Category Archives: Videos

Video: Deal of the Year 2017 – Small Issuer: City of Missoula, Mont.

Source: Bond Buyer, December 6, 2017

The city of Missoula, Montana waged a six-year legal battle to wrest control of its water system from a private company. The water system in the town of 70,000 was privately-owned by Mountain Water – a company that refused to make needed repairs to the system or sell it to the city. … Obtaining traditional financing with no disclosure from Mountain Water — and water assets nearly beyond repair — was unattainable given the risks. The city also had to provide payment before the court could rule it owned the water system. The solution: the direct sale to Barclays of nearly $140 million in A-rated bond anticipation notes. The financing plan uniquely provided the necessary mechanics to allow the city to purchase the water system. Prior to the acquisition, water bills were 17% higher than elsewhere in the state, but dropped to 49% below average after the deal.

Related:

City Of Missoula Takes Ownership Of Mountain Water Company
Source: Beau Baker, MTPR, June 22, 2017

The city of Missoula has taken ownership of the water utility that serves its residents after a three-year court battle. The city bought Mountain Water Company for $84 million and paid another $6.8 million to developers who had a claim against the company. A separate bundle of transition costs, the bulk of which are attorneys’ fees, amounts to $7.5 million.
Mayor John Engen said city attorneys originally estimated the legal costs would be $400,000. Missoula won the right to buy the utility in an eminent domain case. It now joins all 128 cities and towns in Montana in controlling and owning its own water and distribution system. … Merriam says there are no immediate plans to change the rates. …

One for the history books: Missoula will buy its water system
Source: Sherry Devlin, Missoula Current, February 22, 2017

In an historic vote Monday night, the Missoula City Council unanimously approved the purchase of Mountain Water Co., forever ensuring the city’s “access to clean, affordable and reliable water.” … Throughout the recent effort, and decades of unsuccessful attempts by previous mayors and councils, the goal has been to place Missoula’s drinking water system into public ownership. … That now could happen by the end of March. With Monday’s vote, the local water system will be free from an increasingly distant and disaffected roster of corporate owners, most recently The Carlyle Group, a global investment fund, and the Canadian utility Algonquin Liberty. … Missoula’s water has always been in private ownership; all other Montana cities own their water system. … In fact, Bender said, Mountain Water Co.’s purchase by an international hedge fund – The Carlyle Group – imperiled every future generation.
The city’s purchase of its drinking water system will benefit those future generations the most, Bender said. …

Continue reading

“For-Profit President”: A Look at How Trump Is Pushing Wholesale Corporate Takeover of the Government

Source: Democracy Now, February 20, 2017

There has been a wholesale corporate takeover of the government. That’s the conclusion of a new report coming out today by the watchdog group Public Citizen. The report looks at how corporate America has benefited from Trump’s first month in office. Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, is now secretary of state. Goldman Sachs alum now serve several top posts: Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Stephen Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist and Gary Cohn as director of the United States National Economic Council. Trump has also signed executive orders to help undo the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and repeal rules requiring financial advisers to give advice based on their customers’ best interests.

Read full report.

Democracy Now interview with Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

Video version of the Public Citizen report:

John Oliver: Failing Charter Schools May Ruin Kids’ Futures

Source: Mike Brown, Inverse, August 22, 2016

In the U.S., there are 6700 charter schools with nearly 3 million students, and charter schools operate in 42 states plus the District of Columbia. The schools are privately run, but take money from the taxpayer. Charter schools receive approximately $7,000 per enrolled student, and the lack of oversight in some states leads to disastrous outcomes. The thing is, when a school fails, it’s completely different to when a business fails. “The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids is that kids change faster than the market,” Oliver said. “By the time it’s obvious that a charter school is failing, childrens’ futures may have been ruined.” Two years ago, an investigation in Florida found that since 2008, 119 charter schools had closed, 14 of which never even finished their first year. “14 schools in Florida were outlasted by NBC’s Mysteries of Laura!,” Oliver said. … That’s not even taking into account online charter schools. “Some have an attendance system you would not fucking believe!,” Oliver said. These schools account for around 180,000 students, which would mean around $1 billion of taxpayer money goes to these schools. Some of these schools don’t require kids to even attend, but as states typically require attendance records, the school simply declares that 100 percent of students had perfect attendance.

After failure of Measure F, what’s next for Kern’s libraries?

Source: Bakersfield Now, June 8, 2016

Kern County libraries will face a much smaller budget, now that Measure F was defeated in the June 7 election. County officials say it’s not clear if hours or service will be cut, and they will keep working with community groups as an alternate way to get extra support for the libraries. … He said that means next year’s budget for libraries will be about $7 million. Will that be enough? … Passage of Measure F would have changed that. The proposal was for a one-eighth cent sales tax for libraries. Wiebe said it’s estimated that would have brought in about $15 million a year. … Measure F actually got more “yes” votes than “no,” but not enough to win approval. According to the latest Kern County Election Department data, there were 43,710 voters approving the measure, and 42,517 voting “no.” But that means approval by 50.69 percent, and a tax measure requires passage by 66.6 percent. …

Related:

Tax would raise $15 million a year for libraries
Source: James Burger and Theo Douglas, Bakersfield.com, April 30, 2016

Advocates for Library Enhancement — formed to oppose privatization of Kern County’s 25 library branches — is now spearheading the political campaign to pass Measure F, a one-eighth cent sales tax on the June 7 ballot. It’s estimated Measure F would increase Kern County’s roughly $7 million library budget by $15 million a year for 16 years, flooding resources into the system that serves 840,000 people across 8,000 square miles. Following years of system budget cuts, many rural branches are now open only three or four days a week. The Wasco branch, for example, is only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Kern County Library Director Nancy Kerr — who can’t advocate for the tax but can discuss its implications — said if Measure F passes, all branches would be open at least five days a week. …

FIRST LOOK: Kern County Library Tax may provide dedicated funding stream
Source: Charmaine Cleveland, Bakersfield Californian, April 5, 2016

Kern County Library Assistant Director Andrea Apple said on Tuesday that Kern County is just one of two places in the state that still depends on a general fund for its library. But a new ballot measure may change that. During a 30-minute interview on “First Look with Scott Cox,” Apple talked about the June 7th ballot measure, called Measure F, which aims to support the Kern County Library System by implementing a one-eighth-cent sales tax to help fund the location. … According to the assistant director, the measure will only affect taxable goods, leaving out many necessity payments like utility bills and prescriptions. During the interview, Apple also addressed the notion of library privatization, adding that the Kern County Library’s director, who came from a similar, private industry, found little to cut from the location’s budget.

Groups get names removed from Measure F opposition statement
Source: James Burger, Bakersfield Californian, March 31, 2016

Four business-friendly groups whose names were included in a statement opposing Measure F, the Kern County library sales tax measure, have had their names pulled from the document. Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government, the Kern County Taxpayers’ Association, the Kern Home Builders Association and the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce filed a joint lawsuit in Kern County Superior Court March 22 seeking to have their names taken off the statement voters will see in their voter information packet. … Providence principal Tracy Leach, who has contracted with private library management company LSSI, filed the opposition argument and included the four groups’ names in a list of organizations that oppose the proposed one-eighth cent library tax that voters will consider on the June 7  ballot. Representatives for the groups, which had called for Kern County to explore privatization of library management through a contract with LSSI, quickly demanded that the Kern County Elections Division pull their names off the letter because they hadn’t formally taken a position on Measure F.

Library tax
Source: Clayton Huckaby, Kern Valley Sun, March 16, 2016

On Tuesday, March 8 the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to put the proposed library sales tax on the June ballot. The Board of Supervisors approved a measure on March 8 that, if voter approved, would increase sales tax by 0.125 percent and would garner as much as $15 million per year for the Kern County Libraries. The proposed sales tax comes as an alternative to the Board of Supervisors proposed plan to partner with Library Systems & Service Incorporated (LSSI). … If the measure is approved, according to the Advocates for Library Enhancement, the wording of the measure will allow the money to be spent solely on maintaining and improving Kern County Libraries. Although this money may be used only for the libraries, the current general fund funding for the library may be reallocated by the Board of Supervisors to other areas of the budget. The measure could potentially free up general fund money for the Kern County Fire Department, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, or other areas within the county’s budget.

Kern County supervisors approve putting library tax on ballot
Source: Bakersfield Now, March 8, 2016

Kern County supervisors decided Tuesday to put a library tax before voters. The eighth-cent tax on all retail sales within Kern County would bring $15 million to Kern County’s 24 libraries, about double their current budget, according to Advocates for Liberty Enhancement.

Supervisors leery of library tax, but to decide in March
Source: James Burger, Bakersfield Californian, February 2, 2016

Kern County supervisors will on March 1 consider placing a tax measure on the June ballot to support the Kern County library system. But most made it clear Tuesday they’re leery of offering up that tax. So they also voted to issue a request for information that could result in privatization of the library system. … Supervisor Leticia Perez said the county is obliged to give the tax measure serious consideration given that it and the public have spent most of a year digging into how to best support libraries. … And Kern County Administrative Officer John Nilon, tasked nine months ago with taking the public’s pulse on the privatization of library management, told supervisors that the overwhelming message from polls, surveys and community meetings was that Kern residents support libraries, oppose privatization and support a sales tax to improve branches. Nilon said an analysis shows Kern County has one of the most poorly funded county library systems in the state — spending $8 per capita, less than one third the state average of $25. … Most speakers from Lake Isabella, Mojave, Ridgecrest and Bakersfield spoke passionately for the tax measure and a publically managed library system. They said libraries will never get the support they need to run well when they have to compete with the Sheriff’s Office, Fire Department and other critical county departments. They urged supervisors to put the tax on the ballot and let the people decide how to fund their libraries.
Continue reading

Private healthcare companies banking on US prison system – video

Source: Laurence Mathieu-Léger and Rupert Neate, The Guardian, June 16, 2016

Private healthcare companies descended on Austin, Texas, last month to tout their services to jail administrators at a trade fair where they market everything from jumpsuits and meal trays to straitjackets and other restraints. …

Related:

Welcome to Jail Inc: how private companies make money off US prisons
Source: Rupert Neate, The Guardian, June 16, 2016

…The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Some 2.2 million adults were incarcerated in 2013 in US federal and state prisons and county jails, according to the bureau of justice statistics. States spend about $8bn (£5.5bn) a year on healthcare to try to keep prisoners alive. … There is no centrally collated data on prison healthcare privatisation, but Dr Marc Stern, an expert on correctional health at the University of Washington and former head doctor of Washington state prisons, estimates that more than half of all state and local prisons and jails have outsourced their healthcare and that the industry is worth more than $3bn a year. Federal prisons spending on outsourced healthcare increased by 24% to $327m between 2010 and 2014, according to a justice department report published last week. It surveyed 69 prisons and found that all of them paid much more for medical services than the Medicare rates, with some prisons spending as much as 385% more. The office of the inspector general report suggested the bureau of prisons explores “potential legislative changes that could help contain medical costs”. … Murphy declined to state how much the company charges counties for its services but said “it’s typically not cheaper, but it’s always better”. Not everyone agrees. Analysis of California department of justice data by Fairwarning found that about 200 inmates died under the care of California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG), the Californian arm of the CMGC, between 2004 and 2014. Excluding homicide, it works out at a death rate of 1.7 per 1,000 inmates at CFMG jails compared with 1.5 in other jails. …

Failing the Test: Charter Schools, Privatization, and the future of public education in Los Angeles and California

Source: Capital & Main, May 31, 2016

With Los Angeles at the forefront of the national debate over public education, Capital & Main will examine the potential impacts of large-scale charter school expansion in the country’s second-largest district. “Failing the Test: Charter Schools, Privatization and the Future of Public Education in Los Angeles and California” will explore the uneven results of California’s charter school growth, and the potential impacts of further expansion on public education. This weeklong series is based on extensive interviews with education experts, community advocates, parents, teachers and elected officials on both sides of the escalating controversy over charter schools. “Failing the Test” documents how charter advocates are aggressively pushing for dramatic growth despite evidence that these schools do not improve overall student performance. The series reports on how privately operated charter schools leave some kids behind, even as they enjoy taxpayer support and broad exemptions from the laws that govern traditional public schools.

School Solutions and Turnarounds
Source: Bobbi Murray and Bill Raden, Capital & Main, June 3, 2016

… Charter schools were first created partly as alternatives to just such top-down bureaucracy. Yet while charters are increasingly becoming scrutinized for their pedagogical and managerial philosophies, traditional public schools are developing their own solutions to problems that typically plague the education system. These schools are showing a creative resilience and ability to change that have not received much media attention. Many parents of students who have successfully matriculated through the Los Angeles Unified School District believe that the key to a successful education means viewing a school as a community. … Veteran education researcher Jane L. David literally wrote the book on Sanger, with co-author Joan E. Talbert of Stanford’s Center for Research on the Context of Teaching. One of the lessons she took away from places like Sanger, she told Capital & Main, is that the very language of “broken” and “fix” that charter advocates use to describe public schools wrongly characterizes the systems nature of public education as something mechanical. …

UCLA’s John Rogers on the Struggle for Democratic School Improvement
Source: Capital & Main, June 3, 2016

Nine Solution Takeaways
Source: Julian Vasquez Heilig, Capital & Main, June 3, 2016

Despite the trendy popularity of charter schools in some circles, their wholesale replacement of traditional public schools is unnecessary. Not only do decades of data and research show this, but in each city there are plenty of successful public schools on the other side of the tracks or highway or river. The wealthy in the United States, regardless of locality, continue to have access to quality public education. So what should all parents already be able to choose from in their existing neighborhood public schools?

UCLA’s John Rogers on the Positives & Negatives of Charter School Autonomy
Source: Capital & Main, June 2, 2016

Charter School Powerbrokers
Source: Capital & Main, June 2, 2016

… But why do so many charter advocates embrace privatization? “I don’t think it’s about the money,” says Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “They like charters in part because they decrease the publicness of public schools. They want a system much more based on market forces because they don’t trust democracy.” … But should the private sector be in charge of public education? … The direct funding of charter schools is only one of several strategies charter advocates are using to influence public opinion and school policies. They also fund academic studies and “grassroots” organizations such as Parent Revolution, along with powerful political lobbies such as the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). Just as important, they contribute millions of dollars to school board elections in order to replace those perceived to be anti-charter with pro-charter board members, as seen in recent elections in Los Angeles and Oakland, two cities where charter-expansion partisans have been particularly aggressive. …

Searching for Accountability in Charter Schools
Source: Bobbi Murray, Capital & Main, June 2, 2016

The original concept of charter schools emerged nationally more than two decades ago and was intended to support community efforts to open up education. Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers union, lauded the charter idea in 1988 as way to propel social mobility for working class kids and to give teachers more decision-making power. … But critics of today’s market-based charter movement say monied interests have turned those learning labs into models for capital capture in the Golden State and beyond–“the charter school gravy train,” as Forbes describes it. Charters are publicly funded but privately managed and, like most privately run businesses, the schools prefer to avoid transparency in their operations. This often has brought negative publicity to the schools – last month the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the principal of El Camino Real Charter High School charged more than $100,000 in expenses to his school-issued credit card, many of them for personal use. …

UCLA’s John Rogers on Charter Schools and Exclusion of Special Needs Students
Source: Capital & Main, June 1, 2016

How a Major California Charter School Gave Up on a Special Needs Student
Source: Capital & Main, June 1, 2016

Charter Schools’ Winners and Losers
Source: Capital & Main, June 1, 2016

Charter school supporters, such as Broad and the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), argue that the schools provide a superior education and give opportunities to children in poor neighborhoods. For that reason, they say, it makes sense to increase the number of charters in Los Angeles and elsewhere. … However, interviews with educators, charter school proponents and opponents, and a review of respected academic studies, show that some highly motivated students benefit from charters while others do worse; that the growth of charters places a huge financial burden on traditional public schools that send them into a tailspin and that charters may increase racial and economic segregation. Furthermore, the percentage of total LAUSD charter school students with severe disabilities is less than one-third the percentage of students with disabilities in LAUSD public schools. …

Measuring Charter School Performance
Source: Julian Vasquez Heilig, Capital & Main, June 1, 2016

Charter schools, their lobbyists and choice proponents often discuss the underperformance of traditional public schools in the public discourse. But what data should be trusted by parents and policymakers alike when comparing charters with traditional public schools? Peer-reviewed research literature is the gold standard in all fields, including education — and the predominance of such studies in the United States does not show positive impacts on average for the charter school sector. While it is true that one can find an occasional peer-reviewed study that identifies small effects for particular charter schools, studies that show a positive achievement effect are often produced by researchers primarily funded by foundations and think tanks that are ideological school-choice advocates. …

UCLA’s John Rogers on Eli Broad’s Charter School Takeover Dreams
Source: Capital & Main, May 31, 2016

Oakland’s Charter School Tipping Point
Source: Bill Raden, Capital & Main, May 31, 2016

Last September’s sensational leak of the Great Public Schools Now Initiative, a half-billion-dollar plan to double the number of charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), sparked a firestorm of controversy. Citing the plan’s potentially crippling fiscal impact on a financially troubled district that already leads the nation in its number of charters (around 230), critics denounced the plan as “an outline for a hostile takeover” and “a declaration of war on public schools.” … Yet Capital & Main has learned that a similar private initiative has been on the table for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) for at least a decade. Virtually unknown to Oakland’s parents, and without the benefit of public exposure or open debate by its school board, the Oakland charter expansion scheme has been quietly driving policy under the political radar for a number of years. (The OUSD school board did not respond to Capital & Main’s request to comment for this article.) …

Some Regents ask whether Success video calls for more state oversight

Source: Monica Disare, Chalkbeat, February 22, 2016

A roiling debate about charter school discipline reached New York’s top education officials Monday, as members of the Board of Regents indicated that a video of a Success Academy teacher sharply criticizing a young student calls for greater oversight of the charter sector. A couple of Regents condemned the video, published by the New York Times, and Regent Judith Chin wondered aloud if it should prompt censure by the state education department. At the end of the discussion, five members abstained from a vote that included the expansion of four New York City charter schools. …

Related:

At Success Academy School, a Stumble in Math and a Teacher’s Anger on Video
Source: Kate Taylor, New York Times, February 12, 2015

The video was recorded surreptitiously in the fall of 2014 by an assistant teacher who was concerned by what she described as Ms. Dial’s daily harsh treatment of the children. … Success’s own training materials, provided by the network’s leader, Eva S. Moskowitz, say that teachers should never yell at children, “use a sarcastic, frustrated tone,” “give consequences intended to shame children,” or “speak to a child in a way they wouldn’t in front of the child’s parents.” … But interviews with 20 current and former Success teachers suggest that while Ms. Dial’s behavior might be extreme, much of it is not uncommon within the network. Success is known for its students’ high achievement on state tests, and it emphasizes getting — and keeping — scores up. …. She said that, starting in third grade, when children begin taking the state exams, embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.

At a Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have ‘Got to Go’
Source: Kate Taylor, New York Times, October 29, 2015

Success Academy, the high-performing charter school network in New York City, has long been dogged by accusations that its remarkable accomplishments are due, in part, to a practice of weeding out weak or difficult students. The network has always denied it. But documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with 10 current and former Success employees at five schools suggest that some administrators in the network have singled out children they would like to see leave. At Success Academy Fort Greene, the same day that Ms. Ogundiran heard from the principal, her daughter’s name was one of 16 placed on a list drawn up at his direction and shared by school leaders. The heading on the list was “Got to Go.” … Success Academy is the city’s largest charter school network. It has 34 schools, and plans to grow to 70 in five or six years. …

At Success Academy Charter Schools, Polarizing Methods and Superior Results
Source: Kate Taylor, New York Times, April 6, 2015

… In a rare look inside the network, including visits to several schools and interviews with dozens of current and former employees, The New York Times chronicled a system driven by the relentless pursuit of better results, one that can be exhilarating for teachers and students who keep up with its demands and agonizing for those who do not. … For teachers, who are not unionized and usually just out of college, 11-hour days are the norm, and each one is under constant monitoring, by principals who make frequent visits, and by databases that record quiz scores….

John Oliver Talks Student Debt and Goes After For-Profit Colleges

Source: David Haglund, Slate, September 8, 2014

John Oliver’s main story on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight focused on student debt—and Oliver spent much of the segment going after for-profit colleges, which, as Jordan Weissmann and Tressie McMillan Cottom have noted in Slate, spend a great deal of money marketing their schools to students who will “have little hope of graduating in order to collect their tuition checks.”

Privatization Defeated In Wareham, MA!

Source: AFSCME Council 93, Facebook, June 19, 2014

Congratulations to the members of AFSCME Local 30 in Wareham, MA. The local teamed up with Council 93 to derail fast track plans to privatize school cafeteria services. The school committee voted 5-0 last night to abandon the school superintendent’s RFP process, which could have eliminated AFSCME members’ jobs before at the end of the school year. Click the link below to see the video of the last month’s school committee meeting where the committee heard strong testimony in opposition to privatization from Council 93 and many other opponents of privatization. AFSCME testimony starts at minute 8 of the video.

Related:
School Committee unanimously votes to explore privatization of food services
Source: Wareham Week, May 21, 2014

Though several members of the community voiced displeasure over the possibility of Wareham privatizing the food service program at its schools, the School Committee still voted unanimously to support the request for proposal process…She said that included the formation of a subcommittee, as well a continued effort to review the current program and to seek ways to keep the services in-house….Jim Durkin, a union representative for the current food service workers in Wareham with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 93, presented several arguments against privatization, including an example in Chelmsford where workers hired by a private vendor either stole or were found to be involved with drugs. “I’ll ask you all to ask yourselves—are these the kind of things you want to bring to Wareham?,” said Durkin….

Scott’s fundraiser comedy gold for HBO’s John Oliver

Source: Miami Herald blog, July 21, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott tempted the comedy gods with his latest choice of fundraisers. And, as Sunday night’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” proved, the comedy gods show no mercy. Not with the material Scott gave them Monday night. Scott attended a $10,000 per person fundraiser at the home of George Zoley, the president of Geo Group of Boca Raton. Geo is the the second-largest private prison company in the U.S. with $1.5 billion in annual revenue. …. “We love prisons so much a shocking number of Americans are currently inside one,” Oliver said at the beginning of 17-minute segment that was mainly focused on the privatization of the American prison system. “We have more prisoners at the moment than China. Than China. We don’t have more of anything than China, other than, of course, debt to China.” At about 12 minutes in, Oliver zeroed in on Florida. “The key problem running prisons like businesses is that prisons are then run as businesses,” Oliver said, seguing into his main example of the Geo Group.