Category Archives: Education

Puerto Rico bondholders balk at deal to divide sales taxes

Source: Bond Buyer, June 12, 2018 (Subscription required)
 
Major Puerto Rico bondholders are balking at a tentative agreement that would steer to owners of sales-tax-backed debt a large chunk of the revenue they’ve been pledged, threatening to prolong a fight over one of the biggest issues in the island’s record-setting bankruptcy.  The so-called ad hoc group of general-obligation bondholders told a U.S. court it has objections to the potential deal that court-appointed agents for the commonwealth and the entity that sold Puerto Rico’s sales-tax debt, called Cofinas, released last week. The deal triggered a rally in the price of the Cofina bonds, which would be repaid first and receive more than half of the sales-tax receipts that were dedicated to repaying the securities. …

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Judge orders information for possible independent Puerto Rico bond investigation
Source: Robert Slavin, Bond Buyer, June 7, 2018 (Subscription required)
 
Title III bankruptcy Magistrate Judge Judith Dein ordered the Puerto Rico oversight board and government to provide more information for a possible independent investigation into the territory’s debt.  The Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, led by attorney Luc Despins, asked in mid-May to be allowed to conduct its own investigation, which would start no later than Aug. 15. The committee said an existing investigation, being conducted by Kobre & Kim under a Sept. 1, 2017, contract, is undermined by the potential bias of three board members who have present or past connections to Puerto Rico’s municipal finance industry. It fails to look into “identifying bad actors or potential causes of action” against existing debt, the committee argued. …

Democrats call for 9/11-style commission to investigate Trump Puerto Rico response
Source: Frank Dale, ThinkProgress, June 6, 2018
 
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling for an independent commission to investigate the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria and the storm’s aftermath in Puerto Rico.  During a news conference on Wednesday, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) requested an investigation “similar to what we had in 9/11 to examine the death toll, the federal response and how federal agencies such as FEMA may have responded sluggishly based on artificially low numbers.” Velazquez vowed to introduce legislation that would lead to the creation of an independent commission — though passing it in the current Republican-controlled Congress will be a challenge. … 

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Privatization Plan Defeated in NH

Source: Melissa Weinstein, AFSCME Now, May 30, 2018
 
What if you and your co-workers were forced to leave a job you loved, to which you’d dedicated your career, so that non-union private contractors could be hired for a fraction of the cost? More than 100 Nashua, New Hampshire, School District custodial workers had been facing that prospect for the past 2½ years. Until recently, that is.  Members of AFSCME Local 365 (AFSCME Council 93) finally won the battle against privatization of Nashua School Custodian services. Faced with the threat of politicians putting corporate interests before quality public services, members successfully mobilized to elect Nashua School Board members who understand the value and commitment of public service workers. Following that victory, the board voted 6-1 in late February to negotiate a new contract with AFSCME members, whose contract had expired in 2016. …

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Nashua BOE rejects privatization plan
Source: Hannah Laclaire, The Telegraph, February 28, 2018 (Abstract)
 
The Nashua Board of Education has rejected privatization, ending two and a half years of discussion about the topic and protecting more than 100 union service-based jobs within the district. … Last fall, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire sided with the Nashua School District in an appeal from the union that the district committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to bargain with the Nashua Custodial/Janitorial Staff concerning the district’s plan to move toward privatization at the end of the term of the “collective bargaining agreement between the parties.” …

School board-custodian case moves close to Supreme Court
Source: Tina Forbes, The Telegraph, September 22, 2016 (Abstract)

The Nashua School District is one step closer to having its case considered by the New Hampshire Supreme Court after the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board denied the district’s request for a rehearing on its plan to privatize some of its custodial workforce. The labor board handed down its decision on Tuesday, more than a month after the school board voted to appeal the labor board’s initial decision in favor of the district’s custodians.

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Young Boy With Autism Abused By His School Bus Aide And Driver

Source: Dave Savini, CBS Chicago, May 11, 2018

Nicky O’Toole has autism and struggles to communicate. For months, when he was just nine years old, he was hit and threatened by his school bus aide and driver. … O’Toole said as she struggled to figure out why her son’s behavior was changing, she initially did not suspect the First Student bus employees. … She says months of disturbing videos are in First Student’s possession. … There are training questions too. First Student’s contract with the District says they provide, “..a well-developed special-needs training program.” The bus aide says otherwise, according to O’Toole’s team of attorneys, Michael Krzak of Krzak and Rundio Law and Robert Clifford from Clifford Law Offices.

The Woman Standing in the Way of the Privatization of Thousands of Jobs in Tennessee Was Just Fired

Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, May 7, 2018

A university chancellor who took a controversial stand to protect the jobs of thousands of public workers has now lost her own. University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport was abruptly fired from her post last week, in a move representatives for unionized campus workers are calling another step toward the privatization of thousands of facilities management jobs. The battle in Tennessee pits the state’s GOP governor, Bill Haslam, against its public workers, and UT-Knoxville is where the workers, backed by a student movement, have made their stand. The workers see Davenport’s firing as an effort to remove a key obstacle to privatization. …

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Public Workers Worried That Tennessee’s Billionaire Governor Is Taking Another Run at Them
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 4, 2018

Last year, Tennessee’s governor attempted a frontal assault on the unionized workers that staff the state’s facilities and management jobs at public buildings, two-thirds of which are state-run colleges. Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest U.S. elected official not named Donald Trump, signed a contract with a facilities management firm to privatize those jobs. But a prodigious campaign by the campus employee union and student activists led to nearly the entire University of Tennessee system publicly opting out of the contract. … But Haslam appears to have found a work-around. The Tennessee legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to overhaul the University of Tennessee’s entire board of trustees, allowing Haslam to hand-pick the replacements. That board could pressure campuses to opt back into the privatization contract at any time over the next four years. …

How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization
Source: Chris Brooks and Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times, March 20, 2018

… The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. … What the privatizers didn’t plan for was the United Campus Workers (UCW), a scrappy higher education union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Public-sector unions in Tennessee are legally barred from engaging in collective bargaining, and the state has no obligation to recognize or negotiate with them. Instead, the union relies on a mixture of legislative advocacy, workplace actions and mass mobilizations. Few unions exist in a harsher political and legal environment, yet the UCW is punching far above its weight, increasing its membership while securing victories against better-funded foes. …

Workers’ unlikely victory over outsourcing in Tennessee
Source: Elizabeth Stanfield and Jon Shefner, Facing South, February 6, 2018
 
Last fall, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865 (UCW) achieved an important victory for organized labor’s fight against privatization and erosion of public-sector jobs. For more than two years, they campaigned to stop Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, from outsourcing all state facilities service jobs. Their campaign involved multiple constituencies and tactics and played a key role in the University of Tennessee system’s decision not to participate in the outsourcing contract. The fact that this victory was won in a red state by a union without collective bargaining or dues check off is a powerful reminder of what organized workers can achieve against great odds. This victory is worth paying attention to because it reminds us that even in the face of tremendous obstacles, organized workers can win. …

University of Tennessee campuses will not outsource facilities jobs
Source: Rachel Ohm, USA TODAY, October 31, 2017

In a move celebrated by state workers on college campuses, University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center ended more than two years of speculation about whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan. …

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract
Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans
Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

Tennessee Inks Collaborative Facilities Management Contract With JLL
Source: Kate Vitasek, Forbes, June 29, 2017
 
The state of Tennessee has signed a facilities management contract to help the state provide the best service to citizens and employees at the lowest possible cost for taxpayers.  The contract was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for five years with up to five one-year extensions. It allows the state of Tennessee’s various agencies and institutions to utilize JLL’s professional facilities management services. The potential scope covers over 7,500 state run properties spanning 97 million square feet. …

Controversial state plan to outsource college jobs moves forward
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 26, 2017

Tennessee moved forward with a controversial plan to outsource jobs at public colleges Friday when officials finalized a contract with a corporation that already handles a sizable amount of state business.  Under the contract, JLL — which currently manages about 10 percent of state facilities — will oversee the potential expansion of outsourcing at college campuses, state parks and prisons. It is a pivotal moment for the proposed expansion, which has been in the works for two years. …

Majority of lawmakers ask state to slow down on outsourcing
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 2, 2017

Seventy-five state lawmakers have signed a letter urging Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to postpone a plan to outsource jobs on college campuses and other state-owned property, delivering yet another blow to the controversial proposal. In the letter to Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin, signed by Republicans and Democrats from both chambers, the lawmakers ask to delay the outsourcing plan to allow “enough time to address concerns from the General Assembly.” … This is only the latest sign of deep reservations surrounding the project, which Haslam has championed against wide-ranging criticism for more than a year. Workers’ rights advocates, including a union representing campus workers, have blasted Haslam for prioritizing money over state workers and their families. College leaders have predicted the change would hurt services on campus. …

Tennessee’s billionaire governor works with his corporate buddies to privatize government jobs
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 27, 2017
 
Tennessee’s state government has inked a sweetheart deal with a company linked to the state’s billionaire governor to privatize thousands of facilities and management jobs at colleges, prisons, and other public buildings.  It’s being touted by some officials in other states as a model for the nation.  The $330 million, five-year contract covers custodial services, groundskeeping, and repair and maintenance work. Government officials say that each public facility can choose to only partially comply, or opt out, keeping their employees on the public payroll. “If they’re happy with business as usual, there’s nothing to do,” said Michelle Martin, a spokeswoman for the office that issued the contract. …

Jones Lang LaSalle Wins Bid for Haslam’s Campus Outsourcing
Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2017

Real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle has been selected as the winning bidder for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to privatize property management on the campuses of the Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/2nwO7Dh) the Chicago-based company that already manages a large number of general state government buildings beat out proposals by Aramark and Compass Group. It’s not yet clear how many campuses will choose to participate in the privatization plan. Final cost details won’t be known until the five-year contract is signed. …

Officials say state outsourcing is working, but plenty of skepticism remains
Source:Jake Lowary, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, March 8, 2017

Despite $26 million in savings reported by state administration officials, some lawmakers and state employees remain skeptical or outright opposed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to privatize many state agencies or operations within state government. Privatization of facility management, especially at public colleges and universities, has been a sort of sidecar initiative of Haslam for the past three years, in an effort to make state government more efficient and reduce costs. But many state workers still fear they will either lose their job or the areas that some have committed their lives to will suffer in quality. Larry Martin, state finance commissioner, was flanked by several officials from his department and told a Senate Oversight and Investigations Committee on Wednesday that the governor’s plan is working.

… Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said he’s not been able to fully ascertain how the state arrives at the data it does regarding its overall savings, and requested that information from Martin and Hull. He questioned the data, specifically as it relates to the labor force, where the savings have not come. … Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, also questioned the notion of privatization, saying that it’s almost impossible for the state to restart or regain the management of those services once they’ve been outsourced to private companies. Representatives from the United Campus Workers offered some of the sharpest criticism to the privatization proposal from Haslam’s office, which has yet to be finalized and was indefinitely delayed last week. Melanie Barron, an organizer with UCW, said the request for proposal laid out by Haslam is “rife with loopholes” and despite promises from Haslam and other state leaders that agencies will be able to opt out of the RFP, little clarity about how to opt out has been provided. … The RFP for public facility management, which is separate from a different RFP to manage Fall Creek Falls State Park facilities, closed at the end of February. The state intends to issue a letter of intent to award at the end of March, Martin said. …

Opinion: Outsourcing state jobs hurts Tennessee
Source: Rep. John Ray Clemmons, The Tennessean, December 20, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam is gambling with our tax dollars and Tennesseans’ lives. His outsourcing scheme involves eliminating up to 17 percent of current state employees’ jobs at state college and universities, parks and elsewhere. Outsourcing public jobs will result in great profits for private corporations but less oversight, lower quality, and the elimination of all accountability for citizens. The tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga is an unfortunate illustration of this fact. Hamilton County Schools contracted with Durham School Services, a private company, to operate its school buses. After 36 injury crashes in Tennessee since 2014, Durham was still transporting children. … Haslam’s steadfast outsourcing efforts, in the face of statewide opposition, stand in stark contrast to his other endeavors. For instance, his administration spent 18 months crafting Insure Tennessee, a plan supported by a majority of Tennesseans. Though Haslam publicly professed a passion for the cause, he exerted such little effort behind the scenes that he willingly raised the white flag to a vocal minority within his own party after less than three days of a special session. … These lackadaisical efforts on healthcare and transportation are easily contrasted with Haslam’s exhaustive efforts on outsourcing, a solution in search of a problem. Our governor created a new office focused solely on outsourcing and focused the bulk of his energies on an effort to pay private corporations hundreds of millions of dollars to perform jobs that state employees already do well and reliably. …

Democrats Say Nashville Firm Reviewing Benefits Of Outsourcing Is Too Close To Haslam
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, December 12, 2016

Tennessee Democrats say they’re still not sold on the benefits of potentially outsourcing thousands of state jobs at college campuses, parks and prisons. They’re calling for yet another round of analysis on the proposal, even though two so far have found it could save the state more than $35 million a year. State officials were the first to come up with that estimate for what Tennessee could save from privatizing jobs currently done by public employees. But when questions were raised about their analysis’s validity, Nashville-based KraftCPAs stepped in. And after reviewing the state’s calculations for several weeks, the firm has decided Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration was more or less correct. That doesn’t satisfy state Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis. He wants an out-of-state firm brought in to take a third look. He notes that Kraft has done work for Haslam’s campaign and that some Kraft employees have made donations to it — connections, Democrats say, call Kraft’s independence into question. …

Haslam administration: Review confirms outsourcing savings
Source: Associated Press, November 22, 2016

An outside firm hired by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration agrees that privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could save $35 million per year. Haslam’s outsourcing advisers and consultants have touted the outsourcing plan as a way to save money while protecting the jobs of all currently employed campus maintenance workers who are deemed to be “qualified and productive.” The outside review was conducted by KraftCPAs PLLC.

Outsourcing state services doesn’t save taxpayers money
Source: Randy Stamps, Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 19, 2016

Saving taxpayer money is the main selling point behind every proposal to outsource a state service. But, when analyzed, outsourcing is often found to be more expensive than promised. For example, in January 2012 the state paid Jones Lang LaSalle $1 million to assess the condition and management of state properties. That November, the state expanded JLL’s contract to include procuring outside leases, a job previously handled by state employees. JLL would also receive a 4 percent commission on any leases it procured. By April 2013, funding for the contract had increased from $1 million to $7.6 million. In June 2013, Tennessee signed a $330 million, five-year contract with JLL to outsource the facilities management of all state buildings. In November of 2013, the state comptroller found JLL’s contract “created an organizational conflict of interest whereby Jones Lang LaSalle can profit from its own planning recommendations.” … In 2014, the state signed a $276 million contract with Trousdale County for a 2,400-bed private prison for Corrections Corporation of America. This contract also includes a 90 percent occupancy guarantee for CCA for per diem fees, which means if the private prison doesn’t remain above 90 percent occupied, taxpayers will pay per diem fees for empty beds. The contract also guarantees annual 2.5 percent operating per diem rate increases. In contrast, state employees do not receive guaranteed pay increases. … Tragically, in July, a man committed suicide by jumping off the Tennessee Tower in Downtown Nashville. According to a WSMV report, “Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.” In August, an accident at a Tennessee county fair sent three children plummeting 45 feet to the ground, severely injuring one. The Associated Press reported, “The state relies on private inspectors hired by operators and other states’ regulators to determine whether roller coasters, zip lines and Ferris wheels are safe.” State employees used to handle this work. In conclusion, as taxpayers, we must ask harder questions and demand more oversight on any contracts that outsource a state service. The notion of cost savings from outsourcing is simply no longer credible.

America’s Richest Politician Is Putting Thousands of Jobs at Risk
Source: Donald Cohen, The Huffington Post, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump isn’t the only one who won’t release his tax returns. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, whose family owns the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops, has refused to release his since running and being elected in 2010. It wouldn’t matter so much if Haslam were your run-of-the-mill governor. But he’s the country’s richest politician, with a net worth of $2 billion. … It matters because Haslam has a plan that could plunge thousands of state workers into poverty. Since being elected, he’s slowly handed over management and operation of public buildings to a private company. All state-owned real estate is on the chopping block—from college campuses and prisons to state parks. The company, the Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, is the world’s second largest commercial real estate brokerage. While running for office in 2010, Haslam held a financial stake in the company. He might still be invested but we don’t know for sure—he’s since placed many of his investments in a blind trust. The governor clearly hasn’t read our new report, How privatization increases inequality. …
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Kentucky’s first charter school director resigns after less than a year. Here’s why.

Source: Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader, May 9, 2018

Less than a year after he was hired as the first director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s charter school division, Earl Simms said he is resigning May 25 so that his wife can go back to her previous job in St. Louis. Simms told WDRB-TV in Louisville and the Herald-Leader that he was not leaving because former Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt suddenly resigned in April at a state school board meeting, one day after Gov. Matt Bevin appointed several new board members. The board of all-Bevin appointees that same day hired charter school proponent Wayne D. Lewis Jr. as an interim Commissioner. … Though the charter school movement appears to be stalled, Lewis has said he will work with Kentucky Department of Education officials to determine if there is a path for charter schools that doesn’t require the General Assembly to approve a funding mechanism. …

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A closer look at the future of charter schools in Kentucky
Source: Emilie Arroyo, WKYT, April 18, 2018

The Kentucky Board of Education is taking a new direction after the resignation of education commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt and Gov. Matt Bevin’s appointments of new board members this week. Many expect that direction to be a stronger push for charter schools, but Kentucky’s legislature ended its 2018 session with no funding process in place. … While it’s unclear when Kentucky will see it’s first charter school, we do know how it will work. …

Kentucky Lawmakers Approve Charter School Law
Source: Lesli A. Maxwell, Education Week, March 15, 2017

After years of failed attempts, Kentucky lawmakers have approved a charter school law. The measure passed the state Senate on a vote of 23-15 Wednesday afternoon, largely along party lines. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin—an enthusiastic supporter of charters—is expected to sign the measure. The Kentucky House approved the bill—HB 520—last week and will still have to sign off on changes made by the Senate. … Kentucky has been one of the hardest places to pass a charter law, but with the 2016 election, Republicans in the state took control of the legislature and the governorship, clearing the way for a charter bill to succeed. The bill says nothing about how charters in Kentucky will be funded. Under its provisions, there will be no limit on the number of charter schools that can be authorized. … And while the bill says that parents, community members, public organizations, school administrators, and nonprofits can apply to operate a charter school, there is nothing in the legislation that prevents charter school operators from contracting out all of their management and operations to a for-profit entity. …

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Privatized student housing – Four key trends will differentiate older and newer P3 projects next year

Source: Moody’s Investors Service, May 1, 2018 (Subscription Required)

Privatized student housing projects are vulnerable to negative pressures in the higher education sector, but will hold steady because of solid real estate fundamentals and marginally improving financial performance. … Examining how trends differ between older projects that have been operating for four years or more (seasoned) and new construction that opened in 2015 or later (recent) underscores how a project’s early years carry the most risk, seasoned projects’ upside potential is limited and no project is immune from an unfavorable operating environment. … Rent growth trend diverges for seasoned projects. … Sector maintains solid occupancy despite disappointing initial lease up at some new projects. … Financial performance strengthens overall, but year-to-year fluctuations at individual projects are the norm. … Unfavorable operating conditions contributed to five downgrades last year. …

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U.S. public universities turning to private sector to meet campus needs
Source: Stephanie Kelly, Reuters, August 26, 2016

U.S. public universities are increasingly turning to public-private partnerships to develop student housing and other campus projects, sometimes using the structure to transfer borrowing and liability risks to the private sector. Over the last five years, there has been an “uptick” in universities and colleges leveraging the private sector to deliver housing needs, said Kevin Wayer, an international director and co-president of the Public Institutions group at commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. … Use of P3s can contribute to reduced debt on universities’ balance sheets, said Todd Duncan, assistant vice president of housing, food and retail services at the University of Cincinnati’s main campus. While still only a “fraction” of the U.S. municipal infrastructure market, the P3 market is building, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report issued in March. … Universities might engage in P3s for a number of different reasons, including the efficiency that developers can bring to projects, Duncan said. Increased operating costs for institutions and decreased state contributions have led to a financing gap, said Kurt Ehlers, managing director at Corvias Campus Living, a development group. From fiscal 2008 to fiscal year 2016, state spending per student at public two- and four-year colleges decreased 18 percent, according to Michael Mitchell, a senior policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships, a non-profit that advocates for P3s, lists 18 types of P3 partnership structures on its website. The council did not have a national figure for how much money is being spent on higher education P3 projects. …

Puerto Rico’s Teachers Battle for the Schools Their Students Deserve

Source: Jesse Hagopian, The Progressive, May 9, 2018
 
On May Day, thousands of Puerto Rican teachers, parents, and students launched strikes and boycotts to push back against austerity measures that would close nearly 300 schools, lay off 7,000 teachers, convert public schools into privatized charters, and cut public sector pensions. I spoke with Mercedes Martinez, President of Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico, about the neoliberal attack on the schools and public sector, the worker strikes and boycotts of May Day, and the brutal response of the police. …

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Puerto Rico Plans to Shutter 283 Schools
Source: AJ Vicens, Mother Jones, April 6, 2018
 
The Puerto Rico Department of Education announced late Thursday that it would close 283 public schools next school year, citing a decline in enrollment of nearly 39,000 students and the island’s ongoing budget crisis.  “Our children deserve the best education we are capable of giving them taking into account the fiscal reality of Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said in a statement issued in Spanish Thursday evening. “Therefore we are working hard to develop a budget that will allow us to focus resources on student needs and improve the quality of teaching.” In early February, Keleher and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló introduced a sweeping education reform plan that called for closing several hundred schools over the next several years and introducing charter schools to the island. The governor estimates the plan will help save $466 million per year by 2022, according to figures in his most recent fiscal plan meant to address the island’s staggering $120 billion in outstanding debts and obligations. Those figures do not take into account the estimated $95 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Maria. …

6 Months After Maria, Puerto Ricans Face a New Threat—Education Reform
Source: Yarimar Bonilla, Rima Brusi and Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, The Nation, March 21, 2018
 
Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are understandably frustrated with their government officials. One might expect discontent to center around the head of the power company who oversaw months of blackouts or the governor who awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in private contracts with little or no oversight. But instead it is the secretary of the department of education, Philadelphia-native Julia Keleher, who has become the focus of people’s anger. In the past few weeks, Puerto Ricans have been calling for her resignation, making her the object of a viral hashtag campaign, #JuliaGoHome. On Monday, the school system was paralyzed by a strike as thousands of teachers protested the education-reform bill her office has spearheaded. …

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Charter schools cost three California school districts more than $142 million, think tank claims

Source: Lisa Fernandez, KTVU, May 9, 2018
 
Three California school districts, including two in the Bay Area,  lost a total of  $142.5 million to public charter schools during the 2016-17 school year, according to a report conducted by a think tank that critics claim is politically biased. The Oakland Unified School District lost $57.3 million and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District $19.3 million, according to In The Public Interest, a nonprofit centered on ” privatization and responsible contracting.” The report, “Cost of Charter Schools for Public School District,” published Tuesday, compared the school districts’ 2016-17 budgets to what they could have been if 15,487 students in Oakland’s charters and 4,811 in East Side Union’s charters enrolled in traditional public schools instead. The report also found that the San Diego Unified School District lost $65.9 million by the “unchecked expansion of privately managed charter school.” …

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Amid National Uprising, Teachers Just Took a Major Step Toward Organizing Charter Schools

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, The Intercept, May 2, 2018
 
The fight over charter schools is often just as much a battle over unions. Charter school operators and funders take relatively clear anti-union positions, and the absence of organized labor is often a selling point for charters, which boast flexible hours and pay schedules as paths toward quality education. Teacher unions, meanwhile, tend to oppose charter schools as a drain on needed resources for traditional schools and as centers of educator exploitation. In the 2016-2017 academic year, just 11 percent of charter schools were unionized. Yet in Los Angeles, teachers just took a big step toward reversing that trend. … On Wednesday morning, a legal representative for a majority of teachers at three of the network’s 25 campuses filed union authorization cards at the state’s Public Employment Relations Board. Once the signatures are verified, the new Alliance Educators United union will be official. …

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Calif. Charter Network Can’t Block Union Organizers, Emails, Judge Rules
Source: Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week, June 8, 2016

California’s labor-relations board for public employees issued a mixed ruling on whether a major California charter management organization illegally tried to quash a unionization drive at its schools. The battle over unionization at the 27-campus Alliance College-Ready Public Schools has been ongoing for more than a year, ever since teachers submitted a “mission statement” outlining their intent to unionize last March. … Judge Kent Morizawa ruled that Alliance officials impermissibly blocked union organizers from schools, and interfered in the drive by redirecting emails from United Teachers Los Angeles into teachers’ “spam” folders. And in one instance, the PERB ruled, an Alliance employee talked about a teacher’s evaluation and employment status in a conversation about the teacher’s support for United Teachers Los Angeles. … But the ruling sided with the Alliance on other matters. For instance, the PERB ruled that many of the Alliance’s other communications to teachers and parents—including statements suggesting that unionization would result in a loss of flexibility and autonomy at the schools—were not coercive or threatening. …

Legislature Orders Audit of LA Charter Chain for Spending Taxpayer Funds to Block Union Drive
Source: Steven Rosenfeld, Alternet, May 26, 2016

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC), composed of members of the Assembly and Senate, voted 8-3 Wednesday to authorize the audit of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, which has 11,000 students in 27 schools. The audit comes after a Los Angeles County Court issued a temporary restraining order against the taxpayer-funded but privately run school to stop its anti-union actions, which include not only intimidating and threatening teachers but also working with the California Charter School Association (CCSA) to recruit parents and alumni to fight the union drive. … The chain has received hundreds of millions in public funds. How much was spent fighting the union drive, including hiring consultants, legal fees, producing media, running phone banks and other outreach activities will be investigated by the state’s auditor. … In March 2015, when teachers and counselors at the chain began a unionization campaign—which is legal under state labor law—the charter school chain responded with aggressive tactics, including illegal surveillance, interference with union meetings, phone calls to parents attacking teachers involved in the campaign, blocking teacher emails and retaliation against organizers. …

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Opinion: Do Taxpayers Know They Are Handing Out Billions to Corporations?

Source: Nathan M. Jensen, The New York Times, April 24, 2018
 
Every year, states and local governments give economic-development incentives to companies to the tune of between $45 billion and $80 billion. Why such a wide range? It’s not sloppy research; it’s because many of these subsidies are not public. For the known subsidies, such as Maryland’s recent $8.5 billion incentive bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, the support includes cash grants for company relocations, subsidized land, forgiving company taxes on everything from property taxes to sales taxes and investments in infrastructure for the company. …

… Economic development all across the country is getting less open — and both Democrats and Republicans are doing it. In fact, in many cases, the politicians themselves aren’t even the ones negotiating for the public. How do communities balance the tremendous opportunity of attracting a world-class company against the taxpayer costs, the pressures on our infrastructure and our struggles of providing affordable housing? … Another strategy to avoid transparency in a competition like this is through complexity. The idea is to make economic development so twisted that it’s nearly impossible to figure out who is responsible for it. If governments aren’t submitting these bids, with taxpayers’ money, who is responsible for economic development? In many states, companies are wooed by getting a break on paying local taxes. In some of these cases, local interests get overlooked — in particular, schools. There are school districts where economic developers were empowered to give away the tax revenues without the input of educators. …