The State Lawsuit That Could Set a Precedent for Nationwide Student-Loan Refunds

Source: Natalia Abrams and Senya Merchant, The Nation, August 9, 2018
 
Lawsuits against one of the largest servicers of federal student loans, Navient, have garnered headlines in recent weeks. Following the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s groundbreaking lawsuit against the company in 2017, four additional states have followed suit, including California, in an effort to enforce state consumer laws and protect student-loan borrowers from unscrupulous business practices. Navient, a publicly traded company hired by the Department of Education to service over $100 billion in federal student loans, is the most criticized company in consumer finance. Now, one of the most consumer-friendly states in America is taking the company to court. Should California Attorney General Xavier Becerra prove successful, attorneys general around the country willing to take a stand against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her efforts to decimate state-level student-loan protections would be able to use this as a model to check abusive student-loan companies. …

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Have a student loan? There are some lawsuits you need to watch
Source: Michelle Singletary, Winston Salem Journal, July 8, 2018

If you have a student loan, there are some lawsuits you need to watch. Navient, the country’s largest servicer of student loans, is facing several lawsuits by state attorneys general accusing the company of, among other things, steering borrowers to payment options that cost them more money. Last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against Navient and two of its subsidiaries, Pioneer and General Revenue Corp., alleging misconduct that included misrepresenting the order in which the company would apply extra loan payments and failing to properly discharge federal student debt for borrowers with a total and permanent disability. …

Former Rep. Kline Continues Shilling for For-Profit Education
Source: David Halperin, Republic Report, June 20, 2018

Rep. John Kline (R-MN) defended and protected for-profit higher education businesses while chairing the House education committee, even after many companies in the industry were caught engaging in widespread predatory and deceptive practices. Now that he’s retired, Kline is cashing in, serving on the board of Education Corporation of America (ECA), which operates poorly-performing for-profit colleges, and, in a new op-ed in The Hill, arguing that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should drop a lawsuit charging giant student loan company Navient with deceiving and cheating borrowers across the country. …

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Latimer: Airport privatization in the legislature’s hands

Source: Matt Coyne, Rockland/Westchester Journal News, August 13, 2018
 
The county announced a slew of new initiatives at the airport today, but the status of privatization is unclear.  County Executive George Latimer said Westchester would, among other steps, improve the noise complaint system, but would only say there is a dialogue going on with the Board of Legislators as to whether the county-owned airport would be leased to a private operator long-term. He would not say if the $1.1 billion offer from Macquarie Infrastructure Corp. is still on offer. … Latimer, a Democrat, campaigned against former Republican County Executive Rob Astorino’s controversial plan to lease Westchester County Airport for 40 years, first in a $140 million deal with Oaktree Capital Management in fall 2016, then last fall in a $1.1 billion deal with Macquarie. …

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Rob Astorino Westchester privatization deals under review by George Latimer
Source: David McKay Wilson, Lohud, March 29, 2018
 
Rob Astorino’s Westchester privatization legacy hangs in limbo. Three months into County Executive George Latimer’s tenure, a list of Astorino’s ambitious privatization plans is teetering on collapse. Proposals for Westchester County Airport, Playland amusement park and the county’s deteriorating WestHELP affordable housing complex are all under reconsideration. Astorino’s airport privatization deal stands as Latimer’s biggest challenge in this arena. Latimer has huge revenue needs, such as the long overdue Civil Service Employee Association contract, which could cost as much as $60 million to settle. There’s the temptation to pursue Astorino’s 40-year lease proposal with Macquarie Infrastructure Corp., which Astorino announced the day after Latimer vanquished him in the November election. … The Playland privatization deal, one of Astorino’s major legislative victories in 2016, remains in flux, two years after the county and Standard Amusements agreed on a 30-year deal. … Legislators also wants committees to review the 2016 contract to determine if extensions granted by Astorino were valid. … At WestHELP in Greenburgh, Latimer’s pledge to promote affordable housing in stands its first test at the deteriorating 108-unit complex. He’s up against the town of Greenburgh, and Supervisor Paul Feiner, who has failed to rent out the apartments since the town took over management of the complex for 20 years in 2011. The Latimer administration wants to expand the plan proposed by Astorino in late October 2017, which would give Marathon Development Group a 65-year lease….

More about Westchester airport privatization.

More about Playland privatization.

Amid push for privatization, Metro outsources portion of bus operations

Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, August 11, 2018
 
Metro will pay a private company $89 million over the next five years to operate and maintain buses for nine bus lines in Northern Virginia, in an agreement that could pave the way for increased privatization at the transit agency.  According to the agreement, the French transportation company Transdev will be responsible for driving and repairing the buses that will be housed at the soon-to-be-opened Cinder Bed Road bus facility in Lorton.  Transdev will be responsible for about 5 percent of the bus service that Metro provides, with routes that primarily serve areas around Alexandria, Pentagon station, Franconia-Springfield station, Burke Centre and Fort Belvoir. …

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With two weeks of private bus shuttles, Metro dips a toe into outsourcing
Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, December 9, 2017
 
Metro riders inconvenienced by a two-week partial shutdown on the Red Line probably didn’t give much thought to the branding of the bus shuttles carrying them on their plodding ride between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations.  But those buses — private coaches with drivers hailing from out-of-state — could be a sign of things to come at Metro: more privatization, with a focus on outsourcing bus service.  It’s a shift that’s been forecast by Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, and cheered by politicians and Metro board members who see it as an opportunity to save on costs.  The transit agency recently announced that it is seeking proposals from outside contractors interested in handling bus operations and maintenance at Metro’s new Cinder Bed Road bus garage in Newington, Va. The contract would hand over the operation of 17 bus routes to a private company, and that company would be responsible for providing an estimated 129,599 hours of service to passengers each year. …

Metro workers protest privatization of bus routes
Source: John Gonzalez, WJLA, December 7, 2017

WMATA has a proposal on the table to use private contractors to manage and operate nine existing Metrobus routes. The buses would eventually come out of a new facility in Lorton – but not everyone was pleased with the new proposal. On Thursday, angry Metrobus drivers showed up at the site of the new facility to protest. The workers, with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, blocked the facility’s entrance and attempted to disrupt a meeting that the transit agency was holding with contractors. “Paul Weidefeld is gonna destroy this transit system. We want transit to not be privatized. We want it to be ungovernable. To be able to have a say-so in what our public transportation looks like,” said union representative Anthony Garland. …

How Elon Musk’s O’Hare Express Got The Fast Track In Chicago

Source: Becky Vevea, WBEZ, August 9, 2018

Underneath the popular Block 37 shopping complex in downtown Chicago is a partially finished, unused train station. There are no turnstyles or escalators, just an elevator and a few rectangular openings in the ground. Aldermen approved the “super station” with little discussion in 2005, but it was mothballed before completion. Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley wanted it to be the base for express train service to both Chicago airports. Thirteen years later, with taxpayers still paying off the loan that financed the $218 million station, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has found somebody to fulfill those high-speed dreams: entrepreneur Elon Musk. … Musk said his plan, known as the O’Hare Express, is to build a speedy pod that will shoot through an underground tunnel to get riders between Downtown and O’Hare International Airport in just 12 minutes. Officials said Emanuel and Musk hope to start digging as soon as this fall. But can they fulfill these promises? … Here’s a look at how Chicago’s mayor fast-tracked the express transit to the airport and why that matters to taxpayers, Musk, and the future of express transit elsewhere. …

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Elon Musk and Rahm Emanuel’s New Transportation Scheme Is a Privatization Bonanza
Source: Emma Tai and Stephanie Farmer, In These Times, July 27, 2018
 
In June, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration selected Elon Musk’s The Boring Company to build a non-stop express train from downtown to O’Hare Airport. The development is yet another example of Emanuel’s plan to transform Chicago into a city for the wealthy few.  Emanuel has stated that Musk’s express train will be fully financed by private investors. But the city’s 2009 parking meter fiasco has taught us that working Chicagoans end up on the losing side of fast-tracked privatization schemes. Morgan Stanley Investment Partners (MSIP) paid the city over $1 billion to lease the city’s parking meter system. But in an information memorandum released in 2010, MSIP estimated that, by the end of the lease in 2084, the firm would rake in over $11 billion from parking meter users by charging higher fares. …

Who Profits From Our Prison System?

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, August 9, 2018
 
The US prison system, now home to over 2 million Americans, runs like an economy unto itself: From the cafeteria line to the phone line to the assembly line, a steady stream of money is fueling our incarceration complex. But who profits off prisoners remains a trade secret.  That’s why advocates for criminal-justice reform are now harnessing big data to map out the carceral state, exposing the corporate networks that administer and finance the prison industry while driving its expansion. The Corrections Accountability Project of the Urban Justice Center (where, full disclosure, this author once interned) presents a kind of yellow pages of criminal justice, revealing the convoluted, self-serving mechanics of industrialized incarceration.

… Today, major private corporations administer services ranging from medical-record keeping to surveillance to psychiatric counseling. … But beyond direct in-house services, the CAP report points to various complex financing entities that fuel a built-in incentive to consolidate, monopolize, and expand the incarceration system and the sentencing and legal processes that keep it humming. …

Read full report.

US government failing millions by paying below $15 an hour, study finds

Source: Mike Elk, The Guardian, August 10, 2018
 
The federal government employs more workers making less than $15 an hour than any other employer in the US, a new report has revealed.  The study, compiled by pro-union group Good Jobs Nation, analyzed federal data and showed that the government spends more than $1.6tn on federal contractors employing more than 12.5 million people with 4.5 million of those workers making below $15 an hour.  Many of these workers are employed by contractors as janitors, cafeteria workers, call center workers, administrative assistants and healthcare aides, and union campaigners say they are being kept on poverty wages. …

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Bill Protecting Social Services Determinations Against Privatization Passes Legislature

Source: Oakland Post, August 11, 2018
 
AB 3224, authored by Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), will protect Californians against private sector employees determining eligibility for Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and CalWORKs applicants. The bill passed out of the Legislature with bipartisan support and now heads to the Governor for consideration. … AB 3224 ensures that Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and CalWORKs employee determinations will remain unchanged, regardless of federal law.  This bill is sponsored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty and is supported by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. …

Trump’s Postal Task Force Has Recommendations Ready for the President

Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, August 8, 2018
 
A task force commissioned by President Trump to recommend steps to put the U.S. Postal Service on firmer financial footing has finished drafting a report, according to an administration official, and is preparing to brief the president on it when he returns to Washington, D.C.  The executive order that created the task force, which Trump signed in April, gave the group four months to deliver its recommendations. That deadline was set for Aug. 10. The task force plans to deliver the report to the White House this week, a Treasury Department spokesperson told Government Executive, and will provide the president with a briefing next week when he is expected to return from New Jersey. …

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Opinion: Trump’s Privatization Plan Would Destroy the Postal Service
Source: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post, August 7, 2018
 
This week, a task force created following an April executive order from Trump, is scheduled to deliver its recommendations for an overhaul of the Postal Service. Led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, the task force is expected to endorse the privatization proposal buried in the White House’s plan to reorganize the federal government — a radical assault on the administrative state. …

Trump’s Postal Privatization Plan Met With Bipartisan Rebuke in Congress
Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, June 26, 2018
 
The White House’s proposal to privatize the U.S. Postal Service is unlikely to find much traction in Congress, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticizing the suggested fundamental overhaul of the mailing agency.  Lawmakers across the ideological spectrum who have expressed an interest in postal issues showed little interest in Trump’s transformation, defending the Postal Service as an essential government service. They pointed instead to reform proposals they have themselves put forward and refined after years of tense negotiations among an array of stakeholders. …

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White Hat Management Leaves Ohio Charter Industry

Source: Mitch Felan, WKSU, August 8, 2018
 
White Hat Management, the once-prolific Ohio charter school operator and early advocate for school choice in the state, is leaving the charter school business. The company has been steadily losing contracts over the past few years in the competitive market. …

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When it comes to facing down Ohio’s well-heeled charter school lobbyists, will state lawmakers be leaders — or lapdogs?
Source: Brent Larkin, Northeast Ohio Media Group, July 24, 2015

…… In the past 17 years, Ohio’s two largest charter school management companies — David Brennan’s Akron-based White Hat Management and William Lager’s Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) — have funneled more than $6 million to Republican candidates and causes. In the last election cycle, ECOT alone gave more than $400,000. The payoff? About $1.76 billion in taxpayer money has flowed into charter schools run by Brennan and Lager since 1998.

Start the investigation of the state Department of Education
Source: Editorial Board, Beacon Journal, July 18, 2015

Let the formal investigation begin, preferably by David Yost, the state auditor, or an independent investigator tapped by the State Board of Education. The target? The Ohio Department of Education, its director of school choice admitting last week that he removed or ignored failing grades for online and dropout recovery charter schools as part of evaluating the performance of sponsors, those organizations that oversee the publicly funded yet privately run schools.

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Millions Flow to Pentagon’s Banned Contractors Via a Back Door

Source: Sam Skolnik, Bloomberg Government, August 6, 2018
 
Some of the world’s largest companies have benefited from a little-known law that lets the Defense Department override decisions barring contractors accused or convicted of bribery, fraud, theft, and other crimes from doing business with the government.  International Business Machines Corp., Boeing Co., BP Plc, and several other contractors have received special dispensation to fulfill multimillion-dollar government contracts through “compelling reason determinations.” That process allows the Defense Department in rare cases to determine that the need to fulfill certain contracts justifies doing business with companies that have been suspended from government work.  The 22 determinations were released by the General Services Administration at the request of Bloomberg Government, allowing for the first collective examination of the cases and the system that allowed them. …

… The determinations, also referred to as waivers or overrides, included contracts to provide food services for Defense Department personnel at an Army base in Afghanistan, “vital” web-hosting services for an agency that serves the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community, and aviation fuel sold to the Defense Logistics Agency. In some instances, contracting officials said the overrides were matters of life or death. Companies receiving waivers included some accused or convicted of major fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, ethical bidding violations, and in the case of fuel-seller BP, an overall “lack of business integrity.” In the most recent waiver case—issued just several weeks ago—an affiliate of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates was suspended for allegedly bribing an Army contracting official and another man to deliver a $420 million contract involving expansion of a U.S. base south of Seoul. …