Are nursing homes in New Mexico putting profits over patients?

Source: David Martin, Al Jazeera America, August 6, 2015

Pineda wasn’t the only Casa Real resident to suffer. A 134-page complaint filed by the state of New Mexico in April 2015 alleges residents at the nursing home went hungry because they couldn’t feed themselves, fell because they couldn’t get assistance, and languished for hours in soiled bedding and clothes.  Casa Real is one of seven New Mexico nursing homes named in the state’s complaint, along with their current and former owners, Preferred Care Partners and Cathedral Rock, Inc. (At the time Pineda was admitted to Casa Real, the nursing home was still owned by Cathedral Rock.) The state alleges that the companies deliberately kept staffing levels dangerously low, all the while billing the government for services that were not provided and reaping millions in profits. … Since 2008, the seven nursing homes named in New Mexico’s complaint have generated more than $236 million in revenue, with almost 80 cents on the dollar coming from Medicare and Medicaid, the lawsuit says.  Preferred Care Partners, which purchased the nursing homes from Cathedral Rock in 2012 and is the 12th largest nursing home chain in the U.S., said in a statement that it “stands by the care it provides to New Mexico’s frail elderly and the dedication and commitment of compassionate staff who consider long-term care an honorable profession.”

Chamber of Commerce releases its recommendations for Alaska’s fiscal crisis

Source: Matt Buxton, The News Miner, August 27, 2015

The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is recommending lawmakers continue cutting, renegotiate union contracts and consider privatization of services as part of the solution to the state’s fiscal crisis. … The document targets the departments of Education and Early Development and Health and Social Services, which together amount to about 60 percent of the budget. Unions also are mentioned as a way to control state spending. During the session, the Legislature had attempted to not fund negotiated pay raises before ultimately restoring them. …

Indiana Dunes privatization riles conservationists

Source: Associated Press, August 28, 2015

Yet five years after a politically connected developer suggested officials should hire a company to rehabilitate a dilapidated beachfront pavilion at the popular tourist destination, a small construction project has ballooned into a decades-long privatization deal with the state. It includes two beachfront restaurants, a rooftop bar, a glass-walled banquet hall promising “the best view in Indiana” — and there is potential for more development to come. What’s more, the company ultimately picked to do the job was co-founded by Chuck Williams, the developer who pitched the initial idea. Williams, a regional chairman of the state Republican Party, worked behind the scenes for over a year with the administrations of two GOP governors, shaping and expanding the plans. He faced competition from just one other company — a bid that was deemed “good” though not as profitable. … Still, opponents say the favorable terms of the contract, as well as the apparent advantage Williams had over his competitors, are indicative of murky proceedings that can surround privatization deals. Aside from Williams’ involvement, some question whether the state should have involved any private company to shape the long-term vision for Indiana Dunes State Park, a publicly owned property that draws more than a million yearly visitors.

Arizona To Assess All Private Prison Operators

Source: Matthew Casey, KJZZ, August 27, 2015

State officials will evaluate all of Arizona’s private prison operators following the release of a blistering investigation of July riots at a facility near Kingman. The same team that investigated the Kingman incident will assess privately operated prisons located in Phoenix, Florence, Eloy and Marana, said Charles Ryan, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. The reviews are part of a self-analysis of the Department’s approach to private operators. They are expected to take about 60 days. … Management and Training Corporation, the operator the state wants out of the Kingman prison, also runs the Marana facility. Ryan said a review of that prison is already in progress….

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Arizona Severs Ties With Prison Operator Over July Riots
Source: Bob Christie, Associated Press, August 26, 2015

Arizona severed ties Wednesday with a private prison operator over what the state says was a string of troubling security and training lapses that led to violent riots in July. Gov. Doug Ducey announced the action against Centerville, Utah-based Management and Training Corp. after the state released a scathing report about numerous issues at the Kingman prison, including a “culture of casual indifference toward staff and training” that contributed to the riots. … Ducey said none of the blame should rest on the Corrections Department, which has had heightened monitoring of MTC’s Kingman operations since three violent criminals escaped in 2010 and went on a multi-state crime spree. He brushed off questions as to whether state prisons Director Charles Ryan or any of his staff had responsibility for the breakdowns that led to the riot.

State revokes prison contract: Governor orders department to begin process to sever deal
Source: Jim Seckler and Bill McMillen, Mohave Valley Daily News, August 26, 2015

Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered the Arizona Department of Corrections to begin the process of terminating its contract with operators of a privately run prison in Golden Valley. … In the wake of the unrest that caused extensive damage to the prison, Ducey ordered the DOC to undertake an intensive investigation and assessment of the facility and its management. A report on that assessment was released Wednesday and led to Ducey’s decision. … Ducey gave a synopsis of the 116-page riot assessment, saying it portrayed:

  • A culture of disorganization, disengagement and disregard for state policies by MTC.
  • Failure by MTC to conduct critical staff training, and withholding these failures from Department of Corrections monitors.
  • Failure by MTC to promptly and effectively quell the riots that allowed inmate rampage and property destruction, potentially putting Arizona citizens at risk.

Report: Police Beat the Hell Out of Private Prison Inmates After Riot
Source: Hamilton Nolan, Gawker, August 26, 2015

The new report from the American Friends Service Committee on the Kingman riot, the law enforcement response, and the aftermath, raises doubts about Arizona’s private prison operators’ ability to run facilities that are “safe, cost effective, humanely run, and accountable to the public.” … In this riots, which spread over two days, five officers were injured. Nearly 100 SWAT-style officers from the state Department of Corrections were called in to quell the disturbance, and more than 1,000 prisoners eventually had to be transferred to other facilities due to property damage. But here is where the narrative gets interesting: “By most accounts, it is clear that the riots were motivated by prisoner frustration with MTC’s management and the actions of its guards. This frustration was directed at the physical facilities themselves. There were no altercations among prisoners.” In fact, the report says that the riot was not only spurred by inmate anger at the brutality of guards (such as routine and unnecessary overuse of pepper spray), but that the law enforcement reaction to the riot was itself brutal, “to the point where prisoners who were completely incapacitated were still being beaten, tazed, and shot with rubber bullets.”

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Mackinac Center Survey Finds One-Third of Ga. School Districts Contract Out Services

Source: Michael D. LaFaive and Kelly McCutchen, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, August 28, 2015

More than a third of all conventional pubic school districts in Georgia contract out one of the three major non-instructional services, according to survey data collected this summer by a the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based research institute. The Mackinac Center survey of Georgia and four other states found that 38 percent of Georgia districts contract out for at least one of the “big three” non-instructional services: food, transportation and custodial services. … But Mackinac found a curious pattern in Georgia: Just three districts — 1.7 percent — contract out transportation (bus) services, and only four, or 2.2 percent, contract out for food services.

10 Years After Katrina, New Orleans’ All-Charter District Has Proven a Failure

Source: Colleen Kimmett, In These Times, August 28, 2015

…Carver is part of New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD), the first all-charter school district in the nation. In the chaos after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana opted to completely overhaul the city’s failing public schools by putting them on the open market. Ten years later, cities and states around the country have embarked on their own charter-school experiments and are watching New Orleans closely, laser-focused on outcomes. … The study compared charters in Louisiana, the majority of which are in New Orleans, to Louisiana public schools, controlling for factors like race, ethnicity, poverty and whether students qualified for special education. On eighth-grade reading and math tests, charter-school students performed worse than their public-school counterparts by enormous margins—2 to 3 standard deviations.  The researchers found that the gap between charter and public school performance in Louisiana was the largest of any state in the country. And Louisiana’s overall scores were the fourth-lowest in the nation. … Community members mourned the closures of public schools that had served as neighborhood hubs. Students at no-excuses charters described feeling like they were in prison, or bootcamp. Teachers felt demoralized, like they didn’t have a voice in the classroom. Parents complained about a lack of black teachers. In interview after interview, people said the same thing: The system doesn’t put children’s needs first.

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“Reform” makes broken New Orleans schools worse: Race, charters, testing and the real story of education after Katrina
Source: Jennifer Berkshire, Salon, August 3, 2015

… The awful story was at the root of the decision to fire 7,000 teachers after the storm, the majority of whom were black New Orleanians and the backbone of the city’s middle class. It is the reason why so few locals can be found among the ranks of education reform groups here. And it is a rarely acknowledged justification for the long school day favored by charters here—10, even 12 hours when you factor in the cross-city bus trips that a choice landscape necessitates. … But again and again, the official theme of “measurable progress” was undercut by reminders of the real cost of what ERA director Doug Harris describes as “the largest overhaul of a public school system that the country has ever seen”: the 7,000 teachers whose firing was described as a wound that won’t heal; the shunting aside of special education students and English language learners, especially in the first years of the experiment; the loss of trust among New Orleanians who believe they’ve been shut out of any meaningful decision-making regarding their city’s schools. … It turns out that when you replace a permanent, local teaching force with one that’s largely transplanted and temporary, even the lure of “historic homes at affordable prices” may not be enough to get them to stay. When Bigard asks her standard question—”How many New Orleanians work here?”—the staff member who greets us isn’t sure. “One maybe?” (The correct answer, as I’ll learn later from CEO Jonas Chartock, is two out of twelve.) Bigard explains why she wants to know: that it seems strange to her that yet another organization focused on improving the city’s schools wouldn’t benefit from the knowledge and experience of people who are actually from here.

The Charter School Challenge (Subscription Required)
Source: Leo Casey, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 1, January 2015

Do charter schools pose an existential threat to public education and teacher unions? One need look no further than post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, widely touted as a national model of education reform, to understand why many observers now answer this question in the affirmative. Today, New Orleans charter schools enroll more than nine in every ten public school students, a share that continues to grow as traditional public schools are closed and new charters are opened. With the growth of non-union charter schools, the post-Katrina teaching force has become significantly younger and whiter, supplanting the predominantly African-American and unionized teaching cohort that was illegally dismissed en masse in the wake of the hurricane. Despite this sweeping change, there is scant evidence that the academic performance of New Orleans schools has meaningfully improved in the nine years since Katrina. But that did not stop U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, an outspoken advocate of charter schools, from declaring that “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.”

Striking Barrington High janitors: Restore pay and we’ll negotiate

Source: Bob Chwedyk, The Daily Herald, August 25, 2015

Barrington High School janitors spent a fourth day walking picket lines Tuesday, and a union spokeswoman said they will remain on strike until their wages, cut from $9.77 to $8.50 an hour, are restored. Service Employees International Union spokeswoman Izabela Miltko said the union informed the custodians’ employer, RJB Properties, and Barrington Area Unit School District 220 officials that they will return to the bargaining table only when their wages return to last year’s level. … Despite calls from the union for the district to intervene, Harris maintains that the dispute remains between RJB and its employees. The district, which contracts RJB to provide custodians to the high school, is just trying to help broker an agreement, he said. …

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Custodian strike to greet Barrington High students on first day
Source: Doug T Graham, The Daily Herald, August 18, 2015

Students returning to Barrington High School will be greeted by picket lines of janitors unsatisfied with their pay for cleaning the school, a union spokeswoman said Tuesday. Izabela Miltko of the Service Employees International Union said the workers are negotiating a new contract with their employer, RJB Properties, which is contracted by Barrington Area Unit School District 220 to provide custodial services at the high school. … Miltko said RJB cut workers’ pay from $9.77 to $8.50 an hour after winning a new contract with the school district earlier this year. The $9.77 hourly wage was part of a union contract that expired at the end of July, Miltko said. …

Waste Management ends residential trash service in South Tucson

Source: Matt Fernandez, KVOA, August 26, 2015

Waste Management will stop providing garbage service to around 1,300 residents in South Tucson effective September 1, 2015. A spokesperson with Waste Management said the city owes Waste Management around $300,000. South Tucson Mayor Miguel Rojas said he admits the city owes Waste Management money, but not $300,000. “They wanted us to pay for service that we were not given, or pay them for service they claimed we were supposed to pay,” said Rojas.  “I am talking vacant properties, vacant lots, and they were double booking some of the accounts, and we aren’t going to be doing that.” … The mayor said the City has a temporary solution to continue trash service. An emergency meeting is scheduled for Thursday to vote to go into an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Tucson. … Rojas said they would lease the trucks for around $4,000 a month, and it would include the bins. Their workers would drive the trucks for collection.

City considers privatizing water plant operations

Source: GoDanRiver Staff, godanriver.com, August 26, 2015

Danville Utilities will seek bids from commercial water plant operators to determine whether operation of the city’s water treatment plant and storage facilities could be cost-effectively privatized. The proposals would solicit statements of qualifications, technical approach and pricing from firms capable of providing full service operations. … Jason Grey, interim director of utilities, said the objective is to determine if outsourcing operations would be more efficient. A commercial operator also would provide technical assistance regarding future capacity and regulatory issues.

Meet The Man Who Runs New Orleans’ Entirely Privatized (And Controversial) City Surveillance System

Source: Eric Markowitz, International Business Times, August 26, 2015

…The result is Project NOLA, perhaps the country’s first and most extensive private surveillance network, run, improbably, by one man and a ragtag group of volunteers. … This is how it works: New Orleans residents who have chosen to participate install a surveillance camera on their home or business. The cameras must face toward the street and broadcast a high-resolution feed. The videos feed directly to Project NOLA’s headquarters. Lagarde says that those who host a camera are also given the username and password, and can access the videos whenever they’d like. … This is where relations with the police department have gotten somewhat uncomfortable. Gamble, the police spokesman, says that while the police appreciate all the help they can get, Lagarde has overstepped on a number of occasions. … Gamble adds, “He’ll watch his video cameras and he’ll listen to feeds of the police scanners. And then he’ll call the command desk and get someone to try to give him information.” Gamble says Lagarde has even tried to re-route officers to a particular scene, and called schools to urge them to go into lockdown after something he saw on a video feed….

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Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans? How a rich entrepreneur persuaded the city to let him create his own high-tech police force.
Source: David Amsden, New York Times magazine, July 30, 2015

…. In the United States, private police officers currently outnumber their publicly funded counterparts by a ratio of roughly three to one. Whereas in past decades the distinction was often clear — the rent-a-cop vs. the real cop — today the boundary between the two has become ‘‘messy and complex,’’ according to a study last year by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Torres’s task force is best understood in this context, one where the larger merging of private and public security has resulted in an extensive retooling of the nation’s policing as a whole. As municipal budgets have stagnated or plummeted, state and local governments have taken to outsourcing police work to the private sector, resulting in changes that have gone largely unnoticed by the public they’re tasked with protecting.