P3 High School

All of our previous posts have been staid and fact-based.  But this analogy came to my attention and I could not resist resorting to satire.

Today at the Chamber of Commerce meeting, we learned the advantages of HOT lanes:
1) The public-private partnership (P3) model makes use of private financing and therefore minimizes public investment.
2) The P3 approach accelerates implementation.  If we had to wait for the normal public approach, it could take as long as twenty years before anything is built.
3) The managed lane concept, utilizing congestion pricing, ensures at least one lane will remain congestion-free for the life of the contract.  Even if the general purpose lanes become more congested, the HOT lanes will never become congested.
4) HOT lanes offer motorists an option for those who wish to pay to avoid congestion.

While wideni77 disagrees these are advantages at all (and with the validity of #2 in general), let’s set that aside for a moment and say, for sake of argument, we do agree.  And further, let’s say we’re so enthusiastic that we think this is a good approach to governance in general.  In fact, let’s go so far as to say we should use this approach for other critical public services… like education.

So class is now in session. The narrative goes like this:

Our schools are congested.  And even though they’ve been congested for years and we haven’t built a new school in decades and our region has a growth rate rivaling something you’d find in a petri dish, we just don’t have the money to build new schools.  We’re told, sadly but firmly, we’re not going to have any money for another twenty years.  But we have this great new idea to solve the whole problem: we’ll partner with a private company to build/finance/operate a new school.  We’ll call it P3HS.

We’d have language in the contract to make sure P3HS meets all the applicable standards for curriculum and safety and free lunches and girl’s lacrosse.  In fact, it would look just like any other public school but with one big difference: we’re going to limit enrollment so it never gets overcrowded.

How are we going to do this? We’ll charge a tuition, that’s how.  Remember, it’s a tuition- not a tax- because you can keep your kid in the gulag school for free.  And to make sure P3HS never ever becomes overcrowded, we’ll tweak that tuition based on how crammed the old school is.

We’ll use those tuition dollars to pay for the school and give the private company a little something in return for their trouble.

There’s a number of advantages to this approach vs just building a regular old school.

First, by using all that private money, we’re not going to have to put up many taxpayer dollars. Instead we can use that tax money for more important things like a $750M bridge to the Outer Banks or a $1B highway from Durham to Holly Springs.

Second, because we won’t have to wait for CMS to get around to it, P3HS will be built a whole lot sooner. How cool is that?

Third, because we’ll limit enrollment, P3HS will never be overcrowded. We’ll always have at least one school that remains congestion-free.  You see, if we had good free schools that might make folks want to move here and then the free schools would quickly get crowded all over again.

Fourth, P3HS offers a choice to parents who don’t want their kids going to a jam-packed madhouse.

And we’ll throw in a bonus advantage: P3HS will be good for attracting business to the region because those executives can drop off their kids before they hop on the HOT lane to the airport.

Okay, show of hands: all in favor?

Class dismissed.

16 Responses to P3 High School

  1. valleebubak says:

    This is a great analogy. I bet there are many others as well that help to explain how dangerous this proposal is — P3 Court system; P3 Fire and Police, etc.

  2. Jim Harris says:

    Why not send out an email when an event is schedule like the chamber event mentioned above. It seems this site wants to be a clearinghouse for information concerning I-77, well do it! I don’t know where else to go to find this info.

    Thanks and keep it up!


  3. Lisa Koppenhofer says:

    Hi Kurt, Good one, sad but true. Most of the politicos in this town are crooks.


  4. lvenzon@ci.davidson.nc.us says:

    Kurt – Not sure, but I think this analogy just made the case for why we have charter and private schools and history shows they do work :-). In fact, many charter and private schools have opened in our region in the last 15 years because of the issues of congestion and poor results at CMS. And people are willing to pay to have a better experience for their kids. My guess is people will be willing to pay to get to the airport or work on time. Don’t know that for a fact, but it seems reasonable.

    Also, we need to think about how overcrowded would CMS be now if there were no private/charter school options? You’d have to add St. Mark’s, Davidson Day, SouthLake Christian, PineLake Prep, Cannon, Lake Norman Charter, CSD, etc into CMS’ already overcrowded schools with lots of trailers for classrooms. And pretty soon, you wouldn’t be able to add any more trailers to a given location. And by the way CMS doesn’t have the money to add them anyway. Then what?

    Food for thought….

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s very unfortunate for the kids who can’t get into these charter schools. I tried a number of times to get into a charter school. Since my son was being physically attacked at school and the school (Bailey Middle) didn’t have the resources to provide better security, we are now paying almost $30k a year for our two boys to go to Woodlawn. I really didn’t have a choice — let my kid get beat up in school or do the responsible thing and find a safer school? What about the families who don’t have the money for private schools and are forced to rough it out in the public school. I was horrified by the lack of safety at Bailey and felt sad for the kids who had no other alternatives. The same goes for our roads. The tolls do nothing to help those with limited finances. Government’s responsibility is to provide some basic services and not give up and abandon those dependent on essential services like education and roads.

      • anonymous says:

        Right .And those families already paid taxes to have an expected level of education and safety. It is one thing to want to send a child to a private or parochial school but not when government schools are not doing their job. Again, we have money for stadiums, street cars, roads that aren’t heavily traveled, the city is even buying malls. The government, our elected leaders need to take care of priorities first. If we are going to privatize schools and roads maybe we should get our tax money back so we can pay for the tolls and private schools.

      • anonymous says:

        If “government” schools can’t do the job we should get our school tax money back.

    • Anonymous says:

      Charter schools are tuition free, tax funded schools offered as an alternative to congested public school systems.

    • Kurt Naas says:

      Hi Laurie-

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If we look at your examples a little more in depth, I believe the P3HS analogy still holds.

      Charter schools are free and capacity is managed through a lottery system, not price. I am not aware of a transportation equivalent for this.

      Private schools are analogous to private roads. There are a few of these- 401 as a bypass to the QEW up in Toronto- but oooh boy are they expensive, as much as $30 one way! Like private schools, few families have the means to access this. So there’s an elitist component to private schools that managed lane proponents adamantly deny exists with HOT lanes. Also, private schools do not use taxpayer money, unlike the $170M that could be put toward I-77 HOT lanes.

      So the only adequate analogy, however unsavory, is P3HS. Of course, running our schools like this is unconscionable. We feel the same way about roads, which is why we’re asking for your support in finding alternatives to HOT lanes.
      Randy Mintken came up with this analogy (he’s much more clever). He lives in Davidson and has approached this from a completely different perspective as I have. Have you met him yet? I think it would make for an interesting and informative discussion.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts openly and look forward to continued productive dialogue.


  5. Joe Starosciak says:

    Really good scenario Kurt. P3 Mail System as well as I shared on my facebook post related to this subject.

  6. Vince says:

    A great analogy Kurt! One of the major issues here is: What is government’s role in providing infrastructure that serves the needs of the population in a cost efficient manner? Like fire and police, roads are a government responsibility that we all share to support a healthy society and economy. The P3 HOT Lanes arguably do not support a healthy economy and are an attack on the middle class. Proponents of P3 HOT Lanes who use the argument that the toll lanes will allow an executive to get to the airport on time or for an executive to visit a headquarters in Lake Norman faster miss the purpose of our roadways. I think most executives who use the airport recognize the cost- benefit of leaving a little early versus building dedicated roadways for their nearly exclusive use. I suspect the same executives would recognize as they move quickly from the airport to their businesses in Lake Norman that their employees and commercial truck fleets would be stuck in the ever increasing planned congestion of the GP lanes. In response to our elected leaders who continue to deny the common sense arguments opposing P3 HOT Lanes and those arguments supporting GP lanes, I say we do need to find additional funding to ensure our roads efficiently meet the demands of our economy. I am also sure our citizens are willing to pay for good and efficient infrastucture but this P3 HOT Lane approach is neither and should be stopped.

    Now about the public-private school issue and a previous commenter’s thoughts ….

  7. Mike M says:

    Kurt, great analogy. P3 mania is sweeping the country! It surely has to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I read where since President Obama took office we have hired 120 government workers a day. Fact or fiction? No wonder we are all going broke and there is not enough tax revenue to build this road.

    Interesting comments made in the Business Breakfast and the LNTC meeting with David Ungemah of Parsons Brinckerhoff this past week I would like to share.

    At the Business Breakfast one Cornelius Town Commissioner made the comment to me that he had just returned from Raleigh and P3 was a done deal. Fact or fiction? Talk about controlling the message!

    My guess is the response to the Town of Cornelius’ request to look at alternatives will get very little response from the LNTC as Raleigh (new Governor Pat McCrory and Speaker Tillis) are going to try to jam this one down our throats). Hope Pat McCrory and the rest of our representatives realize that if P3 goes through here at the lake there will be choices the citizens can make at the next election. Overall I wonder why any company would want to re-locate here with the cost of living being what it is for their employees and P3 on top of that? I look at Mint Hill and Rock Hill just to the south over the state line and see an awful lot of companies and people moving there. Oh yeah, there is that 25 minute ride to the airport guaranteed!

    Another interesting comment that came out of both meetings was the conversation of our HOV to Hot Lane conversion. The sell is they are going to take away a lane we already have and give it to the P3 but if you have 3 or more in your car the use of the Hot Lanes will be free. Not true with current technology unless you have a transponder in your vehicle identifying you as a car pooler. There is no magical heat sensor technology at this time that will determine the number of passengers in the car and give you free passage. In fact, David Ungemah said that Miami officials had made it so difficult to acquire and keep a transponder for that Hot Lane system that most people just said to heck with it! So, the Smiths traveling from Ohio to Disney World with 4 in the car are going to get binged. Maybe thats a good thing? Of course Ray (NCDOT engineer and contract negotiator) made the comment that the technology is evolving all the time. How much do you think we will have to spend on law enforcement until the magic technology evolves? I have some of my best Chinese vendors working on blow-up mannequins that plug into the cigarette lighter and reach a comfortable 98 degrees. Fact or fiction?

    With the inability to have drop down lanes on I-77, David Ungemah said merging the traffic back through the GP lanes will be the single most important issue if P3 lanes are a success here on I-77. I think we should all follow this one closely if we are able to get a look at the winning proposal. He mentioned that several projects had gotten it wrong the first time and had to come up with fixes. That is comforting.

    After a question from Mike G we learned that we get to keep some of the profits from the P3 and use it for a possible new parkway for local traffic. Wonder how the Red Line is going to be funded? Can you say ulterior motive.


  8. anonymous says:

    Does this mean if we have toll roads and the private company takes full control of them we don’t have to pay gas tax?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Love the analogy – but it isn’t quite accurate when compared to Charter or Private School. It would be more accurate if it was any CMS school and you get to be with 45 kids in a classroom with one teacher unless you pay $60 a day to go to the same school but can be in a room with 15 kids max. (The toll data I see based on Atlanta is about $5 each way in rush hour – so 30 min congestion free from the lake to Center City would be approx $10 an hour — and school is about 6 hours)
    I also find it laughable that they keep indicating “Managed Lane Experts say they work” – and the experts are employees of Parsons Bickerstaff….. uh, the company that stands to profit by getting a contract for this. HEY – there are used cars with 200k miles on them that are a better deal for double the cost of a brand new one…… according to a used car expert that is the sales manager for Used Cars -R- Us.
    I do think if they continue to keep their head in the sand that there needs to be a very large vote out the incumbents movement. Someone above is right – there is money for Stadiums and Malls and Roads in Charlotte and Ballentyne area, and they can widen 485 near Pineville before they finish the NE section – and the state has 5 lanes through Liddy Doleville and this is the deal here? If it is such a great idea then they should be putting HOT on all State highway lanes > 2 that they have now – and let I85 and I40 sections, etc all be part of the equation for raising money.
    They all think they are so smart – but I know of a dozen companies that have moved from Charlotte (South Blvd/Woodlawn & Airport area) to Fort Mill and other SC towns just over the border. So telling us that this is good for business is just more corrupt BS.

    • anonymous says:

      In response to businesses over the boarder. Chiquita Banana was brought to NC with tax money. “Buses” of transferred individuals were taken to S.C. to look for homes.

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