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First, the good news…

1) National/Think Tanks: The Brookings Institution has issued a report on how community schools can help superintendents transform education. “While programs and services to support the whole child are an obvious response to the volatile and inequitable impacts of COVID-19, many superintendents aren’t prepared for how to get partners and families—the strength of our communities—to work together in a strategic way. Earlier this year, AASA convened a group of its members at its annual National Conference on Education to talk about community schools. Specifically, superintendents discussed what they already knew about the strategy, about their communities’ enduring and emerging needs, and about how to create sustainable and impactful districtwide initiatives to meet their goals.”

2) National: Federal agencies are moving to implement an executive order President Biden signed shortly after he was inaugurated “to eliminate systemic racism from the way they operate, most notably by sending more dollars to disadvantaged communities.” Route Fifty reports “the federal agencies committed to, among other things, doing more to take input from disadvantaged communities into consideration; award more government contracts to small, disadvantaged communities; and track how federal policies affect inequalities—something the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged it does not do. (…) In its plan, the Department of Transportation acknowledged ‘it is important to recognize that past federal transportation investments have too often failed to address inequities, or even made them worse.’ The Transportation Department pledged to develop a way to measure how lower-income people spend a much larger share of their income on transportation than others do. The measurement, it said, will be taken into consideration in funding and other decisions.”

3) National: Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough vows to resist privatization. “Instead, McDonough, who previously served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and has held his current post for about a year, said that the VA system needs to invest in its aging infrastructure to the tune of some $18 billion. ‘If we do not invest in modern infrastructure in the VA, (that’s the) real risk toward privatization,’ he said during a news conference held in the lobby of the Granite Building on the medical center’s campus.” McDonough had been invited to the event by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who “said he would like to see VA services expand, rather than shrink.”

4) Mississippi: Makaelah Walters of Facing South reports on the movement to democratize Mississippi’s electric cooperatives. Catherine Robinson, program manager at Mississippi’s One Voice, says “most of these areas have a majority African American population. Right now, Swain County has one African American on the board. Similarly, other boards in the area are majority non-Black, and most do not have a woman on the board, either. In Twin County, this has been the issue since about 1938, that no woman had ever sat on the board. Our goal today is to start a petition to diversify the board. But every year it is a challenge, I can definitely tell you that. The first year, we did this with Twin County in the Mississippi Delta with Sarah Ann Hood. She received around 650 votes from about 13,000 members. That’s when we realized there’s a real issue of representation.”

5) Nebraska: State legislators have passed a bill that ends privatization of child welfare. “‘Youth know and families know their cases will be managed by the state. There’s not a risk of someone else like St. Francis coming in and underbidding or underfunding their contract and having these risks go on in the future’ said [Allison Derr, Nebraska Appleseed child welfare attorney]. The new bill goes beyond just ending privatization. It adds more protection for children. And behavioral and mental healthcare services will meet the kids directly in their homes. A change experts say is crucial.”


6) National/Think Tanks: The Network for Public Education has released a major new state-by-state report on the health of American public education, taking up where their 2018 report left off. “The battle to save a cornerstone of our democracy, public education, is not lost,” the report says. “But the privatization movement is no longer in its infancy. The Overton Window has shifted. The privatization of public education is now in its adolescence. It has achieved the full-throated support of the right-wing, which now controls many state legislatures. Conserving public schools and local control is no longer part of a conservative platform: destroying locally controlled public schools via privatized choice is.”

“In analyzing a state’s resistance to the privatization of public education through school choice, we look at the following five major categories, each composed of multiple subcomponents:

  • Expansion of Privatization
  • Educational Quality
  • Student Rights and Protections
  • Accountability and Transparency”

7) National: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has 5 questions for Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest. Asked about race and privatization, Cohen said, “This is perhaps the most important question we face as a nation. The divisions in America, while nothing new, are expressing themselves in more overt and dramatic ways — through ever-increasing racial income and wealth inequality; vastly unequal racial health impacts of the pandemic; police violence against Black people; disparities among access to essential infrastructure, such as student access to broadband; and more. Privatization makes this worse: The transformation of public things into market things further segregates us and puts us in competition with each other for essential needs, which also fuels our national empathy deficit.”

8) National: Writing in Common Dreams, In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler says federal spending on charter schools needs reform. “For the first time since the federal Charter Schools Program was established in 1994, the department is improving its rules for grant applicants. Each year, the program awards nearly $500 million to open or expand charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated with little to no public oversight. The rule changes are long overdue. Much has shifted in nearly three decades, with charter schools now in 43 states, enrolling over 7 percent of all public school students. Yet, some charter school advocates are fighting the new rules, calling them ‘sabotage’ and those who support the changes ‘bureaucratic gremlins’ who have gone ‘woke.’ Their opposition centers on the rules allegedly discouraging charter schools from applying for grants and burdening charter school operators with more paperwork. Here’s why they’re wrong, and why the new rules are common sense.”

9) NationalStates are looking to community colleges to fill labor gaps. “Amid a labor shortage that has baffled businesses and slowed the nation’s economic rehabilitation—policymakers, community college administrators and private businesses in several states are fueling new workforce-oriented initiatives, from tuition incentives and paid apprenticeships to boot camps… These projects include a new, permanent state grant program in Texas that will fund the launch or expansion of workforce training across the state. In Louisiana, community colleges soon will grant full scholarships to students entering short-staffed fields such as health care and information technology.”

10) National: After enduring a nearly three year conservative backlash against the Black Lives Matter protests against the police murder of George Floyd and others, which took the form of constant attacks on a demonized body of legal theory most couldn’t even define, an organized response has begun to take shape. There are now multiple resources available to understand the backlash, its relation to history of the wider right wing, and what can be done to fight back. Following is a list of some of these resources.

11) National: Gadfly on the Wall’s Steven Singer explains how “how a hatred for public school gave us school privatization.” It’s a story of how the original idea for public, locally-accountable charter schools was twisted into an argument for the eventual destruction of public education. “With this cover, the Citizen’s League, which was underwritten by the Minneapolis Foundation, was able to pass a bill requiring mandatory statewide standardized testing. The bill, authored by the Minnesota Business Partnership put forth the evaluation system necessary to demonize the public schools and prepare the way for the ultimate goal—privatization. In 1991, the same forces passed the nation’s first charter school bill. But let’s be clear on this – the charter schools created in this bill and the “charter schools” talked about by Shanker and Budde are very different concepts.”

12) Florida: The Republican war on education is getting stranger by the day. Florida is now targeting school math textbooks over critical race theory objections. “The pushback was almost immediate. Some Democrats criticized the decision, arguing that it was part of a continued attempt to politicize education in Florida. ‘#DeSantis has turned our classroom into political battlefields and this is just the beginning,’ state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, posted on Twitter.” The Tampa Bay Times says “next up is social studies, and many educators have predicted the effort will be more confrontational than in past years—particularly after the approval of a new law that will require schools to open to the public committee meetings where books are reviewed for purchase, and to make all materials available for public review before it is approved. The measure, signed by DeSantis last month, will also require schools to post all the selection criteria they use in choosing books.”

13) Illinois: Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRP), part of the CTU, say defend our technology coordinators from privatization. “Technology Coordinators—tech cos—have always provided essential services to our school communities, but during the pandemic their roles were even more essential. During a normal school year, they are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the pandemic, their effort was heroic. We would not have been able to provide remote learning for our students without them. So how does CPS respond after two years in which these vital workers demonstrated their value to our school communities? The district appears ready to outsource their jobs. Excuse me, but this reminds me of ‘Groundhog Day,’ where Bill Murray keeps reliving the same day over and over. We’ve seen this movie from CPS before and we all know how it ends. In 2014, then Mayor Rahm Emanuel privatized janitorial services—funneling millions to Aramark—and left our schools filthy. The district has used privatized nursing services for years, forcing nurses to jump from school to school leaving students and staff in the lurch when medical crises erupt.”

14) Michigan: Bay City Public Schools is looking at privatizing its bus system. “Jennifer Irman drives bus number 60 for Bay City Public Schools and is the United Steel Workers Vice President. ‘What a morale breaker to come back from spring break to the news that they are trying to privatize our jobs after we have worked so hard day in and day out,’ Irman said.”

15) Washington: Danielle Marie Holland, editor of the South Seattle Emerald, says our kids deserve better than our broken busing system. “This week I learned that First Student, the international corporate giant in charge of SPS busing has been charged with and has admitted to continuous, grave safety violations over the years, but has yet to be held accountable in any real way by State regulators or schools. In March, they privately settled with the State to avoid a public hearing on violations which included repeated failures to screen drivers for drugs and alcohol, clearing employees to drive before they’d even completed an application for employment or had their driving records reviewed or verified. Even more amazing is that this is clearly a pattern for First Student across North America.”

16) Wisconsin: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, a former public school educator and state superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction, has vetoed legislation that would have dramatically overhauled education in Wisconsin “by making all children eligible to receive a taxpayer-funded private school voucher, regardless of their household income. (…) The DPI, which oversees the voucher programs, estimated the plan could have raised property taxes by as much as $577 million for residents living outside of Milwaukee. Voucher advocates characterized the projection as purposefully inflated to deter lawmakers from backing it. ‘It is remarkable to me that many supporters of this bill, who commonly express concerns about property taxes when it comes to supporting more than 800,000 public school children in our state, are apparently unfazed by the fiscal impact this bill could have on families due to the way these programs are funded,’ Evers said in a veto message.”


17) National: “Activists condemned Friday’s announcement by the Biden administration that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will resume oil and gas lease sales on public lands as yet another betrayal of President Joe Biden’s promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the climate emergency,” Common Dreams reports. “Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth, recalled that as a presidential candidate, ‘Biden promised to end new oil and gas leasing on public lands,’ but now he is ‘prioritizing oil executive profits over future generations.’ ‘Biden’s Interior Department has even issued permits to drill at a rate faster than the Trump administration,’ she added. ‘Now, the Bureau of Land Management is preparing to hold its first public lands lease sale, despite having no legal obligation to do so. If Biden wants to be a climate leader, he must stop auctioning off our public lands to Big Oil.’”

18) National: Infrastructure Investor has taken another of its periodical looks at the prospects for private investment in the water sector and sees a mixed bag. While the Biden infrastructure bill will pump $55 billion of investment in the sector and private infrastructure funds in the sector are well subscribed, the overhang of years of underinvestment in the regulated sector weighs heavily. One bright spot they detect is a possible incentive that water projects may provide for private investors to get into the popular ESG space (environmental, social and governance). “There’s an opportunity to make a tremendous ESG and sustainability impact. It’s embedded in our process, and water infrastructure represents a huge opportunity to implement our ESG and sustainability goals, given that underinvestment. I think that’s a huge part of it,” said Ridgewood’s managing partner Michael Albrecht. [Sub required]. But could this amount to greenwashing water privatization, especially by pension funds?

19) Iowa: Republican Governor Kim Reynolds is weighing a bill passed by both state legislative bodies that would end the existing design-build carveout for universities. So-called DB projects are sometimes considered the most efficient form of public-private collaboration in construction. [Legislative history and text].

20) Maryland: The Purple Line light P3 rail project, which has faced years of delays and difficulties, has reached financial closure. “Maryland officials have said the consortium will finance the increased construction costs. The state will pay back those costs with higher monthly payments—averaging about $255 million annually—over the 30 years. The consortium’s new financing includes a $1.76 billion low-interest federal loan, which has grown from the original $875 million loan, $643 million in private activity bonds issued to PLTP and $293 million of its own equity.” It is now targeted to begin carrying passenger in fall 2026. The value of the P3 agreement has grown from its original $5.6 billion to $9.3 billion. The dispute resolution procedure is said to have been “streamlined.”

21) NebraskaThe state’s so-called public-private partnership bill is nearing passage. Bye bye oversight and legislative approval. “The requirement that the Nebraska State Highway Commission oversee and approve public-private partnership proposals entered into by the NDOT would be removed. The requirement that public-private partnership agreements be submitted to the legislature for approval and that lawmakers give prior approval for projects exceeding $100 million would also be removed.”

22) New York“I’ve studied stadium financing for over two decades—and the new Bills stadium is one of the worst deals for taxpayers I’ve ever seen,” writes Victor Matheson, Professor of Economics and Accounting, College of the Holy Cross. “Study after study has shown that stadiums are terrible public investments. The taxpayers financing them rarely want to pay for them. So why are governments willing to subsidize them?”

Matheson says “there were many things to dislike about the Bills stadium project. At $850 million, it is the largest taxpayer handout for a new stadium in U.S. history even before additional subsidies such as annual maintenance costs, property tax exemptions and tax exemptions for municipal bond interest are considered. These factors could easily drive the total government price tag well over $1 billion. With taxpayers footing over 60% of the $1.4 billion price tag, it also runs counter to the trend of the past decade toward lower levels of public funding for stadium construction.”

He concludes, “with their current lease expiring in 2023, the team had already indicated that the 2022 season could have been its last in Buffalo. This threat was a slap in the face of loyal Bills fans who have supported the team for over 60 years through subzero temperatures, lake-effect snowfour straight Super Bowl losses in the 1990s and more losing seasons than winning ones.”

23) PennsylvaniaThe statewide P3 bridge-building drive is running into some serious political headwinds. “The Clarion Chamber of Commerce hosted a press conference for the local organizations participating in the No P3 Bridge Tolling Coalition, an organization taking a closer look at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (P3) initiative and the legality of its implementation. (…) John Stroup with the Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry hosted the event. He said the event was to introduce those participating locally in the No P3 Bridge Coalition. This is a statewide organization partnered with many economic groups and chambers, along with industries, first responders, individuals and other organizations. ‘We’re questioning what PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission’s public-private partnership of P3 is doing with the tolling of the nine bridges. We are all in favor of updating our infrastructure in our state, but we question how the P3 is trying to fund the build up right now. From the outset, tolling plan has been flawed and lacked oversight from the legislative bodies,’ Stroup said.”

Opposition to the plan has been gaining ground since last month for a variety of reasons, many of them familiar to opponents of P3s across the country. “This past November, the PA General Assembly passed a measure requiring legislative approval of specific proposals to add tolls. The legislature has suggested several alternative revenue-generating options, but Governor Wolf and PennDOT are not working with the legislature to find other, more equitable solutions.” State officials believe they have responded constructively to the criticisms.

24) PennsylvaniaThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is privatizing the York City Sewer Authority. “York customers will pay more in the long run. The current monthly rate of $32.60 for a York city customer who uses 3,458 gallons will remain unchanged for three years, but then will go up by no more than 47% in the following year. Eventually, York customers can expect their current monthly rates to more than double to match Pennsylvania American’s current $78.41 monthly residential charge for the wastewater customers who use 3,458 gallons in their main area. PUC policy is to eventually unify the rates, so York customers can expect their rates to go up in future rate proceedings.”

25) Think TanksMost utility companies aren’t supportive of policy measures that would combat climate change, reports The Daily Kos’ April Siese. “Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility Climate and Environmental Justice Director Christina Herman urged utilities to change their ways, especially in the face of shareholder pressure. ‘With a quarter of U.S. emissions stemming from the power sector, and its potential for decarbonizing the economy, effective climate policies must be enacted to promote a rapid shift away from fossil fuels for power generation,” Herman said in a statement. “Investors are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate disruption on their portfolios, on the health of the economy and on society broadly… This report makes it clear that most [utilities] are not on the right trajectory, and that needs to change.’”

Criminal Justice and Immigration

26) NationalCoreCivic’s stock has been rising because of a new contract with Arizona and the potential cancellation of Title 42, which accordingly to financial analysts could cause a “significant influx of migrants across the border.” Meanwhile, the company released its 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report, which contains this gem: “We recognize the inherent dignity of every person and the benefits of promoting a culture of individual respect. Respecting the rights of those in our care is fundamental to our mission and a core component of the ethical framework that governs our business and operations.”

This claim might come as a surprise to Prison Legal News, which recently reported that a CoreCivic staff member has been indicted for beating an unresisting prisoner then attempting a cover-up. “The former guard, 42-year-old Kenan Lister, was a Supervising Officer and Security Threat Group Coordinator when he allegedly assaulted a prisoner who was not resisting on August 30, 2019. The prisoner, identified as R.V., was sitting in a holding cell when Lister allegedly punched him in the head, knocking him to the ground, where he proceeded to kick, punch, and strike R.V. multiple times in the head, chest, and torso.

After he finished assaulting R.V., Lister also allegedly refused to make necessary notifications for him to receive medical care, knowing that R.V. had serious medical needs stemming from injuries sustained during the assault.” Wall Street doesn’t seem to care about such “ethical frameworks.”

27) National/Colorado: Racial discrimination, excessive force and retaliation have been alleged at the GEO Group’s ICE detention center in Aurora. “The immigrant rights organizations are demanding that ICE remove James and Musa from the detention center after an investigation into Alvarez and Perry. The complaint also asks for an investigation into any other claims of racial discrimination at the center, the firing of any staff member found to have used excessive force there, and the termination of any employees who have violated the civil or constitutional rights of detained people at the facility. (…) James, who has been detained at the Aurora facility for more than two years, said he has been a victim of excessive use of force by facility officers, has witnessed anti-Black racism and was subjected to excessive searches and pat-downs. In an affidavit accompanying the complaint, James recounted multiple instances when Officer Perry made racist remarks in his presence…”

“‘I am worried I will have a mental breakdown,’ [Musa] said. ‘Every time someone has a breakdown, it’s not guaranteed that they will come back the same. I am scared because I have seen what Alvarez and Perry can do – choking, pepper spraying and beating. When other officers see them doing something like this, they don’t ask what’s going on to try to de-escalate. They just join in.’”

28) National: The Center for American Progress has published a blueprint for how colleges and universities can bring Pell Grant-funded programs back to prisons. “For more than 25 years, federal law has forbidden people in prison from using Pell Grants to pay for college. However, after a long, hard fight by a wide range of advocates as well as currently and formerly incarcerated students, Congress changed the law in late 2020 to give incarcerated people a second chance at a college education. Once implemented, the law will likely result in the biggest expansion of prison higher education programming since the initiation of the Obama administration’s Second Chance Pell (SCP) program in 2015; by one estimate, as many as 463,000 Pell Grant-eligible incarcerated people could stand to benefit from this new program.”

29) NationalEconomic incentives are driving poor healthcare services in private prisons. “Private companies give a per diem rate for basic and specialty care—which would be lower if services were publicly provided. The negotiated per diem rate creates a huge profit incentive. By providing little or substandard care, companies have everything to gain and nothing to lose. In contracting the financial and bureaucratic burden of incarcerated health care to private firms, the correctional departments ‘win’ too. But, to say the least, incarcerated people don’t fare well in this system.”

Bad prison food is also driving bad health outcomes for incarcerated people, says a report on ending the hidden punishment of food in prison. “The abysmal quality of food in carceral settings is well-documented. High in sodium and sugar, the diet in our nation’s jails and prisons is severely lacking in healthy foods. More often than not, it’s carb-heavy and ultra-processed fare. It’s also frequently rotten, moldy, or vermin-infested. And there’s rarely enough of the food to appropriately nourish. As a result, ​‘a positive relationship with food—an essential part of being human—is denied every day to incarcerated people,’ wrote the IJ report authors.”

30) National: Huffpost’s Jessica Schulberg says legislation to do something about exorbitant prison phone calls might finally pass Congress. Key bills have been sponsored by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Bobby Rush (D-IL). “Duckworth has worked out a bill with the National Sheriff’s Association. (…) The Duckworth legislation has one Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio). Phone justice advocates have welcomed the advancement of Duckworth’s bill, but hope for a vote on Rush’s bill as well.” Rush “has introduced bills to address the high cost of phone calls in prisons and jails nine times, starting in 2005, but has not been able to get any signed into law.’ “There’s an organized resistance from sheriffs and local county law enforcement groups that reap an enormous profit from their unholy alliance with these phone companies,’ Rush said.”

31) Think Tanks: Writing in the Harvard Political Review, Naomi Corlette says prison labor is a human rights abuse. “The legacy of slavery in America manifests through an incredibly exploitative carceral system in which Black people are still heavily controlled and exploited to generate profit for private entities against their will. The system of prison labor in particular forces people to work in inhumane conditions in a way that mirrors the attributes of slavery in America. Slavery and anti-Blackness are deeply ingrained in American institutions, and prison labor is just one of the thinly veiled systems used to perpetuate it…

“This system of labor proves to be highly profitable for private prisons. Although these prisons only make up a small portion of prisons across America, their standing allows them to have a disproportionate influence on prison policy in America, allowing them to perpetuate the harm they are causing.”

Public Services

32) Florida: Building inspection is a critical, even lifesaving, public service. But even after the notorious collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside and promises of reform, lawmakers have dropped the ball. In the face of this paralysis, says Frank Simone, general counsel and partner at KW Property Management and Consultants in Sunrise, ‘the private sector is already taking over.’ (…) Some condo lawyers argue that it was too ambitious to expect that a sweeping safety bill could be passed in a short three-month legislative session. ‘I know it was very, very ambitious legislation,’ said Gary Mars, a condo lawyer at Siegfried Rivera in Coral Gables, ‘It would have taken a lot of effort to get it through all of the machinations developing legislation of this type.’”

33) Florida: News4Jax reports that “Jacksonville’s trash troubles were supposed to be getting better with the return of curbside recycling, but some people are telling us, nothing has changed. It’s been nearly two weeks since curbside recycling resumed, and it was supposed to mean a return to normal pick-up of yard waste too.” Looks like someone is finally looking at the actual contracts, and will get back to people in a couple of months. “A special city council committee will meet next Thursday, April 21, at City Hall. This time, they are going to be looking at the contracts the city has with three private haulers including Waste Management. They will learn how those contracts are laid out. The purpose of the committee is to come up with suggestions that will be presented at the end of June.”

34) Massachusetts/NationalRepublic Services, the national private, for-profit trash hauling company, is acquiring Peabody, Massachusetts-based JRM Hauling & Recycling and affiliated company GreenWorks, according to multiple industry sources. “For Republic, which spent $1.06 billion on M&A last year, this deal is just one of many in the works for 2022, and analysts anticipate heightened activity. While the company’s pending $2.2 billion purchase of US Ecology will expand its environmental services and hazardous waste offerings, CEO Jon Vander Ark said in a February interview that ‘you’re going to see us grow first and foremost in our traditional business in recycling and solid waste.’ To that end, the company has also completed solid waste-focused deals in states including Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and New Jersey in recent months.”

35) International: The Alberta NDP is calling on the provincial government to stop what it says are “plans to Americanize public health care in Alberta.” Opposition party leader Rachel Notley made the plea during an appearance at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre. “Over and over again, the UCP has led our province down a path of health-care disruption, chaos and privatization. The UCP is driven to bring more American-style for-profit health care into our public Alberta system, and that’s wrong.”

36) International: “Here in Prince Edward Island, we have an ambulance service that is private, underfunded, understaffed and from media reports, delivers very poor service to Islanders,” says Gerard Gallant. “All these private initiatives severely undermine our public health-care system which is based on the principle that medically necessary health care should be delivered on the basis of medical need — not one the ability to pay. Let’s hope the new NDP-Liberal supply and confidence agreement will deliver a better public health-care system as outlined in the agreement.”

Everything Else

37) International: It’s time for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to reclaim its public purpose, say Profs. Thomas Marois, David McDonald, and Susan Spronk. “The CIB has failed on its own terms, presenting an opportunity to reclaim its public purpose. Rather than underwriting private interests and the privatization of public services, the CIB can build a democratic institutional legacy of providing patient, low-cost and appropriate financing for green and just community transitions in the public interest.”


Photo by Prachatai.