series of scandals that have beleaguered the private, for profit education industry. “The complaints alleged that students were cheated out of thousands of dollars in tuition through deceptive claims about what they would learn and high-pressure sales tactics. (…) Documents made public through the litigation revealed that some former Trump University managers had given testimony about its unscrupulous and exploitative business practices. One sales executive testified that the operation was ‘a facade, a total lie.’ Another manager called it a ‘fraudulent scheme.’”
The settlement is also a vindication of the class action legal system, which has been under siege by corporate interests and right wing jurists at all levels of the federal judiciary for years. The plaintiffs’ bar is a key component of public interest law, and pro bono work by responsible law firms that support it is essential. San Diego-based law firm Robbins Geller, which represented some of the students pro bono for six years, said in a press release “‘This case was unprecedented in so many ways; it’s only fitting that it ended with an nprecedented recovery for so many people.’ Robbins Geller partner Rachel Jensen said. ‘Our firm put the lives of the class members and the interests of our country before our fees, and for that I could not be prouder.’”
10) National: Writing in the Washington Post, charter school advocate Jay Mathews says he is trying to reach common ground with schools privatization opponent Diane Ravitch. “I asked Ravitch: Would you shut down charters altogether, even if some were run by dedicated educators who were giving students more than they got in their regular public schools? At this critical moment for charter schools, with Ravitch so influential on the anti-charter side, her answer is important. ‘I would call a moratorium for all new charters,’ Ravitch said. ‘All charters would be required to be financially and academically transparent.’ She would ban for-profit charters. Charters would have to fill all empty seats each year, she said, so average test scores would not rise just because low-performing students had left. Charters would have to have the same demographics as regular schools in their neighborhoods, she said, with the same portion of students with disabilities and students learning English.”
11) National: John Fisher, chairman of the KIPP Foundation, which trains teachers for the KIPP Public Charter School Network, is listed as #321 on the Forbes 400 with a net worth of $2.2 billion.
12) California: As two more “corporate reformer” candidates jump in at the last minute to the March election for LAUSD board seats, blogger Karen Wolfe runs down the connections. “Things are about to get very interesting.”
13) California: Charter school special interests flooded state legislative races with campaign money, “and mostly got the results they were seeking” according to Southern California Public Radio/KPCC’s Aaron Mendelson. “Their one big defeat came in the 27th Assembly District, representing the San Jose area. There, the Parent Teacher Alliance dumped more than $4 million into an effort to elect Madison Nguyen—the most any group spent in a single race. Yet San Jose city councilman Ash Kalra defeated Nguyen in that race. A union group was active there, pouring more than $1.2 million into the contest, which funded a big chunk of negative spending against Nguyen.”
14) District of Columbia: Metro calls a halt to its plan to privatize i
ts parking garages, saying it needs to “reevaluate” the issue. The RFP has been withdrawn. “Concerns about the proposal included whether there could be a conflict between maximizing parking revenue and maximizing the number of people who take the train rather than joining D.C. area traffic jams.” Why this obvious issue was not considered or taken seriously before what is supposed to be a careful RFP-drafting process is unclear.
15) District of Columbia: The D.C. Public Charter School Board released its annual rankings of the best and worst charter schools. [Report]
16) Kansas: The state has issued a Request for Proposals to privatize Osawatomie State Hospital, a public mental health facility. “Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican and chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said the Legislature will have a major role in determining whether the state actually privatizes Osawatomie State Hospital. ‘They can’t do anything without legislative approval,’ he said. ‘We’re going to decide if we even like what they’ve got.’”
17) Massachusetts: Moody’s says the voter rejection of lifting the cap on charter schools is credit positive for urban local governments in the state. “It will allow those cities and towns to maintain current financial operations without having to adjust to increased financial pressure from charter school funding,” Moody’s said. [Sub required]
18) Michigan: State police are investigating an online, for-profit education company, Michigan Educational Partnership, and the Vassar public schools, over the “alleged issuance of fraudulent diplomas and student transcripts, decisions made without school board approval and dummy invoices used to pay a person’s private debts.”
19) Nevada: Washoe County schools are no longer at risk of being taken over by the state and turned into charter schools, with their staffs required to reapply for their jobs. But the state department of education “identified nine Clark County schools that will continue to be considered for the Achievement School District in 2017. These schools are Cambeiro, Craig, Fitzgerald and Kelly elementaries. Also at risk are Brinley, Mack, Von Tobel, Orr and Bailey middle schools. (…) The takeovers won’t stop there. The state will potentially take over six more schools in 2018-2019, meaning Washoe schools aren’t safe unless they improve.”
20) New Jersey: Two groups file a federal racial discrimination suit against Red Bank Charter School. “The complaint says administrators violated a 2007 consent order requiring the charter to have demographics matching the school-age population of Red Bank. The groups argue that the disparity between students’ ethnicity and family income has actually increased since the agreement.”
21) North Carolina: Students at one of the state’s two new online charter schools are dropping out at a massive rate, well beyond the legal limit. “North Carolina Connections Academy, a virtual charter school backed by education technology giant Pearson, reported a student dropout rate of 31.3 percent for the 2015-16 academic year. State law says virtual charters can’t exceed dropout rates of 25 percent.”
22) Pennsylvania: After five years without a raise and three years without a contract, Chester-Upland teachers are demanding action. They picketed last Thursdsay outside a board meeting. “‘We really do hear the district when they say we don’t have money, but after five years I don’t know how much that answer really works,’ said Michele Paulick, president of the 230-member [Chester Upland Education Association], which includes teachers, counselors, and social workers. The financially troubled district has been controlled by the state for more than 20 years and has struggled with huge charter school enrollments that it must pay for. Last year, the district won a reduction in its payments in a court-approved negotiated settlement, but it still struggles with a large structural deficit.”
23) Pennsylvania: The East Allegheny Education Association is objecting to the sale of a former public school building to establish a charter school. “Union President Robin Highlands objected to the proposal. ‘We would absolutely lose students to this charter school,’ she said. Ms. Highlands said she is ‘very upset’ with the plan and that she doesn’t know how the school board could support it if they support public school education. Board President Gerri McCullough said school directors have had some of the same concerns about the proposal, and they haven’t made a final decision on a sale.” A public hearing will be held on December 12.
24) International: Without any mandate, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing privatization, writes columnist Tom Parkin. “Even Prime Minister Harper never tried this. It’s so far out, Trudeau’s plan brings him in line with billionaire US President-elect Donald Trump. Last week, transition team member Steven Mnuchin, also a Wall Street veteran, reaffirmed Trump’s promise to create a private investment infrastructure bank. Trump and Trudeau suggest these investments won’t cost anything—as if finance capitalists are pixie angels who scatter magic dust that grows free transit, bridges and roads where it lands. What nonsense. Michael Sabia is more honest. Sabia, CEO of a $250 billion Canadian investment fund, recently told investors a 7 to 9% return on infrastructure investment is what private capital wants.”
25) Think Tanks: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will hold its State and Nation Policy Summit in DC at the end of next week, and planning for a renewed privatization offensive in states and localities is sure to be high on the agenda. Its Criminal Justice Reform Task Force will he sponsoring a meeting of the “Public Policy Response to the Addiction and Opioid Crisis Working Group.” The task force itself will meet December 1 and hear from John Malcolm of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at Heritage; and Shana O’Toole of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. The moderator will be Vikrant Reddy of the Charles Koch Institute.
1) National: As noted above, House Speaker Paul Ryan is moving ahead with a plan to privatize Medicare, and he can expect stout resistance from many Congressional Democrats. But Talking Points Memo also offers up a list of lawmakers who are “wobblers” or “we’ll get back to yous” on the issue.
2) National: House transportation chairman Bill Shuster (R) says Donald Trump favors privatizing air traffic control. Shuster recently told the media he is not interested in becoming transportation secretary. Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who was recently defeated in his reelection bid, wants the job. Mica fought doggedly for years to privatize Amtrak.
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