Author Archives: Info Center

New Texas Law Will Create A More Private Foster Care System

Source: Becky Fogel, September 5, 2017

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. … In December 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. The case hasn’t been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term “model” is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one-size-fits all program.

… The foster care model envisioned by Senate Bill 11 is already in use by one community provider. In fact, ACH Child and Family Services in north Texas has been at it for three years. … Over the last three years, the non-profit ACH actually lost money. Carson says they spent $6 million building up services in the region they managed. Considering this extra investment, does the state really need to privatize the foster care system to get better results, or did it just get bad results because it was underfunded for decades? …

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Abbott signs Texas bills on CPS, foster care, though federal judge may have last word
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, May 30, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law “landmark legislation” that he said would improve child protection in Texas. … Two of the bills he signed seek to give CPS workers more options after they remove children from abusive and neglectful homes. One begins moving toward a community-centered system of procuring foster care beds and services, using area nonprofits or local governments. By September 2019, in a total of five areas, the state would give private providers “case management” duties now performed by CPS workers. … The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and House sponsor James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, yielded to a decade-long push by foster care providers to be able to take over CPS conservatorship workers’ duties in those five regions.
… Skeptics have noted, though, that good early results in Tarrant and six nearby counties were achieved using state workers as well as the private entities. …

House approves Senate bill to expand foster care privatization
Source: Julie Chang, Austin American-Statesman, May 17, 2017

Scrambling to find a solution to the problems that plague the state’s child welfare system, the Legislature is one step closer to stripping the state of its responsibilities to provide major foster care services in certain parts of the state. The Texas House on Thursday tentatively approved Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, which would expand “community-based foster care” to two areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality. …

Battle may be looming over how quickly foster care bill outsources CPS workers’ duties
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2017
 
The Texas House sponsor of the big foster care bill signaled Monday he’s going to fight for his version of “community-based foster care,” including a slightly slower outsourcing of Child Protective Services workers’ duties. Wichita Falls GOP Rep. James Frank said in an interview that he made some concessions to the Senate by importing elements of the senators’ main foster-care bill on prevention and foster children’s medical care. … The outsourcing, long sought by foster-care providers, would not happen until the lead contractor showed it successfully has taken over placing all new or existing foster kids in a region. Under a Senate-passed bill by Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who runs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the state would simultaneously shift responsibility for both placements and case management to the contractor. …

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Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost.

Source: Mark Binelli, New York Times, September 5, 2017

… A major victim of the city’s borderline insolvency was its public-school system, which had been under state control since 2012. (Six different state-appointed emergency managers have run the district since then.) Plummeting enrollment, legacy costs and financial mismanagement had left the school system with a projected deficit of $10 million. The state’s solution that year was to “charterize” the entire district: void the teacher’s union contract, fire all employees and turn over control of the schools to a private, for-profit charter operator. But enrollment at Highland Park High continued to decline, so the state closed the school in 2015. Highland Park now has no high school, either public or charter. Families send their children to high schools in Detroit or the suburbs, where they have no electoral influence over local officials or school boards.

… Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand (and profit motive, in the case of many charters) were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students. … The story of Carver is the story of Michigan’s grand educational experiment writ small. It spans more than two decades, three governors and, now, the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, whose relentless advocacy for unchecked “school choice” in her home state might soon, her critics fear, be going national. But it’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions. …

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Michigan Emergency Managers Outsource Education
Source: Dylan Scott, Governing, August 2, 2012

Can contracting out education services save a school district money and improve student performance? Highland Park Public Schools in Michigan are about to find out. It’s an innovative idea, one enabled by Michigan’s emergency manager law, which gives one public official almost autonomous authority to oversee a city or school district’s finances and operations, as Governing detailed in its June issue. Last week, Highland Park Public Schools Emergency Manager Joyce Parker announced that she planned to hire The Leona Group, a charter school operator, to take over the school’s curriculum and instruction. Parker and her office will continue to oversee financial matters. …

Highland Park district seeks to charter all of its schools
Source: Jennifer Chambers, Detroit News, June 18, 2012

The emergency manager of Highland Park Schools says turning the entire district over to a charter operator is the only way to make it financially viable for students to return this fall…. The Muskegon Heights school district also has sought proposals to place all of its schools under a charter operator. Parker, who has the sole authority to hire a charter operator in Highland Park, said she expects an operator to be selected by mid-July.

Indiana bond sale to complete P3 takeover financing

Source: Nora Colomer, Bond Buyer, August 21, 2017 (subscription required)
 
The Indiana Finance Authority will price $180 million of highway revenue refunding bonds Wednesday to complete the financing piece of its takeover of a troubled public private partnership highway project.  The bonds will take out $210.7 million of bond anticipation notes issued by the IFA last week to redeem $246 million of private activity bonds as part of settlement agreements that terminate its contractual relationship with I-69 Development Partners LLC and put direct control of the I-69 Section 5 project under the Indiana Department of Transportation. …

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Indiana Highway Gives ‘Black Eye’ to Private Investment in Infrastructure 
Source: Cameron McWhirter, Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2017

At a time when Washington is promoting private investment in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, a 21-mile stretch of highway in Indiana provides what critics say is a cautionary tale.  The project, a partnership between the state and private investors, was signed by Vice President Mike Pence in 2014 when he was the state’s governor. It is two years behind schedule and only 60% built. The state is in the process of taking it over and will have to issue debt to finish it. …

If Pence Shapes Trump’s Infrastructure Plan, Who Would Profit? Who Would Pay?
Source: Lydia O’Neal and David Sirota, International Business Times, August 9, 2017
 
President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure may be unprecedented in its size and ambition — but it promotes a controversial model championed by Vice President Mike Pence in his home state of Indiana. The Hoosier flavor is hardly surprising: After his gubernatorial experience with road privatization, Pence has been a public face of the White House initiative, and executives from financial firms that helped privatize Indiana’s roads are now the Trump administration officials sculpting the details of the national plan.  As that federal proposal now moves forward, Indiana’s experience with infrastructure privatization has become a political Rorschach test. Pence and his allies are extolling Indiana’s record selling control of major roads to private firms as an ideal model, arguing that such public-private partnerships prompted corporations to invest money in Indiana infrastructure that taxpayers would otherwise have had to sponsor. …

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Lawmakers Aim to Restrict Use of Lowest-Price Contracts

Source: Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, July 10, 2017
 
A contractors group has welcomed a bipartisan House bill placed in the hopper last month aimed at curbing agency use of lowest price technically acceptable contracts.  The Promoting Value Based Procurement Act (H.R. 3019), introduced by Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Don Beyer, D-Va., would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require civilian agencies to align themselves with the Defense Department and stiffen their rationales for resorting to lowest price technically acceptable contracts, which have grown in use in recent years but are controversial. …

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The Challenge of Applying the LPTA Process to the Procurement of Complex Services

Source: TASC, Inc., 2012

From the press release:
Increased reliance by government customers on the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) acquisition strategy poses unnecessary risks such as budget overruns, delivery delays and, in the worst cases, mission failure. According to a new report by TASC, Inc., the LPTA process can be appropriate for commoditized services with clearly defined requirements, but not for complex services that support sophisticated, high-risk missions. In cases where the government does elect to use the LPTA process, it should rigorously define and evaluate technical acceptability and past performance to avoid compromising the performance of the program or system and, ultimately, the success of the mission….

…The TASC report makes the case that using the LPTA approach in the acquisition of complex mission services can compromise mission success and increase total program costs over time when factoring in rework and related costs. To achieve the best value, TASC recommends that solicitations for complex services adopt a classic best-value, cost-technical tradeoff approach that considers innovation, scheduling rigor and program cost containment. When the government does use the LPTA process, technical and past performance requirements should be defined precisely. In addition, applying detailed technical criteria using scenario-based evaluations, high standards of past performance and price-realism analyses are essential to mitigate the risk of unsuccessful performance on a given contract solicited on an LPTA basis. The TASC report offers examples of solicitations that utilize these recommendations….

In Georgia, Citizens Can Redirect Their Taxes to Private Schools

Source: Ty Tagami, Tribune News Service, June 26, 2017
 
Georgia’s highest court has determined that a state law allowing taxpayers to steer some of what they owe the state to private schools instead does not violate the state constitution. The unanimous ruling Monday by the Georgia Supreme Court strikes a blow against the claim by Raymond Gaddy and other taxpayers that the state law establishing tax credit student scholarships is unconstitutional. … Taxpayers pledge money — up to $1,000 for an individual, $2,500 per married couple and $10,000 for shareholders or owners of businesses (except “C” corporations, which can contribute up to three quarters of their state tax debt) — to specific private schools and get a tax credit off what they owe the state for the same amount. The money passes through nonprofit scholarship organizations that assign it as scholarships to students and keep up to 10 percent as fees.

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Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools
Source: Stephanie Saul, New York Times, May 21, 2012

When the Georgia legislature passed a private school scholarship program in 2008, lawmakers promoted it as a way to give poor children the same education choices as the wealthy. …A handout circulated at the meeting instructed families to donate, qualify for a tax credit and then apply for a scholarship for their own children, many of whom were already attending the school. … The exchange at Gwinnett Christian Academy, a recording of which was obtained by The New York Times, is just one example of how scholarship programs have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children. Spreading at a time of deep cutbacks in public schools, the programs are operating in eight states and represent one of the fastest-growing components of the school choice movement. This school year alone, the programs redirected nearly $350 million that would have gone into public budgets to pay for private school scholarships for 129,000 students, according to the Alliance for School Choice, an advocacy organization. Legislators in at least nine other states are considering the programs. …. One big proponent of the tax-credit programs is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a coalition of conservative lawmakers and corporations that strongly influences many state legislatures. The council became a flash point in the Trayvon Martin case because it had championed the controversial Stand Your Ground gun laws.

State works on emergency agreement for child welfare services in Omaha area

Source: JoAnne Young, Lincoln Journal Star, May 6, 2017

Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Merv Riepe announced to state senators last week that child welfare services in the Omaha and Sarpy County area could be in jeopardy. The state withdrew its intention to award a five-year, $70 million-a-year contract to Nebraska Families Collaborative on Thursday and rejected all bids after an opposing bidder filed a challenge to the bid award. The lack of a contract could lead to a gap in services for vulnerable children and families beginning in July, Riepe said. The department is attempting to negotiate a one-year emergency contract with Nebraska Families Collaborative, and then to restart the bidding process, he said. …

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Nebraska HHS official recommends extending child welfare contract for another year
Source: Martha Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, March 18, 2015

A top state official is recommending that Nebraska continue contracting out management of Omaha-area child welfare cases for another year. In a letter to lawmakers, Tony Green, acting children and family services director for the Department of Health and Human Services, said a contract extension would allow time to choose the best course of action for the future. Green said he would start negotiating the extension on April 1, unless the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee objects….The state’s contract with the Nebraska Families Collaborative, an Omaha-based nonprofit, expires June 30. It was originally signed in 2009 and has been extended once already for one year. The contract this year is worth up to $59.5 million….

Nebraska privatization of child welfare hasn’t produced ‘any measurable benefit,’ new study finds
Source: Martha Stoddard, Omaha.com, February 6, 2015

Nebraska’s five-year experiment with privatizing child welfare has not produced “any measurable benefit” for the state, according to a study report released Thursday. The study compared results achieved by state child welfare workers and by the Nebraska Families Collaborative, the private agency that manages child welfare cases in the Omaha area. It found no cost savings and no significant difference — either positive or negative — in outcomes for children and families….. They offered three options — staying the course with the private contractor, returning all case management responsibilities to the state or revamping the roles of the state and the collaborative to achieve real reform. ….

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Illinois prison agency rescinds nurse layoffs to still talk

Source: Associated Press, April 27, 2017
 
The Illinois Department of Corrections has withdrawn its plan to lay off 124 nurses while continuing to negotiate with the state employees’ union.  Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said Thursday the department had informed the Illinois Nurses Association that it would not remove the nurses June 15. She says prison officials are available to meet any time but the union is unavailable until May 8.  Union spokesman Chris Martin says the Corrections Department decision is welcome news. He encouraged support for legislation to halt privatizing prison jobs that was sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. …

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Lawmakers seek to block privatization of prison nurse jobs
Source: Tony Reid, Herald & Review, April 11, 2017
 
The prognosis for a group of unionized prison nursing jobs across Central Illinois hangs in the balance as last-ditch efforts are made to save them.  The correctional facility nurses – seven in Decatur, 12 in Vandalia and four in Lincoln – are among 124 nurses statewide who have been told by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration their state jobs will end in June 15. … Among those supporting the effort to save the jobs is state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who is among the sponsors of new legislation that would prevent the nurses from being laid off and their work from being outsourced.  All that is needed is for Rauner to sign the bill, a hope that appears to be on life support given the governor’s oft-stated anti-union stance. Nicole Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, has previously said that privatizing the nursing jobs would save taxpayers $8 million a year. …

Senate OKs prohibition on privatizing prison nurses jobs
Source: Associated Press, March 29, 2017

The Illinois Senate is telling Gov. Bruce Rauner it doesn’t want prison nurse jobs filled by private contractors. Plainview Republican Sen. Sam McCann’s measure won approval Wednesday 40-15. It would prohibit the Department of Corrections from eliminating jobs of any state employees who provide prison health care services. Republican Rauner’s administration announced last week it intended to dismiss 124 union nurses and privatize their positions this summer. …

Two state senators file bill to stop Rauner’s plan to privatize jobs of 124 prison nurses
Source: Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan, March 28, 2017

Two state senators are co-sponsoring legislation they say would stop Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration from outsourcing additional medical and mental health service jobs from state prisons. This past week, 124 nurses employed at 10 state prisons learned that they were being laid off and their jobs privatized. In Southern Illinois, that includes 13 nurses employed at Menard Correctional Center, and 13 at Vienna Correctional Center. … That number includes 150 nurses who are members of the Illinois Nurses Association, the majority of whom received layoff notices. It would protect an additional 172 medical technicians and mental health professionals who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. …

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Oakland, CA sues California Waste Solutions over recycling contract error

Source: Cole Rosengren, Waste Dive, March 27, 2017

The city of Oakland, CA has filed a lawsuit against its recycling service provider, California Waste Solutions, in Alameda County Superior Court over a “draftsman’s error” that allows the company to charge significantly more than intended​ for moving recycling bins, as reported by SFGate.
Single-family homeowners are charged $27.85 to have their recycling bins pulled to the curb and that fee was supposed to be the same for residents in multi-unit buildings. Instead, the contract allows California Waste Solutions to charge up to $776.13 for this service at multi-unit buildings. That fee is meant for full-size dumpsters, not standard bins. While no one has reported the company charging this full amount yet, multiple customers have seen rate increases since the city’s current contract began in 2015. The city is suing to cap the rate at its intended amount and recuperate an unspecified amount of overcharges, with interest, that resulted from the higher rate. …

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Waste Management Launches Referendum Drive to Win Back Oakland Garbage Contract
Source: Sam Levin, East Bay Express, September 4, 2014

…Now, Waste Management is taking another route to fight CWS’ award — collecting signatures from voters in the hopes of passing a referendum to overturn the council’s decision. Waste Management, a Texas-based corporation, has hired local political strategist Larry Tramutola to help lead the referendum effort, according to David Tucker, director of community and public relations for Waste Management. Tucker told me that the company began collecting signatures over the weekend and has to turn in petitions within thirty days of the city finalizing its decision to award the garbage contract to CWS. That means that by September 26, Waste Management has to collect roughly 21,000 eligible signatures, representing 10 percent of the city’s voters. If successful, the award of the contract to CWS would be put on hold until Oakland voters have an opportunity to directly weigh in on a referendum overturning the city’s ordinances authorizing CWS to take over the franchise. …

Waste Management sues Oakland over $1 billion trash contract
Source: Will Kane, San Francisco Chronicle, August 18, 2014

The nation’s biggest trash hauler sued the city of Oakland on Monday claiming that the City Council illegally steered a $1 billion contract to a local garbage company with which it has “personal and political connections.” The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court by Waste Management, claims that Oakland’s City Council at the last minute steered the 10-year contract to collect garbage, recycling and compost in Oakland to an ill-prepared local company over the objections of city staffers, who argued the big Texas firm was in the best position to win the deal. The council awarded the contract to California Waste Solutions, a West Oakland recycling company that, the suit said, had not held a garbage-hauling contract in the United States, submitted proposals that were late and did not comply with the city’s contracting rules. In addition, the city gave that company confidential information about Waste Management’s pricing and proposal, the suit said. The suit asks the court to overturn that decision and effectively award the contract to Waste Management….

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California water venture tied to Trump sees prospects rise after years of setbacks

Source: Stuart Leavenworth, McClatchy DC, February 8, 2017

Until Donald Trump won the presidency, prospects looked bleak for Cadiz, a California company that has struggled for years to secure federal permits to transform Mojave Desert groundwater into liquid gold. With the change of administration, a new day is dawning. In December, the National Governors Association circulated a preliminary list of infrastructure projects provided by the Trump transition team, and Cadiz’s was on the list. … While Trump is a supporter of traditional public works – touting the need for “new roads, highways, bridges, airports, tunnels and railways” during his inaugural address – fiscal hawks and some GOP leaders are leery of new federal funding for infrastructure. That political calculus has created openings for private infrastructure projects seeking regulatory relief, especially if they have connections. Cadiz’s project falls into both of those categories. … Yet even though Cadiz has new friends in a Trump administration, it may not be enough to counter the company’s most formidable foe: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who wrote the Desert Protection Act of 1994 and has long been the Mojave’s guardian. She has the ear of ranchers and conservationists who fear that Cadiz’s pumping project could damage the desert’s range lands and ecosystems. Cadiz disputes those claims, arguing that it will be withdrawing only water – enough to supply 100,000 homes yearly – that would otherwise evaporate from lake beds in the desert. … Also unclear is how Cadiz’s project ended up on a list of “emergency and national security priority projects” distributed to the National Governors Association and reported by McClatchy. …

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Company wants to tap Mojave’s public lands for Southland water

Source: Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2012

Cadiz Inc. could realize $1 billion to $2 billion in revenue over the plan’s 50-year life. Opponents say public resources are being used for private profit.

North Miami Beach votes to outsource sanitation department

Source: Lance Dixon, Miami Herald, August 20, 2015

After years of consideration, protests and negotiations, the city of North Miami Beach agreed on Tuesday to outsource its sanitation department. The city council voted 6-1 at Tuesday’s council meeting to approve a contract with Waste Management, about a month after directing the city manager and staff to work out the contract. Councilman Frantz Pierre voted against the item. … City staff have consistently said that outsourcing the department will save North Miami Beach about $2.5 million a year and keep them from having to raise sanitation rates by about 38 percent over the next three years, if the department remained in-house. The contract includes several compromises from Waste Management and requires the company to offer jobs to all of the city’s sanitation workers for the next five years at the same pay rate. Employees who live in North Miami Beach will also be given preference to remain on city routes, others will remain with the city or work with the company in other parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

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Protesters oppose NMB plan to privatize trash hauling
Source: Lance Dixon, Miami Herald, August 4, 2015

The protestors, which included members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 3293, said they wanted more public input on the contract and ultimately want the city to find another way to save money. A spokesman said the union had received 1,500 signatures on a petition asking the city not to outsource the work. … The City Council has considered the decision for several years and staff members said outsourcing the department will save about $2.5 million annually. North Miami Beach finance staff issued a memo saying the city would likely have to raise sanitation rates by about 38 percent over the next three years if the city continues to run the department. Council members previously said they sympathize with the residents but ultimately, based on staff projections, had to support proceeding with privatization. Councilwoman Phyllis Smith and Councilman Frantz Pierre voted against the item at the July 21 meeting and Pierre posed with demonstrators for a picture before the meeting.

North Miami Beach rejects privatizing trash collection
Source: Patricia Sagastume, Miami Herald, June 18, 2014

North Miami Beach council members voted 4-3 against privatizing the sanitation department early Wednesday morning. The city manager said residents could get the same level of service at a lower cost from a private company, and that the city’s sanitation workers could be reassigned to other city jobs or go to work for the contractor. And the city’s finance department said privatization was critical to offset a projected $3 million dollar shortfall in next year’s budget. But some council members were skeptical of their professional staff’s numbers, or wanted the city to seek new offers from trash contractors in hopes of getting a better deal. The proposed deal with Waste Pro, a sanitation and recycling industry giant, had been in the works for two years, and was vetted by three city managers and a $50,000 report from a consultant. … Garcia also assured the council the projected savings of $2 million dollars per year could dramatically help the city as it faces financial uncertainty. Vice-Mayor Frantz Pierre, council members Anthony DeFillipo, Phyllis Smith and Beth Spiegel voted against privatization…Smith said the staff should not rely on proposals gathered from contractors nearly two years ago….DeFillipo said he accepts that outsourcing sanitation would save money, but he insisted the city renegotiate with the sanitation workers’ union for more concessions….

North Miami Beach votes down garbage privatization — for now
Source: News10, August 08, 2012

The North Miami Beach council voted early this morning against starting negotiations with Waste Pro, the company picked to privatize the city’s garbage pickup. Before the vote about 40 people, many of them city sanitation workers who don’t want to lose their jobs, gathered outside City Hall to protest privatizing the city’s garbage service. The privatization issue is dividing the city.