Category Archives: Education

Governor’s opposition to Puerto Rico fiscal plan could end up in court

Source: Brian Tumulty and Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, April 20, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
The latest fiscal turnaround plan for Puerto Rico could be headed for a court showdown after Gov. Ricardo Rossello vowed he won’t implement key parts of the proposed austerity measures. The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico approved the plan by a 6-1 vote Thursday after negotiations with the commonwealth’s government failed. “The Oversight Board expects the Governor to fully implement the certified fiscal plans,” Jaime El Khoury, the Board’s general counsel, said in an email. “Should the Oversight Board have to resort to litigation to carry out its mandate under [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act], the matter would be before Judge [Laura] Swain in the Title III court.” The controversy centers over whether the oversight board overreached the authority given to it by Congress for addressing the commonwealth’s debt problems. …

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AFSCME President Lee Saunders Slams Puerto Rico Oversight Board Plan
Source: AFSCME Press Release, April 20, 2018
 
The following statement was issued by AFSCME President Lee Saunders following the release of the federally-appointed Puerto Rico fiscal oversight board’s financial plan: “The Fiscal Plan issued by the Oversight Board is a betrayal of the people of Puerto Rico. By issuing a plan that relies upon unrealistic projections of economic growth, the Board is condemning Puerto Rico to economic decline for years to come. Ironically, the Board is engaging in the same fantastical thinking regarding Puerto Rico’s economic growth that created the current situation. We call on the Board to reconsider this disastrous decision and develop a plan in the interests of the people.” …

Hurricane Aid Has Eased Puerto Rico’s Finances. It May Not Be Enough. 
Source: Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times, April 19, 2018

Billions of dollars of disaster aid flowing into Puerto Rico since last fall’s devastating hurricane have boosted the bankrupt island’s finances, but the island’s federal overseers said Thursday that it would take still more austerity to translate those temporary gains into a lasting recovery. At a meeting in San Juan of the territory’s federal oversight board, members called on Puerto Rico to reform its labor laws and fix its insolvent government pension system quickly, while it still had the benefit of both the disaster money and court protection from creditors under a special new bankruptcy law for United States territories. Retired government workers would see their pensions, already less than $25,000 a year for many workers, cut by an average of 10 percent; current government workers would be shifted into a 401(k) plan; and workers in Puerto Rico’s private sector would lose mandatory perks like a holiday bonus, usually $300 to $600 a year. …

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Whittier-area schools have new bus provider — it’s the high school district

Source: Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News, April 14, 2018

When Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old special needs Whittier Union High student, died after being left inside a parked, hot school bus in 2015, his death sparked a movement that culminates with what is essentially a new bus provider for seven Whittier-area school districts. Whittier Union High School District has left the Pupil Transportation Cooperative, or PTC, which had been providing bus transportation since 1984. Instead, starting July 1, it will run the buses for all seven PTC member districts — East Whittier City, El Rancho, Little Lake, Los Nietos, South Whittier and Whittier City. … After his death, Lee’s family received $23.5 million in a settlement with the PTC. In turn, the PTC sued the high school district last year for partial compensation of the settlement. That lawsuit since has been dismissed. Now, with the contracts approved Tuesday, the changeover from the PTC to the high school district is nearly ready to go. …

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Bus Company to upgrade safety policies after death of special-needs student in Whittier
Source: Miriam Hernandez, ABC7 Eyewitness News, September 16, 2015

Immediate safety upgrades will be put into place by Pupil Transportation Cooperative following the tragic death of a 19-year-old man with special needs in Whittier, the company announced during a press conference Wednesday. … PTC will be pushing for electronic notification devices to be placed in school buses and two adults will now monitor every bus to ensure no student is left on board. … DeLapp said the substitute driver was a 10-year veteran who may not have known Lee’s limitations. Yet there is evidence the driver ignored what is characterized today as a standard child check procedure, which is spelled out in the bus operator manual. “Walk the entire length of the bus interior, front to rear, and check for students who may still be on board,” the manual states. DeLapp said the procedure was signed off, but yet Lee was still inside the bus. …

Special Needs Student Found Dead on School Bus May Have Been Waiting for Instructions: Family
Source: Hetty Change and William Avila, NBC Los Angelos, September 14, 2015

When family members learned that Lee had been left on a school bus on a hot Friday afternoon, they thought he may have stayed there waiting for a cue. The 19-year-old was found alone and unresponsive. Police could not revive him. Lee, or Paul to those who knew him, had a severe form of autism. Leslie Perez’s mom was his caregiver. She says her mom waited outside for Lee’s bus to drop him off at 3:30 p.m., like she does every afternoon, but it never showed up. Police found the adult school student lying in the aisle near the front of the bus parked in a Whittier school district parking lot. He was declared dead — less than two weeks before his 20th birthday — after lifesaving efforts failed. … It’s also unclear whether drivers with the bus company, Pupil Transportation Cooperative, are required to do head counts. Family members say a different bus driver had picked him up that morning.

A Troubled Accreditor’s Long-Term Outlook

Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 13, 2018

A national accreditor at the center of the collapse of two for-profit college chains got another lease on life after a court ruling kicked back to the Department of Education a 2016 decision withdrawing federal recognition and, later, the Trump administration restored that recognition pending further review. Even with another shot at restoring federal recognition, though, the long-term outlook for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools remains murky. … But some higher education observers believe that even if the department ultimately restores the accreditor’s recognition, it won’t be around for the long haul. That skepticism is due to the number of colleges that have already made moves to depart ACICS and to the damage the accreditor’s brand has sustained as regulators have scrutinized its failures in oversight. …

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DeVos Restores Recognition of For-Profit Accreditor Terminated by Obama Administration
Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 4, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a signed order Tuesday that she was restoring the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the for-profit accreditor that had waged a fight for reinstatement since the Obama administration withdrew its recognition in 2016. DeVos took the action in response to a federal district court judge’s ruling last month that former secretary John King failed to consider key evidence before terminating the recognition of ACICS. The ruling kicked back to the department final consideration of the accreditor’s fate. But it left unclear whether the department would review the original 2016 petition or the appeal filed by ACICS in 2017. That latter scenario would involve a more strenuous process for the accreditor as a body no longer recognized by the federal government. …

Court Win For Students Over Predatory For-Profit Colleges
Source: David Halperin, Huffington Post, February 21, 2017

Minutes ago, United States District Judge Reggie Walton denied a motion filed by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the U.S. Department of Education from proceeding with the de-recognition of the organization. ACICS needs Department recognition in order for the colleges it accredits to be eligible for federal student grants and loans. Judge Walton said in open court that ACICS had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case, particularly because then-Secretary of Education John King determined in December that ACICS was in substantial noncompliance with the rules governing accreditor performance. … There were rumblings before the hearing that the new Trump-Betsy Devos Department of Education might back down and somehow try to reverse Secretary King’s decision, as lobbyists for predatory for-profit colleges have been openly and aggressively urging. It’s not at all clear how the Department could simply dump King’s decision; from the regulations it appears that ACICS would have to start all over again and re-apply. For today, at least, the Department of Justice, which represented the Secretary of Education in case, diligently and skillfully opposed ACICS’s motion. … ACICS has been the accreditor for some 240 institutions exclusively or primarily, and most of those are for-profit colleges. $4.76 billion in taxpayer dollars went from the Department of Education to ACICS schools in 2015.But ACICS has been the asleep-at-the-switch accreditor of some of the most notorious bad actors in the for-profit college sector, including Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, Kaplan, EDMC (the Art Institutes), Career Education Corporation (Sanford-Brown), Alta Colleges (Westwood), Globe, FastTrain, and Daymar. …

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CPS fails to count schools in janitorial contract, costing millions

Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

It’s the latest wrinkle in a controversial contract to privatize custodial management with Aramark, which has faced sharp criticism for failing to keep schools clean. Aramark was supposed to save CPS $18 million this year. But the district understated the square footage that would need cleaning in its request for proposals, spokesman Bill McCaffrey said, at a cost of $7 million over the projected $64 million CPS expected to spend this year. … Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the $260 million Aramark deal to the Board of Education and the public by saying it would free up principals from managing custodians, result in cleaner schools and save the cash-strapped district millions of dollars. Some of the savings was to come from layoffs of hundreds of custodians. But the district was on the hook for some $20 million more to Aramark than it promised, essentially wiping out the $18 million Cawley said the district would save in its first of three years, as first reported by WBEZ. …

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CPS to spend additional $7M to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

Two days before most of the school janitors’ union planned a strike vote, the union says Chicago Public Schools officials agreed Thursday to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools. … The Chicago Sun-Times has documented filthy conditions in schools where the custodians are managed by Aramark, a private contractor for CPS. Of 125 schools examined in “blitz” cleanliness inspections, 91 failed. Janitors have said they can’t keep up with cleaning schools because Aramark and another company that oversees additional facilities work, SodexoMAGIC, cut too many of them since taking over in 2014. They had asked for 500 more janitors to clean the schools. Two of them also accused their supervisors of cheating on the independent inspections CPS paid for to monitor the cleaning. CPS has since made changes to that inspection process and stepped into the recent negotiations between SEIU Local 1 and Aramark and SodexoMagic. …

CPS inspections ‘blitz’ finds rat droppings, bugs, filth in schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, February 28, 2018

The discovery of rats and rodent droppings throughout the building at Mollison Elementary School in Bronzeville and two failed health inspections there last fall prompted Chicago Public Schools officials to declare they were ordering an all-hands-on-deck series of inspections citywide. That “blitz” was supposed to inspect 220 schools to start, CPS said. But despite initially finding that problems such as rodent droppings, pest infestations, filthy food-preparation equipment, and bathrooms that were dirty, smelly and lacked hot water, CPS quietly halted the inspections before completing them all, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show — shortly after the newspaper requested information on the early results. CPS provided blitz reports from 125 facilities that show only 34 of those schools passed inspection by inspectors from the district’s facilities department and Aramark, the private company that manages the custodians and oversees food service. And not all of the schools that were re-inspected passed the second time around, according to hundreds of documents and photos taken at nine schools that were provided under the state’s public records act. …

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How Privatization Sparked the Massive Oklahoma Teacher Uprising

Source: Valerie Vande Panne, In These Times, April 10, 2018
 
To explain the reasons for the strike and ongoing mobilizations, most mainstream media have been marketing poverty porn: This teacher sells plasma. Another works six jobs to make ends meet. Some teachers in Oklahoma tell In These Times that major outlets are specifically only asking to speak with the poorest teachers. But there’s a bigger issue at hand than the impoverished state of teachers and their support staff: privatization. For more than a decade, state legislators—Democrats and Republicans alike—have marched the state off the proverbial financial cliff, then used budget shortfalls to push privatization. For every notch the state’s economic belt is tightened, a private company comes in and takes over—at a cost largely unknown to Oklahomans. …

Public Workers Worried That Tennessee’s Billionaire Governor Is Taking Another Run at Them

Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 4, 2018

LAST YEAR, TENNESSEE’S governor attempted a frontal assault on the unionized workers that staff the state’s facilities and management jobs at public buildings, two-thirds of which are state-run colleges. Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest U.S. elected official not named Donald Trump, signed a contract with a facilities management firm to privatize those jobs. But a prodigious campaign by the campus employee union and student activists led to nearly the entire University of Tennessee system publicly opting out of the contract. … But Haslam appears to have found a work-around. The Tennessee legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to overhaul the University of Tennessee’s entire board of trustees, allowing Haslam to hand-pick the replacements. That board could pressure campuses to opt back into the privatization contract at any time over the next four years. …

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How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization
Source: Chris Brooks and Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times, March 20, 2018

… The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. … What the privatizers didn’t plan for was the United Campus Workers (UCW), a scrappy higher education union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Public-sector unions in Tennessee are legally barred from engaging in collective bargaining, and the state has no obligation to recognize or negotiate with them. Instead, the union relies on a mixture of legislative advocacy, workplace actions and mass mobilizations. Few unions exist in a harsher political and legal environment, yet the UCW is punching far above its weight, increasing its membership while securing victories against better-funded foes. …

Workers’ unlikely victory over outsourcing in Tennessee
Source: Elizabeth Stanfield and Jon Shefner, Facing South, February 6, 2018
 
Last fall, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865 (UCW) achieved an important victory for organized labor’s fight against privatization and erosion of public-sector jobs. For more than two years, they campaigned to stop Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, from outsourcing all state facilities service jobs. Their campaign involved multiple constituencies and tactics and played a key role in the University of Tennessee system’s decision not to participate in the outsourcing contract. The fact that this victory was won in a red state by a union without collective bargaining or dues check off is a powerful reminder of what organized workers can achieve against great odds. This victory is worth paying attention to because it reminds us that even in the face of tremendous obstacles, organized workers can win. …

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Opinion: P3 schools fail to make the grade

Source: Tom Graham, Regina Leader-Post, March 31, 2018

If we could build five schools for the cost of four, any responsible government would do it. That is exactly what the Manitoba government decided in its 2018 budget, which rejected the public-private partnership (P3) model to build schools. Manitoba reviewed the evidence and found that for the price of $100 million, it could build five schools the traditional way, instead of four P3 schools. It makes one wonder why our financially challenged Saskatchewan Party government chose the more expensive P3 model to build and maintain 18 schools and other P3 projects. Our government keeps saying that P3 schools save money, but where is the evidence? … What we do know is that we are paying a hefty premium for maintenance contracts for brand-new schools which, if built properly, should not need that much maintenance or repair. Let’s hope the private maintenance companies do not charge $409 to replace a soap dispenser as happened at a P3 hospital in Montreal. There are a few other costs specific to P3 schools that we should mention: the higher interest payments for the private financing of the school construction, the higher consultant costs for reports, and the $500,000 given to each of the companies that bid but did not get the contract. …

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CUPE members in Manitoba celebrate major victory against P3s
Source: CUPE, March 13, 2018

The Manitoba Government has cancelled all plans to involve public-private partnerships (P3s) in the education system, and instead is committing to build five new publicly-funded schools in Winnipeg and Brandon. The government initially planned to build four schools under the P3 model, but after a cost-benefit analysis the savings were found to be enough to build an entire fifth school. …

Puerto Rico Plans to Shutter 283 Schools

Source: AJ Vicens, Mother Jones, April 6, 2018
 
The Puerto Rico Department of Education announced late Thursday that it would close 283 public schools next school year, citing a decline in enrollment of nearly 39,000 students and the island’s ongoing budget crisis.  “Our children deserve the best education we are capable of giving them taking into account the fiscal reality of Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said in a statement issued in Spanish Thursday evening. “Therefore we are working hard to develop a budget that will allow us to focus resources on student needs and improve the quality of teaching.” In early February, Keleher and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló introduced a sweeping education reform plan that called for closing several hundred schools over the next several years and introducing charter schools to the island. The governor estimates the plan will help save $466 million per year by 2022, according to figures in his most recent fiscal plan meant to address the island’s staggering $120 billion in outstanding debts and obligations. Those figures do not take into account the estimated $95 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Maria. …

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6 Months After Maria, Puerto Ricans Face a New Threat—Education Reform
Source: Yarimar Bonilla, Rima Brusi and Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, The Nation, March 21, 2018
 
Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are understandably frustrated with their government officials. One might expect discontent to center around the head of the power company who oversaw months of blackouts or the governor who awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in private contracts with little or no oversight. But instead it is the secretary of the department of education, Philadelphia-native Julia Keleher, who has become the focus of people’s anger. In the past few weeks, Puerto Ricans have been calling for her resignation, making her the object of a viral hashtag campaign, #JuliaGoHome. On Monday, the school system was paralyzed by a strike as thousands of teachers protested the education-reform bill her office has spearheaded. …

Puerto Rico And Its Teachers’ Unions Clash Over Proposed Charter Schools
Source: Adrian Florido, NPR, March 2, 2018
 
Teachers’ unions in Puerto Rico have responded to the government’s proposed overhaul with protest, anger and derision. Since Gov. Ricardo Rossello presented it to the legislature last month, critics have said he and Keleher are using the damage that Hurricane Maria inflicted on the island and its schools as justification to push privatization, much like the governor recently announced his intention to sell off Puerto Rico’s publicly owned electric grid. Speaking at a recent protest outside the Department of Education, Mercedes Martinez, president of the Puerto Rico Teachers’ Federation, likened the reform proposal to a corporate overhaul. “They think that because our island is vulnerable, because it doesn’t have electricity, that we’re going to let them privatize our schools, get rid of our teachers,” she said. The teachers’ unions tick off a litany of concerns. They say that charter schools, freed from many of the rules that govern traditional public schools, will divert funding from those schools while being free to pay teachers less, eliminate benefits, and kick out under-performing students. …

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UW Students Occupy Building to Protest Closure of Unionized Laundry

Source: Heidi Groover, The Stranger, April 9, 2018
 
About 20 students are currently occupying UW Medicine administrative offices urging the university not to shutter its laundry service. The laundry currently employs about 100 people who clean linens and scrubs for University of Washington Medicine hospitals and clinics. After UW Medicine saw a $75 million operating loss last year, the university is considering shifting from operating the laundry to contracting a private company for the service. The school says the current laundry requires expensive upgrades. Workers say they fear losing steady jobs that pay $15 to $18 an hour. … According to the laundry workers and their unions, most of the laundry employees are immigrants and people of color. Some have worked there more than a decade. Speaking on campus before marching to the UW Medicine building Monday, workers said they fear being unable to support their families without the jobs. The Washington Federation of State Employees and Service Employees International Union 925 represents the laundry workers. During the rally, UW sophomore Iman Mustafa stood next to her father, who has worked at the laundry most of her life. The job offers a stable wage but “no mobility,” Mustafa said. She fears her father will have trouble finding a new job if he’s laid off. The university is “making them all homeless,’ Mustafa said. …

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As UW Laundry Workers Advocate to Keep Their Jobs, 15 Employees Get Layoff Notices
Source: Heidi Groover, The Stranger, April 2, 2018
 
On Wednesday, workers from the University of Washington-run laundry that services UW hospitals and clinics gathered with supporters on the university campus. They fear they could lose their jobs as the university moves to privatize the laundry. They used the rally to highlight that fear and call on the school to reconsider. The next day, 15 of the laundry’s roughly 100 employees got a new reason to worry: They received notices that they will be laid off in 60 days. Rod Palmquist from the Washington Federation of State Employees AFSCME Council 28, which represents some of the laundry workers, said the union plans to rally community members and elected officials to try to fight the layoffs. He said the union does not believe the layoffs are retaliation. …

Workers Protest UW Laundry Closure
Source: Melissa Hellmann, Seattle Weekly, March 29, 2018
 
Patricia Thomas has cleaned patient bed linens and employee uniforms for nearly three decades at Consolidated Laundry, a Rainier Valley facility which serves University of Washington hospitals and clinics. … Thomas never considered getting another job until she returned to her work station in January after a week-long vacation. In the midst of folding clothes, a colleague told her that UW was considering closing the Consolidated Laundry. Citing a $75 million budget shortfall throughout UW Medicine’s operations, the University is considering privatizing its laundry services. … Most of the facility’s workers are middle-aged, immigrants or people of color who rely on the job for its $15 minimum wages, health care, and retirement benefits. “The privatization of this facility risks over 100 good-paying union jobs with members whose families directly rely on that employment,” said Rod Palmquist, the Higher Education Coordinator for the Washington Federation of State Employees. … Over 100 UW Laundry Workers, student members of UW United Students Against Sweatshops, other union member supporters, and political groups gathered at the Drumheller Fountain on UW’s Seattle campus on Wednesday to protest the facility’s closure and to deliver over 600 petition signatures to UW President Ana Mari Cauce. …

Napolitano addresses higher education access, student support at LA event

Source: Anirudh Keni, Daily Bruin, March 19, 2018
 
University of California President Janet Napolitano said at an event Monday the University is working to expand access to higher education by accepting more transfer students and improving academic advisory and student support programs. Napolitano spoke to UC regents and local high school students at City Club in Los Angeles about the different ways the University is helping more people attend the UC. Napolitano was briefly interrupted by members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, the UC’s largest union, protesting UCLA’s decision in August to end its contract with ABM Industries, a facility management company that employed valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The protesters, who chanted “UCLA, hire the valets,” claimed UCLA’s decision has led to workers losing their jobs or being transferred to other locations that do not offer the same wages or benefits UCLA provides. …

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LACMA’s Art + Film Gala honors Mark Bradford and George Lucas
Source: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2017

Earlier in the evening, UCLA service and hospital workers who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union tried to steer some of the focus to the Westside by protesting the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s treatment of contract valet workers. They chanted,“David Geffen make it right, support valet workers’ rights,” referring to the philanthropist who recently pledged $150 million toward the construction of a new Peter Zumthor-designed building for LACMA. “More than 40 immigrant service workers have lost their jobs,” union organizer Paul Waters-Smith said. “David Geffen is the most prominent backer to UCLA Health. He can, with a phone call, make it right.”

UCLA student groups advocate for medical center valet workers 
Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 24, 2017

UCLA labor- and immigration-justice groups held a town hall meeting Monday night to urge UCLA to create more insourced positions for contract valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.  … Victoria Salgado, a union organizer at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union, said many workers are concerned for their job security because they received unclear notifications in July and September about their employment dates. … Owen Li, a senior researcher for AFSCME Local 3299, said the UC has been increasing executive pay while cutting benefits for workers.  “The University of California literally wastes billions of dollars on hedge funds, management bloats and on these crazy executive perks,” he said.  The UC has 67 percent more overall staff than in 1993, and the number of senior managers has increased by 327 percent since 1993, Li added.  Li said most of the jobs UCLA is offering to current valet workers are part-time jobs, which he he thinks do not offer enough pay to live on. …

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