As the edge of summer burns into early autumn, students across the country are going back to school. Most are returning to friends and meeting teachers, but students at Illinois’ Barrington High School are arriving this year to signs that read, “Can’t live on $8.50,” and shouts of “Devuelvenos nuestros salarios!” (Give us back our wages!)
A majority of the school’s contracted janitors—organized by the Service Employees International Union—are striking because, after the Barrington school district renewed a contract with its employer in June, their wages were cut from $9.77 an hour. Already without sick days and health insurance, the janitors are now faced with even lower poverty wages.
As our publication, Making the Grade? Questions to Ask About School Services Privatization, discusses, school districts often don’t save money when they outsource support positions rather than keep them in-house. When contractors aim to maximize profit,
Last week, in a powerful affirmation of the common good, commissioners in Tennessee’s Johnson County unanimously opposed the privatization of the state prison within their county’s limits. A response to fears that the state government could soon outsource management of the Northeast State Correctional Complex, the resolution reads like a checklist of what democracy and public control can provide a community.
The “no” vote was prompted by the state government’s recent exploration of outsourcing the management of state properties, including prisons, hospitals, parks and even the University of Tennessee. State officials have also been trying to manage a shortage of prison officers after introducing a controversial overtime policy statewide to cut costs.
But the Johnson County commissioners recognize that outsourcing isn’t the answer: “Any type of privatization would be detrimental to our county, citizens and staff of Northeast Correctional Complex.” They also honored public service by dedicating a day each year in recognition of the prison’s current staff.
As public officials across the country continue to manage shrinking budgets, experiments for funding public services are emerging. One new idea, the Social Impact Bond, has been advertised as a “win-win” for private investors and the public, but the reality is beginning to look a little different.
The results are in from the first SIB tried in the U.S. and it failed to meet its goals. The SIB was aimed at reducing the rate by which adolescents housed on Rikers Island returned to jail, with a goal of at least an 8.5 percent drop. Therapy was provided to inmates, but recidivism wasn’t significantly reduced.
SIBs are complex arrangements—private investors lend funding for a program and the government repays them only if certain goals are met. For the Rikers SIB, New York City was lent millions by Goldman Sachs, backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Proponents of SIBs claim that,
This week, the American Correctional Association (ACA) will hold its annual conference in Indianapolis, where thousands of government corrections officials, including wardens, jail administrators and sheriffs, will attend workshops and connect with their peers from across the country. Workshops include best practices for successful reentry programs for released inmates and working in corrections across generations.
But many workshops and events will feature a Who’s Who of private corrections companies, including Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Aramark, Corizon and Telmate.
Those companies should be familiar—many have been prominent in reports we’ve released over the past few years detailing the suffering of inmates in private hands, such as thousands of medical malpractice claims and stories about maggots appearing in prison food.
On the eve of the ACA conference, we have released a new report revealing how such conferences allow corrections companies to influence government officials in ways outside the public’s oversight.
I don’t know about you, but I love public parks. City parks for hiking, little league, and summer concerts. State parks for camping. National parks like the Grand Canyon to experience the awe of nature. Parks are some of our most precious public assets.
But only if they remain public. This week, candidates in Kentucky’s gubernatorial election suggested that the state could privatize parks to raise revenue. That’s a misguided solution to the wrong problem: the state’s failure to invest enough in essential public assets. Advocates of privatization say the private sector will attract more tourists. But that would jeopardize the central mission of public parks to provide affordable access to nature and recreation. Parks managed by companies, like other private assets, will need to generate profit—funds that should be spent on maintaining and improving them.
The citizens of Kentucky aren’t alone. To manage the 14 million acres of state park lands in the U.S.,