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July 30, 2015

IL: Emanuel to introduce privatization rules to avoid repeat of parking meter debacle. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is finally delivering on his campaign promise to establish rules of the road for privatizing city assets and services to make certain that the parking meter debacle is never repeated. A similar privatization ordinance championed by the anti-Emanuel Progressive Caucus has been languishing in a City Council committee for years. Chicago Sun-Times

IL: Hundreds Take to the Streets Over Chicago Board of Education’s Decision to Further Slash CPS Funding. “We need teachers! We need books! We need the money that the banks took!” chanted a group of protesters outside of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters July 22. The crowd was protesting the Board of Education’s recent decision to slash funding to Chicago schools by $200 million while paying massive amounts of debt to banks like Bank of America. This latest round of cuts includes cutting 1,400 positions—200 of which serve special needs students in the city. “. . . Community and parent groups were also there to protest what they say is an expansion of charter schools in the city that comes at the expense of public schools. In These Times

VA: Prices for toll lanes on I-95 significantly higher than advertised on website. The website for Virginia’s new 95 Express lanes showed tolls can range from 20 cents to approximately 80 cents per mile, but the company that runs the lanes, Transurban, confirmed they have charged up to $6.60 to travel one mile on the express lane. Daniel Seymour, who travels between Spotsylvania and Northern Virginia for work, took a picture of a toll sign at exit 161 by Woodbridge. It read a price of $5.65 to go a little over a mile to exit 160. . . . “There’s no reason I should have to pay that when they advertise between 20 cents a mile and 80 cents a mile approximately,” Seymour said. wtvr.com

KS: Federal Investigation Continues Into Kansas GOP’s Medicaid Privatization Program. The dysfunctional Medicaid privatization program championed by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) known as KanCare continues to face public scrutiny and federal investigations into claims that patients experienced long waits and subpar care. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation into complaints about Medicaid waiting lists for disability services in Kansas is ongoing, according to a statement by a department spokesperson last week. . .. KanCare, a Republican-backed program, launched in January 2013, when the state’s traditional Medicaid program was phased out. In its place, the Brownback administration contracted three for-profit health insurance companies to coordinate health care for more than 360,000 low-income residents. . . Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, testified that KanCare has steadily reduced services for the state’s most vulnerable residents. . . . During the forum, much of the blame was directed toward the three managed-care companies contracted by the state: Amerigroup Kansas, the United Healthcare Community Plan, and the Sunflower Health Plan. RH Reality Check

KS: Legislative committee denies request for audit of foster care system. The request was brought by House Democrats in response to recent media coverage of cases where children have died either when placed in a foster care home or after being reunited with family members. . . The Legislative Post Audit Committee voted down the request 5-4, splitting along party lines. A second vote to keep the proposal alive so it could possibly be revisited passed with bipartisan support. . . . Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, who brought forth the request along with Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, argued that privatization of the foster care system in recent years had lessened state oversight and that an audit was needed to determine whether the DCF had ensured the safety of children in the system. Wichita Eagle

TX: Canadians Make Texas Highway Spoof That’s Uncomfortably Close to Reality. The conceit of the joke: Texans love to drive and a lot of them are rich, and so a few would probably be willing shell out extra $65,000 to drive on a road from Dallas to Houston that is reserved for people who can buy their way into an elite motorist clique. “Just feels good to get out there and drive with like minded people, I guess,” one interviewed character says. And another: “I take great comfort that everyone on the road has insurance.” D Magazine

MI: Opinion: Think tank’s effort to discredit union fails. One group in particular, the Mackinac Center, has spent considerable time and resources attacking public education and school employees. The center, which touts itself as a “think tank,” is corporately funded. . . The studies are peddled to legislators, imploring them to privatize public education, which in turn enriches the corporations who fund the Mackinac Center. The return on those corporate investments is evident, as shown by the dramatic growth of privatization in public schools . . The Michigan Education Association has stood as the one road block to this scheme, fighting for and defending public education and those who work in our public schools. As such, the Mackinac Center has conducted expensive campaigns attempting to persuade MEA members to quit the union. . . .The campaign, now in its third year has been a bust, as MEA has retained over 90 percent of its membership since the “right to work” law was passed. The Detroit News

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