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.
- As the Supreme Court looks likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is preparing to drop another constitutional bombshell: gutting the legal basis for federal agencies to regulate such things as climate change, food safety, drug safety and many other public risks.
- Betsy DeVos may be out of office, but the Republicans are doubling down on her school privatization crusade.
- Indiana’s Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has ended its public-private partnership eight years into what was to be a 40-year agreement.
First, the good news…
1) National: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to find its footing in beginning to restore labor rights after years of hostility to labor organizing under Republican direction and resistance. “A majority of the Board (Chairman McFerran, Member Wilcox, and Member Prouty) found that in this case, the Regional Director had properly dismissed a decertification petition, after finding merit in unfair labor practice charges. While agreeing that the merit-determination dismissal procedure remains available to Regional Directors, Members Kaplan and Ring dissented on the grounds that an evidentiary hearing should be required.”
2) National: The fight against in-city freeways seems to be making progress. “Oregon DOT (ODOT) declined to defend its environmental review to widen I-5 through Portland’s growing Eastside neighborhood. (…) in Denver, expansion plans for Interstate 25 through downtown have been put on hold for several years. (…) Also, in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to dump its $6 billion expansion plans for the 710 Freeway. These changes come as the highways to boulevards movement is gaining stream. The federal Infrastructure Bill included $1 billion for this purpose. The amount allocated for construction is limited, but the $250 million for planning will fund an unprecedented number of studies for replacing freeways with surface streets.”
The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) launched its Freeway Fighters Network at the end of April, tracking 60 local campaigns to remove in-city highway segments, build large-scale caps, or stop expansion plans.
3) National/North Carolina: A North Carolina charter school’s skirts-only dress code for girls violates Title IX, a federal appeals court has ruled. “The district court had ruled that the dress code did not violate Title IX because the law does not apply to dress codes, but the full appeals court overturned that in a 10-6 ruling. ‘I’m glad the girls at Charter Day School will now be able to learn, move, and play on equal terms as the boys in school,’ Bonnie Peltier, a plaintiff whose daughter attended the school, said in a statement. ‘In 2022, girls shouldn’t have to decide between wearing something that makes them uncomfortable or missing classroom instruction time.’” [Title IX text]
4) National: Democratic members of Congress released a proposal on June 8 calling for the creation of a nationwide registry of police misconduct along with mandatory reports from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies on use of force data. This has been a long time coming, and previous promises have gone nowhere, according to The Appeal. “We have been waiting for more than five years for simple data collection, and this administration is just ignoring its statutory obligations,” said Sakira Cook, director of the Justice Reform Program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella organization for more than 200 civil and human rights groups.
5) California: A new California initiative may make a real difference in reducing the mountain of plastic refuse, Capital & Main reports. “Already qualified for the November ballot, the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act would force the petrochemical-based plastics industry to make all single-use plastic packaging and foodware items reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030, while reducing production of them by 25%.”
6) Massachusetts: The state senate has passed a bill “that would impose a five-year moratorium on the construction of new prisons and jails in Massachusetts, a move supporters say would reduce fiscal burdens on the state and promote alternative rehabilitation methods for incarcerated individuals.” Sen. Jo Comerford (D) said “we need a five-year pause on new jail and prison construction and prison expansion to ensure that the pathways away from incarceration for women and for men, pathways that this Senate helped create, are being justly used.”
7) National: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has issued a statement to mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark Plyler decision. “In 1977, MALDEF filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Texas law that sought to exclude undocumented children from the public schoolhouse by charging tuition. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Because of the decision reached in Plyler, every child is guaranteed access to a free public K-12 school without fear that their immigration status can cut short their education.”
MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said, “at 40, Plyler itself is secure and well-settled constitutional law, incorporated in 1996 into federal statute. Although unscrupulous politicians will continue to threaten the Plyler principle, such threats are empty indications of electoral desperation and vacuous thinking that regresses to thinly-veiled racism in the face of perceived political danger.”
On the threats to Plyler, see Jack Crosbie’s article in Rolling Stone. “Abbott framed the potential of overturning Plyler v. Doe as a way to lessen the costs of educating undocumented immigrants, giving the plan a convenient spin that dovetails with a common conservative talking point. But overturning Plyer v. Doe may result not just in relief for overburdened school systems; it could create a gateway for their abolition, further crippling education in America and shuffling more children into a privatized system with few common standards. It would be a disastrous turn not just for children of undocumented immigrants, but for children all across America.”
8) National: Betsy DeVos may be out of office, but the Republicans are doubling down on her school privatization crusade. A bill proposes a $10 billion federal school voucher program. “The proposal proposes the type of education voucher called a tax credit scholarship. In such a system, a corporation or individual makes a donation to a scholarship granting organization, which in turn offers vouchers to students to attend select private schools. The donors get to use the donation as a credit against their tax liabilities. In other words, donors get to make contributions to private schools in place of paying taxes, and because their money never actually touches government hands, tax credit scholarships skirt the entire issue of using tax dollars to fund private religious schools.”
9) National: “It feels like a war on women.” The nationwide shortage of tampons, baby formula, and the high price of gasis hitting local governments and school districts hard. “At Scribner-Snyder Community Schools, a small public district in rural Dodge County, Neb., where 68% of the student body is considered economically disadvantaged, more students than ever before asked guidance counselor Leah Fischer for tampons as the 2021-22 school year came to an end. The products in the bathrooms cost 25 cents—an amount she said can add up in her population of students. ‘With our low-income population, they have to prioritize their needs—gas and getting to work and things like that,’ Fischer said. ‘It’s going to make it more difficult for our families to take care of that necessity.’
“School district superintendents may meet this summer to discuss budgeting menstrual products for students, said Megan Reese, a community liaison who works with 16 school districts in the area. If they don’t come to an agreement, Reese said she’s considering holding a community drive. She plans to make the case that “schools already provide toilet paper and paper towels—why don’t they provide tampons?”
“Long before the current shortage, a number of nonprofit organizations sprung up around the country to help provide menstrual products for those who are low income, in school, homeless or incarcerated. But now those groups are struggling to provide help amid the shortage.”
10) National: Writing in The Progressive, Velislava Hillman and Molly Esquivel warn that surveillance capitalism is spreading to schools. “This type of invasive surveillance is both unwarranted, as it offers no educational benefit, and harmful to the privacy of all stakeholders in education, as it entitles ed-tech companies to access and share troves of personal data. Although all partners to ed-tech contracts must sign privacy and user agreements, there is no definitive way to ensure honesty and commitment to these policies.”
11) National/International: “Horrifying to see [The New York Times] running what is essentially an advertisement for privatized for-profit education,” says Bassam Khawaja [Co-director Human Rights and Privatization Project @NYULaw]. “Human rights investigations have found Bridge Academies runs low-quality, high costs schools that exclude marginalized kids and underpay teachers. (…) Here’s 88 organizations urging investors to cease support for Bridge International Academies because of lack of transparency, poor labor conditions, and non-respect of the rule of law in host countries.”
12) New Mexico: The Roswell Independent School District (RISD) is looking to expand its commitment to community schools. “‘The study skills and life lesson classes are more engaging and they’re more conversational. It’s a social-emotional base as the foundation for all the different lessons and just trying to give these kids some skill to be successful in high school,’ she said. The life lessons also help the students prepare for high school by teaching them to set goals and think about whether they want to go to college and if not, what they can do throughout high school to prepare for a trade. In the coming year, Sierra’s community school program will focus on getting parents involved in the school, she said.”
13) California: Cheech Marin’s Riverside Museum of Chicano art has officially opened. “The 16,420 square-foot renovated space will display paintings, drawings and sculptures that Marin began collecting more than four decades ago. The Cheech will also include a community art exhibit, video multi-purpose room and education studio.”
14) California: Four Marin school systems will receive significant grants out of the state’s first round of a new $3 billion, seven-year program to finance community schools. “Community schools, a growing movement in education, are a way to engage a school’s parent community outside the classrooms by offering a range of leadership groups, trainings, counseling and health support services for the whole family. ‘We know that the best learning environment is one where students are healthy and happy and surrounded by knowledgeable and caring adults attuned to their needs,’ Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the state Board of Education, said in a May 18 announcement after the grants were approved. ‘Unfortunately, schools in communities with high rates of poverty, homelessness and food insecurity lack the funds to address student mental health issues, improve wellness and support learning recovery,’ Darling-Hammond said.”
15) New York: A group of New York charter schools have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly sweeping away nearly $1 million in promised Charter School Programs funding. The suit has the backing of Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres, who was recently named a “champion of charter schools” and “rising star” by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
16) Tennessee: The state Supreme Court has overridden the wishes of local school districts that sued to block the state’s private school voucher law. “Litigants behind a second lawsuit in the case say they intend to press ahead with up to four remaining claims challenging the law’s constitutionality. And Dietz and his legal team are considering a similar move on behalf of local governments based in the state’s two largest cities. In addition, a program with the complexities of vouchers requires significant preparation before a rollout and likely could not be ready before the start of the new school year in August.”
17) Texas: The Texas State Board of Education has again rejected the application of a Houston charter school “whose founder gave money to a political action committee that backed anti-critical race theory candidates for the board and whose board member accused organizers of the Women’s March of trying to impose Sharia in America. The Heritage Classical Academy, which had plans to open in 2023 using a curriculum developed by the conservative Christian Hillsdale College, was one of four applicants for charters that were rejected by the board this week.”
18) National/Indiana: The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has ended its public-private partnership eight years into what was to be a 40-year agreement. “The airport board announced the decision on June 8, saying that it would re-assume management, operations and development of the facility as part of a ‘previously planned restructuring.’ The move comes a few months after new leaders took the helm at the board and the airport. ‘All of us agreed that it makes sense to take full control back in house,’ Dan Vicari, the airport’s executive director, was quoted in local reports as saying at the June 8 board meeting.” [Sub required]
19) National: Veteran Municipal bond analyst Joe Mysak expects the municipal bond market, which supports public infrastructure and services, will rebound over the rest of 2022. [Audio, about 6 minutes].
20) National: The massive floods that inundated Yellowstone Park show major gaps in the federal government’s infrastructure plan. “Major park infrastructure, like roads and bridges, will need to be replaced after historic flooding. (…) Even before the flooding, though, there was a huge backlog of critical maintenance infrastructure projects at parks, including Yellowstone. And while the Biden administration is on the road promoting its trillion-dollar infrastructure law, climate experts are quick to point out what’s not in the bill. That’s the bigger and more expensive climate resiliency projects in the law’s stalled companion, the Build Back Better Plan.”
21) National: “Time bomb” lead pipes are set to be removed, but first water utilities have to find them, KCUR reports. “State governments have only a fraction of the picture. And while President Joe Biden has prioritized removing remaining lead service lines, water utilities aren’t required to finish finding them for almost two and a half years. ‘One the biggest problems we have is we don’t know where these lead pipes are oftentimes,’ said Marc Edwards, a distinguished professor at Virginia Tech who helped blow the whistle on the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, which began in 2014.”
22) New Jersey: Developers and some lawmakers have renewed their efforts to privatize Liberty State Park, efforts which have been repeatedly knocked down over the years. But this time they’re attached park repairs to a bill to try and get it through. “We don’t want any of our parks to be turnstiles for revenue generation,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “That’s what we pay taxes for.” NJ 1015 reports that “Sam Pesin, president of Friends of Liberty State Park, said the group welcomes the community center and ballfields but not stadiums and concert venues. ‘Please don’t throw away its future on commercial venues that will destroy the park’s true purposes,” Pesin said.’ There will be hearings on a companion bill in the state assembly tomorrow.
23) Puerto Rico: “Fiscal dysfunction continues to be the order of the day as Puerto Rico’s now partially privatized [LUMA] electrical system moves toward the June 30 end of its fiscal year,” the Financial Oversight and Management Board reports. “On May 25, the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) issued a notice of violation to LUMA, the private operator that last year took over Puerto Rico’s transmission and distribution systems, in response to LUMA’s first submission of a fiscal plan for the electrical system.”
24) International: Duke University’s Kenneth Surin has an update on the great British privatization heist. “Britain’s railways have come a long way in the years since they were privatized in the 1990s—passenger numbers doubled, operating companies added a third more services and trains improved. But privatization led to fragmentation: Most passenger services are run by train operators granted franchises which lease the ‘rolling stock,’ while the rail infrastructure is owned and maintained by the publicly owned Network Rail. That disparate structure has created a range of knock-on problems including spiraling costs, commercial failures, poor maintenance, delays to upgrades and a burden on both users and taxpayers.”
The issue is coming to a head as Great Britain faces its biggest rail strike in 30 years. The Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union (RMT) tells its workers “your employer is planning the biggest attack on your pay and working conditions for 20 years, in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.” See their fact sheet, and check out this audio clip by Mick Lynch of RMT.
25) Think Tanks: Karla Walter, the senior director for employment policy at the Center for American Progress, proposes 4 strategies to create good jobs and boost equity with federal infrastructure funds:
- Connect a new generation of workers to good jobs.
- Adopt project-specific agreements to support workers and local communities.
- Weed out companies that violate workplace laws and lack a stable workforce.
- Beef up enforcement of worker protections.
Criminal Justice and Immigration
26) National: Criminal justice journalist Adam Johnson reports a spike in murders in rural Republican counties exposes the media’s anti-reform double standard. “One essential point that police and prison reform activists and abolitionists have been making over the past year, as reaction to modest reform has grown into a full blown moral panic,” Johnson says, “is that data very clearly indicates that crime—namely, murder rate—increases appear to be entirely divorced from the policies of the prosecutors and police budgets of the affected areas. Despite the widespread, casual lie that radical, far-left reform prosecutors or defunded police budgets have caused a spike in crime, a number of researchers have noted this is entirely without basis.”
27) National: CoreCivic, a private company that makes its money off of incarcerating people, is seeking to gag a prominent attorney, Daniel Horwitz, from speaking out about a prison it runs. They also want him to delete some of his tweets, e.g., “What if, instead, you just don’t bother to employ enough staff to check, then find the guy dead a whole lot later after he is already decaying? Asking for CoreCivic’s @TrousdaleTurner.” The Tennessean reports that “Horwitz is often outspoken on social media and called the company ‘cartoonishly evil’ with a ‘deliberate indifference to the health and safety of the inmates in its care’ in a comment to The Tennessean. ‘There is no reason to be scared of this cartoonishly evil prison corporation unless you are an inmate housed at one of its chronically understaffed facilities,’ he said by text. (…) Understaffing at the prison was so endemic it amounts to a policy and made the company liable in her son’s killing, Newby argues. The company denies her claims in the ongoing suit.”
28) New York: Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg reports that “more than two years into the pandemic, the Broome County Sheriff’s Office is still prohibiting all jail visits. The policy helped them take in more than a half-million dollars in 2021. (…) Between January and October 2021, the Sheriff’s department took in well over half a million dollars from detainee phone calls and tablet use, according to records obtained by the local nonprofit Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier (JUST), which runs a visitation program at the jail. JUST’s founding member Bill Martin, first published the financial records on his blog, Just Talk. (…) “My mom can’t afford to do video calls and neither can I,” Amanda wrote. “I’m in here completely alone.”
29) Texas/National: The Texas Supreme Court has sided with asylum-seeking mothers “in a ruling that states the mothers have standing in a detention facility lawsuit, sending the case back to the appellate court. (…) Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that works to abolish for-profit private prisons and detention centers, is the plaintiff in the case along with four asylum-seeking mothers and a day care center. The plaintiffs allege that the rule is resulting in safety risks and privacy violations of the detainees and their children because the children are housed in rooms with adults they are not related to.” The court stated that detainee mothers “did have standing, and justices directed the lower court of appeals to consider the remaining jurisdictional issues and the merits of the case, as appropriate.” [Read the ruling].
30) National: As the Supreme Court looks likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is preparing to drop another constitutional bombshell: gutting the legal basis for federal agencies to regulate such things as climate change, food safety, drug safety and many other public risks. This is the legal underpinning of right wing extremist Steve Bannon’s crusade to dismantle the “administrative state, and has been moved along through the courts by a well-funded and organized strategic litigation onslaught shepherded by right wing legal pressure groups such as the Federalist Society, and by funders such as the big-oil Koch empire.
“‘It’s a pincer move,’ said Lisa Graves, executive director of the progressive watchdog group True North Research and a former senior Justice Department official. ‘They are teeing up the attorneys to bring the litigation before the same judges that they handpicked.’ The pattern is repeated in other climate cases filed by the Republican attorneys general and now advancing through the lower courts: The plaintiffs are supported by the same network of conservative donors who helped former President Donald J. Trump place more than 200 federal judges, many now in position to rule on the climate cases in the coming year.”
“‘The Federalist Society has put a lot of time and energy into this, and a lot of intellectual power,’ said Ms. Katzen, former head of the White House office of regulatory affairs in the Clinton administration. ‘All that effort has paid off. But I don’t think this is the culmination of their agenda. I think it’s just the beginning.’”
31) National/Texas: Texas taxpayers are footing the bill for the state’s war with Wall Street over guns, the Mercury News reports. “The state’s municipal borrowers have been hit with as much as $532 million of extra debt costs because of a new GOP law that’s led some banks to step back from Texas’s bond market. That’s the conclusion of a new paper by Daniel Garrett, a University of Pennsylvania professor, and Ivan Ivanov, a principal economist at the Federal Reserve. (…) The state’s municipal borrowers have been hit with as much as $532 million of extra debt costs because of a new GOP law that’s led some banks to step back from Texas’s bond market. That’s the conclusion of a new paper by Daniel Garrett, a University of Pennsylvania professor, and Ivan Ivanov, a principal economist at the Federal Reserve.
“The researchers examined sales in Texas’s $50-billion-a-year municipal-bond market after a law took effect in September that targeted banks for their gun policies. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 19, bars governments from entering into contracts with companies that ‘discriminate’ against firearms entities. It has caused banks including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., among the biggest underwriters of state and city debt nationwide, to stop most public-finance business in the state.” Its impact on public services and infrastructure projects remains to be seen. “Meanwhile, the ranks of muni underwriters in Texas may get even thinner due to another new law, Senate Bill 13, which restricts governments from working with companies that ‘boycott’ the fossil-fuels industry.”
32) Pennsylvania: Kate L. Nolt, an assistant professor of Public Health & Healthcare Management at Creighton University, says we need to talk about the mental health impacts of full liquor privatization. “It is critical that the public health and safety concerns related to this change now be transparently debated,” she writes. “As a Pennsylvania resident, mother of three and public health expert with more than two decades of population health experience, I feel compelled to speak out. The lack of transparency on the collateral outcomes to Pennsylvania residents renders an informed decision by voters impossible. Should State run liquor stores be eliminated by the passing of this amendment, Pennsylvania residents should be clear on the likely results of such a political move. Privatization has occurred in other states and countries and the resulting public concerns related to privatization are well documented. For example, in states with privatized liquor, 44 percent more alcohol sales (proxy for consumption) occurred, and communities have experienced significant challenges to the public’s health as a result. An increase in the number of liquor stores in their neighborhoods has brought unwelcome public disturbances.”
33) Think Tanks: The latest in corporate risk analysis for so-called public-private partnerships. The title? “A risk allocation model among the elements of freeway projects in public-private partnership (PPP) method using integrated fuzzy multi-criteria decision-making techniques.” Integrated fuzzy multi-criteria? OK.
32) National: The 30th annual meeting of the Koch-funded State Policy Network is a little over 90 days away in Atlanta, and the right wing activist organization has a new head—marketing executive Ron Tite. Events will include
- Winning Strategies for State Regulatory Reform, sponsored by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and Pacific Legal Foundation.
- Television Techniques: Professional On-Camera Techniques, sponsored by the Leadership Institute.
- The Shifting Policy Landscape in 2022. “Mike Reitz, a seasoned think tank leader and executive at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, will lead a discussion about how policy attitudes are shifting across the country and what that means for rising leaders in the liberty movement.”
- Our Money—Our Values: Everything States Should Know About the Dangers of ESG Initiatives, sponsored by the State Financial Officers Foundation.
- SPN will screen a new documentary on homelessness, an “inspiring alternative created by a businessman leading a community-wide solution for San Antonio. The film casts a vision for how this Tocquevillian model can be replicated across the country. Join the movement at BeyondHomeless.org”
Photo by Gage Skidmore.