Public Sector


When Public and Private Meet, Extra Care Is Needed

By Donald Cohen

In the Public Interest

Across the nation, private companies are looking to take over public services. A legislative battle in Sacramento over a bill to privatize state trial courts epitomizes the promises and pitfalls of privatization.

Assembly Bill 566 (Wieckowski) would require that before contracting services out, courts must provide proof of cost savings, create employment standards, engage in a competitive bidding process, and undergo regular financial and performance audits bill sits on the governor's desk for signature or veto and the lobbying is intense.

Reshaping Education: New Opportunities for Teachers Unions

By Lisa Schiff

In the midst of a protracted assault on public education, teachers unions have in front of them a tremendous opportunity. The need for strong leadership asserting child-centric approaches to education has never been greater - teachers and their unions can seize this moment to break the mold of the traditional union and expand that organization's legitimate sphere of action to formally include the very structure and quality of students' learning experiences.

The historic purpose of a union to protect and advocate for its members is no less relevant today than it was in years past, but within the world of public education that mission alone is insufficiently ambitious, both for teachers and their students. The conditions of work are critical, but the nature of that work is equally so.

The Crumbling of Corporate School "Reform"

By Randy Shaw

In the past month, 1. Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly rejected a billionaire-backed school board candidate seeking to shift control of the district to anti-union forces; 2. Thirty-five Atlanta educators, including a close ally of prominent "reformer" Michelle Rhee, were indicted for altering students' test scores; 3. Rhee, head of "Students First," was herself caught lying about being a "public school parent" after it was reported that one of her daughters attends an exclusive private school in Tennessee; and 4. Chicago parents came out in force against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan for massive school closures.

Fixing the Economy's Real Problem

By Robert Reich

"Our biggest problems over the next ten years are not deficits," the President told House Republicans Wednesday, according to those who attended the meeting.

The President needs to deliver the same message to the public, loudly and clearly. The biggest problems we face are unemployment, stagnant wages, slow growth, and widening inequality - not deficits. The major goal must be to get jobs and wages back, not balance the budget.

Paul Ryan's budget plan - essentially, the House Republican plan - is designed to lure the White House and Democrats, and the American public, into a debate over how to balance the federal budget in ten years, not over whether it's worth doing.

What Ails American Higher Education?

By Steve Hochstadt

American higher education has some big problems. We still have a world-class network of colleges and universities. Students from less developed and from highly developed nations come to the US to get BAs and advanced degrees. Our teaching practices are copied, our researchers have made English a universal scientific language, and our graduates can compete across the globe.

The hundreds of small colleges scattered across the US represent a unique American contribution to undergraduate education, which is being copied in Europe. Not only has American higher education led the world in the integration of women and minorities into faculties and administration, but American scholars have developed the broadest critique of economic inequality, abuse of political authority, and social discrimination.

The California Budget: Back in Black

By Robert Cruickshank

Last week's big news was the announcement from Governor Jerry Brown that the state budget is out of perennial deficit and looking at several years of surpluses. We'll talk more about what those surpluses mean and how they ought to be used, but it's worth taking a moment to remember how we got here.

Since 2001 or so, California's budget seems to have been in perpetual deficit, with less money coming in than was needed to fund existing public services. While the deficit pressure eased in 2005-06, that didn't last, and by the summer of 2007 the deficits had returned as the housing bubble popped and the country slid into the worst recession in 60 years.

Governor Proposes Pivotal 2013 Budget, Boosts to Medi-Cal, Schools

By Christopher Allen
California Progress Report

California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his 2013-14 budget proposal yesterday, declaring that the state's lean years of budget deficits are over. In place of dramatic spending cuts, the governor's $97.6 billion dollar plan instead offers modest boosts to school funding, along with an expansion of the Medi-Cal program as the state transitions to its Covered California health benefit exchange in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Prop 30 Would Affirm "California Promise" to Education, Social Mobility

By Dan Aiello

Advocates of universal access to higher education fear California voters, faced with two competing education tax initiatives will fail both, effectively abandoning the state's historic commitment to provide access to higher education for all.

Proposition 30 will provide funding to California's K-12 schools, but additionally will fund the state's university, state college and community college systems to offset state budget cuts that have already endangered access to the educational opportunities once guaranteed all qualified students by the state under its Master Plan on Education.

Prop 30 will raise revenue through a temporary quarter cent sales tax increase and a temporary income tax increase on wealthier state residents.