Under the guise of fiscal austerity, legislation is under consideration across the country that would roll back much of the progress of the 20th century including universal public education.
Indiana Robs Public Schools to Pay for Private Schools
This week, USA Today reported that "In a major victory for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana lawmakers today approved legislation that creates the nation's most sweeping system of taxpayer funding for private schools."
The Republican-controlled House passed the voucher program and a separate bill that will make opening charter schools easier by creating a pro-charter board that will approve charter schools. As of now, only the Indianapolis mayor, public universities and local school boards can open a charter school. No Senate vote has been made yet.
The Evansville Courier & Press states that the contentious bill caused Democrats to leave the state for five weeks in opposition.
"Most Democrats opposed the measure, saying it will deliver a blow to cash-strapped schools by spreading out the state's $6.3 billion in annual K-12 education funding. 'Every dollar that flows to the charter schools is going to flow away from the traditional public school corporations and make it harder for them to do their jobs,' said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington."
Massachusetts Attacks Collective Bargaining
Wednesday saw the Massachusetts House vote 111-42 to strip police officers, teacher and other municipal employees of collective bargaining rights. Boston.com wrote that "unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights." Ironically, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick will be the featured speaker of the Founders Day Dinner of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Saturday night in Madison.
Unions fought to stop the bill that will take away most of their rights to bargain over health care changes with radio ads, but to no avail. The collective bargaining bill is now awaiting a Senate vote.
Michigan Undermines Democracy and Education
The draconian goings-on in Michigan has been in the news recently after Gov. Snyder passed the "martial law" bill that gives absolute power over a town or school in "fiscal emergency" to a financial emergency manager. This week, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC had a segment on her show about the continuation of the "dictatorship" movement that has taken over Benton Harbor, MI and now an award-winning school for single teenage mothers.
Gov. Snyder also introduced his new education plan this week that promotes charter schools by removing district wide caps if only one school in the district is academically failing. This opens the door to dozens of new charter schools that will be run by corporations, while taking funds away from public schools. His new plan will also consolidate early childhood services and funds under a new "Office of Great Start - Early Childhood."
Florida Privatizes Medicare and Prisons
Another state that has been at the forefront of privatizing and centralizing power to the Governor's office is Florida. Although privatizing traditionally-public services is nothing new, especially in Florida, the state House passed a bill earlier this month to privatize Medicare, an issue that has received considerable backlash on the national level.
The State Column said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a former healthcare CEO, has led the push of this bill as saying it will save the state money, while "state Democrats say the measure is simply aimed at repaying companies in the health care industry. The proposed bill will also cap Medicaid patients’ malpractice claims to $300,000 for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages, a move Mr. Scott has also championed." The bill is awaiting a Senate vote.
Lawmakers this week also revealed a plan that would include privatizing 14 state prisons in hopes of reducing state costs. Although Florida has had private prisons for 16 years, the Miami Herald reported that, "the state agency that oversees these prisons says they will save taxpayers almost $90 million over the next three years. But state financial analysts say they cannot show with any certainty how much money they save over state-run prisons."