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.
- Virginia transit workers fighting to keep public transportation in public hands
- Florida voucher initiative is more presidential politics than sound financial or educational proposal
- NY Post pushes privatized police patrols
1) National/Texas: A state appeals court has rejected GEO Group’s argument that because it has contracts with governments it should be exempt from paying sales tax. “GEO Group Inc. failed to convince a Texas appeals court it’s entitled to a refund of nearly $4 million for sales tax on purchases for the prisons it runs for the federal and state governments. The Texas Seventh District Court of Appeals agreed with a state trial court that the purchases don’t fall under a state sales tax exemption for ‘items sold, leased, or rented to, or stored, used, or consumed by’ the federal government or the state of Texas.”
2) National: The Biden administration has proposed plans for far stronger fair housing enforcement. “Cities would face greater federal scrutiny to ensure they are promoting fair housing and trying to reduce racial segregation. (…) The new “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule is similar to one that took effect under former President Barack Obama in 2015, but that was subsequently scrapped and then replaced by the Trump administration in 2020. The Biden administration’s rule requires states, cities, and public housing agencies that receive federal housing money to submit an equity plan to HUD every five years. The rule would require significant community input when shaping those plans, as well as concrete steps the local agencies would take to increase access to fair housing. Participating agencies that don’t comply could risk losing federal funding.” [Read the proposed 284-page rule; public comment is not open yet].
3) National: The federal Office of Personnel Management has told federal agencies they must not incorrectly tell employees they can’t join a union. Agencies need to conduct audits of their workforces “to ensure that none of their employees have been improperly deemed ineligible to be represented by a union. Guidance published Thursday provides instructions for agencies to comply with a 2022 recommendation from the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, suggesting that OPM work with agencies to review and update past decisions about which positions should be excluded from bargaining units.”
4) National: Many public schools are finding ways to solve absenteeism without suspensions. “Because this disciplinary tactic has uneven support across schools, whether students experience it can depend more on where they go to school than the fact that they missed class. (…) Educators there and in other districts that avoid using attendance-related suspensions say doing so requires a two-pronged approach: focusing on making school a place where students want to be while approaching absenteeism as a problem to solve, rather than a behavior calling for punishment.”
5) National: The College Board has told its members that “it will not consider input from states or districts when releasing the final version of the pilot Black history class that Florida banned,” Education Week reports. “The College Board did not publicly address the ban, or the list of concerns. The organization plans to release the official framework for the AP African American Studies course on Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month.
The official framework has been under development for a year, and the College Board has sought the expertise of more than 300 professors of African American Studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the letter to its members said.” [Sub required]
6) New Mexico: Lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban contracts for migrant detention. The bill “could unwind contractual arrangements at the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral in southern New Mexico and spur closer oversight at others. The Otero County facility is operated by Utah-based Management & Training Corporation on behalf of ICE, and typically holds about 600 male and female migrants seeking asylum or legal status in this country. The bill as presented would not directly compel changes at two other immigration detention facilities in New Mexico that are owned and operated by Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic. Those facilities are the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan and Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia.”
7) Texas: Austin State Representative Donna Howard (D) has some good ideas on how the state’s projected $33 billion surplus should be spent: infrastructure, water development, the power grid, the education workforce pipeline, and increased per pupil funding. “Our rainy day fund is flush and growing. It’s projected to reach its constitutional capacity in the next budget cycle after hitting over $26 billion. An additional $4.5 billion destined for the fund will spill back over into the general revenue budget. This provides an opportunity to use that $4.5 billion to create a separate endowment fund to cover liabilities such as pensions, freeing up general revenue dollars to be used on other necessities such as health care.”
8) Virginia: Loudoun County transit workers are fighting back against the privatization race to the bottom by striking against Keolis, “a French multinational and one of the largest private operators of public transit systems in the U.S. The company has challenged the union’s right to strike, its right to a contract, and even its existence. The Loudoun County workers join a movement of bus operators, mechanics, dispatchers, and call center operators striking around greater Washington, D.C. It’s the eighth transit job action in the region in just over three years. Hundreds of strikers have faced down major private contractors—not only Keolis but also Transdev, MV Transportation, and RATP Dev.” For Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, “these fights are not just over bad behavior from this or that private operator, they’re about whether buses should be a public service or a source of private profit.”
The Loudoun Times reports that “strikers said they want to return to work and don’t like inconveniencing riders. They called on the county to fine Keolis North America, which runs operations for the county, for missed routes, which they said would force Keolis back to bargaining table. John A. Costa, president of ATU international, which has about 200,000 members in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, said county inaction was a ‘disgrace.’ He said Keolis low-balled the county to win the contract which it took over in April 2021 and then made back its money by cutting employee benefits and wages.”
9) Washington: Seattle has become the latest city to introduce fare-free transit. “The city is using money from a sales tax hike that local voters approved in 2020, which originally went toward providing free fares for young people. But after Washington state lawmakers passed a statewide program for free youth fares, Seattle shifted its money toward public housing residents. The new transit passes, Harrell said, help increase residents’ access to transportation and further the city’s environmental sustainability goals ‘through a simple—and proven—premise: Given increased access to free and affordable transit, neighbors will take advantage.’”
10) Think Tanks: POGO’s got a new podcast, Bad Watchdog. Check it out. “Government watchdogs, called inspectors general, are supposed to hold powerful actors accountable. When they don’t do their jobs, the impacts can be disastrous. Investigators at the Project On Government Oversight examine [Joseph] Cuffari’s initial response to the missing Secret Service text messages and explore his abrupt change of course after a former White House aide gave shocking testimony about then-President Trump’s actions on January 6th.”
11) National: A split has developed in the charter school movement. Are charter schools public or private? An upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision will weigh in on this critical issue, and one side of the charter school movement thinks a public designation would be good for charter growth and the other that it would be bad for charters. Right wing columnist George F. Will argues they should be legally considered private, and Nina Rees, president and chief executive of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, says they’re public.
Writing in Jacobin, Nora De La Cour says, “how the high court answers this question could have grave implications for whether charter students—nearly 15 percent of all public school students—have the same constitutional protections as their traditional public school counterparts. Free market fundamentalists are now licking their chops in anticipation of doctrine that can ‘unleash innovation’ by liberating charter operators from pesky civil rights constraints.” Documents on Peltier v. Charter Day School can be found at the ACLU website.
12) National: “Why would Charles Koch suddenly become interested in education? Good thing there’s an episode of @HaveYouHeardPod on that question,” says education historian Jack Schneider. The new Koch-backed group is called “yes. every kid.” [Listen to the episode, about 34 minutes]. Of course, there’s nothing sudden about Koch’s interest in privatizing education.
13) National: Joshua Weishart, a West Virginia University law professor specializing in education rights, is doing powerful work on “the retraction of teacher rights nationwide in which I propose a paradigm shift that centers teacher rights as education rights to constitutionally protect the freedom to educate. (…) Much ado is made of teacher unions and collective bargaining rights as well. But unlike private sector employees, public school teachers have no federal rights to collective bargaining or to strike. Any such protections are matters of state law, subject to change. And seven states—Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin—have made sweeping changes curtailing or outright prohibiting teacher collective bargaining.” Check out his research papers on the SSRN website.
14) Alabama: The Montgomery County Board of Education has voted against adding a new charter school. “Leaders say sustainability was a key concern. ‘Every individual on that board is more concerned about what’s good for Montgomery and our students as opposed to our personal opinions,’ said school board President Brenda DeRamus-Coleman. ‘The biggest concern was ensuring that we could, or that the applicant and its organization, could sustain such a school.’”
15) Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attack on the teaching of African-American history in a pilot Advanced Placement course has caused a national uproar and is headed to court. Statewide book bans backed by draconian legal threats to educators and librarians are creating an atmosphere of fear reminiscent of the McCarthy-era repression.
Polk Education Association President Stephanie Yocum says of the AP ban, “‘Freedoms for parents to choose curriculums and courses that they want their kids to learn like AP African American studies and other courses that they might see themselves represented in is under attack,’ Polk Education Association President Stephanie Yocum said. ‘This is a blatant overreach by our Governor to limit curriculum, and it interferes with the high-quality education students deserve.’ On Wednesday, civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced he plans to file a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis for the state’s decision.” [Keep an eye out for The Grio News With Marc Lamont Hill’s terrific hourlong panel discussion yesterday with Bettina Love, Christopher Emdin, and Gloria Ladson-Billings on the War on Black History, AP, and book banning. Aired live on January 29.]
Writing in the Tampa Bay Times about the banning of Toni Morrisons’s The Bluest Eye, columnist Stephanie Hayes says. “But this ‘removal’ isn’t about one novel, is it? This is about sowing mistrust in educators, destabilizing the public school system, and pushing parents toward privatization. In perhaps the greatest irony, it’s about erasing uncomfortable truths in favor of a sanguine and simplified view of reality.”
16) Florida: State Republicans “are pushing a voucher plan that will steer $2.4 billion from public schools to private ones. This is part of a larger coordinated right wing plan to defund and privatize public education,” reports organizer and writer Thomas Kennedy. Opponents of the legislation “said the House’s plan would create “two systems” of K-12 education, public and private, with both relying on taxpayer dollars. ‘Public education has been the bedrock of democracy,’ said Sarah Butzin, with the League of Women Voters-Florida. ‘This voucher system for years has been chipping away to fund private and religious education at public expense. HB 1 now adds a sledge hammer.’ (…) Advocates included a large contingent of Americans for Prosperity activists who helped pack the House committee room. AFP, a libertarian group created and funded by Koch Industries’ David Koch, has long supported the voucher effort.”
As an indication that the initiative has been cooked up in haste for political reasons as Ron DeSantis eyes the Republican presidential nomination, it has no numbers on how it would be funded. The Miami Herald reports that “so far, the measure carries no financial impact statement. That’s despite the knowledge that hundreds of thousands more children would be eligible for annual payments of about $8,000 each. The cost, according to the staff analysis, is ‘indeterminate.’ And that ‘is not reasonable,’ said Norín Dollard, a senior research analyst at Florida Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on quality of life issues for Floridians. The group issued a report on voucher funding in September.”
In public testimony on the proposed legislation, Florida Education Association analyst Cathy Boehme “encouraged the lawmakers to make clear whether they will have a recurring source of money to pay for and sustain these students’ vouchers. She noted that the current cost is $1.3 billion, or about 10% of the state’s total share of education funding. Boehme suggested two other areas lawmakers might wish to address as the bill moves forward. First, she said, the measure could address transparency, requiring schools that accept voucher funds to provide adequate information about their rules, policies, and practices for parents to see, so they can make informed choices. Other speakers noted that many of the private schools currently taking vouchers are not accredited, for instance, and some have philosophies objecting to LGBTQ rights. Rep. Susan Valdés, D-Tampa, proposed an amendment to require full disclosure of such rules to parents.”
17) Idaho: “It’s not an overstatement to say that the most crucial decision for education since statehood will take place during this Idaho legislative session,” writes Rod Gramer, president and CEO of Idaho Business for Education, a group of Idaho business leaders dedicated to education excellence. “It’s a decision that will decide whether it is the state’s role to use taxpayers’ money to directly subsidize enterprises that are privately owned and operated. The decision facing lawmakers is whether to use taxpayers’ dollars to finance private and religious schools. When I speak of privatization, I refer to various ways taxpayers’ money is siphoned off to private and religious schools, including voucher scholarships, education savings accounts (ESA), and tax-credit programs. Each drains money from public schools and creates three new school systems for taxpayers to fund–private, religious, and potentially home schools.”
18) Iowa: The state legislature has passed, and the governor has signed into law, the most extensive privatization of Iowa school funding in the state’s history. The controversial measure was unpopular even in Iowa’s conservative northwest. Almost all nonpublic schools in Iowa are Christian. James Craig, superintendent of the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District in northwest Iowa, “spoke repeatedly against the Students First Act before it was passed. He described it as inappropriate to direct taxpayer money to schools that are not meant to serve all families. ‘As a public school superintendent, it’s hard for me not to feel that way. Of course, I’m going to stand up for who I work for and what I represent,’ Craig said. The day after Reynolds signed the act into law, Craig said he has shifted toward curbing the detriment to public schools. In a brace-for-impact situation, the administrator said he knew private school scholarships were coming.”
Texas AFT reports the “voucher scheme is projected to cost Iowa taxpayers $345 million each year, money that otherwise could have been sent to support Iowa’s underfunded public schools. The push for private school vouchers in Iowa came primarily from out-of-state entities like the so-called “American Federation for Children,” a scandal-ridden group founded and funded by the billionaire family of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.”
Iowans opposing the voucher bill flooded the legislature with comments.
“As a public school parent, and mother of a child with dyslexia who receives extra support through an IEP, I ask that you please vote NO to vouchers. Public schools cannot continue to be drained of their resources. They are responsible to meet the needs of all students, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances and disabilities. Private schools do not have the same accountability for who or what they teach and therefore should not receive government funding. Let’s reinvest in public schools and put Iowa back on top,” said Tanya B.
“Opposed. I have three school age children, and I want them to have good public schools, not a choice between unaccountable private schools and underfunded public schools. Don’t blame this special interest bill on us parents!” said Shannon P.
“I have three children in public schools. My 15 year old son has autism. Because of his disabilities, private schools will not accept him. Even if he received a voucher, he would not be able to use it. When you hear the term school choice, remember that private schools have the choice who to accept. Not the students. Not their parents. Tax dollars should not be given to schools who can discriminate against children like my son and who do not have to comply with the same rules as public schools who also receive tax dollars. Every public school district in Iowa has the word community in its name” said Kerry L.
“When I had my first child, we specifically chose to move back to Iowa for the schools. Nothing else. Now I am appalled by the lack of real understanding about the long term consequences of these vouchers” said Kristine B.
19) Kansas: Lawmakers and education officials sparred for more than two hours over a proposal to expand a private school tax credit originally billed as a way to serve low-income Kansas students, the St. Joseph News reports. Opponents called them “holy tax scams,” referring to the fact that much of the funding would go to religious private schools. “Critics said the legislation would harm Kansas students and serve special interest groups by incentivizing the privatization of Kansas education, ultimately taking funds away from Kansas public schools. The tax credit currently allows organizations and taxpayers to write off 70% of scholarships they provide to private schools, with a maximum allowable credit of $500,000 per year. HB2048 would expand student eligibility for the program and allow a 100% tax write-off.”
Rep. Mari-Lynn Poskin, an Overland Park Democrat, said, “For the good of the committee, I just want to reiterate that any religious organization or dark money special interest group can basically divert their group’s entire Kansas tax liability up to those limits from our state’s general funds to scholarship-granting organizations for distribution to private schools that are not subject to the same oversight as our Kansas public schools.” Proponents of the bill included Delia Shropshire, president of the Holy Savior Catholic Academy in Wichita.
20) Maine: In a letter to the editor of the Portland Press-Herald, Joseph O’Donnell calls attention to the right wing connections of a pro-privatization group. “The group Parents Defending Education is not some coalition of citizens worried that public education will be diminished by some form of unlawful discrimination. They are one of several lobbying efforts well-funded by sources like the Walton Family Foundation, the Koch brothers, and Betsy DeVos. Other such groups include Moms for Liberty, the Independent Women’s Forum and yes. every kid, whose main objective is defunding public schools on behalf of private education, not promoting quality of education. Staff of Parents Defending Education include people who worked for DeVos when she was Donald Trump’s education secretary and for organizations working to privatize public education. (…) We need to understand that Parents Defending Education doesn’t really care about the BIPOC Community Circle. They want to end public education.”
21) Michigan: Hector Solon has a “gentle reminder” to the Kalamazoo Public Schools, which are hiring a new superintendent: “Watch out for Tim Quinn (Eli Broad Supt’s Acad ‘Reformie’-@DianeRavitch & @BadassTeachersA).”
22) New York: Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter school network, is on an expansion tear, but has run into a roadblock. “But mounting community resistance has halted three other proposals—in districts 28 and 29 in Queens and the Bronx’s District 11—which the department of education quietly pulled from the Panel for Educational Policy’s agenda before Tuesday’s scheduled vote. The decision came ‘after hearing from community members throughout this entire process that the proposals would create significant challenges for the new schools and the existing co-located schools,’ schools Chancellor David Banks said in a statement on Monday. ‘Being responsive to families, staff, and community input is a core pillar of this administration, and we welcome all voices to take part in these discussions.’”
“One of the Success Academy proposals would have opened an elementary school in a building in southeast Queens shared by two middle schools and a District 75 program, serving children with disabilities who need intensive support. Principals at the two middle schools, M.S. 332 and M.S. 72, after sleepless nights of grant-writing last spring, had won a federal magnet grant in October sending nearly $2.5 million to each of their schools over five years. When they learned of the proposed Success Academy co-location, they feared they might not be able to meet the goals of their project, which was among 19 proposals across the country receiving windfalls.”
23) Tennessee: Two charter schools exiting Tennessee’s school turnaround district will pivot to the oversight of another state-run district operated by a new charter school entity, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee. “Both schools were academically in the state’s bottom 5% when the state moved them into its turnaround district, which mostly used charter operators as its improvement strategy. The so-called ASD has had mixed results but did not deliver on its early promises to transform schools within five years.”
24) Texas: As Texas public schools beg for funding, Texas charter schools are buying luxury horse ranches, reports Texas AFT. “On Jan. 22, the San Antonio Express-News published an eye-opening story about the legal loopholes many charter school chains exploit for profit. The most eye-catching example mentioned is Dallas-area Universal Academy, which bought a luxury horse ranch and equestrian center from former ExxonMobil Chairman Rex Tillerson in 2020. The property—and its show barn ‘designed with Normandy-style cathedral ceilings’— reportedly will house riding lessons for students on a new elementary school campus, but that claim is worth some scrutiny. As reporters Edward McKinley and Eric Dexheimer write, ‘an analysis by Hearst Newspapers found cases in which charter schools collected valuable real estate at great cost to taxpayers but with a tenuous connection to student learning. In others, administrators own the school facilities and have collected millions from charging rent to the same schools they run.’”
25) Utah: A voucher bill is being rammed through the state legislature at record speed. “‘I think there’s a lot to be hammered out on this bill,’ said [Sen. Kathleen Riebe (D)], who works as a technology specialist at Granite School District. ‘Until you tell me what we cannot do in public education and why, I think we should not be funding other schools with no transparency and more red tape.’ But her suggestion was voted down.”
26) National: Nearly $2 billion in federal money is now available to states and cities to convert their bus fleets to electric and hydrogen power. “Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the programs would help ‘cut harmful pollution, and train workers for good-paying jobs.’ The infrastructure law provided $5.5 billion over five years for the Low or No Emission Program, more than six times the prior five-year amount Congress approved for it.”
27) National: The Congressional Research Service has put out a report clarifying the lines of authority for various activities that fall into the category of military installations management. “The [Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense] for Housing serves as the statutorily defined Chief Housing Officer, and oversees programs that include the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) and the Homeowners Assistance Program.”
28) Florida: The mayoral race in Jacksonville has been thrown into turmoil over the electrical utility privatization scandal, with various sides pointing fingers at one other over the fiasco. “Cumber and JAX Chamber President and CEO Daniel Davis have been locked in a high-spending battle of political ads in which they accuse each other of being untrustworthy regarding JEA. Both said if elected mayor, they would oppose selling the city-owned utility
‘Let me be clear,’ Davis said in a written response to a Times-Union question. ‘As Jacksonville’s next mayor, I will not sell JEA.’ ‘I will continue to oppose it,’ Cumber said.”
29) New York: New York City’s public housing chief is set to resign, Gothamist reports. The agency is facing a more than $40 billion shortfall of money for needed repairs and maintenance, and is beleaguered by efforts to privatize its housing stock. “NYCHA and city leaders, including Mayor Eric Adams, said the Preservation Trust and RAD-PACT plans are intended to raise revenue for the cash-strapped agency after decades of disinvestment, but both have faced criticism from residents concerned about privatization, evictions, and future conditions. State lawmakers formally enacted the Preservation Trust plan last year. Nearly 370,000 New Yorkers are authorized to live in the public housing agency’s 177,000 apartments, though many more call NYCHA home.”
30) Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico has handed over operation of its electrical utility to a gas company. “Environmental and consumer advocates warned that the contract, which was negotiated in secret and remained confidential until after it was signed, will hamper the island’s efforts to phase out fossil fuels and drive electricity costs higher. ‘You’re bringing another private interest entrenched in the fossil fuel industry that is going to have a political and economic interest in continuing to sell fossil fuels to Puerto Rico,’ said Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst at CAMBIO, a Puerto Rican environmental advocacy group. ‘It’s hard to see how that’s not going to set back the renewable energy goals.’”
31) National: Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, asks, when public libraries become private, who will support them? “When the public library is no longer public, when its funds end up neither on the shelves of their local libraries, nor in the pantries of the local librarians, but in the pocket of privatizers like [Library Systems & Services CEO Frank Pezzanite], it won’t just hurt the community, it’ll weaken one of our most important public things: democracy.”
32) National/Georgia: About a year ago, Micah Herskind wrote a definitive account of the political battle over “Cop City” in Atlanta that is must reading in light of the police killings of Tortuguita in Atlanta and Tyre Nichols in Memphis.
“We might also look at the $5 billion development plan for ‘the Gulch,’ an area of Downtown Atlanta given over for development to the California-based CIM Group. The project immediately raised concerns from organizers who noted that the deal would privatize a significant amount of public land, while funneling nearly two billion dollars’ worth of taxpayer money back into CIM rather than communities. The Gulch deal started under Mayor Reed’s administration, and the Bottoms administration sold it to the public by advertising the supposed $45 million worth of ‘benefits’ that CIM would provide to the city. But as organizers gathering in a coalition called Redlight the Gulch argued, any final ‘benefit’ paled in comparison to the $1.9 billion (originally $2.5 billion) worth of public money channeled into the project by designating the area a “tax allocation district.” Through a tax allocation district, most of the tax revenue generated through the project would be cycled back into paying for the private development rather than going to schools and other public services. In other words, through the Gulch deal, taxpayer money would be used to fund the privatization of public space, the acceleration of gentrification, and the expansion of policing that would push people out. As the American Friends Service Committee put it, “the cruel irony is that communities that are being displaced are being forced to pay for their own gentrification through projects like the Gulch.’”
33) National: Writing in Teen Vogue, Artie Vierkant and Beatrice Adler-Bolton explain Why The White House Shouldn’t Privatize COVID Vaccines.
“Now, the Biden administration is pursuing a major change that we argue will make the ongoing pandemic substantially worse and much more difficult to hold them accountable: They want to transfer responsibility for payment for COVID vaccines and therapeutics to the private market. This move has as yet received precious little public opposition, but it is of enormous importance that we do everything in our power to stop it from happening. Since their debut in the US, COVID vaccines and therapeutics such as Paxlovid have been free to the public because the federal government has paid for them. The government maintains contracts with pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna to buy the drugs in large quantities and distribute them across the country with the stipulation that they are provided to people for free. The Biden administration plans to end this arrangement as soon as this year. While we saw multiple allusions to this plan last year, the clearest articulation of the Biden administration’s intentions came from [White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish] Jha in an August 2022 live stream when he spoke to the corporate lobbying group the US Chamber of Commerce. Jha stated, “We need to get out of that business … My hope is that in 2023 you’re going to see the commercialization of almost all of these products … so we just move them into the regular health care system. This business of kind of day-to-day running of a pandemic, it needs to transition,” he added. It is hard to overstate just how much of a disaster it would be if the Biden administration is allowed to successfully transfer its responsibilities here.”
34) National: The Murdoch media empire is stepping up its crusade to privatize policing in the form of public entities contracting with security companies, which it has been after for a while.. Private foundations are assisting this effort, including in cities like, to take one example, Memphis. “So far, the fund has channeled $6.1 million into the city budget, most of it for police retention bonuses. FedEx, International Paper, and about a dozen other private entities are now subsidizing public safety in a big American city. (…) ‘Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland took office in 2016 vowing to fight the city’s high violent crime rate by beefing up a dwindling police force,’ Weichselbaum wrote. ‘His most novel idea: use an advisory body, the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, to funnel anonymous private donations from the city’s elite to reward cops who remain on the force. His wish list, dubbed the “Blue Sky Strategy” and outlined in emails obtained by The Marshall Project, was ambitious: $48.2 million, including $12.7 million to subsidize housing and private school tuition for police families and $8 million for take-home cars.
35) National: Critics are taking aim at the use of American Rescue Plan Act aid to fund prisons and incarceration. “The American Civil Liberties Union last week urged the Treasury Department’s Inspector General to require states and counties that used hundreds of millions of dollars of American Rescue Plan Act aid to build or expand prisons and jails to shift those funds toward expenses more directly related to fallout from the public health crisis.”
36) Pennsylvania: A key Democratic committee chair opposes a constitutional amendment to privatize the state liquor stores. House Liquor Control Committee Chair Dan Deasy voted no on the constitutional amendment proposal, saying, “This constitutional amendment is not a simple question, and it seems disingenuous to ask voters to make an informed decision based on a two-sentence ballot question. Privatizing the state’s liquor system is a complex issue and in the past we have spent years trying to develop a plan to do so without success. This bill would rush that decision onto the ballot, without any serious proposal as to how this would actually work. This doesn’t just put the cart before the horse but would create a dangerous scenario that will leave legislators making decisions in the dark.”
37) Texas: School bus workers gaining power across Texas panhandle. “‘These drivers joined the Teamsters because they want better wages, more paid time off, a voice on the job, and all of the other improvements that come with a Teamster contract,’ said Al Brito, Local 577 President. ‘With the enthusiasm and tenacity that these brave men and women have, I’m confident that they can secure an agreement that reflects how valuable they are to both their employer and their community.’”
38) Wisconsin: Milwaukee’s mayor is open to consolidating some city services with Milwaukee County, but he’s a hard “no” on privatizing those services, reports GMToday. “‘Over the years Milwaukee has cut over 1,000 employees in order to save money. We’ve required our employees to pay more for their health care in order to save money,’ [Mayor Cavalier Johnson] said on UPFRONT. ‘But … even with all of the consolidations or the reforms that we put into place, we have got to understand that will not generate enough dollars that we need to take care of the city’s financial issues. So, we need support from the state.’”
39) International: Privatizing Quebec’s healthcare system won’t solve its problems, writes the McGill Tribune Editorial Board. “Amidst a similar crisis in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford unveiled plans to increase the role of private clinics in the health-care system—a lead Quebec Premier François Legault seems to be following. However, privatization is a step towards undermining Canadians’ right to life by creating a system that prioritizes only those who can afford care. In order for universal health care to live up to its name, Canadian politicians must work to transform the single-payer system so that health care is truly accessible to everyone.”
40) National: The Supreme Court is ready to gut unions again, Eve Ottenberg writes, this time by opening the door to lawsuits against striking workers. “Now the high court is at it again, like a serial union killer, this time ready to gut the right to strike, according to Matt Ford in the New Republic on January 10, and Nancy Snyder in CounterPunch January 20. The new case features a concrete manufacturer suing the Teamsters over a work stoppage that accidentally caused financial losses.”
41) Montana: A rift is developing between Montana’s far right governor and big business on the one hand and and traditional hunting and resident communities on the other over conservation and democratic values. “Ryan Busse, a former firearm industry executive and author of the book Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America, pointed to past disagreements among hunting advocates with the administration and said he and some others were frustrated with the appearance. He believes policies have pushed ‘privatization’ of wildlife, taken the gas pedal off Habitat Montana, and disfavored a science-based approach to wildlife management. ‘There is a lot of deep-seated frustration and anger in what the administration has already done,’ Busse said. “… I suspect that’s what we’re going to see moving forward. I hope we’re wrong but we’re judging Gov. Gianforte by his past actions.’”
42) International: Writing in The Conversation, American University Prof. Boaz Atzill warns that privatization is coming to the Israeli media. “Prime Minister Netanyahu has been working for years to consolidate his grip on Israeli media. The new government plans to accelerate the privatization of media in the hands of friendly interests and brand as anti-Israeli and treasonous media outlets its leaders deem hostile. The signs of this delegitimization are already here.”
Photo courtesy Amalgamated Transit Union