Puerto Fears School Privatization After Hurricane

Damaged amaged classroom in a school in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on October 2, 2017.

By Aída Chávez and Rachel M. Cohen for the Intercept. As Hurricane Maria departed Puerto Rico, leaving utter ruin in its wake, one community in Vieques picked itself out of the wreckage by focusing on getting school back open. “The community took out of their own time and said, ‘Let’s do this, we need to repair and reopen this,’ and we started working,” Josuan Aloyo told The Intercept in Spanish. “Cleaning out the trash and debris, and trying to find people that had the proper tools.” Right after the hurricane, Escuela Adrienne Serrano had 40 students, a number that steadily increased each week until they managed to bring 80 students back. But then, on October 18, Humacao School District’s regional director told Escuela Adrienne Serrano to suspend classes. The guerrilla campaign to open schools is running headlong into a separate effort from the top, to use the storm to accomplish the long-standing goal of privatizing Puerto Rico’s public schools, using New Orleans post-Katrina as a model.

Puerto Rican Teachers Occupy Education Secretary's Office

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By Fight Back News. San Juan, Puerto Rico – In an escalation in their fight to stop the government from closing or privatizing public schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation occupied Education Secretary Julia Keleher’s office Nov. 7 in an act of civil disobedience. 21 teachers were arrested standing up in defense of public education in Puerto Rico. All 21 teachers were released late the night of Nov. 7. In a press conference the morning of Nov. 8, the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation called on school communities to intensify the struggle to demand that their schools be reopened.

Co-opted Language: Decoding Ed Reform’s Sales Pitch

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By Wrench In The Gears. The words used to promote “future ready” public education do not mean to reformers what they mean to you. This post is intended to pull back the curtain and expose the truth behind venture capital’s shiny promises of “personalized” tech-centered, data-driven learning. The list below features vocabulary that should be on everyone’s radar. Short definitions link to more detailed descriptions written from the point of view of the reformers-if they had to tell the truth about their plans to swap neighborhood schools for learning ecosystems.

Privatization Is Spooky, Say DC Streetcar Workers

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By Faiz Siddiqui for The Washington Post – The Save Our System campaign of the nonprofit Americans for Transit announced Tuesday it has formed a 35-member roundtable of business leaders who say urgent changes are needed, arguing the service cuts — and Metro’s lack of dedicated funding –are “harming the local economy.” “In an era of unprecedented economic growth in the D.C. region, it is unacceptable for our local businesses to be forced into a position where we must choose between laying off employees, reducing our offerings, or closing our doors simply because our transit infrastructure is not properly maintained or funded,” reads the letter. “Unfortunately, the budgeting decisions made by [Metro] this past June are doing just that.” Rail fares increased a dime and bus fares increased a quarter this summer. In addition, dozens of bus routes were slashed or modified, and train frequencies were reduced on five of six Metro lines. The system also closes earlier. “Parking is a challenge in the U Street neighborhood, therefore we encourage Metro ridership to our patrons,” Will Eastman, founder of U Street Music Hall said in a statement. “But that’s a difficult thing to do when the nearest Metrorail station is closing hours before we do.”

Trump Advisers Propose Privatizing Native American Reservations

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By Staff of The Indigenous American – Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews. The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations. The tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it. They can drill it and reap the profits, but only under regulations that are far more burdensome than those applied to private property. “We should take tribal land away from public treatment,” said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition. “As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country.” Trump’s transition team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A US Charity Is Helping Big Business Take Indigenous Peoples' Water In Mexico

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By Tamara Pearson for OpenDemocracy – The town of Puebla is a miniature version of the world’s inhumane water inequalities. Here, people living in the wealthy part of town get all the water they need, and Coca Cola gets first dibs on the best water in the state. Meanwhile, the rest us get running water for half an hour a week, or none at all. US religious charity Living Water claims it is trying to help the poor, but in reality it is only increasing such inequality by supporting further privatization of the water system. Right-wing senator Ted Cruz, VP of Goldman Sachs Heidi Cruz, and the owner of Halex Oil Corporation Mike Hale all make up the leadership of Living Water, which has also collaborated with Coca Cola on projects around Latin America. Living Water has some 132 projects here in Puebla state, and with the support of a state law that allows for private investment in water, has been encouraging big businesses to “solve” the water supply problems in poor rural areas. “Living Water went into indigenous towns like Ocotepec saying things like “Jesus says water is for everyone”. At first, people trusted them, but then they realized the charity has connections to Femsa (Coca Cola) and they protested. There were arrests, and the police stopped the protests,” Fernando told me.

#WeChoose Equity In Education Campaign

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By Popular Resistance. Launched just after Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss was appointed in February, 2017, the #WeChoose campaign is fighting for equity in education. They write: “We are not fooled by the ‘illusion of school choice.’ The policies of the last twenty years, driven more by private interests than by concern for our children’s education, are devastating our neighborhoods and our democratic rights. Only by organizing locally and coming together nationally will we build the power we need to change local, state, and federal policy and win back our public schools. School closings are a key issue now because if our communities don’t have schools, we will have little to fight for. But if we only fight against closings, we won’t succeed at building the kind of sustainable school transformation that will carry us forward.

Stephen Hawking Blames Tory Politicians For Damaging NHS

Stephen Hawking said the crisis in the NHS has been caused by political decisions. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

By Denis Campbell for The Guardian – Stephen Hawking has accused ministers of damaging the NHS, blaming the Conservatives in a passionate and sustained attack for slashing funding, weakening the health service though privatisation, demoralising staff by curbing pay and cutting social care support. The renowned 75-year-old physicist was speaking to promote an address he will give on Saturday outlining how he owes his long life and achievements to the NHS care he received, and setting out his fears for a service he believes is being turned into “a US-style insurance system”. The author of A Brief History of Time did not name any minister or political party in his general complaint, but he blamed a raft of policies pursued since 2010 by the coalition and then the Conservatives for enfeebling the NHS and leaving it unable to cope with the demands being placed on it. “The crisis in the NHS has been caused by political decisions,” he said. “The political decisions include underfunding and cuts, privatising services, the public sector pay cap, the new contract imposed on the junior doctors and removal of the student nurses’ bursary. “Failures in the system of privatised social care for disabled and elderly people has also placed additional burden on the NHS.”

Newsletter: Fight For Health Care Begins

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were stalled again this week, due in large part to public pressure including courageous and persistent civil resistance in Congress. This was another battle won to prevent millions more from losing health insurance and tax cuts for the rich, but the fight for a universal healthcare system is far from over. In fact, we have barely begun. 1hcsenDr. Carol Paris writes, “Today, we breathe a quick sigh of relief. But we cannot celebrate a return to the status quo, a system that rations health care based on income and allows 18,000 Americans to die each year unnecessarily.” Dr. Paris argues that rather than focusing on the ACA, we must now advance National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) – a publicly-funded and comprehensive universal healthcare system in the United States. Imagine the impacts National Improved Medicare for All will have when it is achieved…

European Cities Are Reclaiming Public Services From The Private Sector

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By Alexis Chemblette for VIce – In the ’80s a neoliberal tide swept across the West with the idea that welfares states had become too expensive and that privatizing public goods was better for stimulating the economy. During this era of fiscal conservatism, Western governments basically confined themselves supervisory roles over the economy, reduced to watchdogs enforcing norms and standards. But research has shown that as the government progressively pulls out of public life, many people lose access or experience the deterioration of services that improve their quality of life such as affordable housing, education, public transportation and health care. Now, cities across Europe are increasingly deciding to reclaim public services, spearheading a growing movement for “remunicipalization,” meaning the return of public services from private to public. According to Sakoto Kishimoto Lead Researcher at the Transnational Institute (TNI) people are over the idea of privatization. “They’re telling their citizens that they have to divest and squeeze budgets, but the feedback we’re getting is that local populations found public services more efficient and less costly,” Kishimoto said in a TNI report. Here are a few examples of local initiatives that have put the power back into the hands of people.

Battle To Oppose Water Privatization Returns Greece To Frontlines Of E.U. Crisis

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By Maria Paradia for Occupy – In late September 2016, the Syriza administration laid the groundwork to begin Greece’s water privatization, achieving a majority of 152 parliamentary votes and enacting series of new measures to transfer the state-run water companies of Athens (EYDAP) and Thessaloniki (EYATH) into a privatization superfund. The duration of the government’s participation in the superfund was set at 99 years, with lenders promising the Greek government a bailout of barely 2.8 billion euros – far lower than the projected 50 billion euros estimated earlier in the year. While Greece was forced to privatize its water sources, however, other countries like Germany were undergoing the opposite: a phase of de-privatization. In Berlin, after 12 years of poor management and exorbitant price hikes, the local government several years ago reclaimed its water resources. This turn of events caused a series of similar de-privatization initiatives across the country, revealing that the projected economic outcomes via privatization weren’t viable in the long term. In fact, the re-established state-run services were proven to be far more efficient, better organized and capable of providing higher-quality services than their privatized counterparts.

How A Federal Program Is Destroying Public Housing

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By Taya Graham for The Real News. Taya Graham: If there’s a single issue that illustrates Baltimore’s economic divide, it’s housing. While developers continue to reap generous tax breaks to build luxury apartments downtown, other neighborhoods suffer from neglect. In fact, when Under Armour billionaire Kevin Plank received $600 million in tax breaks to build Port Covington, he also won an exemption from the city’s affordable housing law. It’s this dichotomy between rich and poor, the haves and the have not, which the city has failed to address, a lack of balance even more profound in our public housing, which is literally falling apart, which is why we have assembled this panel of people to talk about how to solve this entrenched inequity. Jeff Singer is the former executive director of Health Care for the Homeless and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Lucky Crosby is a former housing employee who was a key whistleblower about the deplorable conditions of public housing. Reverend Annie Chambers was the first Green Party candidate to win a city-wide election to the Citizen Advisory Board of Douglas Homes, a city-run housings facility.

Reclaiming Public Services

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By Satoko Kishimoto, Olivier Petitjean and Lavinia Steinfort for Portside – Reclaiming Public Services is vital reading for anyone interested in the future of local, democratic services like energy, water and health care. This is an in-depth world tour of new initiatives in public ownership and the variety of approaches to deprivatisation. From New Delhi to Barcelona, from Argentina to Germany, thousands of politicians, public officials, workers, unions and social movements are reclaiming or creating public services to address people’s basic needs and respond to environmental challenges. They do this most often at the local level. Our research shows that there have been at least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide since 2000, involving more than 1,600 municipalities in 45 countries. Why are people around the world reclaiming essential services from private operators and bringing their delivery back into the public sphere? There are many motivations behind (re)municipalisation initiatives: a goal to end private sector abuse or labour violations; a desire to regain control over the local economy and resources; a wish to provide people with affordable services; or an intention to implement ambitious climate strategies.

Greece Forced To Sell Public Water Utilities Under EU-Imposed Privatization Plan

A protester takes part in a rally against the privatization of the state-run water utility, in Thessaloniki, Greece.(AP/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

By Michael Nevradakis for Mint Press News – GREECE — In May 2016, the SYRIZA-led Greek government passed a new comprehensive set of economic austerity policies in exchange for receiving new loans that are intended to keep the country’s fragile economy afloat. This represents the fourth such “memorandum” between Greece and its creditors since the onset of the country’s economic crisis in 2009. It follows the third memorandum agreement passed by the SYRIZA-led government in the summer of 2015, just weeks after 62 percent of Greek voters rejected more EU-demanded austerity measures in the historic Greek referendum of July 5. What both of these memorandum agreements have in common, along with the first two agreements voted upon by previous Greek governments, is the wholesale imposition of economic austerity measures, including pension and wage cuts, in addition to a wide-ranging program of privatizations of key public assets. Just in the past year, 14 major regional Greek airports were privatized, as was the port of Piraeus, Greece’s largest port and one of the largest in Europe. More recently, the port of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, was also privatized to a consortium of investors.

Escalation & Privatization Of Law Enforcement Will Make Corps. Wealthier

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By Emily Verdugo for AlterNet – Back in August, the Obama administration issued a memo that many hoped signaled an end to the government’s use of for-profit prison corporations. That memo, issued by then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, stated that the Justice Department would stop contracting with CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) to run 13 federal prisons. This directive was a symbolic win for many of us who opposed these contracts, and we were thrilled when stocks in CoreCivic and GEO Group, another for-profit prison corporation, plummeted as a result. But the election of Donald Trump dashed a lot of those hopes. Acting on his campaign promise to be “tough on crime,”