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- Bernie Sanders: “We are not going to build bridges just so our people can live under them.”
- Seven charter schools are seeking permission to open in West Virginia.
- Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho shares some out-of-the-box ideas on how deep red “flyover country” be organized along progressive lines.
First, the good news…
1) National: The Biden Justice Department has struck back against Texas’ move to privatize the enforcement of its unconstitutional abortion ban, suing the state for a massive violation of federal interests and the Roe and Caseydecisions. Responding to the suit in The Nation, Elie Mystal says “the conservatives on the Supreme Court might love controlling women and forcing them to give birth against their will. But do they really want to vitiate the principle of intergovernmental immunity? Because, if they do, I’d like to share some laws New York state could pass regarding the work of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Border Patrol, and the Department of Homeland Security. I would very much like to become wealthy by being a private bounty hunter who can sue ICE agents for $10,000 every time they ‘aid or abet’ a deportation order. Let’s make that happen, Governor Hochul.”
2) National: “We are not going to build bridges just so our people can live under them,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “No infrastructure bill without the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.”
3) National/Idaho: Can deep red “flyover country” be organized along progressive lines? Can campaigns for quality public education and decent public healthcare be won there, even in rural areas? Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho gives an emphatic yes, and shares some out-of-the-box ideas on how it can be done with the crew at the This is Revolution Podcast. [Video, about an hour]
4) National: NELP, the National Employment Law Project, is calling on all hands to contact their Congressional representations to press for unemployment insurance reform. “We have the chance to make long-term unemployment insurance reform happen. Call your representative now and demand they #FIXUI in the reconciliation bill and reinstate federal pandemic emergency benefits.”
5) National/Maryland: More Perfect Union has prepared a powerful video on how corporate-funded pro-privatization public officials sold out Prince George’s County public schools to a multi-year so-called public-private partnership to build and maintain public schools. Now they are trying to kick out the members of the school board who are fighting back. “What happens when progressives defeat corporate-funded Democrats? In Prince George’s County, Maryland, lobbyists & business groups are attempting to overturn an election in plain sight to keep control of a $2 billion school board budget. The corruption is shocking.” [Video, about 7 minutes]. The right wing campaign is using propaganda by the decades-old union busting National Right to Work Committee against project labor agreements.
6) National: Republicans once called government the problem—now they want to run your life, says Robert Reich.
7) National: Philip Mattera, director of the Corporate Research Project, reports that 2021 “is turning out to be a banner year for state government prosecution of corporate crime and misconduct. The biggest events are, of course, the settlements with pharmaceutical companies Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson along with the three big drug distributors—Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson—for their role in creating and prolonging the opioid epidemic.
9) National: Calling for effective taxation on corporate stock buybacks, which are on the rise again, the Roosevelt Institute’s Lenore Palladino told the New York Times that “curbing buybacks … would discourage practices that hurt workers and encourage higher wages and investment in innovation.” Senate Democrats are proposing a 2 percent tax on corporations that engage in the practice.
10) National/Puerto Rico: The Bond Buyer reports that “almost two dozen amicus briefs have been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the past 10 days in favor of granting Supplemental Security Income benefits to Puerto Ricans and other territorial residents, with oral arguments set for Nov. 8.” ACLU reports that “the groups’ amicus brief argues that Puerto Rico residents should be entitled to enjoy the full protections of the U.S. Constitution, and that by denying SSI benefits to residents of the territories, Congress disfavors a group that lacks voting representation in Congress, has historically faced marginalization and disenfranchisement, and overwhelmingly consists of people of color — leaving this group without equal protection under the law.” The Bond Buyer reports that “providing the payments would mean an additional $1 billion in federal transfers to Puerto Ricans each year, which could help the island’s economy, the Puerto Rico Oversight Board has said.”
11) Florida: The Florida Supreme Court has finally accepted jurisdiction to hear a legal case against Florida’s firearm preemption law. In response, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said, “once again, Florida Republicans are attempting to punish local governments for taking actions to protect their communities. The penalties imposed by this law are draconian and unconstitutional. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: no one knows their communities better than those who are closest to the people. Republicans in Tallahassee need to stop punishing local officials for doing what their communities are electing them to do.”
12) Illinois: The stress and isolation of the pandemic have brought mental health concerns to the forefront, and Governor Pritzker and state lawmakers are taking action. New legislation signed into law by Pritzker will expand coverage of mental health services, ensure coordination of mental health services in emergency response systems, and allow students to take up to five mental health days off from school.
13) Kansas: State prison residents are increasingly benefitting from college and career courses. “Classrooms at the Kansas Department of Corrections adult facilities are filled with 325 residents enrolled in college and career courses—an increase of 129 students from last year, according to the state. The state corrections department attributed the increase in enrollment partly to Second Chance Pell grants, which allow people involved in the criminal justice system to access federal, need-based financial aid that had previously been unavailable to them. Gov. Laura Kelly announced last fall that seven colleges in Kansas would receive $2.2 million in Pell grant funding for people who have experienced incarceration.”
14) New Mexico: In response to educator shortages, the state has launched a new program intended to support careers in education. “The Educator Fellows Program will use about $37 million in American Rescue Plan funds to create educational assistant and support staff positions. The new educators will provide small-group instruction and tutoring to accelerate learning for students. The program will fund 500 new educational assistants across New Mexico. Las Cruces Public Schools: 226 reported COVID-19 cases in the first month of school. ‘I really hope it changes the way we look at workforce development in education,’ said Public Education Department Deputy Secretary Gwendolyn Perea Warniment. ‘For so long, I think it’s been this antiquated notion that it’s go to college, get a degree in education, go into the classroom. That’s a very narrow pathway.’”
15) International: Economist John Quiggin, a pioneering critic of privatization in Australia (such as so-called Asset Recycling) and around the globe, has written an interesting article on how the decades-long erosion of governmental capacity has created a disastrous situation for responding to the COVID-19 crisis. “Nature abhors a vacuum, it is said. So, as the national government has retreated, the states have stepped up their own activity, not just on the pandemic but also in areas such as energy and climate policy. This is better than nothing, but it forgoes many of the advantages that led our forebears to combine six fractious colonies into a federal nation 120 years ago. Perhaps some improved version of national cabinet will provide us with a way forward. Then again, perhaps not.”
16) National: In a must-read article in the New Republic, Jennifer Berkshire argues that with Democratic Party support for charter schools waning, the schools may be turning rightward—while still getting federal funds—but will eventually become vulnerable to a wholesale attack on public education funding. “While West Virginia’s moves were the most dramatic,” she reports, “legislators in 18 states, including Florida, Indiana, Arizona, and New Hampshire, were close behind, creating private school–choice initiatives or expanding existing ones. Although lawmakers pointed to the pandemic’s shuttering of public schools as part of the justification, schools—both public and private—in most of these states remained open.
“For all of the bluster from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others about the importance of in-person schooling, the GOP’s favored school-choice programs increasingly bypass traditional classroom learning altogether. Instead, parents are encouraged to use publicly funded ‘education freedom accounts’ to purchase an array of education ‘options,’ much like television viewers who eschew cable packages for à la carte channels. Charles Siler, a former lobbyist for the pro-privatization Goldwater Institute in Arizona, says that the GOP’s increasing hostility to public schools could ultimately harm charters as well. ‘The real target here is taxpayer-funded public education, and that’s a category that includes charters,’ said Siler.”
17) California: One of the two kingpins in a massive charter school fraud scheme that defrauded the state of California out of tens of millions of dollars has been sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay $18.75 million in fines in San Diego Superior Court. “Prosecutors accused A3 leaders of buying children’s personal information to falsely enroll them in the schools and of providing incomplete education services while taking tens of millions of dollars for personal use. A3 leaders also manipulated enrollment figures across their schools to receive more state funding per student and manipulated school attendance reporting to get more money for time that children were not spending in A3 schools. So far, nine defendants in the case have pleaded guilty.”
18) California: Writing in Capital & Main, Jack Ross asks whether LAUSD’s new funding plan will help promote school choice and undermine local schools. “LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg says Student Centered Funding will fuel downward enrollment spirals that will shutter underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods. The more students leave, the less money a school has, and parents and children begin jumping ship at an increasing rate. Proponents of the model say SCF gives schools more flexibility to spend their money on what they need rather than locking them into certain programs designed by remote authorities, like the school board or the state or federal government.”
19) District of Columbia: Rocketship Public Schools, a charter school network, has told its DC staff to get vaccinated or resign. “‘While we understand that the vaccination, the choice to get vaccinated is a personal choice, it is also a choice that also impacts the health and well-being of our entire School community,” said Candice Bobo, executive director of the charter network. Bobo said one thing fueling this decision is the fact that the 1,250 students they serve are not old enough to get the vaccine. ‘So ensuring that all of our adults who serve our students in our school buildings are vaccinated was an important way to help protect them,’ Bobo said.”
20) Maryland: Frederick County has approved a new charter school. Frederick County Board of Education member Brad Young said approval for the environmental charter school at Sabillasville is based on two conditions. “The first is they have to get a commitment from a sufficient number of students that are willing to attend to make it work,” explained Young. He said that the charter school has its own budget, which is based on 161 students. The second condition is the school needs to secure a facility.”
22) Massachusetts: Although charter school expansion has been put on hold in Massachusetts, the issue has become part of the mayoral primary race, which will be settled tomorrow. “City Councilor Andrea Campbell, defended herself Tuesday against the race’s first decisively negative radio ad, which touches on the issue and calls into question Campbell’s concern for special needs students. The ad, launched last Thursday, features a deep, somber voice that points to the pro-charter school ‘special interests’ donors bankrolling Campbell’s Better Boston Super PAC and concludes by arguing Campbell is ‘on the wrong side’ of a choice between special interests and special needs students. The ad was launched by the Hospitality Workers Super PAC, which supports acting Mayor Kim Janey’s candidacy.”
23) New York: COVID cases are ticking up in New York City charter schools. “Parents at a wide range of charter schools have already been notified of virus cases. Across 140 charter schools that operate in city buildings serving roughly 65,000 students, 179 students and 78 staff tested positive between early August and early September, according to the city’s health department. That has forced 263 classrooms to close temporarily so students can quarantine. There have been no closures of entire buildings among those schools so far. (City officials could not say how many staff are employed at those schools.)”
24) North Carolina: Writing in The Progressive, Justin Parmenter reports on a witch hunt against supposed critical race theory. “A state task force collected more than 500 comments from parents alleging ‘indoctrination’ in public schools. I read each one of them.” Legislation is in the pipeline. “In reality, this legislation would prohibit class discussions that result in students feeling ‘discomfort’ about their race or sex. Lessons about Native American genocide; the white supremacist coup in Wilmington, North Carolina; or efforts to prevent marginalized populations from voting, for example, would be subject to a whole new level of scrutiny; and students expressing regret over those things could potentially land teachers on the wrong side of the law. As a result, many educators would be less inclined to facilitate the kind of hard conversations that students want and need to have.”
25) North Carolina: The Charlotte Observer has also weighed in with a scathing editorial denouncing the poor quality of North Carolina’s private schools. “This is what ‘school choice’ looks like. As North Carolina’s public schools remain woefully underfunded, millions of taxpayer dollars are siphoned into private schools that teach through a ‘biblical worldview’ and discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. The North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program, passed by the General Assembly in 2013, provides state-funded vouchers to eligible families to pay tuition at the private school of their choice. The program has cost the state upwards of $150 million since its inception, diverting funds away from public education in the process.
“In addition, private schools aren’t bound by state standards or a state-mandated curriculum, so they’re free to teach students as they see fit. A 2020 report from Duke Law School’s Children’s Law Clinic found that 92% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools. More than three-quarters of those schools use a biblically-based curriculum with concepts that directly contradict the state’s educational standards, the report said. At least some of these schools use textbooks from publishers that offer a troubling view of history, reporting from the Asheville Citizen-Times shows..”
26) Ohio: The scale of efforts by ECOT, Ohio’s largest online charter school, to buy the loyalty of politicians before it got mired in scandal has been revealed in campaign finance documents turned over in a federal court case. In January 2018, the school abruptly shut down. “In response to the subpoena,” the Columbus Dispatch reports, “the Ohio secretary of state sent 16 spreadsheets that document a pattern of generous contributions in Ohio politics over nearly two decades. All of the contributions went to Republican Party accounts and nearly all of the candidates backed by ECOT were Republicans. And roughly $1.4 million of the candidate contributions went to legislative candidates. Lager and his associates ramped up political giving over the years and strategically donated to politicos who were positioned to help or hurt the online school. Recipients included legislative leaders and committee chairs, candidates for governor and state auditor, supreme court justices and state school board candidates.”
27) Ohio: “We were frantic,” said the mother of a Kindergarten student dropped off in the wrong place by the private, for profit school bus company First Student. “I just want to make sure they do something about this so it doesn’t happen again,” Barrios said. “It should have never happened.”
28) South Carolina: Florence County School District Four, a public school district, has the lowest non-charter average teacher salary in South Carolina, with an average salary of $46,167. “Four more Pee Dee school districts have among the lowest non-charter school average salaries in the state. Marion County is the second lowest at $46,474, Marlboro County is the fourth lowest at $47,345, Dillon Four is the fifth lowest at $47,784 and Dillon Three is the ninth lowest at $48,346.”
29) West Virginia: Seven charter schools are seeking permission to open in West Virginia, the chairman of a new state school board says. “State law allows for two virtual statewide charter schools. Two applying for the openings are already education providers in other states and run by publicly traded companies. The third would be part of a private international company. The board can approve a brick-and-mortar charter to open in a county even if it is opposed by a local school board.”
30) Wisconsin: A charter school company, National Heritage Academies, is seeking to amend Waukesha’s land use designation from commercial use to governmental/ institution in order to construct a massive 45,000-square-foot charter school on a 25-acre plot in the town. “The for-profit company currently has one school in Wisconsin, Milwaukee Scholars in Milwaukee, which operates under a charter from UW-Milwaukee. NHA would sell off the out lots as they are developed, company representatives said. At its capacity the school would serve 772 students and 60 staff members. The school would start out serving students in grades kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade, adding an additional grade per year, until they are serving students through 8th grade. Because the school is run by a for-profit company, it will be paying property taxes.” The Plan Commission and Village Board are slated to consider NHA’s land use map amendment request when they meet at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow.
31) National: Whatever the outcome of the political process on the infrastructure and budget reconciliation legislation, Public Works Financing suggests that the most far reaching change will be on the technical—but highly political—side of physical (and it should be added social) infrastructure development.
“The legislation’s most important impact,” they say, “may be in the way infrastructure funding is planned and allocated in the United States. If the current draft legislation maintains through the vote at the end of this month, then planning, forecasting and data analytics may play a bigger role in the US infrastructure sector than ever before. The upcoming infrastructure legislation may then inadvertently become a New Deal for professional services.” [Public Works Financing, August 2021; sub required]
But who will achieve hegemony in this area, public goods-oriented, accountable actors on the one hand, or the private finance-oriented army of specialist consultants and project analysts who exist to push public bodies into supporting infrastructure privatization and leasing? How ready is the public sector’s human personnel and human capital to take on, for example, what promises to be a massive increase in the number of Value for Money (VfM) analyses, as compared to the privatization industry’s VfM manipulation infrastructure?
It should be noted in this connection that the infrastructure bill currently includes money to beef up the public sector’s capacity to do VfM, but the question remains as to which theoretical and public interest models will be applied by this beefed-up structure? Will the new money just put the existing pro-privatization government consulting industry on steroids as they capture the assessment contracts and dominate, e.g., Transportation Department training on VfM, as it did in many respects during the Obama administration?
It will be interesting to see if the progressive planning community (both in the public sector and academic community) takes up this challenge by weighing in against the privatization industry to maintain public control of infrastructure, or will let public control continue to further deteriorate. Put another way, you can’t have a New Deal 2.0, or an 2.0 Eisenhower national infrastructure drive, without a strategic 2.0 Public Planning bulk-up. Is the progressive scholarly and policy infrastructure up to the task? As of now the transportation industry and conservative public and private bodies seem to have most of the seats at the table (see, e.g., p. 98-99 of this document).
32) National: The schedule on infrastructure is tight. “The full House returns on Sept. 20, and is supposed to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill by Sept. 27. That’s what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised moderate House Democrats. And with progressives threatening not to support the infrastructure bill unless the giant reconciliation package is ready, that effectively means that both must be done in the next 15 days.”
33) Illinois: Under public pressure, the Rock Island city council has suspended further consideration of privatizing its water and sewer utilities. “The city’s search for private options lasted 18 months. During that time, many of Rock Island’s residents spoke out against the potential privatization, according to the release.” One resident who wrote in said the privatization would contribute to the destruction of the town. “The city gets smaller and smaller. Businesses leave, no new ones open. Families leave. They go across the river or elsewhere. Our young don’t stay. Now you want to privatize our water. A mayor and city council who are shortsighted. A quick fix to a problem they created. Jobs lost. Customer service a thing of the past. Higher rates. Pretty soon we’ll be a ghost town. Your citizens should have a voice (vote) in this.”
34) National/Massachusetts: Two Cape Cod lawmakers are trying to change the law governing public access to what has been up to now considered private beach land. Previous efforts have been stymied by legal resistance from owners backed up by a right wing property rights organization. “‘When you talk to people on the West Coast or in Hawaii, their mind is blown that we can’t go to a beach, or you have to pay to park, or you can’t park at all because it’s ‘residents only,’ said Alex Vai, the volunteer campaigns coordinator for Surfrider Foundation Massachusetts Chapter, a California-based nonprofit that collaborated with Fernandes and Cyr in crafting the bill. (…) Andrew Kahrl, a professor at the University of Virginia who studies the history of race, real estate, land use, and taxation, and has written extensively on the problems of restrictive beach laws, said what’s happened in Massachusetts is symptomatic of a broadly exclusionary society. ‘Beaches are public spaces. The public has a right to enjoy them,’ he said.
In California, Black surfers have been fighting for equal access. “Recent paddle-outs raised awareness both of the fact that Black people do indeed surf and that they often do so in the face of hostilities both subtle and overt. The events also demonstrated the sense of connection and community among Black surfers whose networks have been steadily developing for decades.” There is a long and troubled history of Black people being pushed away from beaches by whites, including a prominent case in which an entire Black beach-side community was pushed out a century ago from Manhattan Beach and is still struggling to regain its space and some compensation.
Criminal Justice and Immigration
35) National: Is the Biden administration going to allow the GEO Group to evade its executive order banning private, for profit detention facilities by waving through “alternative contracting arrangements” that the GEO Group is floating as a possibility? The contract for the Western Region Detention Facility in San Diego expires at the end of this month. “”GEO has not been notified by the USMS of its intent to exercise its next two-year option period under the current contract.
36) National/Kansas: ACLU chapters in four states and as well as federal public defenders from those states and Criminal Justice Act panel representatives have sent a letter demanding that CoreCivic’s Leavenworth Detention Center be closed. “Allowing CoreCivic to remain operational, whether by contracting directly with the Department of Justice or with Leavenworth County, places residents and staff at extreme risk,” writes Sharon Brett, legal director at the ACLU of Kansas. “We hear from people who lived through—or are still living through—the dangerous conditions at CoreCivic Leavenworth. We have also heard from current and former CoreCivic Leavenworth employees. Over the past year, complaints from both groups have spiked in frequency and severity. Is some level of violence unique to CoreCivic facilities? No. But the scope of violence and lack of accountability at this facility makes it particularly devastating.”
37) National/New Jersey: CoreCivic, the private prison company in charge of a federal immigration detention facility in Elizabeth “has failed to comply with social distancing guidelines to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, the owner of the building has alleged in an amended complaint filed Thursday in state Superior Court.” Portview Properties owns the building. “In Elizabeth, Portview Properties claims in the suit, the configuration and layout of the Elizabeth Detention Facility—which was designed and constructed by CoreCivic—makes it physically impossible for CoreCivic to comply with social-distancing guidelines. ‘Detainees are housed together in large, open rooms with little to no separation between them,’ the complaint states. ‘Both former and current detainees housed at the [facility] have complained of Defendant’s total failure to implement the basic safety, health care, sanitation and hygiene measures called for by these guidelines and requirements.’”
38) National: CoreCivic has just released its Second Quarter 2021 Investor Presentation. 34 slides. The company’s debt leverage has gone from 3.2x to 4.2x in just one year (p. 6).
39) Alabama: Having had their proposal for a so-called public-private partnership to construct and rehabilitate the state’s dilapidated prisons rejected, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Ivey have come up with a new plan that relies on state binding instead of expensive private financing. “The debt service in any bond amount would be palatable,” said Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, in a phone interview on Wednesday. “We could afford to do that. It solves the looming mental health issue.”
40) Arizona: LaSalle Corrections has been accused of stiffing nurses on wages.
41) National/Michigan: A major fight over Medicaid privatization will kick off in the state legislature tomorrow. A State Senate committee “plans to open public discussion of a huge health care change. Senate Republican Leader Mike Shirkey and party colleagues want to privatize management of a $3-billion Medicaid system for mental health and addiction treatment in Michigan.” Crain’s Detroit Business says “This promises to be a big fight in Lansing this fall.”
42) National/Tennessee: Tonya Weathersbee, the award-winning columnist of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, says “Gov. Lee’s loyalty to anti-maskers shows why most businessmen shouldn’t govern.” Teachers and doctors have joined a federal suit against Lee’s opt-out order.
43) International: “Libraries are one of our greatest public goods, on a par with our hospitals and schools,” says British writer Alexander McCall Smith, writing in The Scotsman. “Since libraries may be places of pilgrimage, their architecture and ambience are important. In the course of my career, I have visited and worked in libraries of every shape and size. I once spent a month working in a library in Rome, housed in an elegant villa. In Reggio Emilia I spent a week working in the private library of a famous criminal lawyer.
“And then there are our own great libraries in Scotland, particularly the National Library, a copyright library, and our system of public libraries throughout the country that share the vision of Andrew Carnegie whose belief in libraries came to be translated into stone and mortar. These are one of our greatest public goods – on a par with our hospitals and schools. The principle they embody is one we should never lose sight of – these are for everybody, these are sacred places, to be cherished and supported, whatever the cost. If we don’t have places of learning and culture, we have nothing.”
44) National: As we mark the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. it is worth revisiting the question of whether national security privatization has “gone too far”—the title of a conference held at the beginning of the Obama administration. (Video, about two hours). The go-to source on this question is still Tim Shorrock’s 2008 book Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. Watch Tim discuss his book on C-SPAN when it was released. [Video, about an hour].
45) International: Private property still rules the world of epidemiological healthcare. “Four Months Later, Still No Vaccine Waiver,” reports Cole Stangler at the Daily Poster. “Meanwhile, the Biden administration—which has deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry—has proven unwilling to share vaccine recipes with other countries, as The Daily Poster reported earlier this week. ‘It’s really upsetting watching this process,’ says Hu Yuan Qiong, policy co-coordinator and senior legal and policy advisor for Doctors Without Borders’ Access Campaign. ‘Viruses disregard whatever game we’re playing in human society, they just carry on and mutate.’”
Photo by Gage Skidmore.