Who Sets Nonprofit Compensation Levels? A Question of Equity and Justice

Source: Allison Sesso, NonProfit Quarterly, October 18, 2016

Last month marked an important moment for the nonprofit human services workforce. Members of the District Council 1707 (DC 1707) labor union and a membership organization of childcare providers, Day Care Council of New York (DCCNY), negotiated a four-year contract for 2,700 daycare workers in New York City serving 10,500 children. … While this contract will apply only to those daycare workers represented by the DC 1707 union in New York City, it raises important questions about the human services workforce as a whole—a workforce that provides critical services on behalf of government and that is comprised predominantly of people of color and women. Who should determine the wages of the human services workforce? How should compensation be set? The answers to these questions have significant implications for economic development and equity. … Currently, the City has approximately 4,000 contracts with roughly 1,200 nonprofit organizations, and there are more than 100,000 human services workers in the City. Many of these organizations receive 80 to 90 percent of their funding from the government, and unlike other industries, nonprofits cannot increase prices or pull from a profit margin to fund wage and benefit increases. When the government constricts nonprofit funding, it constricts nonprofit worker compensation, as nonprofits simply cannot afford to pay a living wage or provide decent health insurance coverage or retirement plans for their employees. … The DC 1707 agreement reminds us that government drives compensation levels at nonprofit human service agencies. When government funds nonprofit contracts adequately, they promote equity by boosting compensation and benefits for this predominately female and highly diverse workforce. Governments across the country should pay attention to the developments taking place in New York City and consider taking similar actions to improve compensation levels for this valuable and under-resourced workforce. …

MBTA hires McKinsey to study more privatization

Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, October 18, 2016

Even more privatization for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority could be on the horizon, after agency officials recently agreed to pay nearly $1 million to consulting giant McKinsey to explore saving money on driving and maintenance costs. The September contract indicates that consultants will focus on making its subway, light rail, and bus lines more efficient through “new operating models.” The contract, which pays for a month and a half of work at a $156,000 rate, also suggests that its bus operations could be particularly vulnerable for outsourcing. … Members of the fiscal and management control board have already indicated in recent months that the agency would look closer into bus maintenance and operations for outsourcing, and the new deal with McKinsey indicates those changes could be fast approaching. The board recently approved a deal to privatize its cash counting department, which officials had painted as dysfunctional and plagued with problems. Under the new contract, McKinsey officials said they could identify a range of options for using more outside companies, including “performance-based vendor contracts for some maintenance activities.” McKinsey has done similar work for the MBTA before. The company was retained by the state to create a special panel that essentially paved a roadmap for the ways Governor Charlie Baker’s administration would try to remake the agency. …


Union claims MBTA overestimating savings from cash handling privatization
Source: Andy Metzger, Berkshire Eagle, October 17, 2016

The savings from outsourcing MBTA cash handling will be a fraction of the amount claimed by T management, according to union officials who on Monday accused management of inflating its savings estimates and downplaying costs of hiring the private contractor Brinks. “The MBTA’s analysis does not include the wages for at least five employees to be vendor managers, and discounts the added cost of retaining money room employees as bus drivers,” Boston Carmen’s Union delegate Patrick Hogan said at a board meeting. “Those money room employees will be at the top of the bus driver wage scale as opposed to the savings of hiring new drivers at a lower rung of the wage scale.” … MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve said the move would improve service and save the cash-strapped system $8.2 million a year, and stood by those goals on Monday. Board members did not respond to the union officials during Monday’s meeting. After the public portion of the meeting, Shortsleeve said the auditing firm KPMG had analyzed fiscal 2016 costs. … Hogan told the control board outsourcing will save the T $330,000 “at most,” which he said is less than has been expended on consultants associated with outsourcing. The KPMG audit, dated Oct. 5, found the cash-handling operations cost $11.8 million, including benefits. Brinks offered to take over the work for $3.6 million, and the board approved the outsourcing on Oct. 6. … James O’Brien, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, led a Faneuil Hall rally against privatization last week and on Monday told the board the outsourcing plan relied on a “scorched-earth audit that the MBTA has still not publicly released — a report that made baseless accusations against MBTA employees.” Shortsleeve, who is also acting general manager, said the financial audit of the money room is public. He said some aspects of an analysis of the security of the facility that handles $119 million of MBTA revenue have been withheld because of “concerns about security.” …

MBTA Unions Call Reduced Fines For Keolis “Exhibit No. 1” Against Privatization
Source: Isaiah Thompson, WGBH, October 17, 2016

MBTA officials exploring further privatization of the T were met with opposition Monday from a reliable source: The T’s unions, who have been protesting plans to further privatize the transit agency with increasing urgency as T officials consider outsourcing such core services as bus routes. … The meeting came just a day after a report by the Boston Globe found T officials dropped half, or more than $800,000, of fines racked up by Keolis, the private company operating the T’s commuter rail, during the notorious winter of 2015, when commuter service faltered.     In a statement to WGBH News, T officials pointed out Keolis had been fined $839,000 for on time service failures; the $839,000 in fines dropped were related, the statement said, to other factors for which there exist exceptions for unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances. … Nevertheless, seizing on the news, Carmens Union president James O’Brien told the board that Keolis, which lost more than $20 million its first year in operation, is an example of the danger of privatizing services, calling the forgiven fines “almost a million dollars that could have been invested into our broken system.”   The union also put out a report today challenging the amount T managers say they will have saved by privatizing money collection services. …

Lawmakers attack privatization at the MBTA
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, October 12, 2016

State Senator Marc Pacheco called on lawmakers Wednesday to go back into session to prevent more outsourcing at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, a year after legislators gave the agency more latitude to privatize its services. Governor Charlie Baker’s administration last year successfully lobbied lawmakers to suspend the so-called Pacheco law, which restricts the state government from outsourcing jobs. But in light of the MBTA’s recent move to privatize its cash collection department, Pacheco said the Legislature should reverse its stance. … Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat, spoke at a pro-union rally at Faneuil Hall, where he was joined by a host of union leaders and Democratic lawmakers. They were flanked by giant, inflatable animals conveying pro-union messages — a “fat cat” choking a worker in a hard-hat and a menacing pig dressed in a suit. … More than 70 union workers are expected to lose their jobs, although they would be offered bus driving positions. On Wednesday, union officials and lawmakers criticized the deal. Some pointed out that Shellie Crandall, the consultant hired by the MBTA to analyze the cash collection department, had worked extensively for both Brink’s and GardaWorld, the two companies that bid for the contract. …

Amid union outrage, baker touts privatization’s impact on bus system
Source: Andy Metzger, Berkshire Eagle, October 7, 2016

The president and six other executive board members of the Boston Carmen’s Union were being arraigned in Charlestown District Court Thursday, right around the time the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board voted to outsource cash-handling jobs, which will soon be performed by the private firm Brinks. Charged with unlawful assembly for locking a gate to the money room early Thursday morning and allegedly refusing to move, the seven were released midday and are due back in court Nov. 28, according to the office of Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley. … Control board member Brian Lang was not present for the unanimous vote, and according to Poftak, he would have voted against the privatization. Lang is president of Unite Here Local 26, a hospitality union, representing Harvard dining hall workers who launched a strike and picketing action Wednesday. Gov. Charlie Baker defended the privatization effort on Thursday. … The MBTA is also looking to outsource the maintenance of its fare gates, seeking to move toward a more cash-free transit system, potentially placing electrical workers’ jobs in jeopardy. Lou Antonellis, president of IBEW Local 103 representing 300 MBTA electricians and technicians, said his members do not have the “fall-back” rights that allow workers to return to other positions when their jobs are eliminated. …

The MBTA Privatizes Cash Collection, The First Of Many Possible Outsourcing Goals
Source: Mike Deehan, WGBH, October 6, 2016

The MBTA will eliminate it’s in-house cash collection operation and outsource the work to a private contractor, the first major example of Gov. Charlie Baker’s MBTA exercising its authority to privatize agency services in the name of cost savings. The T’s control board voted today to approve the two-year, $7.7 million contract to take over the so-called “money room” with logistics firm Brinks. It’s the first time the T has privatized services since Democratic leadership in the Legislature granted Baker’s hand-picked control board the authority to do so last year. … The T faces an annual budget deficit of over $100 million. The cash collection contract is expected to save the T $8.6 million in the first year. Shortsleeve said the “flexible contracting” the Legislature authorized is critical to solving the T’s more than $100 million annual budget deficit and improving service. Shortsleeve anticipates more resistance from labor as the MBTA looks to privatize services within the core transit function of the T. …

MBTA votes to privatize money room
Source: Andy Metzger, Boston Business Journal, October 6, 2016

The private firm Brinks will take over cash handling at the MBTA after a unanimous vote by the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Thursday. Brian Lang, the board’s union representative was unable to attend the meeting and would have voted in the negative, said Steve Poftak, a member of the board who presided over the meeting. … Union representatives have strenuously opposed the move, and seven top officials at the Boston Carmen’s Union were arrested early Thursday morning outside the MBTA’s money room in Charlestown. MBTA Transit Police gathered outside the money room where MBTA union officials were arrested early Thursday morning. [Photo: Andy Metzger/SHNS] The vote Thursday marks the first time the MBTA has taken advantage of options made available under a three-year window of increased flexibility in outsourcing that lawmakers granted the transportation authority last year. … Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman took aim at Gov. Charlie Baker, who has urged the T to seek outsourcing as a means of improving service and balancing its budget. …

EDITORIAL: Outsourcing MBTA jobs is necessary for progression
Source: The Daily Free Press, October 7, 2016

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is flawed. We are reminded again and again of the fact, from the winters of 2014 and 2015 to this week’s latest train derailment at Copley. From the enormous amount of turnover of leadership positions to iffy service (remember late night T service?), the MBTA is a nightmare. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has finally announced a battle of sorts against the prehistoric beast. Baker announced the privatization of jobs in the cash-counting department by outsourcing the jobs to Virginia-headquartered Brink’s, according to a Boston Globe article. The announcement followed incriminating findings from an outside consultant, which included over-employment and minimal productivity. The Globe also reported that the consultant found “security lapses, from duct-taped vault doors and missing cameras to a lax tracking system for keys” related to the department. Baker once even ridiculed the department for “cutting sunroofs” into its armored vehicles, a claim that union officials decried as false. … The debate of public versus private jurisdiction, particularly with a public good like public transportation, has been longwinded. In this situation, privatization has the potential to overcome the faults of bureaucracy. By shifting the hands from people who have far more other things going on than the priority of a morning commute to people who dedicate their careers to such a thing is not a bad move. In fact, it is incredibly strategic and Boston residents are begging for such a change, any change. The public and private sectors need to collaborate to better our city. When the two put their differences aside, we have the potential to achieve great things. There is no better example of them failing to do so than with the discontinuation of late night T service. Not funded by the government and without the intervention of private entities, the service ceased, once again leaving a city stranded after midnight. … Certainly jobs are going to be cut, but at what cost? The average Joe who dutifully works in the cash-counting room will be without a job, but what about all of the other average Joes who rely on the T to get to work each day? Boston workers rely on public transportation to get to and from work and cannot contribute to the economy in their fullest ability if hindered from commuting. Outsourcing jobs needs to be viewed as a move for the greater good. …

7 arrested in union protest at MBTA’s ‘money room’
Source: John R. Ellement, Boston Globe, October 6, 2016

Seven union officials were arrested by Transit Police Thursday as the Carmen’s Union set up a picket line outside the MBTA’s “money room” in Charlestown, protesting a move by the T’s top manager to privatize the collection of cash on the financially strapped transit system. Police made the arrests “to protect the safety and well being of all MBTA employees,’’ T spokesman Joseph Pesaturo wrote in an e-mail. “By padlocking the gates, the union put the safety of employees inside the facility at risk.’’ Those arrested were James O’Brien, president of Carmen’s Union Local 589, and six members of the union’s executive board, union spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen said. The officials are expected to appear in Charlestown Municipal Court to face charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct. … The move by the union comes hours before the Fiscal Management and Control Board will be asked by acting MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve to award a five-year, $18.7 million contract to Brink’s, a national cash-collection and security company headquartered in Virginia. … Officials say the deal could save as much as $8.6 million in the first year and would replace the union employees currently assigned to the counting room. O’Brien said Thursday he thinks 42 jobs will be impacted. The recommended contract is the first major salvo in a battle over privatization between the MBTA and its unions. As part of the Baker administration’s push to cut costs, the MBTA is seeking to outsource its warehousing department and looking into privatizing bus maintenance and driver jobs. …

Union promises fight as MBTA moves to privatize cash-counting jobs
Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, October 5, 2016

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is poised to privatize dozens of jobs in its cash-counting department, which would mark Governor Charlie Baker’s first major move to outsource positions in the transit system. Acting general manager Brian Shortsleeve said he will recommend Thursday that the MBTA’s board award a five-year, $18.7 million contract to Brink’s, a national cash-collection and security company headquartered in Virginia. Officials say the deal could save as much as $8.6 million in the first year. … The cash-counting department, familiarly known as the “money room,” handles nearly $200 million a year. It has been considered poorly run for years, and a 2012 state audit showed that computer problems caused the MBTA to record receipts for more money than was actually deposited. An outside consultant, Shellie Crandall, recently said the cash-counting operation has twice as many workers as similar private companies, yet completes only a small fraction of the work. Crandall, who has worked at both Brink’s and GardaWorld, a rival security company, also found a range of security lapses, from duct-taped vault doors and missing cameras to a lax tracking system for keys. … Union officials say they plan to fight the outsourcing efforts and threatened to invoke a Federal Transit Administration rule that could cut off funding to the MBTA. The union has also contacted the bidding companies, saying they would be subject to union agreements. …

Plan to privatize T sets up battle among union, Baker and lawmakers
Source: Christian M. Sade, Newbury Port Daily News, October 5, 2016

Plans to privatize parts of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are in danger of bogging down like a subway car at rush hour, with the state’s largest transit union vowing to fight the move. Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker’s hand-picked board that oversees the MBTA suggested looking for a third party to hire drivers and handle maintenance, reducing operating costs. The board singled out bus operations, warehousing and maintenance, the privatization of which could affect hundreds of jobs. The MBTA’s bus system has 1,700 drivers and more than 450 maintenance workers. … But James O’Brien, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589, which represents about 4,000 MBTA workers, said it plans to fight the privatization proposal. The plan will cost jobs, he said, and diminish MBTA service. … Last year, the Legislature suspended the so-called Pacheco Law that requires a privatization proposal be vetted by the state auditor, giving the MBTA a three-year window to privatize services in order to save money. The MBTA’s need for revenue has pushed it to ask riders to dig deeper. On July 1, fares on the commuter rail, subway and bus systems increased an average 9.3 percent, sparking criticism from commuters and lawmakers. The MBTA last raised fares two years ago, increasing them an average of 5 percent. That followed a massive, 23 percent increase approved in 2012. Previous increases were in 2000, 2004 and 2007. …

Mayor Walsh defends T union bosses sending letters over privatization
Source: Jordan Graham, Boston Herald, September 29, 2016

Mayor Martin J. Walsh slammed accusations the Boston Carmen’s union is bullying potential bidders vying to run the MBTA’s beleaguered money room. “The union can advocate however they want, the bullying question is getting a little ridiculous now,” Walsh said. “Unions advocate for their members, that’s what they do, they’re supposed to advocate for their members.” The Herald reported today the Carmen’s union has sent letters to potential bidders claiming they must use union labor or face a lawsuit. The MBTA is calling the letters a “threat” to intimidate firms from bidding for the contract.

Why does the T have to squeeze a vulnerable workforce?
Source: Marcela Garcia, Boston Globe, September 21, 2016

AS THE MBTA looks to reduce its operating deficit, it has found a new and unsettling target: the largely below-ground workforce of contract janitors. They’re the least-paid and most vulnerable people associated with the public transportation system. Feces, urine, vomit, and used needles are constant occupational hazards. More than 120 janitors have been affected by cuts, out of a total staff of about 300. They include at least 50 janitors who have been laid off, according to union officials, while the rest have seen their hours reduced, with some losing their health insurance coverage. … At a time when the public is thinking more and more about ensuring that people make a living wage, why are we letting our public transportation system, largely supported by taxpayers, pull the rug from under a group of people who do this unappreciated but extremely important work? The savings are coming on the backs of janitors who make $18 per hour. Contrast that with the 59 T employees who earned over $100,000 in overtime alone last year, according to a Springfield Republican/MassLive.com report. … The T says the savings for the move will add up to $8.1 million over two years — in the context of an annual budget of over $2 billion. The cuts come after the MBTA found it had been overpaying the two contracting companies, S.J. Services and ABM, by nearly 50 percent. … Union officials are struggling to make sense of the math that the T administrators say justifies the firing of janitors. Roxana Rivera, vice president at 32BJ SEIU, fears “the MBTA has grossly exaggerated the amount of cost overruns that are attributable to pay for janitors.” The union recently filed complaints against the two subcontractors with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing unfair labor practices. At the least, the T should be more transparent and release detailed information related to the decision to drastically cut its cleaning staff. …

Privatization supporters urge MBTA board to pursue opportunities
Source: Colin A Young, WWLP, September 19, 2016

A week after organized labor supporters crowded a meeting of the MBTA’s control board to protest privatization of MBTA jobs, a group of elected officials spoke up in favor of privatization at a T board meeting Monday. Rep. Joseph McKenna, a Webster Republican, told the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board that the agency should continue to look for ways to save money, even if that means privatizing the jobs of bus drivers or maintenance workers. … MBTA officials are actively exploring privatization of inventory and cash management operations in an attempt save money and improve services at the agency, which has battled perennial budget imbalances. And the FMCB in a Sept. 1 report signaled it might seek outsourcing of its core operations. The Democrat-controlled state Legislature last year suspended the so-called Pacheco Law, which requires a privatization proposal to be vetted by the state auditor, to give the MBTA a three-year window to privatize services. … The Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589, which represents more than 4,100 of the MBTA’s roughly 6,500 employees, has vigorously opposed privatization, and last week packed the T’s meeting room with union members and supporters who spoke passionately against privatization. …

Pacheco Law Reprieve Backers Rail Against MBTA Privatization
Source: Matt Stout, Mass Transit, September 13, 2016

Democratic lawmakers who voted last year to give Gov. Charlie Baker and the MBTA more flexibility in privatizing parts of the T are now railing against the cash-strapped agency as it considers outsourcing bus routes, maintenance and other core functions, joining a chorus of unions slamming the move. Just one legislator voted against last year’s budget that gave the T a three-year reprieve from the so-called Pacheco Law, which critics say puts up hurdles to outsourcing public work. But as unions denounced the move at a T board meeting, several legislators — some of whom passed the provision through gritted teeth — quickly staked out a side in the brewing debate. …

MBTA workers protest outsourcing of transit systems
Source: Associated Press, September 13, 2016

Transit workers are calling on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to put the brakes on further privatization efforts. Members of the Boston Carmen’s Union packed a meeting of the MBTA control board on Monday to protest the outsourcing of services that could be expanded to include bus drivers and maintenance operations. The union says MBTA employees do not deserve to lose their jobs to private companies seeking to make a profit. The union also held information picketing outside the state transportation building.

MBTA could privatize maintenance and bus driver jobs
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Herald, September 6, 2016

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is considering the privatization of driver and maintenance worker jobs, a prospect that could lead to the layoff of hundreds of employees, as it tries to cut into a multimillion dollar deficit. The MBTA’s fiscal and management control board, which oversees the agency, told legislators in a report that MBTA management is focusing on drivers, operations employees, and maintenance workers — particularly for buses — because those areas account for about 85 percent of the MBTA’s operational costs. … The MBTA has 450 bus maintenance workers and 1,700 full- and part-time bus drivers. The agency has not yet publicly outlined specific plans, nor revealed how many jobs would be affected by privatization of bus routes and maintenance if it takes place. In the report, the board notes that many transit systems have formed partnerships with private companies to provide driving or maintenance services. … The potential outsourcing of operations or maintenance jobs will probably be controversial. The Boston Carmen’s Union, the T’s largest labor group, has vehemently opposed ongoing efforts to privatize other departments, such as the warehouse and cash-counting operations. This marks the first time the agency has expressed serious interest in delving into privatization of what are considered the “core services” of the agency. …

The MBTA could consider bus privatization, and one T leader is not on boardSource: Adam Vaccaro, Boston.com, September 6, 2016

The report was released last week and focuses on ways the T has already, or may soon, contract with private companies to save money. These kinds of partnerships became easier for the MBTA to forge last summer, when — as part of a reform push led by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker that also created the T’s control board — the beleaguered agency won a three-year reprieve from a state law favored by labor unions. The law requires public bodies to undergo a multi-step process in order to privatize a service already being offered by public employees. The privatization the T has explored so far pertains to its corporate services, the report said. But on the final page, the board said the MBTA could more effectively rein in costs by targeting “those areas that make up about 85 percent of all costs, namely operations and maintenance.” A paragraph later, the report specifically named the bus system as “an example of an area of opportunity,” saying the handful of bus routes the T already runs through private companies operate cheaper than those run in-house.

Marty Walsh throws latest MBTA privatization idea under bus
Source: Matt Stout, Boston Herald, September 6, 2016

Mayor Martin J. Walsh yesterday came out swinging against the MBTA for weighing the privatization of core functions such as bus routes and maintenance, calling it a “mistake” that could pave the way to widespread outsourcing at the cash-strapped agency. … The Herald reported on Saturday that the MBTA is taking a hard look at private contracts within its massive operations and maintenance departments, which account for $875 million of spending each year. … The T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board, writing in a report filed with lawmakers, said the agency is “beginning to actively examine” the possibility, citing areas such as its bus operations, where the T’s bus drivers, at $35.86 per hour, are the highest-paid in the country, according to a T analysis. Under the law Gov. Charlie Baker signed last year, the T has just a three-year window — or through mid-2018 — to identify areas to privatize without the restraints of the so-called Pacheco Law. Facing a $110 million deficit, the T has thus far sought out private vendors for smaller departments, such as its parts warehouse and its “cash” room. …

MBTA eyes opening door to additional privatization
Source: Matt Stout, Boston Herald, September 3, 2016

The T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board announced it is targeting overall “operations and maintenance” that make up 85 percent of all annual costs, according to a 17-page report sent to lawmakers Thursday that was obtained by the Herald yesterday. The report identified several examples of “an area of opportunity” to “actively examine,” including bus operations, where drivers, at $35.86 per hour, are the highest paid in the country, according to an agency analysis. It also points to bus and train maintenance, with options ranging from teaming with a private company, to taking on some maintenance work, to pursuing what the report calls “full-lease models,” where the T operates, but does not maintain, a fleet of vehicles. The T employs more than 1,700 full- and part-time bus drivers and 390 machinists, or mechanics. …

As Baker assesses MBTA’s future, role of privatization considered
Source: Jule Pattison-Gordon, Bay State Banner, July 28, 2016

As officials struggle to turn the MBTA around, one bone of contention is the role that privatization should play. The administration of Governor Charlie Baker has been taking advantage of the MBTA’s exemption from the Pacheco law to explore greater levels of outsourcing. The Pacheco law aimed to prevent officials from privatizing public services without first making a case that the private company would provide higher or equal quality service for less expense than could be achieved in-house, and that the cost savings would not be reliant on cutting employee wages and benefits. Opponents labeled it as “anti-privatization.” Last week, Baker held a meeting with reporters in which he reflected on the past year at the MBTA and on the next steps going forward. While privatization of several departments is under consideration, Baker said, generally speaking, he has no preference between public and private providers, only on whichever will provide the best service quality and lower costs. …

Wait, did somebody cut sunroofs into the MBTA’s armored cars?
Source: Adam Vaccaro, Boston Globe, July 25, 2016

The labor union representing the T’s “money room” workers is accusing Gov. Charlie Baker of misrepresenting facts as the two sides continue to bicker over whether to contract out the MBTA’s cash-counting operations. Last week, while speaking to reporters about the last year at the T, Baker said sunroofs had been cut into two armored cars used to move money around. He didn’t offer much more in the way of detail, but suggested the issue was consistent with other problems MBTA management says it has found with security in the money room. … But the Boston Carmen’s Union, which represents the money room employees and thousands of others, pushed back hard against Baker’s claim about the armored cars, calling it “pure fiction.” … Privatization at the T has been a central issue for MBTA labor throughout Baker’s time in office. It has grown more tense as the agency moves closer to actually spinning divisions toward the private sector. In the spring and summer of 2015, as he sought reforms at the MBTA following the system’s struggles in last winter’s snow, the Republican governor successfully convinced the legislature to give the T more unilateral power to privatize services, scoring a three-year reprieve from a law requiring a multi-step audit before the state could contract out a service provided by public employees. T officials have been pushing to privatize the agency’s cash-counting division since before the recent audit was released. …

Private guard in MBTA money room caught napping on the job
Source: WCVB, July 13, 2016

Private guards are on the job, tasked with making sure millions of dollars of the MBTA’s money is safe, but 5 Investigates discovered a major lapse in the T’s money room security. Security at the T’s money room was handled by Transit Police in the past, but was privatized in June. On Wednesday, 5 Investigates obtained a photograph that showed one of the new security guards sound asleep when he was supposed to be guarding the money room’s front door in Charlestown. In the photo, obtained exclusively by 5 Investigates, the guard can be seen leaning back and taking a snooze while on the job. The photo was taken in the middle of the workday and showed the guard sound asleep with his hands tucked in his bulletproof vest. He’s part of the MBTA’s new plan to keep safe the building where they collect and count about $200 million a year. … In a statement, G4S told 5 Investigates “Inattentiveness to duty is not tolerated.” The company said it will “work to ensure that any necessary changes are fully implemented to help prevent a reoccurrence.” The MBTA said it moved swiftly to secure the facility and stands by its decision to outsource the money room.

MBTA takes first major step toward privatization
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, June 30, 2016

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s warehouse operations could be run by a private company by October, as T officials take a major step toward outsourcing a part of the agency. MBTA officials on Thursday released a request for proposals from outside firms for the operations of its warehouse, which T executives have blasted for being inefficient and dysfunctional. The move is already prompting fierce opposition — and a request for arbitration — from the agency’s largest labor union, whose members could lose jobs. James O’Brien, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, pledged to appeal the move, under a federal process that — if successful — the union argues could eventually cost the T significant federal funding. … At the T, warehouse operations would be the first department to replace public workers with private ones since the Legislature lifted restrictions on outsourcing at the agency. …

MBTA union willing to cut new workers’ pay if management limits privatization
Source: Adam Vaccaro, Boston Globe, June 27, 2016

The largest labor union representing MBTA workers wants to make a deal. The 4,100-employee Boston Carmen’s Union says it’s willing to cut wages for new employees if it means the T will limit privatizing jobs done by members. Union officials presented the proposed deal at a Monday meeting of the T’s governing board, saying it would save $24 million for the agency over four years. The proposal would extend the Carmen’s current contract with the T two years, to 2020. Under the proposal, new full-time employees would see an 11 percent wage reduction over their first four years, and new part-time employees to see an eight percent reduction over their first six years. Additionally, wages would grow by 1.5 percent per year in 2019 and 2020, a lower rate than the usual 2.5 percent annual increase. In exchange, the union is asking the agency not to contract out services done by its members. It would allow one exception: the agency’s central warehouse, which employs 34 Carmen’s Union members and which the T has discussed recently as a potential service to privatize. …

Legislators blast plan to privatize T warehouse jobs
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, June 13, 2016

Legislators and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority workers blasted potential plans to outsource jobs in the MBTA’s warehouse operations, as officials on Monday made their case for privatizing the department. Saying the warehouse operations system is “completely broken,” T officials are pushing to outsource about 38 jobs in a department that costs approximately $4.2 million annually. … Also Monday, MBTA officials revealed that they had quietly replaced Transit Police officers with private security agents at the “money room” where employees count cash fares — a move that sparked criticism from police union officials who said they had little notice and noted that the T had hired the security agency that employed the gunman in this weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando. … [Michael Keller] blamed the T’s system, noting that it runs the central warehouse only 40 hours a week, despite 24-hour maintenance. He also said the system encourages mechanics to take parts even when a stockperson isn’t there to track the inventory — which contributes to the system’s inaccuracies. …

Could outsourcing fix this T problem?
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, June 12, 2016

T officials Monday plan to make the case for privatizing the sprawling warehouse department, which employs about 38 employees for approximately $4.2 million annually. Officials say it could lead to major improvements to the T’s maintenance operations and will represent one of the first efforts by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration to test the suspension of the so-called Pacheco law, which puts up hurdles for outsourcing state jobs. … The majority of the T’s inventory — about $38 million — is at two central warehouse locations in Everett and Charlestown. Maintenance workers usually call upon the warehouses when their own supplies — for things as simple as cables, brake rotors, and air filters — at their garages run out. T officials say that process, which can take up to 80 hours, should take about 12 by industry standards. That’s partly because the main warehouse is only open for eight hours a day, five days a week, compared with the maintenance department, which is working around the clock. … Officials say fixing the system internally could prove to be too expensive, especially as the agency looks for ways to balance its books. Polcari said the T would need to upgrade its warehouses and equipment, which could cost about $14.5 million. Officials hope the agency’s fiscal control board will sign off on a timeline that would allow the T to put out a request for proposals later this month, then select a bidder by the middle of August. …

The next big MBTA battle will be about privatization
Source: Adam Vaccaro, Boston.com, June 7, 2016

In nearly a year since new management took control of the MBTA, the agency has taken several steps to achieve Gov. Charlie Baker’s directive that it get its financial house in order. … But it has yet to act on what proved to be Baker’s most contentious plan for the agency a year ago: To outsource parts of the agency to private companies. … In a conference call last week, MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve told reporters that privatization — or “flexible contracting,” as the T calls it — will be a focus of the agency in the coming weeks. He said the agency is examining “several initiatives we’re going to move quickly on to leverage flexible contracting” as part of a strategy to cut down on a budget deficit projected for $80 million next year, even after accounting for fare hikes and the end of late-night weekend service. …

MBTA Workers Speak Out Against Plans To Privatize Services
Source: ZENINJOR ENWEMEKA, WBUR, February 10, 2016

MBTA workers and union leaders spoke out Wednesday against a plan by T officials to privatize some services — which could affect about 250 jobs. … The Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 said the plan will push hardworking people out of jobs. … The Boston Carmen’s Union said 165 cash handling and fare collection jobs would be jeopardized. This includes technicians who repair fare collection equipment and workers in the MBTA’s Charlestown office known as the “money room.” Workers in that facility count MBTA fares, Mass Pike tolls and parking meter deposits from the city of Cambridge. The union represents 77 of these jobs that would be eliminated and given to private companies under the plan.

MBTA to consider privatizing services involving 250 jobs
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Herald, February 10, 2016

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials on Wednesday will take up a plan backed by Governor Charlie Baker to privatize departments that maintain fare machines, count cash fares, and run marketing and retail operations, a step that could eliminate about 250 jobs in all, according to MBTA officials. … MBTA and administration officials say they believe outsourcing the services could help the T vastly improve its fare-collection system and save millions of dollars that could be invested in the system. No specific figures on savings have been made public. … It would be among the first attempts by Baker’s administration to outsource services since the Legislature agreed to temporarily suspend a state law — specifically for the MBTA — that put up hurdles to privatizing public-sector jobs. The MBTA has considered privatizing some bus routes, but promised no layoffs would accompany that move. … About 165 jobs dedicated to fare collection and cash handling could be targeted in the privatization effort, MBTA officials said. In addition, they will look to privatize marketing services and retail operations; management of warehouses and materials; management of employee leave; management of telecommunication; contracts; and employees who handle the dispatch system for Transit Police. They will also look for savings in cleaning and elevator maintenance crews, which are already outsourced to private companies.

Unions rally against plan to privatize T services
Source: Antonio Caban, Lowell Sun, September 23, 2015

Concerned that the Baker administration’s effort to privatize some MBTA services could cost workers their jobs, union members gathered in protest on Wednesday, vowing to continue to call attention to the issue. Wearing matching orange shirts, nearly 80 members of Boston Carmen’s Union 589 turned out for the protest near their Devonshire Street headquarters. Aimee Daluz, an MBTA customer service worker, was among those passing out flyers. … Baker, who is in the midst of plans to revamp operations at the T after disastrous service last winter, said he will not move forward with plans to privatize certain MBTA bus routes if it doesn’t generate savings and efficiencies.

Union leaders urge MBTA officials to reconsider bus privatization plan
Source: Adam Vaccaro, Boston.com, September 14, 2015

Union heads called on MBTA officials Monday morning to pump the brakes on a plan that would allow some low-ridership bus routes to be operated by private companies. Russell Gittlen, the regional director of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and James O’Brien, who heads the local Carmen’s Union, each addressed the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board about the plan, which union members have criticized vociferously since it came to light last month. … MBTA officials have tried to assuage that fear, saying affected drivers and buses would be moved to help deal with busier bus routes. But Glitten and O’Brien said they think the agency should take a different approach—rather than bringing in outside help to handle slow routes, they say, the T should take it a step further and consider reconfiguring its bus routes. …

MBTA union, taxi drivers hold protests
Source: Chris Villani, Boston Herald, September 8, 2015

A demonstration by hundreds of members of the Carmen’s Union yesterday — protesting a move toward MBTA privatization on some bus lines that was backed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker as well as the Democratic Legislature — drew some high-profile support at the annual Greater Boston Labor Day Breakfast. … The Carmen’s Union was not alone in Lincoln Square. About 15-20 members of the Boston Taxi Drivers Association marched, holding signs saying ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are putting them out of business. Donna Blythe-Shaw, who represents the Boston taxi drivers, said she would like to see the same regulations applied to ride-sharing cars and taxis. Specifically, she said the union wants to make sure ride-sharing services can’t undercut meter fares, make sure that every car has a livery plate and that drivers are vetted the same way taxi cab drivers are vetted.

No layoffs in privatizing of bus lines, T officials say
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, August 20, 2015

The MBTA’s top two officials said Thursday that no bus drivers would lose their jobs if the T privatizes certain bus routes, a day after the president of the agency’s largest union said outsourcing routes to private companies amounts to a “betrayal” by Governor Charlie Baker. … But Frank DePaola, the MBTA’s interim general manager, said on Thursday that bus drivers whose routes are affected by the plan would keep their jobs and be reassigned to other bus routes. O’Brien said that he still had concerns despite DePaola’s promise, delivered by phone, that the privatization plan would not result in job losses. … The 32 bus routes being discussed include late-night service lines, express routes, and some lines with lower ridership, according to the T. The routes would only represent about 2.5 percent of weekly ridership.

MBTA Looking To Privatize Bus Routes
Source: Andy Metzger, WBUR, August 21, 2015

All 93 buses and their 65 drivers that would be taken off of those 40 routes if service is privatized would be re-deployed to other areas of the system that need more service, MBTA Interim General Manager Frank DePaola told reporters Thursday. … If the privatization plan moves forward, MBTA officials said that while it would improve the efficiency of bus services, it would also likely increase the total costs to the MBTA because private carriers will likely require some public subsidy. It would also increase the amount of transit service and the number of jobs in the transit sector, as private operators supplement T service. Those facts did not sway O’Brien. … The MBTA has not yet determined what routes would be supplemented with the 93 buses and 65 operators that would be shifted away from routes covered by a private carrier.

The T wants to privatize some bus routes
Source: Adam Vaccaro, Boston.com, August 20, 2015

One of the major reforms to the MBTA this summer was a three-year reprieve from a law that puts a high barrier toward contracting out services to the private sector. Six weeks after peeling away the anti-privatization law, The Boston Globe reports, the T is preparing to ask private organizations about operating about 30 bus routes. … The MBTA told Boston.com in July that it had begun speaking “informally with a number of stakeholders and potential partners” about offering privatized late-night bus service, which has struggled financially. Bridj, a Boston startup that offers shuttle service from neighborhood to neighborhood through a smartphone app, is among the services to have participated in informal discussions with the T, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said at the time.

Gov. Baker ready to test outsourcing T work
Source: Matt Stout, Boston Herald, July 8, 2015

Gov. Charlie Baker said a budget measure to suspend the so-called Pacheco Law at the MBTA and open the beleaguered agency to more outsourced contracts isn’t an attempt at “privatizing the T” — but he wants to prove it works. … They included language lifting for three years the provisions of the Pacheco Law, which puts up high hurdles to bringing in private work, and creating a fiscal control board to oversee the transit agency, something Baker called the “most important” part of reforms. A separate MBTA reform bill remains in the House, but the suspension of the Pacheco Law — despite waves of protest from unions and some in the Senate — proved a victory for Baker….

Editorial: Kudos to E.M., union leaders for deal that’s good for all

Source: Dispatch Argus, October 18, 2016

After more than two years of talking trash, the city of East Moline and one of its public employee unions have reportedly inked a deal to privatize the city’s garbage service. On Monday,Mayor John Thodos told aldermen that the coming switch from city-provided service is the result of a pact reached with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME and some residents in the city had opposed the garbage plan since it was first suggested in 2014. … The change made sense then, city staff said, because contracting for garbage service would have allowed East Moline to get out of the garbage business without any layoffs. The staff report also said the move would save money through lower employee costs and allow the garbage department’s resources and money to be sold or shifted to other areas. It’s hard to keep a good idea down, however. Indeed, continued tough economic times and budget pressure ensured the idea would resurface. As a result, the city decided to go ahead with the private vendor in early March 2015. That was derailed, however, when AFSCME filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, sending the parties back to the bargaining table where the current deal apparently was ironed out. … We salute both sides for their commitment to doing what’s right for the residents of the city. Not only will taxpayers no longer be on the hook for repairing and replacing garbage trucks, which the mayor said cost about a quarter of a million dollars each — there will be long-term savings from eliminating four positions despite not laying off any workers. Republic Services, the only bidder for the job in March, won’t begin picking up garbage in East Moline until the first part of 2017, Mayor Thodos said. The company will work with residents to determine the size of garbage cans they prefer and will buy the city’s garbage trucks, he said. …


East Moline, AFSCME end trash talk, reach garbage agreement
Source: Leon Lagerstam, Dispatch Argus, October 17, 2016

City council members on Monday heard of an agreement recently reached with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to privatize garbage service. The city had planned to privatize the service in early March 2015, but AFSCME filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board which required the idea to return to the bargaining table. Mayor John Thodos shared the news of the agreement during his “Report by the Mayor” part of Monday’s 20-minute city council meeting. He said he was glad a resolution was reached on the issue, calling it “good” for the city and union. No one loses their job, and the city projects it will save about $130,000 in revenue by letting Republic Services do garbage pickup, Mayor Thodos said. …

No private garbage service in East Moline
Source: Anthony Watt, Quad-Cities Online, June 27, 2015

A planned switch to private garbage service for residents won’t begin next week as planned because of an ongoing labor complaint. In March, the city council approved a contract with Republic Services to replace the current city-run garbage service to cover an $81,000 deficit in the general fund. The change was to include no layoffs — the city’s four garbage workers were to move to other city positions. The changeover is being contested by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents city employees….

EM [East Moline] moves closer to private garbage collection
Source: Anthony Watt, qconline.com, February 19, 2015

City officials may privatize East Moline’s garbage service to cover an expected general fund deficit. At Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, aldermen voted 4-3 to privatize the city’s garbage collection. …. A report provided to aldermen stated a seven-year private garbage contract with Republic Services would include about $141,000 in landfill host fees paid to the city. About $81,000 of that money could be used to cover the deficit, with the other $60,000 helping to control garbage service costs for residents. Still, the plan includes higher rates for East Moline’s 6,290 garbage service customers through the life of the contract. If host fees are used to offset costs, the monthly fee first will increase to $7.43 in 2016. By the final year, customers will pay $8.33 per month. …

EM [East Moline] to privative garbage service; fees to stay the same for 1st year
Source: Anthony Watt, qconline.com, September 15, 2014

The aldermen have tentatively approved a contract that will privatize city garbage service. The aldermen have been debating for weeks how to handle the service. The debate is based on the upcoming retirement of four public works employees, said city administrator Cole O’Donnell. The retirements would let East Moline’s four garbage department employees move to other positions as staff bid for the open public works spots. That would let the city close the garbage department without layoffs, a move Mr. O’Donnell said could mean long-term savings for East Moline through employee benefits. The city has been negotiating with Republic Services and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees simultaneously, and, during Monday night’s committee of the whole meeting, voted to go with the Republic offer. The vote was 4-1 with Ald. Ed DeJaynes, 4th Ward, voting against and Alds. Helen Heiland, 1st Ward; and Jeff Stulir, 3rd Ward, not present. The contract would be for seven years and the fees for residents would stay the same as they are now for the first year: $7.15 per month, according to a report provided to the aldermen. After that, the bill would increase, going to $7.43 per month in the second year, and rising to $8.33 per month by the final year of the contract. These rates would be based on the city making use of a fee paid to it by Republic, which owns the landfill, and also using some of the levy capacity from the former garbage fund, the report states. The rest of that capacity would go to the general fund. … b

Can Teachers Unions Bargain for Better — or Fewer — Charter Schools?

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, The American Prospect, October 18, 2016

In cities across the country, teachers unions have been strategizing ways to broaden the demands they bring to the negotiating table. Organizing under the banner of “bargaining for the common good,” educators and their community allies have started to challenge a legal regime that for too many years left unions solely focused on wages and benefits. One window of opportunity that teacher unions are exploring is charter authorizing—the process of opening, closing, and monitoring charter schools. Though laws vary from state to state, 90 percent of the nation’s roughly 1,000 charter authorizers are local school districts. … In recent years, more charter teachers have started to form unions at their schools. But since most are at-will employees who work on year-to-year contracts, the threat of retaliation presents a serious hurdle to unionization efforts, particularly since the charter sector is generally known for its union animus. As a result, teachers unions representing educators at traditional public schools have started to explore how they might use their leverage at the bargaining table to make union organizing easier for their charter brethren. …

… The first local to do this was the Cleveland Teachers Union. By the middle of the last decade, the Cleveland School District had sponsored several non-union charter schools. With a new round of contract negotiations coming up, the local teachers union wanted to figure out how they might insert their voice into their employer’s charter authorizing process. When bargaining began, the union sought the right to talk freely about organizing with teachers in any charter school authorized by their district. Though ultimately unsuccessful in winning this demand, the union did win language in its 2010 contract requiring their school district to remain neutral if teachers at any charter school it authorizes sought to unionize. … The Chicago Teachers Union took Cleveland’s efforts one step further in its recent round of collective bargaining. Rather than push for a commitment that their employer—the Chicago Public Schools—remain neutral, the union demanded that the school district require all charter schools it authorizes to remain neutral if their teachers decide to organize. … While the Chicago teachers did not win their demand for citywide charter neutrality when they reached an accord with the district last week, they actually won something even more surprising: an agreement to halt charter growth. In the new contract, the Chicago Public Schools agreed to not increase the net number of charter schools or charter school students through 2019, an unprecedented concession.

The United Teachers Los Angeles has gone even further with these contract efforts—bargaining not just for labor rights for charter teachers, but also for greater overall accountability for charter schools. During its last round of contract negotiations in 2014, the Los Angeles teachers union, in partnership with local community groups, called on the Los Angeles Unified School District to ensure that all schools under its purview—district and charter—be held to the same set of transparency, equity, and accountability standards. The union also proposed requiring that before the district opens up any new school, it first must assess what the economic, educational, and communal impact would be on existing schools. (Under California state law, however, school districts are prohibited from considering such factors when reviewing new charter school applications.) …

Voting ‘No’ on Question 2: Keeping the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts

Source: Alexandra Griffin, The Williams Record, October 18, 2016

Massachusetts schools are a primary battleground for charter schools expansion this election year. Charter schools are publicly funded and privately run institutions. A binding referendum on the November 2016 ballot would modify the state cap on charter schools, currently set at 120, allowing up to 12 new charter schools to open per year. This could be devastating for Massachusetts public schools. … These stakeholders oppose the ballot initiative primarily because the expansion of charter schools would redirect millions of dollars per year away from public schools across the state. Charters are, at best, a shaky proposition. As Massachusetts state representative Paul Heroux has noted, the business-backed, pro-charter coalition of lobbyists has provided skewed data on the success of charter schools, relying heavily on parent satisfaction or student self-reports, which don’t provide comprehensive views of how a wide range of students are served — or under-served —  across different kinds of charter schools; they also cherry-pick successful charter schools and ignore failing ones. Lifting the cap on charter schools in the state is a reckless move that would endanger public schools across the state, forcing massive cuts in spending. A statewide commission recently found that Massachusetts public schools are already underfunded by one billion dollars. Even with the cap in place, it is projected that public schools in North Adams will lose $695,605 to charter schools in 2017. These numbers will increase exponentially if the cap is lifted. Lifting the cap on charter schools in the state would also open the door to further privatization of schools in Massachusetts …


Letter to the Editor: Yes on 2 will hurt local public schools
Source: David Wyman, Sentinel and Enterprise, October 17, 2016

If the Yes on 2 campaign wins, kids and communities lose. Charter schools are not about improving public education; they are about privatization, turning education into a business where our tax dollars go to wealthy investors instead of students. The Yes on 2 commercials, funded with dark money, make false claims. Charter schools are not public schools: There is no local control, no school committee and they do not accept every child. … The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education projects public school districts will lose $456,338,729 in fiscal 2017 to charter schools. So what happens if the cap is lifted? Increased class sizes as public schools are forced to cut teachers and paraprofessionals. Cuts to art and music programs that help students develop critical thinking and creative problem solving skills. And cuts to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. …

Massachusetts Is Ground Zero In Battle Over Charter Schools
Source: Alan Singer, Huffington Post, October 13, 2016

Massachusetts is probably the most liberal state in the United States and by many measures its public school system is also the best in the nation. According to the 2016 edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report Massachusetts schools received an overall grade of B+, no state received an A, and the national grade was C. The report grades states and schools on the opportunities students have for success from birth to adulthood, K-12 achievement, and equitable school funding. … Despite this record of educational excellence, charter school advocates supported by major foundations and hedge fund investors have made Massachusetts ground zero in their battle to dismantle public education in the United States.” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni charges “They have targeted Massachusetts with the idea that if they can win here, it makes the road to privatization across the country easier.” A binding referendum on the November 2016 ballot would lift the state cap on charter schools, currently set at 120. The referendum is being pushed by a business-backed coalition that is spending tens of millions of dollars on the campaign. Much of the money comes from out-of-state groups, including the Walmart Foundation, about $700,000, and something called Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA), whose Board of Directors has close ties to Wall Street financiers. According to filings with the state agency that monitors election spending, ERNA contributed over half a million dollars to Great Schools Massachusetts, the group pushing for passage of the charter referendum. Two other hedge-fund-connected organizations, Families for Excellent Schools and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy kicked in more than $6 million in combined donations. …

More than $18M spent on charter school question TV ads
Source: Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, October 13, 2016

Supporters of a ballot question aimed at expanding the number of charter schools in Massachusetts have spent nearly twice as much on television ads as opponents. As of Monday, Great Schools Massachusetts, which backs the question, had spent nearly $12 million on broadcast television ads. That’s compared to about $6.5 million spent by the Campaign to Save Our Public Schools, which opposes Question 2. The groups have spent a combined $18.4 million on television ads, according to data from the Center for Public Integrity. … Even though they spent nearly twice as much as opponents, the ads from Great Schools Massachusetts have actually run fewer times — about 2,800 times — than ads from the Campaign to Save Our Public Schools, which have run nearly 3,000 times. While both groups are advertising in the Boston, Providence, Rhode Island, and Springfield, Massachusetts, markets, most of the money was spent on the Boston ads for both groups. One reason why Great Schools Massachusetts has spent more to have their ads run less often appears to be that the group is focusing more on the big networks instead of the smaller channels. Another factor is the time of day, with Great Schools Massachusetts running more ads in prime time.

Massachusetts Teachers Unions Battle the Dark Money Behind a Pro-Charter Ballot Measure
Source: Justin Miller, In These Times, October 7, 2016

Millions of dollars of dark money are streaming into Massachusetts as charter school proponents try to pass Question 2, a contentious ballot measure that would raise the state’s existing cap on charter schools. Teachers unions are scrambling to fight back against what they say is a heavy-handed attempt to dramatically expand public charters while hanging underfunded, traditional public schools out to dry. Such fights are playing out across the country as the well-funded charter school network has turned its sights—and its millions—on state and local education politics. But Massachusetts, with its strict cap and accountability measures for charters, coupled with a rich tradition of public education, has long been the crown jewel for charter backers. … All told, ballot committees supporting the measure have raised more than $15 million, with supporters having pledged to spend as much as $18 million by Election Day. Big donors include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave $240,000, and Jim and Alice Walton, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, who gave $1.1 million and $700,000 respectively. As The Boston Globe reports, several top financial executives in Boston, including from Mitt Romney’s former employer Bain Capital, have pumped hundreds of thousands into the campaign as well. The vast majority of money behind the campaign is funneled through dark-money groups that are not required to disclose their donors. The primary vehicle for that money is Great Schools Massachusetts, which has raised some $12 million so far, according to the latest state campaign finance reports. As the reports show, that money has been used to soak the state with television ads that make what opponents say are inaccurate claims, like that lifting the cap would bring more money to public schools and asserting that the measure would only impact “low-performing” districts, not suburban schools. The committee’s main funder is a New York-based non-profit called Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy (FES), which has contributed more than $8 million, including some $3 million over the past month, according to the latest state campaign-finance filings. … The seemingly orchestrated influx of millions of dollars has the teachers unions and their allies on their heels. The latest poll, released Wednesday, found that 47 percent of likely voters plan to vote against the measure while 36 percent favor it. Reaching the 18 percent who said they were undecided will be a crucial task for the teachers unions. …

Judge tosses lawsuit on charter school cap
Source: Kathleen McKiernan, Boston Herald, October 5, 2016

A judge has thrown out a lawsuit that questioned the constitutionality of the state’s charter school cap, leaving limits in place at least until voters have their say on Question 2 next month. The class-action lawsuit filed last September on behalf of five Boston students said they were denied access to a quality education due to the state’s cap on charter schools. The students had to attend Boston Public Schools after not winning seats into charters through the lottery system.

Elizabeth Warren comes out against raising cap on charter schools in Massachusetts
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, September 27, 2016

There is a pitched battle underway in Massachusetts over charter schools, with proponents pouring money into an initiative on the November ballot that would raise the state cap on their growth and opponents arguing that charters are draining resources from traditional public schools. Now critics have gotten a big boost: Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she was going to vote against Question 2. Warren, who has been viewed somewhat warily by many public-education activists because of her past support for charter schools, now says she does not support unfettered charter growth in Massachusetts because local school districts can be harmed. Just a few weeks ago, local media noted that Warren, highly popular in Massachusetts, had not declared her position on the charter cap. … Warren released a statement to the Boston Globe that said:

“I will be voting no on Question 2. Many charter schools in Massachusetts are producing extraordinary results for our students, and we should celebrate the hard work of those teachers and spread what’s working to other schools. But after hearing more from both sides, I am very concerned about what this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind. I hope that the Legislature, the teachers, and the parents can come together to find ways to make sure all kids in Massachusetts get a first-rate education without pitting groups against each other.”

MA schools may be battle in wider fight for profit & privatization agendas
Source: Jule Pattison-Gordon, Bay State Banner, September 22, 2016

Charter expansion in Massachusetts appears to be part of a national movement, fueled, in part, by hedge funds, corporations and wealthy philanthropists. Some professors see a profit motive for those with ties to school-related businesses such real estate and material supplies, as well as the lucrative charter network administration businesses and education consulting services. Others regard the push for charter expansion as one front of a larger ideological battle to tamp down on government and unions and turn over public services to private, free market offerings. …

Report: Charter enrollment increases spending in traditional schools
Source: Amelia Pak-Harvey, Lowell Sun, September 21, 2016

Adding more national attention to the statewide fight over charter schools, a new report from a conservative New York-based think tank concludes that charter-school enrollment actually increases per-pupil spending for traditional school districts. Ballot Question 2, which would allow for up to 12 charter schools or expansions every year, has drawn a heated battle that’s racked up over $18 million in spending from both proponents and opponents combined. … Opponents of the measure, which include the Save Our Public Schools campaign, argue that charter schools take money away from traditional school districts. Sending districts are reimbursed through a complex formula in which money for each student follows a child to their charter school. Yet, a new Manhattan Institute report contends that while charter-school enrollment reduces the net amount of Chapter 70 state aid that districts receive, it increases per-pupil spending in the 10 districts with the largest number of charter-school students. … But after the state’s “unique reimbursement” — which he argued was one of the most generous reimbursement plans in the nation — districts are getting paid a significant amount of money for students they no longer teach. … The report hits at an argument that bolsters the pro-charter school stance — that districts keep getting paid for a student that’s simply not there. The state reimburses the full cost of a student’s tuition by 100 percent the first year the student leaves, and 25 percent for five years after that. Those reimbursements aren’t always fully funded. Even so, Eden said, it still causes an increase in the per-pupil amount. The report uses fiscal 2016 numbers from the Massachusetts Teachers Association website that detail charter-school payments and the number of children sent to charter schools, according to Eden. That analysis includes Lowell, which had 1,490 charter-school students in fiscal 2016. After state reimbursement, the district paid roughly $14.8 million in charter-school costs. In fiscal 2017, Lowell is projected to pay nearly $17 million. …

Out-of-state donors spend big on Mass. ballot questions
Source: Todd Feathers, Lowell Sun, September 20, 2016

Out-of-state donors have spent nearly twice as much to influence Massachusetts’s upcoming ballot measures as in-state donors have, according to recently released campaign finance reports. Groups vying over Question 2 — which asks voters if the cap on the number of charter schools should be raised — are leading the spending spree. Groups both in favor and against raising the cap have raised a combined $18.3 million in 2016, with $11 million of the total coming from outside Massachusetts. One New York-based nonprofit, Families for Excellent Schools, contributed nearly $6 million to the pro-charter group Great Schools Massachusetts. … Charter-school proponents through September outraised and outspent their opponents by nearly 2-to-1. Where that money really came from is hard to ascertain, though. … Great Schools Massachusetts must disclose, for example, that it received nearly $6 million from Families for Excellent Schools, the New York nonprofit that is the single largest contributor so far in this campaign cycle. But Families for Excellent Schools, which was founded by several Wall Street hedge-fund managers, is not required to disclose the source of its money in most situations. Other donors have no qualms about publicizing their advocacy. Jim Walton, the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, and his wife, Alice, donated a combined $1.8 million to the charter-school effort. On the other side of that issue, teachers unions are responsible for almost all the money donated to the anti-charter group Save Our Public Schools. The Massachusetts Teachers Association contributed $4.6 million in 2016, followed by the National Education Association with $1.9 million. …

Should Mass. Expand Charter Schools? A Look At Ballot Question 2
Source: Tonya Mosley, WBUR, September 13, 2016

Question 2 on the November ballot will ask voters if they support giving Massachusetts the authority to lift the cap on charter schools. As it stands, no more than 120 charter schools are allowed to operate in the state; there are currently 78 active charters. A “Yes” vote on Question 2 would give the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the authority to lift the cap, allowing up to 12 new charter schools or expansions of existing charters each year. … In a WBUR poll of likely voters, 48 percent said they would vote against lifting the cap, while 41 percent would vote for it, and 11 percent said they did not know or were undecided. The same poll found that 46 percent think charters drain money from district schools, 38 percent don’t think so, and 15 percent are undecided. …

The Great Charter Schools Debate
Source: Rachel Slade, Boston Magazine, September 2016

In November, Massachusetts voters will decide whether the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) can raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed, or increase enrollment in existing charters in underperforming districts. If the referendum is approved, the city of Boston—which currently has 27 Commonwealth charter schools that operate independently of the district and educate about 14 percent of the student population—will likely see an increase in charters over the next several years. …

Charter School expansion debate continues
Source: Tamara Sacharczyk, WWLP, August 17, 2016

The charter school debate continues to heat up in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Democratic Party voted on Tuesday to oppose a ballot question in November that would expand the state’s charter school cap. Charter schools are publicly funded, but separate from public schools. Some members of the Massachusetts Democratic Party argue if enough students’ leaves a public school for a charter school, a chunk of that school district’s funding will eventually go with them. … Question 2 on November’s ballot would expand that cap, by allowing 12 more charter schools to open, or current schools to expand. Several charter schools have already asked the state for expansions in recent weeks. Here in western Massachusetts, the Collegiate Charter School of the Pioneer Valley applied to start a new charter school for 870 students, and the Hampden Charter School of Science requested to open another school for 560 students. … Several lawmakers at the statehouse are in favor of the November ballot question to expand charter schools, including Governor Charlie Baker. The governor has said charter schools give students and parents more options, and potentially, a better education. …

November ballot question: Lifting the charter school cap
Source: Frank Conte, New Boston Post, July 28, 2016

The most popular governor in the United States wasn’t going to let a mid-July downpour on the State House steps dampen the launch of ballot campaign to lift the state’s charter school cap. Spending down some of the political capital he’s accrued over the last two years, Governor Charlie Baker announced his support for a measure that will potentially increase annually the number of charter schools by 12. … If approved by the voters in November, the ballot question certified by the Massachusetts Attorney General will allow the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to 12 new charter schools each year. Should the board receive applications from more than that number, districts with student performance in the bottom 25 percent of state assessments and strong popular demand will be given preference. In reality, charter school advocates — given the economics and logistics — think only two or three new schools will be approved by the board each year. But teacher union resistance can be overwhelming, even if the changes are small. …

Senate President: Charter school bill all but dead
Source: Associated Press, June 20, 2016

Hopes for a bill aimed at heading off a proposed charter school ballot question appear all but dead on Beacon Hill. Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg told reporters Monday that discussions between the Massachusetts House and Senate on the bill have come to a “dead stop.” … The Senate in April approved a bill aimed at allowing more charters in districts serving at-risk students while largely maintaining the statewide charter school cap. The House hasn’t acted on the bill. The proposed ballot question would add up to a dozen new or expanded charters each year outside of existing state caps.

Gov Baker Proposes Bill To Allow More Charter Schools
Source: Paul Tuthill, WAMC, October 8, 2015

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced legislation Thursday to lift a cap on charter schools.  The bill  Baker plans to file would add up to 12 new or expanded charter schools a year with a preference in low performing school districts. His legislation is similar to a ballot measure proposed by a coalition of charter school advocates. Spokesperson Josiane Martinez said the group needs to collect 65,000 signatures to get the question on the 2016 ballot.

Private prison stocks are spiking

Source: Robert Ferris, CNBC, October 18, 2016

Corrections Corporation of America shares extended their gains Tuesday on word that a Texas facility would extend their contract. Shares spiked Monday after the company reported it is extending and amending a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the 2,400-bed South Texas Family Center in Dilley, Texas. Corrections Corp. shares closed at $14.55 on Tuesday, up 20 cents, or about 1.4 percent. The contract will extend through 2021, thought ICE will pay a lower monthly fixed rate to the company. The agreement is subject to termination upon 60-day notice. … At the end of September, both stocks posted their worst quarter in roughly 16 years.


ICE Renews Private Prison Contractor To Run Largest Family Detention Center
Source: Roque Planas, Huffington Post, October 18, 2016

Immigration and Customs Enforcement revised and extended a contract on Monday for a private company to keep running the country’s largest family detention center as a for-profit business for another five years. ICE renewed the contract with Corrections Corporation of America, despite a recent surge of criticism against the government’s reliance on private prison contractors. The South Texas Family Residential Center, which the Obama administration hastily constructed at the the tail end of 2014 to detain a sudden influx of Central American mothers and children, has also faced its own controversies, with lawsuits questioning the legality of the White House’s family detention policy. … Under CCA’s extended contract, the company will receive less money than before to run the Southern Texas Family Residential Center, according to a news release posted to the CCA website. The contract originally awarded to CCA to run the Dilley detention center was worth nearly $1 billion over four years and the company received the money regardless of how many people were locked up there. …

Private Prisons Are Cashing In on Refugees’ Desperation
Source: Antony Lowenstein, New York Times, February 25, 2016

The Dilley center holds people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a government agency, but it is run by the Corrections Corporation of America, America’s largest private prison and detention company. It is one part of a worrisome global trend of warehousing immigrants and asylum seekers at remote sites maintained by for-profit corporations. The United Nations estimates that one in every 122 people on the planet is displaced. This is a crisis that requires a humanitarian solution; unfortunately, some people view it as a business opportunity. … It has become a multimillion-dollar industry. The company Hero Norway runs 90 refugee centers in Norway and 10 in Sweden, charging governments $31 to $75 per refugee per night. Australia’s government has contracted the company Broadspectrum to manage two detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for asylum seekers. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government awarded the security firm Serco a seven-year contract in 2014 worth over $100 million for running the Yarl’s Wood immigrant detention center. … In its 2014 annual report, the Corrections Corporation of America worried that changes to American immigration policy could cut into the company’s bottom line.

Family Detention Centers Apply for Child Care Licenses
Source: Seth Robbins, Associated Press, October 16, 2015

A Texas agency will inspect two of the nation’s largest immigrant family detention centers to determine whether to issue them residential child care licenses as part of an effort to keep the facilities open amid a legal challenge. … The detention centers are overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and run by private prison companies, which are applying for the licenses. According to an application filed by Corrections Corporation of America, the 2,000-bed facility in Dilley would provide child care services that can include handling children at risk to themselves or others and restraining children physically. The application filed by The GEO Group, the contractor at the 500-bed facility in Karnes City, asked only for child care services. … Filings about the Dilley facility mention untreated or unrecognized ailments that resulted in children being hospitalized, lack of medicines, erroneous vaccine dosages and long waits. Corrections Corporation of America would not comment on the allegations or the licensing process, deferring to the Homeland Security statement.

Federal judge orders Obama administration to release detained mothers and children
Source: Franco Ordonez, Miami Herald, August 22, 2015

A federal judge ruled late Friday night that the Obama administration has just over two months to begin releasing hundreds of migrant mothers and children who have been locked up in government family detention centers as they await their asylum hearings. In a 15-page ruling that quoted Mahatma Gandhi, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Central California delivered a scolding rebuke of the government’s expanded use of family detention centers. But she also granted the government one of its key requests for additional time – as much as 20 days – to continue to hold mothers and children under extenuating circumstances like last year’s surge of nearly 70,000 Central American families into the United States. … Gee rejected a last minute plea by the administration to reconsider her July ruling that the government acted in violation of a 1997 settlement regarding child migrants. She called the government’s arguments improper and speculative. … Homeland Security officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but they are expected to appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But they’re also likely relieved. Gee did not issue a blanket order prohibiting the detention of all families under any circumstances beyond five days as they had feared.

Dems press White House to end family detention centers
Source: Mike Lillis, The Hill, July 31, 2015

House Democrats are escalating their calls for the Obama administration to shutter the family detention centers housing thousands of illegal immigrant women and children. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, 178 Democrats contend the centers — which were established last summer, largely to accommodate the flood of immigrants arriving at the southern border – are illegal and impose prison-like conditions that risk physical and mental harm to detainees. …
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A disturbing lawsuit claims private prison guards forced an inmate to perform oral sex

Source: Casey Tolan, Fusion, October 18, 2016

A former inmate of a Louisiana private prison is suing the company that runs the prison after two guards forced him to perform oral sex. Aaron Franklin, 27, says that he was abused by Derrick Deshotel and Tyler Strothers, two correctional officers at the Allen Correctional Center, a private prison in rural Kinder, LA, run by the GEO Group. An investigation by the prison substantiated his allegations, the state Department of Corrections said. … After the first incident, Franklin tried to forget it. But the next year, on July 19, 2015, Deshotel ordered Franklin into the prison’s hobby shop and told him he wanted sex again. … Franklin decided he had to report the abuse. After he did, he was briefly kept in solitary confinement before being transferred to a state prison, and was released last month. In all, Franklin served eight years for two armed robbery convictions. The guards were fired by GEO and criminally charged with malfeasance in office. They pled guilty and received only probation, Franklin’s lawyer said. (Local court officials said court records could not be immediately released.) The Allen Parish Prosecutor’s office, which handled the case against the two officers, did not respond to a request for comment. … Franklin’s lawsuit, which asks for $4 million in damages, accuses the officers of violating his rights and GEO of letting it happen. “My judge sentenced me to do time, but he didn’t sentence me to this,” Franklin said. “Being abused and mistreated, that wasn’t part of my sentence.” Lawyers for the two officers did not respond to requests for comment. In their motions in the case, however, they appear to imply—in an argument couched in legalese—that Franklin was asking for, or wanted to, have sex with them. …


Former Allen Correctional Center inmate sues operators for alleged denial of medical care
Source: Hoang Tran, Louisiana Record, February 17, 2016

Ben Thompson filed a suit on Feb. 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division against The Geo Group, for alleged breach of duties and violations of his rights. Thompson was formerly at the Allen Correctional Center, which is operated and owned by The Geo Group. … On or about Feb. 12, 2015, Thompson was acting as a peer-facilitator in a substance abuse class when a ceiling tile fell 12 feet and struck him on the middle of his neck on the posterior side, the suit states. Thompson claims to have immediately felt a shocking sensation and instantaneous pain but was allegedly given only ibuprofen. Thompson alleges that the pain did not subside on Feb. 15, 2015, but was again allegedly given only ibuprofen when he sought treatment. On March 11, 2015, Thompson allegedly was given a CT scan and on March 20, a doctor at Allen recommended that plaintiff be observed by a neuro or orthopedic surgeon for appropriate diagnosis. The defendant allegedly denied such recommendations.

The Reason the Private Prison Industry Is Pulling for Donald Trump

Source: Danielle DeCourcey, ATTN:, October 18, 2016

This summer, the Department of Justice sent the private prison industry reeling when it announced the federal government would stop using the facilities to house inmates. Now, according to financial disclosures reported on by Mother Jones, it appears that a major private jailer is placing in their hopes in the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. As Mother Jones’ Russ Choma pointed out, GEO Corrections reacted to the DOJ’s August 18th announcement by donating $100,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a pro-Trump Super PAC that launched in June boasting $32 million in funding commitments. … Trump said he would expand private prisons as a part of his criminal justice strategy. “I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better,” he said to NBC’s Chris Matthews at a town hall in April. … The Clinton campaign no longer accepts donations from private prison lobbyists or PACs. However Politico’s Josh Gerstein reported in February that the Clinton campaign has received fundraising help from lobbyists who are “closely connected” with the private prison industry. …


Private Prison Company Bankrolls Pro-Trump Super-PAC
Source: Russ Choma, Mother Jones, October 17, 2016

It’s unusual for a publicly traded corporation to donate to a super-PAC, but in August, private prison company GEO Group steered $150,000 to Rebuild America Now, a pro-Donald Trump outfit launched by the GOP nominee’s longtime friend, developer Tom Barrack. The timing of the GEO Group’s contribution is significant. It cut a $100,000 check to the super-PAC on August 19, the day after the Justice Department announced that it would phase out the use of private prisons. (The company’s political action committee donated $50,000 to Rebuild America Now a week before the announcement.) … Trump was not the GEO Group’s top choice for president. During the Republican primary campaign, the GEO Group gave $100,000 to a super-PAC backing Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The company’s CEO, George Zoley, also donated to Rubio’s presidential campaign. …

Private Immigrant Detention Firm Gave $45K to Trump Fundraising Group
Source: Dean DeChairo, Roll Call, August 25, 2016

The political arm of one of the country’s leading operators of federally contracted immigrant detention facilities donated $45,000 last month to a joint fundraising committee supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, according to a recent Federal Election Commission filing. The political action committee representing The GEO Group, Inc., made the donation on July 27 to the Trump Victory fund, a joint committee also supporting the Republican National Committee and 11 state parties. Donors to GEO’s PAC are almost entirely employees of the Boca Raton, Florida-based company. … The donation came weeks before the Justice Department said it would phase out its practice of hiring private prison companies — the GEO Group among them — to operate 13 correctional facilities. The group’s stock price plunged following the announcement even though ICE, the group’s biggest customer, indicated it would continue its private detention contracts. …

NAACP Calls for No More Charters Until Privatized Schools Face Same Standards as Public Schools

Source: Steven Rosenfeld, Alternet, October 18, 2016

On Saturday, the board of directors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ratified a resolution passed this summer at its national convention calling for a moratorium on charter expansion and strengthening charter oversight. The vote came after intense lobbying against the resolution from the industry and its allies—including editorials at the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, a letter from black pro-charter legislators from California (where the sector gets almost anything it wants), and out-of-state protesters who were bussed in and interrupted the NAACP’s proceedings. “We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” said Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP chair, in a statement after the 63-member national board vote. “Our decision today is driven by a long held principle and policy of the NAACP that high-quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.” …


Editorial: A Misguided Attack on Charter Schools
Source: New York Times, October 13, 2016

The N.A.A.C.P., the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, has struggled in recent years to win over younger African-Americans, who often see the group as out of touch. The N.A.A.C.P.’s board will reinforce that impression if it ratifies an ill-advised resolution — scheduled for a vote this weekend — that calls for a moratorium on expansion of public charter schools, which receive public money but are subject to fewer state regulations than traditional public schools. These schools, which educate only about 7 percent of the nation’s students, are far from universally perfect, and those that are failing should be shut down. But sound research has shown that, when properly managed and overseen, well-run charter schools give families a desperately needed alternative to inadequate traditional schools in poor urban neighborhoods. … The Stanford study notes, however, that poorly run charters can be disastrous. In some areas, the study notes, not a single charter school outperforms the traditional school alternative — and in some places, more than half are significantly worse. The city of Detroit, where more than half of all students attend charter schools, has recently become an example of such a failure. Where charter schools excel, however, demand for admission is high. In New York City, for example, charter schools enroll about 107,000 students, roughly 10 percent of the city’s total enrollment. But more than 44,000 students who sought admission for the current school year were turned away. In Harlem and the South Bronx, there are now four applicants for every charter school seat. … The N.A.A.C.P. resolution is less credible when it says that charter schools have contributed to “increased segregation.” Yes, many in urban centers have predominantly black or Latino student enrollment, but it’s nonsensical to fault a charter school for serving a minority student body in an overwhelmingly minority area. For many parents and students, a charter school is the only route to a superior education. In advocating a blanket moratorium on charters, the N.A.A.C.P. would fail to acknowledge what’s happening to children who need and deserve a way out of the broken schools to which they have been relegated.

Black Leaders Rip NAACP, Black Lives Matter For Opposing School Choice
Source: Joy Pullman, The Federalist, September 27, 2016

For a long time, national organizations that claim to advocate on behalf of black Americans have actually not represented their views very well on key topics, and that rift became public again recently in controversies about charter schools. Former Black Lives Matter St. Paul leader Rashad Turner recently quit his position over BLM national’s opposition to charter schools. Charters are public schools that boards of local citizens can apply to open and run under state oversight, and that any child can attend. … Turner also criticized the NAACP’s similar, long-held opposition to charters, which aligns with labor unions rather than black Americans. A plurality of African-Americans support charter schools, with 46 percent for and 29 percent against in a recent nationwide poll. In a 2015 poll conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options in Alabama, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Tennessee, majorities of black Americans supported charters, typically by approximately two-thirds. Meanwhile, a group of 160 African-American community leaders sent NAACP a letter detailing their own objections to its charter-school opposition on behalf of “700,000 black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools, and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.” In October the NAACP board will meet to consider a resolution that calls for banning more charters from opening, which prompted the group letter in opposition. … A similar coalition of black leaders in Florida has spent years going toe-to-toe with labor unions that keep suing to stop the nation’s largest state program that allows private donations to fund K-12 scholarships for poor children. The recipients of these tax-credit scholarships are predominantly minority students, and many of their parents are labor union members themselves. Nevertheless, the state teachers union keeps renewing lawsuits against the program despite a steady string of court decisions against them. …

10 Reasons Why the NAACP Is Absolutely Right About a National Moratorium on Charter Schools
Source: Steven Rosenfeld, Alternet, August 29, 2016

No, what’s maddening is their wholesale dismissal of the substantive complaints laid out in the NAACP’s draft resolution, which cites unaccountable private boards running schools, extremely segregated student bodies, psychologically harmful environments, diversion of limited taxpayer resources, fiscal mismanagement and corruption, and more. The NAACP wants state and federal civil rights and education regulators to end the litany of harmful practices. Not every charter school is the same. There are 6,700 nationwide with 3 million students. Some embody the idea of locally run experimental schools as envisioned by the American Federation of Teachers in the 1980s and first authorized by state legislatures a quarter century ago. Today, however, there is a rapidly growing national charter industry that is dominated by corporate franchises seeking to build branded educational chains at taxpayer expense. … The apt title of the Journey for Justice Alliance report is, “Death By A Thousand Cuts: Racism, School Closures and Public School Sabotage.” Here are 10 points from the NAACP’s draft 2016 resolution on charter schools, and why the organization is absolutely correct that a nationwide moratorium is warranted — and should be supported by more progressive groups.

  1. Targeting of low-income communities …
  2. Anti-democratic practices …
  3. Selective Admissions …
  4. Extreme Segregation …
  5. Unwarranted Financial Perks …
  6. Fiscal Mismanagement …
  7. Diversion of Taxpayer Funds …
  8. Self-dealing and loss of control …
  9. Violation of civil and educational rights …
  10. No more state agency cover-ups …

Why Did Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Call for an End to More Charter Schools?
Source: Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones, August 15, 2016

A few weeks ago, the Movement for Black Lives, the network that also includes Black Lives Matter organizers, released its first-ever policy agenda. Among the organization’s six demands and dozens of policy recommendations was a bold education-related stance: a moratorium on both charter schools and public school closures. Charters, the agenda argues, represent a shift of public funds and control over to private entities. Along with “an end to the privatization of education,” the Movement for Black Lives organizers are demanding increased investments in traditional community schools and the health and social services they provide. The statement came several weeks after another civil rights titan, the NAACP, also passed a resolution, calling for a freeze on the growth of charter schools. … Skeptics counter that charter schools contribute to racial and socioeconomic segregation, and that high percentages of charter school students in poor, urban districts can also contribute to the fiscal stress and the downward spiral of the traditional schools. Throughout the country, Vasquez Heilig noted, state charter laws vary dramatically: Some charter schools find ways to exclude disadvantaged children; others are created with explicit commitment to serve the most disadvantaged students. Vasquez Heilig argued that a moratorium would allow the public to investigate current practices, and promote those that work the best. …

The Answer Sheet: NAACP Members Call for Ban on Privately Managed Charter Schools
Source: Valerie Strauss & Carol Burris, National Education Policy Center, August 10, 2016

Here’s a post about the resolution and why it matters in the school reform debate. It was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education, explains why putting the word “public” in front of “charter school” — which are funded with tax dollars — is “an affront” to people for whom public education is a mission. … The prejudice inherent in that statement is astounding. To paraphrase, suburban communities can self-govern; but urban residents should not because they would have self-serving motives, unlike altruistic billionaires, who should be on charter boards. That is the reason that the NAACP passed the resolution calling for a moratorium. The 2,200 members who passed that resolution understand that policies around suspension, excessive discipline, cherry-picking students[1] and continual test-prep, along with the lack of regulations that result in theft and corruption, will not change until the community participates in governance and transparency prevails. …

NAACP members call for ban on privately managed charter schools
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, August 7, 2016

The NAACP has long expressed concern about charter schools, but now its members are taking a tougher stance. At their recent annual national convention late last month, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People approved a resolution that included language calling for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charters. For years, resolutions at annual national conventions of the historic organization have raised issues about charters, but the 2016 resolution uses stark language. The new resolution notes that “charter schools with privately appointed boards do not represent the public but make decisions about how public funds are spent,” and it cites a number of problems with some charters, including punitive disciplinary policies, fiscal mismanagement and conflicts of interest. …

Private School Tax Subsidies Blur the Line Between Charitable Gift and Money Laundering

Source: Carl Davis, Tax Justice Blog, October 12, 2016

When is a charitable contribution not a “donation” at all?  If a taxpayer manages to turn a profit on the deal, has anything altruistic actually occurred?  The clear answer is no.  But our new report reveals that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not always agree, at least with regard to certain gifts to private K-12 scholarship funds. … In 17 states, tax credits for donations to private school scholarship funds reduce the cost of a donation by 50 percent or more.  Even more remarkable is that in five states, tax credits equal to 100 percent of the donation are actually designed to wipe out the entire cost of donating to these schools.  When a 100 percent tax credit is made available, the state is effectively bankrolling the entire donation at no true cost to the taxpayer that allegedly “donated” the funds.  In essence, many of these policies have more in common with money-laundering schemes than they do with actual philanthropy. But this may not even be the most unbelievable part of the arrangement.  As explained in our new report, certain high-income taxpayers can turn a profit by claiming a federal charitable deduction for so-called “donations” that were already reimbursed by the state.  In other words, the IRS allows private school donors to enjoy a charitable deduction even when there was no charitable intent or effect behind their actions. There are currently ten states (Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia) where such profit-making schemes are possible.  That list could potentially grow in the years ahead, however, if states such as Maryland and New York eventually decide to move forward with similar credits that have recently been topics of statehouse debates. …

Read full report.