Virtual School Meanderings

September 20, 2022

Kanye’s private school and privatization | Banned books week | and much more

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 3:04 pm
Tags: , , , ,

No K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning specific items this time, but several interesting items all the same – many education and school choice specific.

 

 

Your weekly rundown of news and analysis about the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods. Not a subscriber? Subscribe here for free.

Here’s this post on the In the Public Interest website. 

Highlights

Jump toEducation | Infrastructure | Criminal Justice & Immigration | Public Services | Everything Else
 

 

 

First, the good news…

1) NationalIt’s banned books week. People are fighting back against efforts by the right wing to suppress books in public libraries and schools through demagogy and intimidation of education and library professionals. Public libraries are an essential part of our culture of fostering the common good. In the Public Interest’s Donald Cohen gives examples how public libraries across the country are stepping up to the challenge. “These libraries highlight a fundamental principle that undergirds In the Public Interest’s work: The solutions to today’s multiple crises—from Covid to climate change to skyrocketing economic inequality to rising white nationalism—must be public solutions. That’s the only way to make sure that America works for everyone—all of us, no matter where we come from, what our color, or how much money we have in our pockets.” Banned books week goes from today until September 24.

2) National: The New York Times reports that child poverty has been reduced through determined and consistent programming by the government. “With little public notice and accelerating speed, child poverty fell by 59 percent from 1993 to 2019, according to a comprehensive new analysis that shows the critical role of increased government aid. (…) Child poverty has fallen in every state, and it has fallen by about the same degree among children who are white, Black, Hispanic and Asian, living with one parent or two, and in native or immigrant households. Deep poverty, a form of especially severe deprivation, has fallen nearly as much. (…) The analysis found that multiple forces reduced child poverty, including lower unemployment, increased labor force participation among single mothers and the growth of state-level minimum wages. But a dominant factor was the expansion of government aid.”

3) National: New York City could use municipal bonds as a way to finance better outcomes for migrants coming to New York from Ukraine and the southern border, city Comptroller Brad Lander says. “Asylum seekers coming to the Big Apple could benefit from a new economic initiative tied into an inclusive strategy, Lander said during a webinar hosted by the Association for a Better New York. While the recent actions by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to send undocumented migrants to New York City were ‘horrid,’ Lander said, it provided an opportunity for the city. ‘Growth in immigration is what saved the city coming out of the fiscal crisis,’ Lander said. ‘We’re lucky to have these folks coming. They want to work so let’s push the federal government, as the mayor is doing, to get them work authorization—let’s think about how to help those folks get into good jobs as quickly as they can—whether they’re coming from Venezuela or coming from Ukraine.’” [Sub required]

4) National: The U.S. Supreme Court has handed private religious schools a rare legal defeat by ruling that an Orthodox Jewish university in New York is required for now to officially recognize an LGBTQ student group. “Kotler’s ruling “does not touch the university’s well-established right to express to all students its sincerely held beliefs,” lawyers said in court papers. They noted that an LGBTQ club has existed within the university’s law school for decades and that the university’s student bill of rights says the New York Human Rights Law applies to students. Members of Pride Alliance have said they are planning events backing LGBTQ rights for the coming weeks, some of them timed around Jewish holidays.”

5) National: Minor league baseball players have finally achieved union representation after years of organizing. “This overwhelming union vote—which will not be challenged by the Major League Baseball owners nor brought to the NLRB—comes after several other victories in the past year that have increased the confidence of minor league players to push for representation,” writes The Nation’s Dave Zirin. “The unionization of minor leaguers hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Labor in this country is, to recall the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, sick and tired of being sick and tired. As economic and social inequality have worsened during the Biden administration, these players are a part of a broader restiveness.” For more see Morethanbaseball.org.

6) ColoradoFour Colorado public elementary schools have been named 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Two of the schools are small and rural. “On state math and literacy tests last year, Sanford Elementary scored at or above state averages. In literacy, 43% of Sanford students scored at grade level or above, which was the same as the state average. But in math, a whopping 74% of Sanford students scored at grade level or above, far surpassing the state average of 32%.”

7) LouisianaA state judge has blocked “an enormous plastics plant in a corridor so dense with industrial refineries it is known as Cancer Alley.” In a sharply worded opinion, “Judge Trudy White of Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge noted that the residents in the tiny town of Welcome, where the $9.4 billion petrochemical plant would have been built, are descendants of enslaved Africans. ‘The blood, sweat and tears of their ancestors is tied to the land,’ Judge White wrote. ‘Their ancestors worked the land with the hope and dream of passing down productive agricultural untainted land along the Mississippi to their families.’ She said that when Louisiana state regulators granted 14 permits to FG LA L.L.C., an affiliate of the Taiwan-based giant Formosa Plastics, they had used ‘selective’ and ‘inconsistent’ data and had failed to consider the pollution effects on the predominantly Black community.”

8) Maine75% of people in Maine support paid family leave, advocates report as the state heads toward a possible November referendum. “In order to provide an alternative pathway forward, groups including Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project) and Maine Women’s Lobby launched a signature-gathering campaign in July to place a referendum on the ballot in 2023 that would create a paid leave system. Those interested in helping to gather signatures for that ballot campaign can sign up here.”

9) Mississippi/Maryland: 11 utility workers, including four Anne Arundel County employees, have headed to Mississippi to help restore Jackson’s water system. “Besides the four Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works employees, there are also seven workers from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. They include Class A surface water and membrane operators, instrument technicians, licensed electricians, mechanics, general maintenance workers, and an emergency management specialist. Anne Arundel DPW has been posting updates on Facebook about how their efforts are going.”

10) International: On the Rabble Radio podcast, JP Hornick, President of OPSEU/SEFPO and Dr. Naheed Dosani, Palliative Care Physician and Health Justice Activist, discussed the current crisis facing public healthcare in Ontario “and the alarming turn toward the privatization of our healthcare systems by those prioritizing profit over patients. (…) Often conversations like this can get tucked away in the category of health policy. This is about much more. This is about our way of life. This is about our way of being. This is really an attack on the common good that is so core and foundational to what it means to be Canadian…Public healthcare is a national treasure that makes us unique on the world stage. That really allows us to say to each other, I care about you.” [Audio, about 30 minutes].

11) Journalism Opportunities: As regular readers of our weekly privatization report know, we depend heavily on local reporting for news on what’s happening with the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods—and what’s being done to “keep it public.” This is a challenging time for local media, where some of the best reporting in the world can be found, so it’s great news that ProPublica is hiring for five spots in its Local Reporting NetworkApply here. Work begins on January 2, 2023.

Education

12) National/New York: The scandal of under- or non-performing private religious schools is spreading. Jennifer Berkshire says “not only is the Yeshiva school scandal NOT just a New York story but the same states that are steering more and more public money to private religious schools are making it impossible to track how kids fare.” The New York Times has weighed in to argue for state action to secure the education of children in failing private religious schools that received millions in state support. “It is an essential obligation of state government and foundational to life and liberty: New York requires children to go to school and to receive instruction in English and math and other basic skills that are necessary for participation in our democratic society. But New York has failed to fully enforce those laws. An education system that contains some of the finest schools in the nation also contains some that are profoundly struggling, whether public or private, religious or secular. This past week, new attention has fallen on how state and city officials have allowed tens of thousands of Hasidic children to attend schools that openly flout the state’s requirements. Former students have testified that upon graduation, they were unable to read in English or even write their own names.”

The New York State Board of Regents unanimously approved a new set of regulations last Tuesday “that would allow the state to reject the secular curriculum of private schools—a change Orthodox Jewish schools have long rejected as a curtailing of their religious rights.” The Forward reports that “‘religious studies are still taught as the non-public school sees fit,’ said Jim Baldwin, senior deputy commissioner for education policy. Baldwin also said that religious classes could incorporate topics like math, science or social studies in order to help schools meet the ‘substantial equivalence’ requirement.”

13) National: Writing in The Progressive, Jacob Goodwin says union power is the best solution to the teacher shortage. “Democratic reforms hold the potential to energize members and positively influence the narrative on public education and unions. Scaling up participation can’t be done through technological solutions such as mass-texting or sharpened digital campaign marketing. Instead, we must grow with one another and insist on an expansive common purpose where every voice can add to the growing chorus for change.”

14) National/California: “What the Hell Is Going on at Kanye West’s Mysterious New Private School?” asks Cheyenne Roundtree in Rolling Stone. “Now, he’s moving into education with Donda Academy, his own private school named after his late mother, Professor Donda West. Headquartered in Simi Valley, California, the tuition-based Christian prep school’s mission, according to its website, is to ‘prepare students to become the next generation of leaders’ through ‘an ethic of integrity and care.’ (West previously teased the idea of a school back in October 2020 under the name Yeezy Christian Academy.) (…) What’s more, the school is not yet accredited and was still looking to hire instructors shortly before the school year began. Exactly who attends and works at the school has been tricky to pin down. Donda’s listed administrators and sporting program’s leadership did not respond to Rolling Stone’s multiple inquiries about the school. A representative for West also did not respond to requests for comment. Many of those associated with the school balked at interview requests, as did parents whose children attend the school. Even attempts by Simi Valley’s local newspaper noted in a June article that it could not reach anyone.”

15) National/North Carolina: A North Carolina charter school that “prohibits girls from wearing pants or shorts because they are ‘fragile vessels’ told the U.S. Supreme Court in a newly filed petition that the entire charter school movement is now endangered by an appellate ruling that found its dress code is unconstitutional. (…) The en banc 4th Circuit, as I told you in June, specifically rejected arguments that its ruling against Charter Day will squelch educational innovation, which Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson spelled out in a dissent joined by Judges Paul Niemeyer and Steven Agee. Judge James Wynn, in a concurrence joined by four other judges in the majority, said the very premise that parents have a right to send their children to state-funded public schools engaged in unconstitutional discrimination ‘is so plainly wrong [that] it borders on the offensive.’ Judge Barbara Keenan added tartly in the majority opinion, ‘Innovative programs in North Carolina’s public schools can and should continue to flourish — but not at the expense of constitutional protections for students.’”

16) California: Novato Unified School District’s board will be holding a hearing on October 11 to discuss “the level of support for the Petition submitted to the District for the establishment of the Healy School Charter School.  No action will be taken by the Board regarding the Petition at this meeting. In accordance with Education Code section 47605, the Board ‘shall consider the level of support for the petition by teachers employed by the district, other employees of the district, and parents.’ Teachers and other employees of the District, parents/guardians, and any interested parties are invited to attend the public hearing and provide comment to the Board regarding the Petition.”

17) Michigan: The state school board wants to know how charter schools spend money, Chalkbeat Detroit reports. “Michigan charter schools received $1.4 billion in state funding last year. How they spent most of it is a mystery, even to state officials overseeing the education of children who attend them. The state Board of Education has been trying to find out, but its efforts have been stymied. Eighty-one percent of Michigan’s 295 charter schools have contracts with private education management companies that are not subject to public disclosure laws. That allows them to skirt disclosure laws by, for example, saying they don’t have payroll records because they don’t employ teachers directly, but rather through a contractor.”

18) Ohio/NationalJan Ressenger and Kathryn Joyce have been digging into the efforts of the Heritage Foundation to spread a form of school voucher system called education savings accounts, especially in Ohio. But “Ohio is not the only state where politicians are currently being pressed by far right advocates to adopt one of the model ESA bills that are available to anyone who wants one. States whose legislatures have enacted Education Savings Account vouchers to date include Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Indiana, and Missouri. ESA programs were passed but later found unconstitutional in Nevada and Kentucky under the provisions of their state constitutions.”

Among Heritage’s trustees are Larry Arnn, former head of the Claremont Institute and now President of Hillsdale College, the right wing religious school trying to get its hooks into Tennessee’s public school system (see below); Barb Van Andel-Gaby, an Amway board member; Robert P. George, the conservative Catholic Princeton law professor (also on the boards of the Bradley Foundation and Becket Fund, which filed an amicus brief in the case that overturned Roe v. Wade); Edwin Meese, who has overseen the right wing takeover of the courts from his perch at Heritage for decades; billionaire right wing funder Rebekah Mercer, and others

19) Tennessee: The battle over charter schools vs. traditional public schools is continuing in Tennessee. On Friday the two sides clashed at a state hearing in Clarksville involving a proposed charter school with ties to the right wing Hillsdale religious college. “ACAM had applied to open a charter school here, and they were rejected by the Clarksville-Montgomery County School Board. The schools’ organizers appealed the decision to the state. Prior to Friday’s hearing, a group of community members and politicians held a news conference to raise objections to using public funds for private charter schools. ‘Montgomery County has great schools,’ said Stephanie Outlaw, a local teacher speaking on behalf of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Education Association. ‘We don’t need charter schools.’ Outlaw said one of the biggest issues she has is how charter schools will be funded. ‘We do not need to give the public funding for our schools at the local level to these private entities—the charter schools coming from somewhere else. We need to keep the funding here for our schools,’ she said.” NewsChannel5’s Phil Williams concludes “there’s a lot we don’t know about these proposed charter schools, including who would actually run them.”

Infrastructure

20) NationalLegislation that would bring some sunlight into the municipal bond market has some on Wall Street on edge. The legislation “would require governments to standardize their financial reports, with opponents warning it would be onerous and costly and ultimately could shrink tax-exempt supply.

Supporters counter that the move would benefit investors and regulators and the cost of compliance is exaggerated. Though introduced months ago, the Financial Data Transparency Act of 2022 has grabbed the market’s recent attention because it appears likely to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, which the Senate needs to vote on by the end of the year.” [Sub required]. Read the text of the proposed legislation and make up your own mind. It’s in the Senate Banking Committee.

21) IdahoThe real estate industry is at it again, this time using the argument that big tax revenues would be forthcoming if federal lands were privatized. “There are about 32 million acres of federal public land in Idaho, representing more than 60% of the state. That includes lands controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Legislators commissioned the study—even though the Idaho Constitution prohibits collecting taxes on public lands owned by the U.S. government.” Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, said “I think all of this is a little exercise in futility to come up with a big, high number and wave it around in the air.”

22) Kansas/National: Expert witnesses told the House Agriculture Committee that topsoil protection should be stressed in the next farm bill. “About 95% of food is grown from topsoil, which is the most important component to food systems. If soil cannot filter water and adsorb carbon, it will hinder farmers’ ability to grow food to feed people, creating a food crisis. Around the world, soil is eroding 10 to 40 times faster than it can be replaced.  Moyer said that a third of the world’s soil has already degraded, and if ‘the current rate of soil degradation continues, all of the world’s topsoil could be lost within 60 years.’”

23) MarylandCosts on the long delayed Purple Line light rail so-called public-private partnership have soared, NBC Washington reports. Originally scheduled to open this year, the project is now aimed for completion by 2026. The estimated cost has jumped from around $5.5 billion to 9 billion dollars. [Video, about two minutes].

24) MississippiThe Jackson water crisis is not over, Food & Water Watch warns. “Contrary to the assurances from Governor Reeves, much more is necessary to address the harms of decades of racist policies and intentional disinvestment and ensure safe, clean water for Jackson residents. Federal, state and local collaboration is helping to improve water service in Jackson, but declarations that the water is ‘clean’ or ‘safe’ are hasty and irresponsible. The city has an ongoing lead-in-water crisis, and the system remains one climate change-fueled storm away from breaking down again. Worse, this progress could be undone if the state forces Jackson to hand control of the system over to corporate interests. The city remains under threat of a state-imposed privatization. Privatization would exacerbate the city’s water affordability crisis, driving up the cost of necessary improvements to cover corporate taxes and profits. On average, private companies charge 59 percent more than local governments charge for water service.”

As In the Public Interest’s Donald Cohen recently pointed out, corporations that run privatized municipal water systems are raising rates to enrich their shareholders and even buy up more public systems. “This is all to say, water is a public good, meaning it must be under our control. But we have to fight for it, because to corporations, it’s just another way to increase profits for their wealthy executives and shareholders.”

Facing South’s Sue Sturgis asks whether Jackson will buck the trend away from privatized water. Check out these numbers. “According to Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (D), cost to fix the water system, with the city’s ability to pay hindered by a shrinking tax base due to white flight following integration of the public schools, along with the Republican-led legislature’s reluctance to fund fixes: $2 billion… According to a 2011 meta-analysis of studies on water distribution, amount of empirical support that exists for cost savings from water system privatization: 0… In a reversal of earlier trends toward privatization, percentage point increase in the portion of U.S. residents getting drinking water from publicly owned systems from 2007 to 2014: 4… Over that same period, percent by which the number of private water systems in the U.S. dropped: 7… According to a review of 18 municipalities that ended contracts with private water companies, percent cheaper it is on average to operate water services publicly than privately: 21.”

Writing in HuffPost, Nathalie Baptiste says “Jackson is facing a clear-cut example of environmental racism. After its schools were forced to integrate in the 1970s, white people began leaving the city in droves—taking with them their tax revenue. Today, one in four people in Jackson lives in poverty. The city’s water system is also old and in need of expensive repairs, but the city simply doesn’t have the tax base to support it. Currently, the mayor estimates that the city would need at least $1 billion to permanently fix its water problems. And while privatization may be on the mind of Reeves and other state officials, there’s plenty of evidence to show that turning Jackson’s water system over to a private company could make the problem worse—which is what happened in Pittsburgh.”

24) Pennsylvania/National: Governor Tom Wolf (D) has “announced that the Biden Administration has awarded the Port of Philadelphia (PhilaPort) $20.3 million to construct a new 100,000 square-foot warehouse at Tioga Marine Terminal, as well as safety and efficiency upgrades with the modernization of the terminal’s main gate. (…) Additional benefits of this project include economic benefits from new cargo capture; improved truck circulation and terminal efficiencies as well as improved connections to the regional, multimodal network; safety and security improvements; and environmental benefits resulting from reduced truck queuing/idling and conversion of cargo from truck to rail.”

25) Puerto Rico: As Hurricane Fiona causes “catastrophic” flooding in Puerto Rico and massive damage to its infrastructure—already damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria—the finances of its electrical utility are already in a state of collapse, never having recovered from the last storms and beset by a series of contracting scandals. [Sub required]. Luma, the company that manages Puerto Rico’s power grid, says it may take several days to restore power across the island.

Public Services

26) National/Florida/California: Thirteen national and local organizations have filed a federal complaint against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for multiple cases of abuse and inhumane conditions at the Baker County Detention Center in Macclenny, Florida.

On top of that, ICE’s privatized operations in California are facing legal action. “Labor strikers at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center and the Golden State Annex, owned and operated by The GEO Group, and Leaders detained at Imperial Regional Detention Facility, operated by Management and Training Corporation, released the following statement: ‘Today, a collective of leaders and individuals detained at multiple facilities in California, filed two simultaneous complaints to the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties outlining the continued retaliation we face at the hands of ICE officials and its private prison operators for exercising our constitutional rights. Those officials have taken aggressive steps to try to suppress our voice, including attempts to transfer us out of state and unlawful placement in solitary confinement.’”

27) ColoradoProPublica reports that Colorado’s halfway houses are a revolving door to prison. “Over the past three years, Colorado averaged about 6,000 halfway house stays annually. A majority of Colorado’s halfway houses are owned by companies specializing in detention and community-based supervision. Three—CoreCivic, Advantage Treatment Center Inc. and Intervention Inc.—operate 15 of the 26 state-funded facilities. This fiscal year, community corrections will receive $87.7 million in state funding — or nearly 16% of the state’s public safety budget — to cover operational costs and treatment services. The facilities aren’t required to report in detail to the state oversight agency or lawmakers what they do with the funding.”

28) Georgia: Project South says “be sure to read the letter Project South & partners submitted to Georgia Congressional Delegates urging an investigation & closure of Stewart Detention Center.” Read it here. And listen to Human rights lawyer and Legal & Advocacy Director Azadeh Shahshahani on the issues.

29) MassachusettsPrivatization of public services has become an issue in the election for state auditor. “Under state law, the auditor is charged with evaluating privatization proposals and certifying the initiatives will not only save money but also maintain at least the same level of service already provided. Critics say the law’s provisions make privatization nearly impossible, while supporters say the requirements are merely common sense steps to assure quality service. (…) The two candidates for auditor—Democratic Sen. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen and Republican Anthony Amore, the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—shared their views on the law in answering questionnaires submitted by union groups that are strongly in favor of the [anti-privatization] law. DiZoglio is closely aligned with the state’s unions. In response to a single question about the privatization law on an AFL-CIO questionnaire, she noted the author of the law, Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton, is supporting her candidacy. The law is called the Taxpayer Protection Act, but most people refer to it as the Pacheco law.”

30) FloridaDoes Waste Management, the private, for-profit trash collection company, deserve a rate increase? Sebastian, Florida, residents disagree. “It’s a shame that we allow a price increase per City Council and less service,” says Sissy Irwin. “I regularly call them on my service of no pickup. And last week, they had so many calls that voice mail stayed full. It took 4 days to pick up the trash in our area. Sorry, this is one person who will not renew. This decision for more money made my decision.”

Everything Else

31) National: With the announcement of a tentative agreement in the rail workers threatened strike, which highlighted issues such as the fact that most public rail services (minus Amtrak) operate on private tracks, several veteran labor analysts and activists offered their views on what the strike and organizing wave across the U.S. means for the future of labor activism and public policy to promote it.

Jane McAlevey, the strike correspondent of The Nation, wrote a powerful piece in which she challenges the leadership of both organized labor and the Democratic Party to do better to support struggling workers.

“We do actually need to debate exactly how the hell we will successfully turn this country around in time to avert an even worse societal disaster,” McAlevey writes. “The answer to that can be seen in two unions that waged successful strikes in the past two weeks, having done the patient work of preparing their members to execute the kind of serious and durable strike action that delivers real, power-building gains in their contracts: the teachers in Seattle and the nursing home workers in Pennsylvania. There are great unions in America today that know how to fight to win. They are mostly at the local, not national, level, and they are unions that understand that a strike is a muscle built through its use, not a command turned on with the flick of a switch. Workers’ representatives can’t just snap their fingers and have workers go on strike any more than a person can walk into a gym with no previous experience lighting weights and bench press 400 pounds. Muscles atrophy, and so do unions.”

The American Prospect’s Harold Meyerson spoke to Ryan Cooper and Alexi the Greek of the Left Anchor podcast about lessons from American labor history, his assessment of President Biden’s record on labor, and the role of the activist NLRB under the current General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. [Audio, about 21 minutes].

Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has emphasized the need for paid sick and family leave. “It staggers the imagination that in September 2022 the workers who keep the trains running did not have even one sick day to care for themselves. Railroad management was intransigent on this point, a key union demand, until President Biden got involved in the negotiations. Top brass at the railroads were willing to have a strike and plunge the nation back into supply chain hell, rather than grant this reasonable request. The details have not been made public yet, but it appears that railroad workers will get one—let me repeat that—one paid sick day a year. This, as much as anything that has been written, emphasizes the need for the US to guarantee sick workers some form of paid sick days and paid medical and family leave legislation. (…) Not including a robust paid leave program as the nation continues to struggle with public health crises places unreasonable burdens on all workers and not just the millions of low-income workers unlikely to have access to benefits through their jobs.”

32) International: The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and Public Services International (PSI) have issued a tendering opportunity for online training on in-sourcing public services. “The project runs from August 2022 to January 2024 and provides funds for EPSU and PSI to work with a training provider to develop an online training course for affiliates based on PSI’s guide Taking our public services back in house. The final version of the course will be translated into several EU languages and EPSU and PSI will consider funding for additional non-EU languages. We are starting out by looking for talented labour educators and online training web-designers. The tender specifications are set out below and in the attached pdf. The deadline for submissions is 14 October 2022.”

 

In the Public Interest
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September 14, 2022

Privatized public bathrooms | Do parents really want “school choice?” | and more

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 10:04 am
Tags: , , , ,

While there are many interesting items here, items 9 (which focuses on remote learning and its impact on school choice) and 14 (which focuses on cyber charter schools).

 

 

Your weekly rundown of news and analysis about the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods. Not a subscriber? Subscribe here for free.

Here’s this post on the In the Public Interest website.

Highlights

Jump toEducation | Infrastructure | Criminal Justice & Immigration | Public Services | Everything Else
 

 

 

First, the good news…

1) National/Pennsylvania: After a sustained grassroots campaign backed up by research and good media work, Bucks County has rejected a proposed $1.1 billion sale of its sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania. “Michael Sullivan, executive director of the Warwick Township Water and Sewer Authority and regional director of the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association, called on the BCWSA board to ‘do the right thing’ and halt the sale. ‘These critical services should remain in the public trust,’ he said.”

But the fight may continue. “‘The rejection of Aqua’s purchase offer by BCSWA is good news for now,’ said Margo Woodacre, Bill Ferguson, and Peter Mrozinski with KeepWaterAffordable. ‘But Aqua and other Big Water companies will not go away. BCSWA is too big a prize. In fact, because of Act 12, the state of Pennsylvania is open game for all corporate predators. We need action by the State Legislature now to provide long term protection for the ratepayers.’ ‘This was a backroom corporate deal from the start, and it only stopped because local residents started to ask questions, voice their concerns, and hold their elected County Commissioners who have the power to change the BCWSA’s charter accountable,’ said Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer with Food & Water Watch. ‘Getting the board to see the light and slam the brakes on this terrible deal is a huge win for clean water, public input and democracy itself.’”

2) National: The National Labor Relations Board, despite being underfunded and understaffed, continues to do a great job protecting the public interest by reinforcing and enforcing workers’ rights. It has recently issued a ruling declaring that limitations on wearing union insignia in private workplaces “are presumptively unlawful, absent special circumstances that justify such a restriction,” and issued a notice of proposed rulemaking “to explicitly ground the joint-employer standard in established common-law agency principles.”

NLRB’s energetic General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, says “the NLRB is processing the most cases it has seen in years with the lowest staffing levels in the past six decades,” and is working under “unsustainable workloads.” But “help may be coming. President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal includes $319.4 million in NLRB funding, a 16% increase from its current funding. That’s not only to keep up with the current workload, but to prepare for even more expected growth. Early this year, a White House task force made numerous recommendations to promote worker organizing, many of which rely on more outreach and enforcement by NLRB staff.”

But the agency is under attack by right wing activists in Congress and beyond, Chris Lehmann reports in The Nation.  “Biden and the Democrats can also preemptively fund and publicize the crucial work of the embattled NLRB, which, for all its recent successes, remains grievously overextended—one key reason [Virginia Foxx] is singling it out for administrative paralysis by oversight hearings.” If they win control of the House in November, Republicans plan on launching a full scale attack on the NLRB. [Listen to Jon Wiener’s interview of Lehmann, The Nation’s new DC Bureau Chief, on this; audio, about 35 minutes]. There’s a lot at stake: the road to higher wages and more benefits for young workers goes through unionization.

3) National: The community school model has a lot of benefits, but among the most important is that it helps communities listen to their families. In the Public Interest’s Donald Cohen explains: “Sometimes you just read or hear something that feels like a mic drop. Here’s Daman Harris, principal of Wheaton Woods Elementary in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., speaking recently to journalist Jeff Bryant: ‘We weren’t listening to our families. We started off thinking our families needed things like food assistance and English classes—providing what we assumed families in poverty need. When we started listening to our families, we found out that what we didn’t have was enough out-of-school time and activities for their kids, not enough athletics. We found out that rather than English classes for adults, parents wanted their children to learn Spanish to retain their culture. They wanted employment training for adults and more help with childcare.’ That’s it. That’s what makes the community school approach—an innovative method of public schooling that’s growing in popularity nationwide—so promising.”

4) National: States and localities are upping their game on developing and circulating data on monkeypox cases, but remain behind the curve on the public health infrastructure needed to respond to pandemics. In the Public Interest’s Donald Cohen, writing in The Progressive, says “in the absence of free public testing, people must rely on private companies for a PCR test, the most accurate option. This is particularly difficult for people who are uninsured and can’t pay anywhere between $50 to $195 for a single test. That means they might not test as often or at all, which affects everyone.”

5) National: Smart cities are about more than just tech, writes Molly Bolan in Route Fifty. “Diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility—that is a thread throughout, it is not an afterthought.” Read Bolan’s interview with Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University’s Executive Director Karen Lightman. “And so one of the mandates of the city of Pittsburgh and their partner organization, the nonprofit Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, is to make parks more equitable, and to ensure that if improvements are made in the park, they’re done equitably. But in order to make those investments, they need to understand how the park is being used. Well, how? If you do a survey, well, who’s answering the survey? Like rich white people, or people who have a lot of free time. And so that’s not necessarily your demographic if you’re trying to be more equitable. So this is a tool to help inform infrastructure improvements. And our plan is to help the city and the Parks Conservancy to better understand how the park is being used, where it’s being used, when it’s being used.”

6) California: Governor Gavin Newsom (D) observed Labor Day by signing a new bill into law that could raise minimum wages for more than half a million fast food workers. “The nation-leading bill, backed by the Service Employees International Union, only applies to restaurants with 100 or more establishments nationwide, with the exception of restaurants that operate a bakery that “produces for sale bread as a stand-alone menu item.”

Councilmembers could increase the wages to $22 per hour, representing an increase of over 40% from the $15.50 minimum wage slated to take effect next year.” Newsom’s next challenge: to sign AB2183, supported by the United Farm Workers, California Labor Federation and President Biden, which would give farmworkers the right to vote for unionization by mail instead of under the noses of their bosses.

7) Florida: City of Miami Gardens water customers have won a round in their 2018 court fight against the city of North Miami Beach’s 25% water surcharge. “The Third District Court of Appeal on July 20 cleared the way for Miami Gardens to seek refunds and damages for the three years North Miami Beach’s water system was operated privately – from May 2017 until August 2020—ruling the surcharge ‘unjust’ and ‘illegal.’ (…) In its decision, the appeals court ruled that the city water plant’s privatized status during that time curtailed the city’s ‘sovereign immunity,’ the doctrine that exempts governments from most civil suits or criminal prosecutions. In essence, the court said sovereign immunity did not apply when the city turned over the plant’s operation to a private entity and took the money. “NMB must refund the fees illegally excised, if any,” the court stated. It also authorized a trial court the discretion to award Miami Gardens treble damages and attorneys’ fees. The District Court of Appeal affirmed that North Miami Beach was within its rights to levy the 25% surcharge to customers outside its limits—as long as North Miami Beach government, rather than a private entity, was operating the plant.”

8) International: The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has been vindicated in its campaign against privatization of Nigeria power system. “Comrade [Nash] Shaibu lamented that the power sector is collapsing while the DisCos are being taken over by the banks who are allegedly taking over to recover money borrowed by the investors from their banks. Shaibu hinted further that most of the distribution network within the zone comprising Delta, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo states are begging for attention and that the equipment inherited after privatization remain same as there is no visible attempt by the company to upgrade and expand their capacities.”

Education

9) National: “School choice had a big moment in the pandemic. But is it what parents want for the long run?”  The Hechinger Report suggests many don’t. “Some politicians have seized on parental frustration with remote learning to pass school voucher laws. (…) To be sure, for as many school choice programs that emerged since the pandemic, ‘lots still failed,’ said Sharon Krengel, policy and outreach director at the Education Law Center, which has joined with other public school advocacy groups to form Public Funds Public Schools. The organization works on litigation that challenges vouchers and related programs.”

10) National: Prof. David Backer of West Chester University says we need to build schools back better. “Indeed, certain sections of the Inflation Reduction Act allow for the provision of public money to direct private capital toward investment in green infrastructure, particularly in poor and disadvantaged communities,” Backer writes. “Section 138 of the IRA creates the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, the country’s first green bank, with $27 billion at its disposal. Through syndicated loans put together by groups such as the nonprofit Inclusive Prosperity Group, school districts across the country could get low-cost loans for green construction projects backed by federal dollars through a partnership of state-level green banks. So there’s no need for fiscal traditionalists to worry about ‘paying for it.’”

11) National/Think TanksJennifer Berkshire takes down the Heritage Foundation’s new Orwellian “education freedom” report card. “The Heritage Foundation *education freedom* report card is a highly instructive glimpse into the upside down world that is today’s conservative education policy vision. *Accountability* is now a net drag & speech bans = freedom.” @karlschott says “As a resident of Louisiana in a family of educators to see our fine state ranked 1-10 on any education report card feels like maybe something is amiss!”

12) National/InternationalSchool budgets in the U.K. are being squeezed by rising energy and wage bills, The Economist reports. “In the year before the pandemic energy bills represented just 1.4% of costs. But that share is rising quickly along with gas prices. Schools are in wildly different positions, depending on whether they managed to lock in their energy contracts earlier in the year. Micon Meltcafe, who runs a group of academies, reports unit prices doubling from October 1st. When trying to secure new supplies, she has been told that recent renewals have been priced at double even that.”

In the U.S., “energy prices have spiked to the highest level in nearly 15 years.” School officials, already under budget pressure, are stressed out. In Scituate, Massachusetts, school superintendent Laurie Andries says “we are anticipating increased costs for utilities and transportation.” Smithfield’s superintendent Dawn Bartz says “the rising costs of classroom materials, energy, and supplies for maintenance projects has had a significant impact on our school district budget. Because fuel can fluctuate so much, it is very difficult to predict costs based upon recent years.”

13) Idaho: A librarian in Boundary County has resigned, citing a political atmosphere of extremism. “My experience and skill set made me a good fit to help the district move toward a more current and relevant business model and to implement updated policy and best practices,” Kimber Glidden said in a statement tendering her resignation. “However, nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics, and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community. In a somewhat odd twist, the library never held the book that ignited the controversy. The same goes for dozens of other titles that conservative activists are opposed to public libraries carrying. Boundary County Library did not own them, according to Glidden.”

14) Massachusetts/National: Jennifer Berkshire says “this @j0urnalistkatie story on teachers going door to door to campaign for a tax on millionaires in Massachusetts is 1) inspiring & 2) illustrative of why the right hates teachers unions. They use their collective power to push for redistributive policies.” Why do they do it? “Rimas feels his identity as a teacher gives him credibility with voters. Because he explains the benefits of the amendment from the perspective of someone who works in public education, Rimas said, people have been more likely to trust him and support the ballot measure. ‘Overall, it’s been overwhelmingly positive and people seem to really like the idea,’ he said. ‘It’s a great opportunity to … make us the great educational place that we are already, but even better.’”

15) New York: The New York Times had a major front page story yesterday about how public funds are supporting a failing private religious school in Monsey. “The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring. But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students. Every one of them failed. Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different. They are failing by design. (…) The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.”

16) Pennsylvania: Nathaniel Smith of West Chester deconstructs a bit of slippery pro-charter propaganda. “The guest commentary ‘Cyber charters offer choices in education’ (Daily Local News, Aug. 29, 2022) might be more convincing if it could be titled ‘Cyber charters offer excellent education.’ But it can’t; it talks a lot about choice but doesn’t discuss the quality of what families are asked to choose. In fact, cyber charter students perform over 20 percent below public school students on standardized tests (PA Charter Change). There are some valid reasons for students to attend cyber schools, but overall education quality is not one of them. And from the taxpayers’ point of view, there is a lot else to worry about.”

17) Wisconsin: Ruth Conniff, editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner, fills us in on the coming governor’s race, in which the big question is, should public schools be dismantled? “Michels and Evers are far apart on a lot of issues, from abortion to immigration to how the state runs elections, but one of the most profound impacts of the Wisconsin governor’s race will be the way it shapes the future of education. Michels’ ‘education blueprint’ calls for an immediate, statewide expansion of Wisconsin’s school choice program. During the Republican primary, Michels criticized his opponent, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, for not expanding Wisconsin’s school choice program fast enough under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.”

Infrastructure

18) NationalHeat Waves and flooding are battering electricity and water systems across the U.S., says  Paul Chinowsky, Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder. “After studying the issue of climate change impacts on infrastructure for two decades, with climate projections getting worse, not better, I believe addressing the multiple challenges to the nation’s infrastructure requires systemic change. Two items are at the top of the list: national prioritization and funding. Prioritizing the infrastructure challenge is essential to bring government responsibilities into the national conversation. Most local jurisdictions simply can’t afford to absorb the cost of needed infrastructure. The recent infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act are starting points, but they still fall short of fixing the long-term issue.”

19) National: US PIRG has released a 57-page “boondoggles report” exposing the misplaced priority on expanding major highways systems. As Grist summarizes these projects would harm local communities and exacerbate climate change, all while failing to solve the traffic and safety problems they claim to address. “Highway expansion harms our health and the environment, doesn’t solve congestion, and creates a lasting financial burden,” the report says. Although nearly every state has one or more highway expansion projects in the works, the authors highlight seven that would lock in polluting infrastructure and divert a whopping $22 billion away from other transportation needs. One project is the M-83 expansion, a $1.3 billion project proposed in Montgomery County, Maryland, just northwest of Washington, D.C.” PIRG recommends that public officials and advocates “use the latest transportation data and require full cost-benefit comparisons, including future maintenance needs, to evaluate all proposed new and expanded highways. This includes projects proposed as public-private partnerships.”

20) National/Maryland: Federal authorities have issued environmental approval for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s project to widen parts of the Beltway and Interstate 270 and introduce toll lanes. “The step is a requirement for the project to receive federal funds, and it opens the way for Maryland to sign a 50-year contract to build and manage toll lanes along the congested highways. It also begins a five-month clock for opponents of the project to file legal challenges.”

“The permit comes as the project faces a critical juncture,” Public Works Financing reports. “In order to award a concession for the first phase of the managed lanes project, MDoT and the state’s predevelopment partner, Accelerate Maryland Partners (AM Partners) will need to select a design build contractor for the project and finalize a concession agreement for the first phase. That contract would then need to be approved by Maryland’s Board of Public Works (BPW), comprised of the Governor, the State Comptroller, and the State Treasurer. The timing is especially tight if Governor Larry Hogan, who has championed the project, intends to accomplish all of the above before he terms out of office at the end of this year. His replacement will very likely be Democratic nominee Wes Moore. Mr. Moore’s position on the project is not completely clear. He has variously criticized the project and stated that he is open to a traffic solution to the corridor. He has even praised using funds from the project to support transit. So, while the project may not necessarily be in jeopardy if it remains in predevelopment beyond Hogan’s tenure, its path forward is hardly clear.” [Public Works Financing, August 2022; sub required].

“Due mostly to [Montgomery County’s] term limits law, the council that takes office in December is expected to have dramatically different views on the toll lanes than the current panel,” reports Maryland Matters. Based on their responses to candidate questionnaires, [Ben Ross, head of the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition,] believes that seven of 11 council members will lean against the project in its current form, a potentially important shift if the next council has the new governor’s ear.”

In any event, in a wider sense does this $5 billion, 50-year boondoggle make sense? Not to PIRG (see previous item) nor to Michael Scepaniak of Cockeysville. “The zoning along the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County amounts to an uninterrupted, homogeneous sea of single family detached homes. For most of those homes, there are no nearby businesses or employers, as the zoning forbids them. As such, in order for anyone to live in those homes, an automobile is essential. Instead of adding lanes to I-270, reform the land use and development practices so that residents don’t have to travel by automobile to accomplish anything and everything. Allow for commercial and business properties to be peppered throughout that residential sea. Allow for those detached homes to gently densify up into duplexes or by encouraging the construction of accessory dwelling units. Reduce or eliminate parking minimums. If your bathtub is just about ready to overflow, you don’t build yourself a bigger bathtub. You turn off the spigot.”

21) Mississippi: The Jackson water crisis, caused by a combination of hideously exploitative outsourcing and contracting, contract nonperformance, environmental racism in the Deep South, exploitative public works financing, and the impact of human-made climate change, is receiving national and international attention after years of neglect. For a ground level view of the crisis and how it developed, see the terrific three-part series by Nick Judin in the Mississippi Free Press here,here, and here.

The conclusion is worth quoting in full: “Perhaps there is no city quite like Jackson, in Mississippi nor anywhere else in the U.S. But the historical currents that drove its water system further and further from solvency are not unique, and so far, not changing. [Dr. Aaron Packman, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University] asserts that the federal disinvestment in the 1980s amounted to a lack of trust in municipalities to manage federal money, one that has persisted ever since. ‘The real objective is to maintain a functioning, safe water system. There’s a huge disconnect, and it reflects a political philosophy—an ideology,’ Packman told the Mississippi Free Press. ‘I do think it has really equated to, and until recently, still equated to just letting people suffer.’”

The crisis has opened a new chapter in the battle between the public and private interests as the state’s governor says “privatization is on the table.” In the Public Interest’s Executive Director Donald Cohen, citing Judd Legum’s exposé on the role Siemen’s played in creating the disaster and profiting from it, says that would be a mistake. “Now, if you’re a regular reader of our work, this should sound familiar. Corporations that are hired to deliver or support public services often cut corners in an effort to provide fewer resources while maximizing profits. But it’s crucial that we don’t let the fact that privatization played a role in Jackson’s water crisis get lost in the mix. Because, right now, the Mississippi state government is considering just that. ‘Privatization is on the table,’ said Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, at a press conference earlier in the week. News recently broke that the state is in talks with an unnamed company to take over management of Jackson’s water system. This would be a horrible move. Flat out horrible. As Food & Water Watch has found, privatized systems typically charge 59 percent more for water service than public systems. Jackson is a poor city in the poorest state in the nation. Its residents don’t need to be paying higher water rates, especially with inflation at historical levels.”

False promises of cost savings and greater efficiency by privatizing and outsourcing companies have been around for decades, as has research documenting the profiteering these false promises conceal. Let’s hope Jackson and other cities are not forced to fall for that again. With some solidarity, they have the capacity and will to resist it, and to “build more autonomy and people power in the city.”

22) International: The Australian Financial Review reports that “former ACTU secretary and Linfox Group director Bill Kelty has slammed the excessive returns earned by toll road operator Transurban while proposing a new framework for infrastructure investment.” Kelty has accused Transurban of “exploiting government stupidity.” With a new Labor government in place, Mr. Kelty “said there should be a new framework for major infrastructure, with all projects first cleared by Infrastructure Australia and only going to tender if there is bipartisan political support. He said participants in tenders would include industry super funds and possibly special enterprise bargaining agreements for the companies building the infrastructure. ‘It would remove the nonsense of political risk and reduce the market price,’ he said. ‘What is wrong with super funds spawning more road-building companies with separate EBAs to create competitive forms of bidding for effective road building and financing? There would be more than one major road builder. It would make infrastructure projects more competitive with other comparable parts of the world.’” [Sub required]

23) International/National: With a large percentage of infrastructure investment going into electricity grids, is the myth of an electricity market helping or hurting the battle against global climate change and economic development? Prabir Purkayastha goes deep in When Market Fundamentalism Overcomes Common Sense: Myth of Electricity Markets. “This steep rise in electricity prices is the other side of the story of the so-called market reforms in the electricity sector over the last 30 years. The cost of electricity is pegged to the costliest supply to the grid in the daily and hourly auctions. Currently, this is natural gas, which is why electricity prices are rising sharply even if it is not the primary source of electricity supply to the grid. This is market fundamentalism, what the neo-classical economists call marginal utility theory. For those interested in its history, this was Augusto Pinochet’s electricity sector reform in Chile. Milton Freedman, assisted by his Chicago Boys, was the guru of Pinochet’s reform. That electricity price should be based on its “marginal price” even became a part of Pinochet’s Constitution in Chile. The Chilean reforms led to the privatization of its electricity sector, which was the objective of the reforms.”

Public Services

24) NationalA Supreme Court “sleeper” case could inflict “enormous damage” on America’s “most vulnerable,” says journalist Kate Riga. “Riga reports, ‘There’s a sleeper case on the Supreme Court’s docket that could blow a gaping hole in the social safety net and give states leeway to neglect or end care for tens of millions of the most vulnerable Americans.… And it’s not just Medicaid, though the program enrolling nearly 90 million Americans is the biggest one at risk. This case could leave all of those who depend on federally funded, state-administered programs—think SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, or WIC, which helps low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children buy food—without any recourse, should states stop providing the benefits they’re required to give. The echoes of Dobbs are eerie.’”

25) NationalCan government contract out rulemaking to private, for-profit entities, or is that an inherently governmental function? “Because rulemaking is a form of agency policymaking, however, agencies must ensure they do not contract out responsibility for deciding policy matters, making value judgments, or exercising discretion on behalf of the federal government. Such responsibilities are considered inherently governmental functions under federal law. Agencies should also exercise heightened caution before contracting out other tasks that are closely associated with an inherently governmental function. Caution is needed to help ensure that contractors support, rather than supplant, agency decision making.”

26) District of Columbia: Is it really necessary to turn to the private sector for this essential public service?

27) PennsylvaniaTrump-backed Republican Senatorial candidate Mehmet Oz is out to privatize Medicare, The Lever reports. “Oz bills his own health care plan as ‘Medicare Advantage for All.’ Such a program could move seniors and most Americans into private insurance plans that have been raising premiums and denying roughly one in ten medical claims, according to a recent government report finding that the plans frequently refuse to cover services required by Medicare. To pay for his privatization plan, Oz has proposed a 20 percent payroll tax, which would ultimately transfer money from workers to the Republican Party’s private insurance donors that have been reporting record profits while jacking up premiums. In other words, Oz himself wants to increase taxes on lower- and middle-class Americans to fund his own version of a corporate-run, universal health care system—one that could come with high patient costs, continued barriers to care, and a windfall for the health insurance industry.”

28) TexasHays County is committing millions to outsourcing inmates to a private detention center. “Hays County has inmates in eight different counties across the state, some as far as 363 miles away. County Judge Ruben Becerra said the County spent about $80,000 on outsourcing inmates last week alone, and $3.7 million this year. Now, the County is adding another deal worth up to about $17 million over the next three years to send inmates to a private detention center—LaSalle Corrections West in Haskell County. Community advocate Eric Martinez said that housing inmates in other counties denies them the ability to meet with their lawyers as much as they should.”

29) International: CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador, which represents more than 1400 healthcare workers in the Canadian province, is calling on Premier Furey to retract his statements and rule out privatization. The four conservative Atlantic premiers, along with Ontario’s Premier Ford, have announced their idea of bringing in privatization in healthcare, instead of dealing with the recruitment and retention crisis. “‘One of the government’s fundamental jobs is delivering good public services for all. Handing over this responsibility to private corporations means he does not want to meet his basic job requirements as premier,’ said Sherry Hillier, President of CUPE NL. ‘Privatization will not solve staffing issues. It simply drains workers from the public sector to the private sector, moving people around instead of bringing more people in it. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ she added.”

30) International: Canadian Blood Services has signed a secret privatization deal. “The 15-year contract with global plasma corporation, Grifols, will allow the corporation to develop a US-style paid plasma system in Canada and give privatization another foothold in the Canadian health care system. This move goes against the core principles on which CBS was founded. Blood is a public resource, donors should not be paid, and none of the blood operators’ duties should be contracted out to others. CUPE is calling on the Canadian Blood Services CEO Graham Sher, its board members, and the provincial health ministers who fund the CBS to stop this reckless privatization deal.”

31) International: We Own It, the British anti-privatization campaigning group, is calling on the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, to stop the sell off of Channel 4, one of Britain’s main networks. “Liz Truss’ NUMBER ONE priority must be to deal with the UK’s out of control energy bills, not selling off C4!”

Everything Else

32) National/California/Missouri: It seems right wing think tanks are adding an armed component to their tired free market shtick. Perhaps they’re going to enforce bans on critical economic theory? From Sherrilyn Ifill: “This effort is aided by the Claremont Institute (where Trump atty John Eastman is a Sr. Fellow) which launched last year a new ‘Sheriffs Fellowship.’ Why a fellowship for Sheriffs at a right-wing think tank you ask? Here’s an excerpt from a fundraising letter. Take this seriously.”

While we’re on the subject of privatized policing, check out this ProPublica piece on how rich people in St. Louis have developed private police forces. “Under department rules, officers have the same authority when working for these companies that they have while on duty, one reason their services are in such demand. They can investigate crimes, stop pedestrians or vehicles and make arrests. And the police department requires that they wear their police uniforms when they’re working in law enforcement or security in the city, creating confusion about who they’re working for. The result is two unequal levels of policing for St. Louis residents and businesses. Low-income and minority residents do not have the resources to hire police through a private company, and the department has struggled to provide patrols in parts of the city that suffer high rates of violent crime.”

33) National: Veteran journalist Gene Lyons picks up the scent on the developing class war between plutocrats and fisherfolk. “Meanwhile, out in Colorado, an 81-year-old fly fisherman with a Ph.D. in theoretical physics has filed a lawsuit to prevent the state government from turning public rivers into private, members-only enclaves. Roger Hill told the Times that he can remember when gaining access to his favorite pools and rapids wasn’t a problem. As long as he was friendly and asked permission, the elderly angler said, he had no problems. ‘Nobody ever said anything,’ he said. All that has changed with Colorado’s rapid population growth, as outsiders with money moved in, and what some call ‘amenity ranches’ proliferated. ‘Along sections favored by trout and Mr. Hill,’ Howe wrote, ‘“No Trespassing” signs sprouted up as real estate developers bought and subdivided the adjacent land.’”

34) Think TanksPowerSwitch Action has the goods on how major corporate landlords are contributing to the nation’s housing crisis. “They buy up existing apartment buildings and develop them into more expensive properties, too often at the expense of current tenants and surrounding communities. Many corporate landlords also shell out millions of dollars to lobby politicians and fight against tenant protections like rent stabilization, eviction moratoria, and more. Even now, as the housing crisis worsens and inflation forces people to choose between paying rent and buying groceries, corporate landlords are putting profits ahead of people.”

 

In the Public Interest
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August 23, 2022

Noam Chomsky on privatization | Community schools promote equity | and more

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 4:02 pm
Tags: , , , ,

No K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning specific items this time, but several interesting items all the same.  I’d particularly recommend #17, 18, and – especially – 34.

 

 

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Here’s this post on the In the Public Interest website. 

Highlights

Jump toEducation | Infrastructure | Criminal Justice & Immigration | Public Services | Everything Else
 

 

First, the good news…

1) National: The Department of Education, which Donald Trump would like to abolish, has ousted the college accrediting organization that served as a gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars in federal financial aid. “This is the second time the council has lost the recognition needed to operate. The Obama administration cut ties with the ACICS in 2016 after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, which had remained accredited by the council despite widespread findings of fraud and dismal graduation rates. The council was once one of the nation’s largest college accreditors, with nearly 300 schools under its watch. Many of those colleges switched accreditors when the council lost its recognition in 2016, but some of the most troubled institutions remained.”

In addition, the Education Department said “students who used federal loans to attend ITT Technical Institute as far back as 2005 will automatically get that debt canceled after authorities found ‘widespread and pervasive misrepresentations’ at the defunct for-profit college chain. (…) The action will cancel $3.9 billion in federal student debt for 208,000 borrowers.

2) National/California: PowerSwitch Action reports that “with support from our affiliate the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, hundreds of workers at [Amazon’s] San Bernardino Air Hub (KSBD) are organizing for better wages and conditions—and winning. They have already secured a small pay increase for night shift workers and made managers turn on the A/C in the blazing heat (temperatures regularly soar above 95 degrees). Now, more than 800 workers have signed a petition calling for higher wages, additional protections against the blazing heat (especially for people who work outside), and an end to retaliation. Amazon refused to meet these demands, so the workers walked out. Now they’re launching a new group, Inland Empire Amazon Workers United.”

3) National: Washington’s top labor prosecutor, the NLRB’s Jennifer Abruzzo, is taking on Whole Foods—which is owned by Amazon—over Black Lives Matter masks. “In December 2021, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint that alleged Whole Foods broke federal law when it prohibited its employees from wearing BLM messaging. The NLRB also alleged that Whole Foods illegally retaliated against some workers, sending them home without pay and firing some.” The NLRB’s federal trial with Whole Foods is ongoing and is expected to close in the upcoming weeks.

But despite all its excellent work, or perhaps because of that, the NLRB is seriously underfunded, veteran labor reporter Steven Greenhouse says. “‘We’ve been blocked for nine straight years in seeking to increase the NLRB’s funding, and inflation has left its budget 25% behind where it should be,’ said Bill Samuel, legislative director of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s main labor federation. ‘When you take into account the explosion in the NLRB’s workload because of increased organizing, renewed enforcement and the increase in labor law violations, they’ve reached a crisis stage.’ Largely due to Republican opposition, the NLRB’s budget has been frozen at $274m since fiscal year 2014, with Biden proposing an increase to $319m for fiscal 2023. As a result of budgetary strains, the NLRB’s field staff has been cut by 37% since 2014 and 50% since 2002.”

4) National: Great panel at Netroots Nation this weekend on the role of state legislatures in the fight for democracy. “In key states, Republicans are building toward a future where they can engineer election outcomes by modifying the laws and rules governing election administration and limiting the ability of state courts to curb partisan redistricting and subversion.” [Watch the video, about an hour].

5) National: NLRB Region 15 attorneys have won an injunction requiring Starbucks to rehire seven unlawfully fired workers, post the court’s order, and cease and desist from unlawful activities. “The petition explained that, after learning about the organizing effort, Starbucks directed a wide variety of coercive measures at its employees, including: disciplining the employee responsible for starting the campaign; more closely supervising its employees; closing the area of the store on days organizers had previously invited the public and customers to come to show support for the campaign; and removing all pro-union materials from the community bulletin board inside the store, including notes authored by customers expressing support for the employees and their campaign. Then, following increased media coverage and public support for the campaign, Starbucks terminated seven Union activists all on the same day, including five of the six members of the union organizing committee.”

6) National: Tribal nations can now apply for the 2022 National Tribal Broadband Grant Program to help them develop or extend broadband services within their communities, Arizona Mirror reports. “The National Tribal Broadband Grant program is designated to support feasibility studies for the installation or expansion of high-speed internet within tribal communities, according to the federal register document. The feasibility studies funded through the program will help tribes make informed decisions about the development of broadband within their communities. ‘The purpose of the National Tribal Broadband Grant Program is to improve the quality of life, spur economic development and commercial activity, create opportunities for self-employment, enhance educational resources and remote learning opportunities, and meet emergency and law enforcement needs by bringing broadband services to Native American communities that lack them,’ the Department of Interior stated in a press release.”

7) National: The new semiconductor law aims to create 20 “silicon valleys” all across the United States. “The law has bolstered the hopes of cities around the country—like Lafayette, Indiana, and Columbus, Ohio—because it will create jobs in their communities. But also significant, said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings Metro, is that the law provides $10 billion over five years to create 20 regional technology and innovation hubs. And, it says they cannot be in places “that are now leading technology centers.” Instead, the law requires the Commerce Department to ‘ensure geographic and demographic diversity’ by creating at least three hubs in each of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s six regional offices.”

8) Georgia: The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a Georgia election law in a case involving racial discrimination in elections to the Public Service Commission. “‘The case concerned elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission, which sets utility rates and has five members,’ Liptak reports. ‘A 1998 law divided the state into five districts, with one commissioner representing each. But the commissioners continued to be elected in statewide elections. About a third of Georgians are Black, but Black voters are in a majority in District 3, which is made up of counties in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Four Black voters from that district sued to challenge statewide elections for commissioners, saying the practice violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting their power to elect candidates of their choice.’”

9) Georgia: Forsythe County Schools has announced that high schools will have the choice to bring back seven of the eight books the district removed from libraries in January. All this “thanks to the work of @sh1vis@AD_739 and some community allies.”

10) Pennsylvania: Route Fifty reports that Pittsburgh is coming up with ways to adapt to wet weather and mudslides. “A recent pilot program in Pittsburgh shows promise as a model for how the city and surrounding region can develop solutions to climate hazards. This is the second in a series of articles from ReImagine Appalachia, a coalition working to transform and strengthen the economy across parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. At Route Fifty, we’ve reported previously on this project in our news coverage. Here, we’re giving the advocates behind the effort an opportunity to describe their approach, for themselves, in greater detail.”

Education

11) National: Emily Woods, head of education for the Richard K. Lubin Family Foundation, says community schools promote equity and we need more of them. “For those of us in the trenches of the community school movement, an increased federal focus on community schools couldn’t come at a better time. City leaders and others are increasingly aware of the power of community schools as an equity strategy. And equity is needed now more than ever as schools face hardships exacerbated by the pandemic. No wonder local calls for community schools are growing louder and more frequent. Community schools become hubs for students and communities. Often open evenings and over weekends and summers, they bring together families, students, teachers and local organizations to identify and provide health, social and out-of-school-time support.”

12) National: School lunch programs across the country are bracing for higher costs, supply issues, less funding, and staff shortages. “‘We know that families are struggling right now,’ said Willow Kriegel, director of nutrition services for the West Des Moines Community Schools in Iowa. ‘Gas prices are high and food costs. We know that things are more expensive.’ Kriegel said that her school district had to raise prices by 25 cents per meal. While raising the costs helps somewhat, Kriegel said it’s still not enough to break even. In Kriegel’s district alone, she said cafeterias are $109,000 in school meal debt. To help counteract the growing debt, Kriegel said she applied for nine out of her 13 schools to get free and reduced lunches. Those requests were granted, but Kriegel said she knows many other schools aren’t as lucky.”

13) National/Florida: Moms for Liberty, which “would require that parents be notified when their children check out school library books and require teachers to submit the year’s reading list for parental approval,” has ties to national right wing groups. “Maurice Cunningham, a retired associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and author of “Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization,” called Moms for Liberty ‘a prefabricated front’ representing GOP interests, especially those of DeSantis. He noted that multiple individuals and organizations featured at the group’s Tampa summit are aligned with the rightwing Council for National Policy, including DeVos, Heritage Foundation, Leadership Institute and Turning Point USA.”

14) National/Missouri: Jennifer Berkshire says it’s “amazing how many heartland states have a conservative billionaire setting the policy agenda—which is to privatize public education and eliminate the income tax.” Missouri Independentreports on how that state’s governor, Mike Parson, is pushing hard to sell lawmakers on a $700 million tax cut plan. “The governor has also solicited help from one of the state’s most vocal champions of tax cuts, Rex Sinquefield. Parson’s office asked Sinquefield—by far the state’s most prolific donor, having doled out $40 million to Missouri candidates and causes since 2012 — to meet with legislators to discuss tax cut policy. In meetings with the governor and legislative leaders, Sinquefield brought along conservative economist Art Laffer, who is credited as the architect of the controversial tax cut package in Kansas that was ultimately repealed after years of budget shortfalls.”

15) Louisiana: Jennifer Berkshire’s Have You Heard podcast travelled to New Orleans, the first all-charter-school system in the country. “In a provocative new book, Tulane University political scientist Celeste Lay argues that New Orleans’ charter school experiment has undermined democracy, disenfranchising the very parents it was meant to empower. With school privatization on the march across the country, Lay’s account offers an urgent and timely warning.”

16) Maryland: In the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage, “Anne Arundel County Public Schools and its teachers’ union are at odds on how to fill mandated special education roles and how contractors should be paid,” WTOP reports. ‘On Friday, Nicole Disney-Bates, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, released a statement accusing Anne Arundel County Public Schools of violating its collective bargaining agreement with the union by hiring third-party contractors outside of the union to fill special education and ESOL positions in the system. In addition, Disney-Bates stated many third-party contractors were receiving higher salaries than instructors within the union. ‘We do not have an educator shortage; we have a shortage of people willing to be disrespected by their own school system,’ Disney-Bates said. ‘AACPS is spending huge sums of money to pay contractors more than their own dedicated employees who are invested in our communities, and dedicated to the students and families that they serve.’”

17) North Carolina: Writing in The Progressive, Carol Burris takes on “The Great Charter School Scam: Three charters abruptly closed in North Carolina this year due to fraud, disrupting the lives of hundreds of families and highlighting a national crisis.” She reports that “in May, a study by the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH) at Tulane University found that charter schools close at much higher rates than public schools, even when controlling for factors such as enrollment and test scores. Each year, roughly 5 percent of charters close, compared with 1 percent of public schools. But REACH’s data likely underestimates the problem. Because so many new charter schools open each year, the closure rate is offset by the overall growth of the industry. And a new charter opening in Columbus, Ohio, is of little help to a student whose charter just closed in Memphis, Tennessee. To more accurately capture the big picture, we at the Network for Public Education published a report on the long-term viability of charter schools.”

18) Tennessee: Amy Frogge of the Tennessee Public Education Coalition writes that a fake crisis was created to make privatization of the public schools easier. “So why do Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn want parents, taxpayers and legislators to think that two-thirds of Tennessee public school students can’t read? Why do they want you to think that your kids’ and grandkids’ teachers are not doing a good job teaching them to read when, in fact, almost 90% of Tennessee students are reading on grade level by the time they graduate? It’s because they want to create a fake crisis to make it easier to continue the privatization of public schools through private school vouchers and privately-run, publicly-funded charter schools. Just recently, it was revealed that Governor Lee is still working with controversial Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn to bring 100 of Hillsdale’s radical charter schools to replace Tennessee’s traditional public schools, despite Arnn’s demeaning comments about Tennessee’s teachers. We assume that the Governor will soon use his misleading claims that two-thirds of Tennessee students can’t read as the as an excuse to propose expanding his Education Savings Account/voucher program statewide.”

19) Texas: Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor, has been taking on Gov. Greg Abbott on school privatization. But Jennifer Berkshire is not the only one wondering why this didn’t make it into a major story on O’Rourke’s challenge in the New York Times.

20) International: Marshal Wang, a Canadian-born high school student currently attending Upper Canada College, takes on the subject of the privatization of universities across Canada. “The idea of a privately owned university has its appeals and will always exist as an option. As such an ingrained part of the Canadian education system, it is difficult to accept change, but in this case, it feels justified to say this trend of privatization has no stay in the Canadian educational system. The government should reinvest more money and better allocate funds toward post-secondary education to continue to provide a high-quality, affordable option for university students in Canada.”

Infrastructure

21) National: Writing in The Progressive, In the Public Interest’s Donald Cohen says we aren’t prepared for monkeypox. “Now, more than two years after COVID-19 first appeared on American shores—and during a surge in cases caused by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant—public testing sites are disappearing. From Illinois to Alaska, Texas to New York, cities and states are shuttering sites and many have stopped collecting and releasing daily case data. This is a mistake. Less public testing will likely lead to more cases and lives lost, leaving us less prepared for future variants. What we need is lasting, permanent public infrastructure to manage the emergence and spread of diseases. Instead of closing sites, we should be making them permanent and expanding their capabilities to test for other emerging diseases, like monkeypox.”

Reinforcing Cohen’s point, both policy initiatives and media coverage of the national monkeypox effort in recent days have dwelled exclusively on how much vaccine is being delivered, rather than on how the lack of infrastructure is contributing to the problem and stifling future preparedness. And universities also lack the planning and infrastructure to respond.

22) National: Several important recent pieces set out the major crises that could dominate the future of America’s infrastructure, covering the floods in eastern Kentuckythe massive crisis faced by the West as the Colorado River basin recedes, and Laredo’s dire drought and water shortage crisis. Also, check out the fascinating interview the Chapo Trap House folks did with Tarence Ray of the Trillbillies, author of the piece on Kentucky in The Baffler, on what’s been going on policy-wise and down in the hollers as the cameras and reporters go away. Then check out the Trillbillies’ three programs on the floods this month. This is an infrastructure story too.

23) National: Longtime privatization critic Elliott Sclar of Columbia University had a perceptive letter in the Financial Times on the controversial issue of how the public should approach the issue of autonomous vehicles. “John Thornhill is spot on about the regulatory challenge of introducing autonomous vehicles into the existing traffic patterns of contemporary cities (‘Intelligent cars need intelligent regulation,’ Opinion, August 12). However, addressing the challenge will take far more effort than merely getting ‘quick-witted entrepreneurs’ and ‘slow-moving bureaucrats’ on to the same rules-based page. The larger problem is how to find the money to fund the massive infrastructure this burgeoning transformation will require. Public investment is needed to ensure that the new internet-based transport guidance systems are in continuous high-quality contact with changing conditions on the complex weave of streets that comprise modern cities. An assumption implicit in too much of the current conversation is that future autonomous driving will resemble the present but the cars will drive themselves.” [Sub required].

24) National: Passenger rail projects in 8 states will receive $233 million in federal grants. “The money comes from the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair program. The infrastructure law President Biden signed last year made changes to the program and renamed it the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program. DOT in its announcement said it will release a notice of funding opportunity this fall for $7.2 billion available under it. That amount will be available annually for the next five years, for a total of $36 billion. A Congressional Research Service brief from earlier this year points out that the grants makes up the bulk of federal funding available for expanding passenger rail routes.”

25) California/National: Private water police? California American Water has announced it will be stepping enforcement of its water shortage rules by implementing water waste patrols. “First time violators will receive a warning and will be prescribed corrective measures. California American Water will work with these customers to educate them about the drought and the associated water use restrictions. Continued violations may result in fines. California American Water is calling on all consumers to immediately reduce their water use and follow their District’s watering schedule as outlined below.”

26) Pennsylvania: A Philadelphia suburb is shocked by a bid put in by a Florida company for its sewer system. “The NextEra offer of $115.3 million was “totally out of line with what we thought we would receive,” H. Charles Wilson III, the chairman of the township’s board of supervisors, said at the meeting. NextEra’s offer for the sewer system amounts to nearly eight times the township’s entire annual operating budget of $15 million.

The supervisors said the sale of the sewer system and its 7,500 accounts to NextEra would allow Towamencin to retire its debt, forestall property tax increases, finance some projects immediately, and stash $87 million in the bank. Future township improvements would be funded just from the interest earned on the $87 million reserve. Marino called the sale “a generational opportunity to reboot and reset our finances for the foreseeable future.””

Opponents of privatization are resisting. NOPE. “Towamencin Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts: Local Ownership, Local Control, Lower Rates. Our sewer system is currently on the sales floor, join us to put pressure on our board of supervisors to stop the sale!”

Public Services

27) National: Why is government hiring falling so far behind private job creation? “Some of the jobs were eliminated by the public agencies, but much of the deficit reflects their difficulty filling open positions in a hot job market, economists and recruiters say. State and local governments have posted slower wage growth and often have less nimble hiring processes than private employers. “In a severe labor market crunch, the least flexible employer in the room is the one who gets screwed, and that’s the public-sector employer for a number of reasons,” said Marianne Wanamaker, an economist at the University of Tennessee. She added that pay increases for government employees often require legislation and need to be negotiated with labor unions. Wages and salaries for private-sector workers rose 9.4% since June 2020, according to the Labor Department. Pay for state and local government workers advanced 4.9% during the period.” [Listen to the Wall Street Journal podcast]

28) National/Illinois: Voters will decide this fall whether to add the right to unionize to Illinois’ constitution. “‘There are a lot of Republicans and independents who are members of labor unions throughout Illinois,’’ [Joe Bowen, communications director for Vote Yes for Workers Rights in Illinois] said. ‘Most folks, when they think of our state they think of Chicago but the vast majority of the state is still the heartland and there are folks who have been working as pipe fitters and operating engineers, folks who have been paving our roads [and] fixing electrical systems in schools who may not vote for Democrats but they certainly understand the value that collective bargaining has had for them…those are not Democratic or Republican values, those are American values.’”

29) National: State and local election officials can’t access federal funding for security as violent threats mount. “‘There is a clear threat to Colorado Department of State (CDOS) staff, including the Secretary of State,’ Beall wrote in a letter to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, which oversees the grant. ‘We are, simply stated, facing a threat environment that is unprecedented for election officials and staff.’ But in June, the office learned that the advisory board of mostly law enforcement leaders considered and denied the secretary of state’s application for funding for the coming fiscal year. According to the denial email, the board thought the proposal lacked sufficient content and details, and the project duplicated services or research that is already available or being done.”

“Amy Cohen, the executive director of the National Association of State Election Directors, which is made up of election officials across the country, said federal agencies need to do more to ensure that election officials can obtain the money. ‘They have made funds available, but they haven’t made them accessible, and I think that’s a pretty significant difference,’ she said.”

30) Georgia: According to a study by two Georgia State University criminologists, “mandating at least an associate’s degree for entry-level officers should equate to lower rates of Black people and unarmed persons killed by police actions and more balance in the racial distribution of [police-related fatalities]. Police leaders and local governments should consider these findings when crafting policies to protect against fatal police-citizen encounters.”

31) International: Resistance is growing against the Ontario government’s plan for healthcare privatization. “‘It is an asinine idea, it is reckless, it is dangerous and yes indeed, it does actually threaten the public health care system,’ [Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition], said at a press conference on Wednesday. ‘It’s not new, it’s not innovative, it’s not particularly bold, it is a terrible idea but it’s an old idea.’ ‘Our message to the Ford government is, they say everything is on the table in terms of privatization, we say we are calling emergency meetings of every organization in this province that will stand up to protect our public, not-for-profit health care, and our public health care system… Everything is on the table to defend our public not-for-profit health care system.’”

32) International: Sandra Mullen, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), discusses the social implications of privatizing the Nova Scotia liquor sales system. The idea was proposed by the Fraser Institute. “It’s important that readers understand the Fraser Institute is a right-wing public policy organization that has published material skeptical of climate-change science and made claims that raising the minimum wage will not reduce poverty. I’d like to refer to a more reputable source on this topic: the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s 2019 Alcohol Policy Framework. The CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading research centers in its field. In regard to privatization of liquor sales, it states that this course of action tends to increase alcohol-related harms.”

Everything Else

33) Think Tanks: A study published in the Annual Review of Criminology calls for an end to probation and parole. “If probation and parole are not improving public safety, are associated with higher incarceration rates, and are accompanied by negative outcomes, it is logical to ask not only why so many people are under supervision, but also why it is used at all,” the study said.

34) Think Tanks: Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad discussed the origins and impact of neoliberal privatization with the Jacobin Show’s Ariella Thornhill. [Video, at 54:00]

 

In the Public Interest
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United States

August 4, 2022

The Chicago Bears stadium boondoggle | Inflation and tolls | and more

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 8:06 am
Tags: , , , ,

Note the items below related to online schooling (i.e., number 14) – but all of the education ones are worth a moment of your time.

 

 

Your weekly rundown of news and analysis about the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods. Not a subscriber? Subscribe here for free.

Here’s this post on the In the Public Interest website. 

Highlights

Jump toEducation | Infrastructure | Criminal Justice & Immigration | Public Services | Everything Else
 

 

 

First, the good news…

1) National: PowerSwitch Action has a great new website. Check it out. “After two decades at the nerd table, we decided it’s time for our cool-kid makeover. Last summer, we changed our name to PowerSwitch Action to reflect our new long-term agenda. We’re wresting control over our local economies and democracy from wealthy corporations—switching governing power over to our communities where it belongs.” Executive Director Lauren Jacobs says “On our new website, you can:

I particularly like the spotlight interviews on our new blog. From organizing tenant unionsto creating public banksto defending voting rights in the South, our affiliates are doing powerful work. In hard moments, these stories help keep me going.”

2) National: AFSCME President Lee Saunders says The Inflation Reduction Act is “a historic step towards a better, more secure future for millions. (…) Passing this bill will also help create a sustainable future by investing in new technologies to mitigate the impact of climate change. This will include creating thousands of jobs for energy projects right here in the United States and providing tax credits to encourage green investments. And this will all be paid for through a long-overdue increase in corporate taxes. All told, this sets a new standard that prioritizes working families and insists that billionaires and profitable corporations finally begin to pay their fair share if they want to do business here.”

David Dayen has a provisional deep dive on the legislation, which awaits possible passage in Congress. Watch the video [About 13 minutes].

3) National: Cities have hundreds of climate-related projects lined up, The Bond Buyer reports. “As environmental disclosure becomes increasingly important to municipal investors, a new snapshot of U.S. cities sheds light on hundreds of infrastructure projects planned by the cities to mitigate climate exposure. TheU.S. Infrastructure Snapshot Reportis produced by nonprofit CDP, which runs an annual environmental disclosure platform for companies, cities, states and regions. The report digs into the cities’ 2021 climate disclosures to highlight their infrastructure plans, examining the kind of projects, the financing status, and the development stage, among other things.” [Sub required]

4) California: The Center on Policy Initiatives has published the People’s Budget Alliance’s City of San Diego People’s Budget. Among the items: “Align existing City programs to create an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) to uplift health and safety labor standards, effectively enforce labor laws, and protect workers and citizens. Programs such as the Minimum Wage Program, Earned Sick Days Program, Living Wage Program, Labor Compliance Program, and the Equal Opportunity Contracting Program can be combined to create the office. Fast-track hiring for the office to achieve full staffing of all budgeted positions. Cost Estimate: No additional revenue required—redirection of existing program funds.”

5) Missouri: Kansas City’s zero fare transit program is showing major success—and what still needs to be done. “Almost 90% of the riders surveyed said they rode the buses more as a result of Zero Fare. About 92% said it allowed them to shop for food more often; 88% said they could see their healthcare providers more easily or more often; 82% said it allowed them to get or keep a job; and 86% said it made them feel like city leadership is concerned about their needs — a sore subject for mostly-Black East Side residents, who often complain that the city pays more attention to its whiter and more affluent west side.”

6) Missouri: The Missouri Independent has been honored as a “Sunshine Hero” for its work covering state government. “The Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians.  In its release announcing the award, the Missouri Sunshine Coalition praised The Independent as ‘an important addition to statehouse coverage.’ ‘From its earliest days, the staff has reported on looming threats to the Sunshine Law,’ the [Missouri Sunshine Coalition] said, ‘and used the law to assist in shedding light on official actions of government and the influences driving policies.’”

7) New York: New York City is planning to provide cellphone service throughout the subways. “The $600 million project will be paid for and built by Transit Wireless, a New York-based communications infrastructure company, which already provides access to cellphone and Wi-Fi service in all of the city’s 281 underground subway stations. The project will also expand Wi-Fi service to all 191 aboveground stations and to 21 Staten Island Railway stations. The authority’s board approved the proposal at a meeting [last] week. An agency official said the project was in a design phase. Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for Riders Alliance, a grass-roots organization of transit riders, praised the decision and said there were no downsides to making the system fully connected to cellphone networks…”

“Transit Wireless expects to pay off the cost of the project by generating revenue through licensing fees, monetizing data analytics and leasing out fiber-optic cables for network providers, according to documents from the authority’s board. Once Transit Wireless has recouped its $600 million investment, it will share a portion of its revenue with the authority—20 percent for six years, before steadily increasing to 40 percent beginning in the 15th year after recoupment. The authority will also benefit from free Wi-Fi and dedicated access to fiber internet to support its operations.”

Education

8) National: In a further effort to centralize and intensify the right wing assault on the American public education system, two key political operations-cum-think tanks are sponsoring a national conference to “examine the federal legal and policy issues surrounding American education.” The Federalist Society, the national right wing legal networking and activist organization that has attained hegemony over the American judiciary, and the Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies, Inc. (DFI), will hear from keynote speakers Betsy DeVos and William Barr, two veteran activists in the right wing assault on American education and democracy.

DFI’s co-founder and president is Robert S. Eitel, who, as Michelle Chen reported, “as counsel for Bridgepoint, the parent company of the now-tainted brands of Ashford University and University of the Rockies, was forced by the Obama administration [in 2016] to refund $24 million in tuition and debt costs to students, plus civil damages, after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that its heavy marketing scheme for its online programs, and ‘deceived its students into taking out loans that cost more than advertised.’”

Sessions at the September 20 meeting include:

  • Education: What Role for the Federal Government?
  • The Title IV Program: Time for a New Approach to Federal Student Loans?
  • School Choice after Carson v. Makin
  • Critical Race Theory and Gender Identity in the Classroom
  • The Biden Administration’s Proposed Rule on Title IX.

9) National: Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post is doing her usual terrific job of keeping us posted on the organized efforts of the religious charter school industry to undermine public education. This conflict has been particularly fierce in Tennessee, where a huge battle broke out over whether Hillsdale College’s veteran Christian Right activist President Larry Arnn was going to be allowed to set up religiously-inflected charter schools around the state after he insulted Tennessee teachers.

Well the good news is that the privatizers have been routed—for now. “The pushback on one of his plans—to sprinkle charter schools throughout the state that will combat “leftist academics”—has sparked such an uproar over the past few weeks that it may redirect or even halt a major expansion of conservative schooling.”

Darcie Cimarusti of the Network for Public Education takes up the story in the Post. “What is playing out in [Colorado’s] Weld RE-4 district is part of a greater conflict in the state. A recent poll of Colorado voters showed a growing split in support for charter schools. Only 36 percent of Democrats polled expressed support, compared to 79 percent of Republicans. Perhaps most telling are the reasons. Among the reasons Republicans say in the poll that they favor charter schools is because they don’t teach a left-wing agenda while some Democrats and Independents oppose charter schools because they see them as religious.”

10) National: Writing in In These Times, Kalena Thomhave reports that dozens of states are facing education privatization bills backed by conservative think tanks that could potentially take funding away from already struggling schools. “Amy Frogge, a former Nashville school board member and a public education advocate, says she has never seen anything like it. ​‘We’re looking at [about] 10 pro-privatization bills this year’ in Tennessee, she says. ‘“Usually, we’re fighting about one or two.’ Tennessee isn’t alone. In particular, at least a dozen states (including Tennessee) are looking to install a new form of vouchers, called ‘education savings accounts’ (ESAs). ESA programs aim to ‘remove local control of taxpayer dollars and redirect them to private interests with as little public oversight as possible,’ Frogge says. Privatization proponents herald ESAs as ​‘the next generation of school choice.’”

11) National: Joshua Cowen, a professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University and former co-director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) has thrown in the towel on school vouchers. “Vouchers are dangerous to American education. They promise an all-too-simple solution to tough problems like unequal access to high-quality schools, segregation and even school safety. In small doses, years ago, vouchers seemed like they might work, but as more states have created more and larger voucher programs, experts like me have learned enough to say that these programs on balance can severely hinder academic growth—especially for vulnerable kids.”

12) National: The charter school industry is taking a victory lap over its winning battle to get the Biden administration to direct $440 million to charter schools. Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA), Michael Bennet (CO) and Cory Booker (NJ) lined up to support the school privatization industry’s efforts.

13) National: Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali digs deep on Betsy DeVos’ crusade to undermine public education by privatizing schools or defunding them, and has a proposal. “I actually have a great idea that helps us out of this mess. If the right wing is indeed so concerned about our children’s education, perhaps the United States, the most powerful and wealthy country on Earth, could invest more funds in our public schools and give our teachers better wages. We can pay for this by taxing our religious institutions and churches. This will make American kids more competitive when they seek jobs in the global market, which in turn will help make America great again! Isn’t it pretty to think so? Alas, we know Republicans and Christian nationalists don’t care about our kids. They only care about power and control. All of their choices regarding our schools are simply a way to that end—by any means necessary.”

14) National: Online schooling is the bad idea that refuses to die, writes Bloomberg’s Andrea Gabor. “A new study shows that while young children, especially, are bouncing back from the pandemic-era academic doldrums, the gap between high-poverty and low-poverty schools remains greater than it was pre-pandemic. Research, where it exists, shows consistently worse educational outcomes for online schools than for traditional public schools.”

15) National: Writing in The Hill, Jennifer C. Berkshire and Jack Schneider say the GOP’s school board takeover strategy is falling flat. “As it turns out, GOP candidates running on scorched-earth education platforms have fared quite poorly in school board elections. In places like Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire and New York, voters have rejected culture warriors running for school board, often doing so by wide margins. A recent Ballotpedia review of more than 400 school board contests in Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin found that race, gender and COVID were indeed influential in determining election outcomes, but not in the way one might expect. As they found, candidates who ran in opposition to a “conflict issue”—sexual education curricula, for instance, or a focus on race in the district—were more likely to lose their races.”

16) New York: The Gothamist reports that “the founder of a Harlem-born network of nonprofit charter schools once lauded for his ‘compelling new vision’ for public education is headed to prison—for stealing from the very schools he helped launch.”

17) North Carolina: Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools are now contracting out some jobs because of shortages of custodians, landscaping and HVAC workers, my40.TV reports. “A spokesperson for Henderson County Schools said that district has 113 vacancies. Some of the most needed positions are bus drivers, coaches and teacher assistants. A spokesperson for Asheville City Schools said that system has 58 vacancies.”

18) Pennsylvania: Shawgi Tell, author of Charter School Report Card, presents a look at the problems with charter funding in Pennsylvania. “Not surprisingly, while superintendents and public interest advocates in Pennsylvania are seeking broad reforms to the current defective school funding set-up, advocates of privately-operated charter schools are fighting tooth and nail for every single public cent they can seize. They have little sympathy for public schools and their students. To be sure, major problems caused by funneling public funds to privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is a national problem and not unique to Pennsylvania. For more than 30 years, public schools in America have been undermined by these crisis-prone contract schools run by unelected private persons.”

19) Texas: The Dallas Morning News’ Emily Donaldson reports on what to know about Texas’ school choice movement and vouchers. “But school voucher proposals and similar initiatives that direct public dollars toward private school education have faced a tough path through the Texas Legislature. The Senate, led by Patrick, has traditionally supported voucher programs. But the Texas House has been the biggest obstacle, with rural Republicans and urban Democrats voting together to oppose the plans. Last session, 115 members from both parties voted in support of a bill amendment that would have prohibited the use of public funds for school choice programs. Rural Republicans tend to oppose the initiatives because students in their areas often lack alternatives to public schools.”

20) International: A court in the Indian state of Karnataka has criticized plans to outsource teacher jobs. “The High Court of Karnataka has suggested that the State government should not resort to contract system through outsourced agencies by a process of inviting tender to appoint school teachers but endeavor to continue its effort of recruitment of teachers in terms of the cadre and recruitment rules.”

Infrastructure

21) National/Louisiana: U.S. Supreme Court decisions, in this case the Dobbs decision, can affect seemingly unrelated issues such as infrastructure financing. In Louisiana, the Dobbs decision is affecting public financing.  The Louisiana State Bond Commissionhas weaponized the decision against New Orleans. “The Commission delayed a vote on a request for $32.7 million of bond authorization for next year to fund the Sewerage and Water Board’s planning and construction of a power plant costing $106 million. The U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the federal government’s role on abortion policy leaving the issue to the states. Louisiana moved quickly to tighten restrictions on the availability of the procedures, something that has yet to be decided by the state courts.” The New Orleans City Council has approved a resolution “to reiterate that equal access to abortion care is essential for social and economic equality and reproductive autonomy, and to condemn any action intended to abrogate the fundamental liberties of the people of the city of New Orleans while affirming the City Council’s commitment to protecting the rights of its residents to make reproductive health decisions, including abortion care. (…) ‘It is disappointing and appalling that the Louisiana Bond Commission decided to halt funding for one of the most vital and valuable infrastructure projects, despite the fact that the right to an abortion remains legal statewide,’ said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a statement. [Sub required]

22) National: Guess who’s on the hunt for public dollars to build out its massive business? Why it’s Tesla, which paid $0 in federal taxes. “The EV-market leader is bidding for a portion of billions in federal and state dollars that are up for grabs in coming years as the Biden administration, auto makers and many states try to accelerate a fast-charger build-out along highways to reassure drivers that they can travel without fear of losing power,” The Wall Street Journal reports. [Sub required]

23) National: Green, social, and sustainability bond issuesare gaining popularity as more issuers and borrowers incorporate socially and environmentally responsible factors into their capital planning and operations. Here are the basics. But some financial interests are attacking ESG by arguing that it shrinks the pool of potential investors in Muni bonds. They seem not to have noticed that severe climate events are battering their clients’ Muni portfolios.

24) National/International: Guess who stands to benefit handsomely from the increase in interest rates while everyone else suffers? Well surprise, surprise, it’s the road privatization company Transurban, which operates toll roads around the U.S./DMV capital region. “Atlas Funds Management chief investment officer Hugh Dive has named Transurban as one of three companies that could do quite well in a high interest rate environment. (…) Commenting on Transurban specifically, he noted the company will make more profit as inflation rises. He said: ‘With the utilities, you wouldn’t think that they would normally do well in a rising rate environment and their biggest cost is interest. But given that the debt is termed out on an average of about eight years, it’s not really moving. And every year with inflation, the tolls go up. For the next four years, Transurban has said that every 1% increase in inflation equals another US$50 million in profit.’”

25) Florida: Recent reporting by Florida newspapers has raised ethical questions about Florida Power & Light’s manipulation of the media. “The records, along with recent reporting by the Orlando Sentineland Florida Times-Unionon FPL setting up secret daisy chains of nonprofits to funnel money to candidates and hire private investigators to tail reporters, highlight the extremes to which FPL will go to play kingmaker in Florida. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating expenses—including Burgess’ $12,000-per-month paycheck—were funneled into the Capitolist through a network of shell companies backed by FPL, financial records and internal communications dated as early as January 2018 show.”

26) Illinois/National: Are beleaguered Windy City residents about to be further soaked to help finance the up to $2.2 billion price tag on a high-end makeover of Soldier Field to keep the Bears? But there’s more. “About $400 million remains outstanding from a 2001 bond issue that helped finance a $600 million renovation under a deal between the Bears and then Mayor Richard M. Daley that installed a saucer like seating bowl on top of the stadium’s historic colonnades. The bonds aren’t retired until 2032. The Bears lease runs through 2033. The debt is repaid primarily with hotel taxes which plummeted over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic leaving Chicago this year to cover the shortfall.” [Sub required]

27) Maryland: The state agency representing ratepayers says “a recent decision by Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) allowing electric utility companies to access millions of dollars in federal grants without public oversight or input violates the Commission’s regulatory responsibilities. (…) In the petition, the OPC asked the Commission to direct electric utilities in the state to disclose the plans and projects they planned to submit for grants under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The petition said it is in the public interest that electric companies provide reports to the Commission on any funding they have applied for and explain how they intend to use the funds in relation to the state’s policy goals, as well as any conditions that must be met to obtain the grant.”

For a great overview of how the electricity market works in the U.S., and its history, check out this recent discussion by David Dayen, Lee Harris and Mark Nelson.

28) North Carolina/South Carolina: “Toll lanes on south I-77 would be unfair to SC residents like me,” says a motorist about a proposed ‘public-private partnership’ to create tolls. “Why is it that toll lanes on Interstate 85 never seem to come up? I commuted to my job in Charlotte for about 15 years. Placing tolls on I-77 from south Charlotte to South Carolina would basically be a tax on S.C. commuters without representation, which is unfair.”

29) Pennsylvania: Battle lines have been drawn over the biggest proposed privatization deal in the country. Last week public resistance to the $1.1 billion dealwas expressed in a pair of “open houses” by Bucks County officials. “Most of the members of the public who attended the Perkasie event appeared to be opposed to a sale. ‘I’m concerned about a corporate takeover of a public utility,’ said Kara Raymond of Doylestown, who held a ‘Stop the Sewer Sale’ pamphlet during an hour-long question-and answer-session. ‘People are here to ask questions and let their feelings be known. People aren’t here for a corporate presentation.’ (…) Customers who attended Tuesday’s event and criticized the sale said ratepayers would pay higher rates to allow Aqua to recover the purchase cost. BCWSA’s current residential sewer rate of about $48 a month compares to Aqua’s rate of $88. ‘I see no benefit to the customers of the authority,’ said Randy Scott, a retiree from Warrington. ‘There isn’t any benefit here. There is nothing they have proposed that they can’t do themselves without selling the system. And we lose local control.’”  [Watch this great videoon the issues with activist and organizer David McMahon.About an hour and 17 minutes].

30) International: The new Australian Labor government has rejected broadband privatization. “The Australian government has told national broadband wholesaler NBN Co to go back to the drawing board on wholesale pricing. The Albanese Labor government, elected just two months ago, has also confirmed it intends to keep the state-owned business in public hands and that it aims to expand fiber access.”

Criminal Justice and Immigration

31) National/Connecticut: As conservatives launch demagogic attacks on the elimination of cash bail, the Connecticut Mirror is stepping in with a serious examination of the issues. “Over the next three weeks, the CT Mirror will explore the effects and challenges of Connecticut’s cash bail system. This week: One man’s uphill struggle to stay out of prison illustrates the pitfalls of the system Next week: Why New Jersey got rid of most cash bail In two weeks: Financing freedom through GoFundMe”

32) National: A close look at the movement to dismantle the school to prison pipelinewas the topic on Jennifer Berkshire’s Have You Heard podcast. “The movement of students and parents to end harsh discipline and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in their local schools made major gains. Then came the pandemic. Now, with calls for returning police to schools and ‘hardening’ them in response to shooting threats, the movement’s success may be in jeopardy. Special guests: Mark Warren, author of Willful Defiance, and Jonathan Stith, the national director of the Alliance for Educational Justice.” [Audio, about 40 minutes]

33) National: This week we get to hear how much money GEO Group and CoreCivic made from their private prison and immigration operations and what their plans are going forward. GEO Group’s call is on Tuesday, and CoreCivic’s is on Wednesday.

34) Arizona: Arizona Mirror columnist John Fabricius says Arizona needs prosecutors who seek justice instead of racking up ‘wins’. “It’s time we elect a county attorney that uses evidence-based best practices to make justice accessible to all, not just some, in our community. One who sets policies that maximize public safety while ensuring the system delivers justice – not merely cronyism, oppression and racism. One who won’t continue the office’s practice of over-sentencing non-violent offenders (unless they’re her friends), ignoring thousands of sexual assault victims, and illegally inventing fake charges to imprison peaceful protestors. It’s time we elect someone with new ideas, not someone who has spent decades as a member of the corrupt inner circle at MCAO.”

35) Florida: As he continues his hysterical campaigns against what he falsely calls Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ+ and other democratic rights, Gov. DeSantis (R) has offered a defense of corporations profiting from human incarnation. DeSantis, who harbors presidential ambitions, “called out financial institutions for blacklisting The GEO Group, a private prison corporation headquartered in Boca Raton.” Should he ever reach the White House, he would likely privatize every federal prison and immigration detention center in sight.

36) Tennessee: The Courier Journal and the Tennessean report that a deadly drug ring was allegedly run from a CoreCivic prison. “Yet, even as he was behind bar serving a 48-year prison sentence, Morales escalated his criminal network, records indicate. Security breaches inside state prisons operated by private company CoreCivic afforded Morales and his associates forbidden access to secret phones, according to documents obtained through Tennessee’s Open Records Act. CoreCivic also hired a prison guard married to one of Morales’ alleged co-conspirators. Those records also show the alarming frequency with which inmates throughout the prison system accessed or possessed illegal phones. (…) The drug ring is blamed for saturating Nashville and Middle Tennessee with tens of thousands of potentially deadly fentanyl-laced pills, several kilograms of fentanyl and heroin, more than 50 pounds of nearly pure methamphetamine and smaller amounts of cocaine and marijuana.”

Public Services

37) National: Outrage spreads across the country as the Republicans, in a fit of pique over their obstructionist strategy failing in the Schumer-Manchin deal, sink a bill they had previously overwhelmingly supported to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pitsin Iraq and Afghanistan. Jon Stewart has the receipts.

38) National: Waste Management, the garbage and recycling hauler that has experienced widespread labor troubles over poor pay and working conditions, is raking it in.

39) National: The latest version of the much-negotiated Inflation Reduction Act that Senate Democrats hope to pass before the end of next week features a provision that’s key to the stability of the nonprofit health care sector, market participants said. “It’s the ACA subsidy extension that has attracted the attention of some municipal market participants,” The Bond Buyer reports. “If the subsidies are not extended, roughly 12 million Americans would be at risk of losing their insurance, a move that would likely drive up uncompensated care at nonprofit hospitals, who are major issuers of tax-exempt municipal bonds.” [Sub required].

40) National: On Friday there was a protest on the privatization of Medicare on the anniversary of Medicare.

41) Arizona/National: The Arizona Democratic Party is warning that Republican Senate candidates are plotting to privatize Social Security. “Despite the 1.35 million Arizona seniors who rely on Social Security, the field has repeatedly called to dismantle the overwhelmingly popular program.

Jim Lamon, an out of touch self-funder:

Blake Masters, a billionaire-backed millennial who is leaning into his sparse resume to try and persuade voters he’d bring “fresh and innovative thinking” to Washington.”

42) Nebraska: Nebraska Appleseed has dropped its 3-year-old lawsuit challenging the state’s use of private contractorsto oversee Omaha-area child welfare cases, saying “it was no longer needed following the repeal of a state law allowing private management of child welfare cases in Douglas and Sarpy counties and the early termination of Nebraska’s contract with a Kansas-based nonprofit.”

43) Utah: Daily Utah Chronicle Opinion Writer Maggie Bringhurst says anti-abortion advocates neglect children. “Privatization of adoption agencies resulted in corruption, because agencies tend to value profit over humanity. The same thing happens in foster care, as states increasingly privatize the system. ‘I became a machine that cared about profits,’ admitted a former employee of one such foster care agency. ‘I didn’t care about kids.’ Some states provide no financial incentive to reunite the child with the parent. For private agencies, including faith-based, it is in their best financial interest to keep the child in foster care as long as possible.”

44) International: The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is criticizing a Saskatchewan government plan to outsource some knee and hip surgeries. “CUPE 5430, which represents over 13,000 healthcare workers in Saskatchewan, called the Ministry of Health’s move ‘unacceptable.’ ‘Contracting out surgeries is not a magic wand for wait times. In fact, there is little evidence to show that contracting out will result in shorter wait times. We point to Saskatchewan’s own MRI wait lists which have increased since the government implemented a two-tier system,’ said Bashir Jalloh, president of CUPE 5430, in a news release. ‘Even in the case of private surgeries, these patients end up coming back to the public system for follow up. Home care and therapies are just a couple of programs that are also experiencing backlogs.’”

Everything Else

45) National: Why do we keep falling for the same old corporate subsidy con?Asks In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler. “When it comes to government contracts, we like to say that the devil is in the details. Well, the same can be said about corporate subsidies. Take Georgia’s new big, shiny $1.8 billion factory deal with South Korean automaker Hyundai. The state’s republican governor Brian Kemp is making it sound like a win-win for all involved. (…) But when you actually look at the terms of the deal—which is the largest subsidy package for an automotive plant ever in the U.S.—your head can’t help but hurt. There’s a reason Georgia officials wouldn’t reveal what incentives Hyundai had been promised until after the agreement was signed. Here they are.”

And it’s not just state governments that are gushing corporate pork. Economist Jack Rasmus tweeted“US Congress passed today $76 billion hand out to Intel, Qualcomm, & other US (super profitable) chip corps: $52B in direct subsidies + $24B in new tax cuts. To bribe them to return to US? Plus another $200B in slush funds for other tech corps to pay for their R&D.”

46) National: PowerSwitch Action’s Executive Director Lauren Jacobs and Legal Director Ben Beach discussed the implications of the Supreme Court’s efforts to drag us back for our movement. Ben: “The balance between reactive and proactive strategies is really important. I think in these moments of intense crisis, we very rightly feel untethered, scared, and desperate. With all due respect to the long history in America of incredible work to establish legal rights for oppressed people, I also think we have to abandon any attachment to the idea—for as long as this Court majority holds—that our federal constitutional framework is adequate to protect our communities and that federal litigation strategies by some very smart hardworking lawyers alone can save us.”

47) National/International: Krugman vs. Roubini redux. Roubini: “That leads directly to the third question: will monetary-policy tightening by the US Federal Reserve and other major central banks bring a hard or soft landing? Until recently, most central banks and most of Wall Street occupied ‘Team Soft Landing.’ But the consensus has rapidly shifted, with even the Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, recognizing that a recession is possible, and that a soft landing will be ‘very challenging.’”

48) Arizona/National: Blake Masters, a mini Trump, has a plan to privatize (almost) everything everywhere, says Jon Skolnik in Salon. “For one, Masters supports a generalized push to privatize the country’s water supply, according to audioprovided to Salon by American Bridge, a Democratic Super PAC. ‘Would you support the transferring of water resources to private ownership?’ a voter asked Masters two weeks ago during a campaign eventin Sedona, Arizona. ‘In general, yes,’ Masters responded, because ‘the state can’t do it and you don’t want the government doing a lot of this stuff.’”

49) Revolving Door News: Anti-antitrust shenanigans. From@leah_nylen: “Weil’s Mike Moiseyev is representing Meta in the case. Which is super interesting given that Moiseyev was a former FTC staffer, in fact the former staffer who led the agency’s probe into Instagram.” From @papscun: “The FTC’s Meta acquisition challenge focuses not on current harms to competition, but on potential competition in the future. It’s meant to counter Big Tech’s tactic of acquiring firms before they have the chance to become competitors.”

 

In the Public Interest
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United States

July 12, 2022

How states and localities are spending ARPA money | and much more

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 10:07 am
Tags: , , , ,

Note the following items – 9) K12 Inc. in Arkansas; 11) ECOT in Ohio, and 13) cyber schools in Pennsylvania – all of which have to do with K-12 distance, online, and blended learning.

 

 

Your weekly rundown of news and analysis about the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods. Not a subscriber? Subscribe here for free.

Here’s this post on the In the Public Interest website. 

Highlights

Jump toEducation | Infrastructure | Criminal Justice & Immigration | Public Services | Everything Else
 

 

 

First, the good news…

1) National: Jeremy Mohler of In the Public Interest weighs in to say that there is some good news in what is otherwise a dumpster fire. States and localities are doing some pretty amazing things with the $350 million in budget relief from the American Rescue Plan Act:

  • Madison, Wisconsin, created an organization called Occupy Madison, which is building villages of tiny houses for the previously homeless. The houses even include solar panels, so residents don’t have to pay for power—which cost the city a mere $150,000.
  • Minnesota gave public schools a total of $34.6 million to expand summer academic and mental health support for students.
  • Chula Vista, California, is developing an intergenerational community center for the arts. “Family, grandparents, and grandchildren or parents and children will be working together on the artwork,” a research specialist at the National League of Cities told Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene for Route Fifty.
  • Lexington County, South Carolina, paid “premium payments”—or bonuses—to essential public employees ranging from $2,015 to $4,900.
  • Detroit instituted a right to legal counsel for tenants facing eviction, funding it for the first three years with the federal money.
  • Wisconsin invested more into its Worker Advancement Initiative, offering subsidized employment and skills training opportunities with local employers to unemployed workers.

“To be sure—as the Economic Policy Institute has documented—many states and localities have spent relief money in ways that don’t actually improve the lives of working and poor people. At least 21 states, for example, used money to replenish unemployment insurance funding, which has little impact on economic growth and effectively amounts to a tax cut for businesses. But, what a novel idea! If we just adequately fund our public institutions, good things can happen. Now, we just have to make the rich and powerful pay their fair share in taxes so the government can do its thing.”

2) National: In her address to the NEA Representative Assembly, NEA Executive Director Kim Anderson said educators will continue to engage and confront unprecedented challenges to public education. “All around the country, educators—together with students and parents—have taken the lead to create meaningful change in their schools and communities. Anderson shared a wealth of examples:

“In Wisconsin, WEAC [the Wisconsin Education Association Council] and the Wisconsin Public Education Network asked voters to approve bond referendum funding for public education across the state with a simple but fundamental idea: Public schools unite us. And we won big time! (…) In New York … NYSUT beat extremist, anti-public education school board candidates all across the state. Eighty-six percent of the candidates NYSUT endorsed won! (…) In Indiana … ISTA [the Indiana State Teachers Association] helped build a broad-based coalition of over 200 organizations demanding that our students deserve to learn the truth [about our nation’s history]. ISTA’s fight shows us that no matter whether you live in a red state, a purple state, or a blue state, Americans across race, space, income, and background come together to open the doors of learning wider for all students. (…) In Delaware and California, members of the Delaware State Education Association and the California Teachers Association led the way to pass groundbreaking gun violence prevention laws that their governors signed just this week. (…) We beat back vouchers in Iowa, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.”

3) National: At a convening in DC this weekend, the People’s Parity Project, a “nationwide network of law students and attorneys organizing to unrig the legal system and build a justice system that values people over profits” met to discuss next steps. Among the things they’re fighting: efforts by corporate lawyers to ban Scabby the Rat.

4) National/New Hampshire: The great Dan Barry recounts the story of how a small New Hampshire town came together to fight back against efforts to defund their schools and pump the money into private schools. “And the group originally known as We Stand Up for Croydon Students is now called We Stand Up for Croydon. Its members met in a living room a couple of weeks ago to discuss future plans, including how to confront that central threat to democracy, complacency.”

5) NationalA project to build new tunnels from New Jersey to Penn Station moved a step closer to construction with an agreement to share costs between New York and New Jersey. “The project’s planners are racing to lock up federal funding while they have support from the Biden administration and Democratic leaders in Washington. Before the federal government could agree to pay half or more of the cost, the two states had to come to an understanding about splitting the local share. The states did not specify how they planned to pay for their portions, but New Jersey has previously said that it would raise some of its share by issuing bonds.”

6) NationalLet’s hear it for the publicly-owned O’Hare Airport in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune has some kind words for the airport—“and its workers deserve our thanks.” The editors say “we’re always open to hearing arguments for privatization, if that brings efficiencies and better service. But airports are, effectively, monopolies. British Airways cannot pull out of the privately owned Heathrow overnight, however much the airport might raise landing fees or mandate cuts to previously announced schedules. There are too many sunk costs. In Europe, privately owned airports have been desperately trying to recoup investors’ pandemic losses by raising all manner of fees on users already struggling with vastly increased airfares. Egregious drop-off fees now are common. So are tumult and employee unrest.”

And more help for public airports is on the way. “The Federal Aviation Administration awarded nearly $1 billion to airports across the country for projects that will improve terminal capacity, efficiency and accessibility, according to a release from the administration. The money, which was made available in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will be distributed among 85 airports, the FAA said. This is the first round of grants; under the law, the FAA will annually administer $1 billion in airport terminal grants for five years. ‘Americans deserve modern airports that meet the needs of their families and growing passenger demand,’ said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in the release. The ‘grants will improve airport terminals while also creating good jobs in communities across the country.’”

7) Indiana: A state law that forces school districts to sell their unused property to charter schools for $1 instead of to higher bidders was complicating a deal between the City of South Bend and the South Bend Community School Corporation. But the state attorney general has backed off from forcing the sale to Career and Success Academy. The school district was able to show that the building was still in use in this case, but the public asset-stripping law is still on the books.

Education

8) National/Tennessee: An east Tennessee charter school has cut ties with ultra-religious Hillsdale College after its longtime right wing extremist president, Larry Arnn, insulted teachers. Hillsdale is trying to set up charter schools around the country. “Arnn mocked public education and teachers in a video, with Gov. Lee nodding his head in agreement,” WBIR reports. “Arnn’s comments drew ire from teachers and lawmakers in the state, with some criticizing Gov. Lee for not immediately defending the state’s teachers, public school system and colleges. A long-time Knox County teacher said they found the comments ‘offensive on nearly every level.’ ‘To say that all teachers are stupid or that they’re the worst part of any college, or that teacher prep colleges are where the dumb ones go, it’s the oldest stereotype. It’s at least 50 or 60 years old as far as demeaning and demoralizing teachers,’ said Anne Thomas-Abbott, a teacher in Knox County Schools since 1993.”

The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) says “it is clear that the motive for Mr. Arnn’s criticism of public schools and public school teachers is driven by his desire to expand his charter school empire into Tennessee. And from all indications, he has the assistance he seeks in this endeavor.”

9) Arkansas: Seems as if K12 Inc., or at least one of its employees, is dabbling in the dark money political game in Arkansas, if in a rather small way, according to the Arkansas Times.

10) California: Can community schooling transform California’s public school system? As California’s community schools program is about to become the nation’s biggest, The LA Report’s education reporter Kyle Stokes has the story. [Audio, at 11:15].

11) Ohio: “ECOT owes Ohio $117 Million. What are we going to do about it?” asks the Ohio Capital Journal. “What does not make the ECOT saga unique is that it merely mirrors much of charterdom and affirms the industry’s image as a slow-motion train wreck. Sadly, a plethora of stories about issues surrounding The School for Scandal’s improprieties published years before its demise were not catalysts for action. But if misery loves company, ECOT, which operated at full blast draining the state’s treasury for 18 years, is but one of more than 300 failed charter schools now closed that performed with near impunity as the result of a charter-friendly design built into the Ohio Revised Code. That section of the code favors private operators for the schools and limits the amount of transparency and accountability for these constructs that are provided about 150 exemptions in law that public schools themselves are required to meet.”

12) Oklahoma: After a series of bruising audits of charters schools in Oklahoma revealed enormous amounts of financial and other chicanery, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is going after the public schools. He has just ordered an audit of the Tulsa Public Schools. Perhaps he’s trying to find out if they used public money to teach about the Greenwood massacre?

13) PennsylvaniaThe Reading Eagle says charter school reform is long overdue. “‘Their students are not graduating at the same rate as brick and mortar schools, and why is that?’ asked state Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, R-147th Dist., speaking at the rally about cyber charter schools. ‘We don’t know what’s going on in their school board meetings. Those are not publicly elected school boards at cyber charter schools. Their meetings are held in private, and yet they’re spending taxpayer dollars.’ School boards ‘are not calling for the elimination of charter schools,’ said Lawrence Feinberg, director of the Keystone Center for Charter Change at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. ‘Rather, they are calling on the General Assembly to meaningfully revise the flawed charter school funding system.’”

14) TennesseeOne charter school has been approved and another turned down in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. “Vincent said American Classical Academy Montgomery’s application was one the committee would not be recommending for several reasons, including concerns about the scheduling and how the school would build in intervention time for students. Moreover, however, the school had not yet found a building. ‘The school could not provide a concrete contingency facilities plan,’ Vincent said, noting there was not much progress made since the initial application. Vincent said the only building the school had chosen, the committee did not approve in the initial application. ‘The committee felt that was not a suitable educational facility for them,’ she said. ‘Main contingency is to delay opening for a year, until they can find a facility.’”

Infrastructure

15) New York: The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that “the Poughkeepsie Housing Authority is seeking a private developer to partner with on a project that could redesign and redevelop the city’s largest public housing development into a voucher-based, mixed-income housing development. A request for qualifications for a developer partner was sent out in May.” [Sub required]

16) Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission has overruled an administrative law judge who ruled that the privatization of a municipal sewer system would be harmful to the public. The sale to Aqua America will now proceed. “Opponents to the sale, including a residents group and the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, can appeal a PUC decision to Commonwealth Court. The sale could become a test of the underlying rationale in the state’s decision in 2016 to encourage the consolidation of smaller public water and wastewater systems under private ownership. Some critics say the law was intended to encourage private water companies to take over financially troubled public systems. But Watson found that Willistown’s relatively new system is well-run and adequately financed, and the affluent township is ‘financially fit to complete any necessary improvements and upgrades.’ The 2016 law, called Act 12, made it easier for private utilities to offer premium ‘fair market’ prices to towns for their utility assets, where the buyers previously had been limited to recovering from customers no more than the book value of the assets. The law has sometimes led to increasingly lofty prices for public utilities, which critics say is pushing up utility rates.”

17) International: Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is fighting for public ownership of the electricity distribution system in Australia. In their most recent email bulletin, TUED quotes Colin Long, Just Transitions Organizer for Australia’s Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC), as follows: “Privatisation was supposed to lead to lower prices for consumers. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Reinstating public ownership would eliminate rentier behaviour by transmission and distribution companies and the need to concede to the profit demands of big overseas investors. It would enable us to plan the energy system transformation, with a clear schedule for closure of fossil fuel generators to give certainty to workers, their communities and electricity grid managers. It would enable us to schedule fossil fuel generation replacement by renewables in a way that guaranteed supply, efficiency and reduced cost – and ensures we meet decarbonisation targets. It would enable us to ensure that workers are guaranteed a just transition to new opportunities and new industries.” [Australia’s Recent Power Market Crisis and the Struggle for Public Ownership — TUED Bulletin 122].

18) InternationalFrance is preparing to nationalize its energy giant EDF. “Mr. [Elie] Cohen, who works at the CNRS, France’s national research organization, said that since its partial privatization in 2005, EDF had faced mounting industrial, financial and economic challenges. In keeping with French and European competition rules, the company has been forced to sell power to smaller, third-party sellers at a price below its actual production costs and market prices.”

19) International: The trial has opened in Italy on the disastrous collapse of the privatized Morandi bridge in Genoa in August 2018. “After an hour of procedural motions, Judge Paolo Lepri adjourned the proceedings and set a new hearing for Sept. 12 in a trial that is expected to take more than a year to reach any verdicts, the LaPresse news agency reported.”  In 2018 the Financial Times reported that the bridge collapse ignited a huge debate over privatization. “‘It’s a racket,’ wrote Beppe Grillo, the comedian and founder of Five Star on his blog. ‘The motorways must be free. We haven’t paid taxes for years to make Benetton and co rich.’ As well as attacking big business, Five Star has also used the bridge collapse to go after the traditional political establishment for its role promoting privatisation in the 1990s.” [Sub required]

Criminal Justice and Immigration

20) National/CaliforniaICE Detainees Protested $1-a-Day Wage. Now They’re in Solitary Confinement, reports KQED’s The California Report. “Two immigrant detainees have been held in solitary confinement for over a week for backing a labor strike seeking better wages and conditions at the privately run facility where they are held in Bakersfield, the men told KQED. The alleged retaliation fuels fear and intimidation, according to interviews with the men, their attorneys and advocates. Mohamed Mousa and Pedro Figueroa said they were moved to a restricted housing unit after signing a declaration on June 28 that they and 15 others were joining a months-long peaceful work stoppage by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees who are paid $1 a day to clean dormitories and bathrooms. Employees with The GEO Group, a large private prison company that operates the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, transferred the men separately to “administrative segregation” on June 29 and June 30, according to GEO forms viewed by KQED.”

21) National/Florida: The state Auditor General has released a damning blockbuster report about the lack of oversight of private correctional facilities in Florida. The Bureau contracted with three providers, CoreCivic of Tennessee, LLC (CoreCivic); GEO Group, Inc. (GEO); and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), to operate and manage the seven private correctional facilities located throughout the State. The audit disclosed the following:

Finding 1: The Bureau of Private Prison Monitoring (Bureau) did not always issue written notices of noncompliance or document the basis for not issuing notices of noncompliance to private prison providers when continued noncompliance was identified by Bureau monitoring activities.

Finding 2: The Bureau had not established policies and procedures for monitoring provider maintenance activities at the private correctional facilities and Bureau monitoring tools were not always completed, Bureau monitoring reports did not evidence supervisory review, written notice of noncompliance was not given to providers, and Bureau records did not evidence that provider deficiencies were timely followed up on or corrective actions were timely implemented.

Finding 3: Bureau policies and procedures for, and documentation of, review of the on-site nursing consultant’s activities need improvement to demonstrate that health care monitoring services at private correctional facilities are provided in accordance with contract terms.

Finding 4: Bureau monitoring of private correctional facility staffing needs enhancement to ensure that appropriate and qualified staff are assigned to provide for and maintain the security, control, custody, and supervision of inmates.

Finding 5: Bureau efforts to review and verify the accuracy and completeness of private correctional facility provider incident reporting need enhancement to ensure that incidents are correctly reported and appropriately handled in accordance with applicable contract provisions and Bureau policies and procedures.

Finding 6: The Bureau did not ensure that private correctional facility providers obtained and maintained required insurance coverages.

Finding 7: Bureau controls need improvement to ensure that audited provider Inmate Bank and Commissary financial statements are timely received and appropriately reviewed.

22) Alaska/ National: The State of Alaska Department of Revenue reduced its holdings in shares of GEO Group by 41.9% in the 1st quarter, according to its most recent filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission. “The institutional investor owned 85,238 shares of the real estate investment trust’s stock after selling 61,381 shares during the quarter. State of Alaska Department of Revenue’s holdings in The GEO Group were worth $563,000 at the end of the most recent reporting period.” The state also sold shares in CoreCivic. “The firm owned 83,672 shares of the real estate investment trust’s stock after selling 1,495 shares during the period. State of Alaska Department of Revenue’s holdings in CoreCivic were worth $934,000 as of its most recent SEC filing.”

23) FloridaALM reports that “Counsel at Littler Mendelson on Friday removed a lawsuit against the GEO Group, a real estate investment trust that invests in private prisons and mental health facilities, to Florida Northern District Court. The suit, over alleged racial employment discrimination, was filed by attorney Marie A. Mattox on behalf of Isabella Odom-Ford. The case is 5:22-cv-00132, Odom-Ford v. The Geo Group, Inc.”

Public Services

24) National: In Friday’s jobs report, government employment was way down, with a shortfall of 664,000. But the otherwise strong employment report had a negative impact on U.S. government debt, which “came under pressure after a stronger than expected jobs report fueled expectations of more aggressive interest rate rises by the Federal Reserve.” [Sub required] These future rises will also impact state and local government borrowing costs, and make private borrowing for public works more expensive than regular government debt.

Route Fifty reports that, facing acute labor shortages, “some state and municipal parks and pools are significantly raising pay rates to attract summer workers, but officials aren’t sure that will be enough to fill enough jobs, which could force some facilities to close or not open at all. Sioux Falls, South Dakota hiked the hourly rate for lifeguards at city pools to $16 from $10.50 last year. Indianapolis is raising the starting wage for lifeguards to $15 an hour, a $2 increase over last summer.”

25) National/Michigan: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) has received applause for his role in “leading historic, bipartisan reforms to set the United States Postal Service on a more sustainable financial footing and support the goal of providing long-term reliable service across the country. The Postal Service Reform Act, which was signed into law in April, made the first major reforms to the Postal Service in more than 15 years.” Paul V. Hogrogian, National President of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, said “for almost two decades, Mail Handlers have seen the Postal Service struggle financially, resulting in calls for privatization and reductions in service.”

26) National: President Biden has nominated a longtime advocate of Social Security privatization and benefit cuts to a key board overseeing the Social Security system. “The development suggests that there could soon be a coordinated push in Washington to cut the Social Security program, which provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to 66 million Americans. On May 13, Biden chose to nominate Andrew Biggs, a fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute think tank, for a Republican seat on the bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board, which was created in 1994 to consult the president and Congress about the Social Security system.” Biggs is a former Social Security analyst and Assistant Director of the Koch-funded Cato Institute’s Project on Social Security Choice.

27) NationalTrap Free Montana, based in Hamilton, has issued a public comment to the U.S. Department of the Interior complaining about wolf hunting regulations. “They responded to our objection and this privatization of our public agency by writing that it is acceptable as part of the wolf trapping education class so those who trap wolves and learn how to get paid. Montana FWP and the majority of the Fish and Wildlife Commission show a bias against wolves. They did not show up as informational witnesses during the legislative session or were absent in providing the pertinent information, i.e. we will get back to you, we do not have that information. The 2022 wolf proposals by FWP just came out. They are not promoting reinserting the federal law prohibiting the use of aircraft to spot and shoot wolves by citizens. Trappers can prebait wolves, install their cameras, and party trap attaching numerous tags to a trap or snare. We do not know how many wolves are left or how many were killed. The numbers are not consistent for the kills reported. Individual wolf kill reports from our FOIAS are devoid of the kill methods on some and not on the others.”

28) InternationalWorkers in France have gone on strike to save the country’s public broadcast media, Harrison Stetler reports in Jacobin. “Privatization is not yet on the table — though it is an old rallying cry of the French right. But critics of the proposed measure argue that it will leave the service handicapped. On the heels of the government’s announcement to eliminate the tax, a pair of center-right senators from Les Républicains released a report on public service broadcasting, which called for the “fusing” of TV and radio broadcasters under one umbrella network, mutualizing production work and studio use across formats. Delphine Ernotte, the president of France Télévisions, is said to support a move toward an integrated group, and perhaps the transition toward private ownership, arguing that it would be the only way to digest budget cuts and respond to competition.”

Everything Else

29) NationalBans on using public bond proceeds for religious purposes may now be unconstitutional, The Bond Buyer reports. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month “that if a state chooses to subsidize private education, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because of religious affiliation. The ruling could change the way some issuers go about certain financings, public finance lawyers said. ‘Some [issuer] statutes have restrictions in them against bond proceeds being used for religious purposes and some of those may now be unconstitutional given this case, which struck down Maine’s restrictions against using the aid program for sectarian institutions,’ said Jenna Magan, partner and co-head of Orrick’s public finance group. ‘If the state decides to provide a governmental aid program to schools, it can’t exclude sectarian schools,’ said Jenna Magan, partner and co-head of Orrick’s public finance group.” [Sub required]

30) International: Watch an hourlong activist discussion on how public ownership, stopping “the privatization scandal,” and establishing public control “are essential to tackling the crises facing Britain.” With Ian Lavery MP, Kate Osborne MP, Kevin Courtney, NEU General Secretary, Nadia Jama, Labour NEC, Johnbosco Nwogbo, Lead Campaigner, We Own It, Fraser McGuire, candidate on Socialist Future slate in Young Labour, and Dr. Sonia Adesara, Keep Our NHS Public.

 

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