Category Archives: Studies/Reports/Audits

City-owned Internet services offer cheaper and more transparent pricing

Source: Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, January 15, 2018

Municipal broadband networks generally offer cheaper entry-level prices than private Internet providers, and the city-run networks also make it easier for customers to find out the real price of service, a new study from Harvard University researchers found. Researchers collected advertised prices for entry-level broadband plans—those meeting the federal standard of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds—offered by 40 community-owned ISPs and compared them to advertised prices from private competitors. The report by researchers at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard doesn’t provide a complete picture of municipal vs. private pricing. But that’s largely because data about private ISPs’ prices is often more difficult to get than information about municipal network pricing, the report says. In cases where the researchers were able to compare municipal prices to private ISP prices, the city-run networks almost always offered lower prices. This may help explain why the broadband industry has repeatedly fought against the expansion of municipal broadband networks. This fight includes pushing legislators to draft anti-municipal broadband state laws, lobbying against local ballot initiatives, and filing lawsuits against cities that build their own networks. …

Charter Schools Are Reshaping America’s Education System for the Worse

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, January 4, 2018
 
Charter schools have been hailed as the antidote to public-school dysfunction by everyone from tech entrepreneurs to Wall Street philanthropists. But a critical autopsy by the advocacy group Network for Public Education (NPE) reveals just how disruptive the charter industry has become—for both students and their communities.  Charter schools are technically considered public schools but are run by private companies or organizations, and can receive private financing—as such, they are generally able to circumvent standard public-school regulations, including unions. This funding system enables maximum deregulation, operating like private businesses and free of the constraints of public oversight, while also ensuring maximum public funding. …

… The Los Angeles Unified School District has seen dramatic effects from the expansion of charter schools as it wrestles with budget crises. … NPE’s investigation found a similar pattern at a BASIS charter school in Arizona, part of a nationwide charter network. … Examining the broader social impact of charters, NPE tracked financial manipulation and fraud at various schools. … Another subsurface problem at many schools is harder to measure: Charters are known for high faculty-turnover rates. … Charters may offer a different relationship to communities, but their brand of “free market” schooling carries costs. Who accounts for the lost social opportunities when education becomes just another market investment?

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Iowa lawmakers return with to-do list on taxes, Medicaid

Source: Barbara Rodriguez, Associated Press, January 7, 2018
 
Iowa lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday with a to-do list ranging from overhauling state taxes to possibly addressing issues with the privatized Medicaid program. Republicans, entering a second year of complete statehouse control, will work amid another budget crunch and a looming election year. …

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Medicaid privatization is saving Iowa 80% less money than predicted, state report says
Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, January 5, 2018
 
Iowa’s controversial shift to privately managed Medicaid will save the state 80 percent less money this fiscal year than originally predicted, a recent state estimate suggests.  Iowa now stands to save $47.1 million this fiscal year by having private companies manage the $4 billion program, according to a quarterly report prepared by staff members from the Department of Human Services.  After then-Gov. Terry Branstad ordered the shift in 2015, he predicted it would save the state $232 million in fiscal year 2018. That is the current budget year. In fiscal year 2017, which ended last June 30, the state saved nearly $119 million over what it would have spent having government administrators run the program, according to a DHS report using the same criteria used in the new estimate. …

‘We’re completely in the dark’: Families still uncertain after Iowa Medicaid transition
Source: Stephen Gruber-Miller, Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 12, 2017
 
Ryan’s case is one example of the uncertainty that has played out in households around the state in the wake of AmeriHealth’s decision this fall to leave Iowa after it could not reach an agreement with the state on reimbursement rates.  Join now for as low as $29/YR Subscribe Now AmeriHealth and the two other companies chosen to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program when it was privatized last year by then-Gov. Terry Branstad have complained of losing hundreds of millions of dollars.  When AmeriHealth announced it was leaving, state officials first gave families a choice between UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup, the third company. Then they backtracked, saying Amerigroup did not have the capacity to handle new clients. In late November, the Department of Human Services said it would resume oversight for more than 10,000 Iowans who had tried to switch companies before the deadline. …

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Hospitals slam Kansas’ proposed Medicaid overhaul

Source: Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare, January 3, 2018
 
Providers are concerned that a new waiver to overhaul Kansas’ Medicaid program will impede access to care and further empower managed-care plans, which they claim lack proper oversight.   For years, Kansas providers have complained the state’s Medicaid program, known as KanCare, was complex to work under and that it underpaid or didn’t pay at all for services.  Rather than revamp KanCare’s oversight of the plans, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback submitted a waiver late last month that appears to cede additional power to them, providers said. …

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Legislative Panel Backs KanCare Renewal Plan, But Opponents Hope To Block Implementation
Source: Jim Mclean, KCUR, December 1, 2017

Republican legislators have temporarily sidetracked an effort to block the Brownback administration from obtaining federal approval to renew KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Democrats on a joint committee that oversees KanCare wanted the panel’s report to the full Legislature to recommend keeping the current program in place until a newly elected governor takes office in January 2019. … In addition to the timing issue, advocates and some lawmakers are concerned about several provisions in the administration’s KanCare 2.0 plan, including work requirements and lifetime caps on services for some beneficiaries. …

GOP candidates fight over health program serving 400,000 Kansans
Source: Jonathan Shorman, Wichita Eagle, November 26, 2017
 
A fight between the Republican candidates for governor over the state’s privatized Medicaid program could shape what happens to the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans.  The next governor could abandon a proposed work requirement for some recipients of KanCare, which serves people who are poor, elderly or have disabilities. Or he could pursue Medicaid expansion.  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is preparing to become governor, spearheaded the creation of KanCare in 2013. Some of his opponents say the current administration, including Colyer, has poorly run the program. …

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Tennessee Lawmakers Give Correction Department A Short Leash To Fix Troubled Private Prisons

Source: Julieta Martinelli, Nashville Public Radio, December 12, 2017
 
The Tennessee Department of Correction is getting another year to show improvement. Officials voted to reauthorize the state agency for 12 more months after a scathing audit last month highlighted severe staffing and safety concerns at several private prisons.  The state agency oversees more than 20,000 inmates. About one third of them are housed in facilities managed by CoreCivic, a private contractor formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.  Inmates, family members and even former employees have publicly called out conditions inside prisons like Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville. The allegations came shortly after it opened last year. …

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State Audit Reveals Serious Staffing Concerns In Tennessee’s Largest Private Prison
Source: Julieta Martinelli, Nashville Public Radio, November 14, 2017

A state audit of the Department of Correction released on Tuesday highlights a number of issues plaguing prisons in Tennessee. The biggest issue is a shortage of correctional officers, which could put inmates and other prison staff at risk. The CoreCivic-managed Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, northeast of Nashville, and Whiteville Correctional Facility, near Memphis, operated with fewer than approved correctional officers and did not follow staffing guidelines required by the state. At Trousdale, which is the state’s largest prison, the audit found critical posts were even left unstaffed on multiple occasions. …

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Better data, oversight needed to boost diversity in tech

Source: Bloomberg Government, Chris Cornillie, December 7, 2017

Federal technology contractors may soon need to meet higher standards for diversity or risk losing government business, according to new recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In a report released Nov. 30, the government’s top watchdog calls on two government offices, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), to overhaul their efforts to, “combat discrimination and support equal employment opportunity for U.S. workers” in the technology industry. … According to the government’s top watchdog, deficiencies in EEOC and OFCCP data reporting processes challenged their ability to hold companies accountable for meeting employment targets for traditionally underrepresented groups. However, most of GAO’s criticism was aimed at OFCCP, which is responsible for enforcing nondiscrimination among federal contractors. The study found that OFCCP regulations allow contractors to report employment of racial and ethnic minorities using a single, combined metric, rather than reporting figures for each group individually. … Given the national debate on diversity in the technology industry — and in the workplace in general — GAO’s findings could have a significant impact on federal contracting. GAO called on OFCCP’s director to take steps toward requiring contractors to disaggregate employment data by racial and ethnic group. … Perhaps most significantly, GAO’s report may catalyze support for expanding diversity in federal contracting, especially in the IT space. … Perhaps most significantly, GAO’s report may catalyze support for expanding diversity in federal contracting, especially in the IT space. …

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Report on immigration detention centers raises questions of ‘perverse financial incentive’

Source: Esther Yu Hsi Lee, ThinkProgress, November 30, 2017

An analysis of the nation’s 201 immigration detention facilities contracted through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is raising concerns about inadequate standards, contracting practices, and limited accountability. … A spreadsheet analysis by the nonprofits Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights found that an average of 35,929 people per day were detained in immigration detention centers nationwide during the 2017 fiscal year through July 10, a number that does not include family detention centers or women detained at Hutto, an all-women detention center in Texas. Of that total number, 73 percent (or 26,240 people) were held in facilities contracted to private prison operators, the documents show. The two major private prison operators are GEO Group and CoreCivic, which charge the federal government a per diem rate anywhere between $30 per bed to detain immigrants for a short-stay facility to $168.64 per day, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse data from 2016.

… The experts said that the findings suggest an “irresponsible” ICE agency, which requested increased congressional funding this year in part on claims of a cost increase in detainees’ chronic health care needs, while at the same time, lowering levels of detention standards. Advocates previously alleged that lowered detention standards contributed to repeated violations of ICE’s own standards of care. That meant detainees routinely received unsanitary food and substandard health and mental care. … What’s more, the spreadsheet outlined 159 out of the 201 detention centers that do not have a contract expiration date, drawing attention to the process of renewing a contract that would require facilities to undergo reviews that address chronic problems at facilities. Already, 12 immigrant detainees have died after being held in immigrant detention facilities during the 2017 fiscal year. … Findings from the spreadsheet also suggest detention facilities are increasingly cropping up in localities that have a “perverse financial incentive” to participate in two federal programs that solicit local law enforcement to detain immigrants. ….

School Voucher Programs Leave Parents in the Dark on Disability Rights, Feds Say

Source: Arianna Prothero, Education Week, December 1, 2017

States are not doing enough to inform parents about the special education rights they give up when they enroll their children in private schools with publicly funded vouchers. That’s according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that also urges Congress to compel states to tell parents about the tradeoffs they are making when they opt to participate in a private school choice program. … More than half of the state private school choice programs, which include tuition vouchers and education savings accounts, are specifically targeted to students with disabilities. …

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Secrecy inside child welfare system can kill: ‘God help the children of Kansas’

Source: Laura Bauer, Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017

… An agency charged with protecting kids instead focused on protecting itself. An agency where a former high-level DCF supervisor told The Star she was instructed not to document anything after a child’s death and to shred notes after meetings so attorneys and reporters couldn’t get them through open records requests. An agency where even lawmakers insist DCF officials are intentionally misleading them and providing information the Legislature can’t trust. In the end, Kansas children continue to die without a public review of what contact state social workers had with the families — whether they did enough and whether policies and procedures were followed. …

In a months-long investigation into the secrecy that permeates Kansas government and how it harms residents, The Star found a pervasive effort inside DCF to hide behind privacy laws and internal procedures to keep the public from knowing how it operates. Those practices are particularly acute in cases where children are seriously injured or killed by parents and guardians who were known to the agency. For the past year, DCF has refused to answer questions on topics ranging from open records and the death of specific children to runaways in foster care. During the course of The Star’s reporting on widespread problems within the agency, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore announced her retirement effective Dec. 1. …

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For Kansas foster care task force, report of missing children latest concern
Source: Madeline Fox, Wyandotte Daily, October 12, 2017

The news that about 70 children are missing from the Kansas foster care system is the latest in a string of concerns for lawmakers and child welfare advocates. Concern for the safety of children, heavy caseloads for social workers and a lack of coordination in the system prompted lawmakers earlier this year to form the Child Welfare Task Force, which heard about the missing children during a meeting Tuesday in Topeka. The foster care system, overseen by the Kansas Department for Children and Families, was privatized 20 years ago after it failed court-ordered reviews. Care is now overseen by two contractors: St. Francis Community Services in western Kansas, and KVC Health Systems in eastern Kansas. …

More than 70 foster children missing in Kansas
Source: Jonathan Shorman and Hunter Woodall, Wichita Eagle, October 10, 2017
 
More than 70 foster children are missing in Kansas, the companies running the state’s foster care system said Tuesday.  Lawmakers were concerned that Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore appeared unaware that three sisters have been missing from a northeast Kansas foster home since Aug. 26.  Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, told a child welfare task force meeting that when she raised the missing children with DCF on Tuesday, the agency knew nothing. … KVC Kansas, one of the foster care contractors, said it has 38 missing children. The other company, Saint Francis Community Services, said 36 are missing in its system.  Chad Anderson, chief clinical officer at KVC Kansas, one of the contractors, told a child welfare task force that the number of missing represented about 1 percent of the foster care population and is in line with the national average.  Still, he acknowledged the contractor could do a better job. …

Kansas Lawmakers Advancing Bill for Oversight of Foster Care
Source: Associated Press, May 12, 2017

 
Kansas lawmakers have advanced a bill that would increase their oversight of the state’s privatized foster care system and the contractors running it.  The House gave first-round approval to the measure Friday on a voice vote. Members planned to take another vote to determine whether the proposal goes to the Senate.  The bill would create an 18-member task force to collect data from the state Department for Children and Families on the foster care system and its contractors and to make recommendations for improvement. …

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Kansas House Committee Approves Foster Care Task Force
Source: Allison Kite, Associated Press, May 9, 2017
 
A House committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow Kansas lawmakers to more closely oversee the state’s privatized foster care system and the contractors that run it amid questions about how the state monitors the program.  The bill passed by the House Children and Seniors Committee would create an 18-member foster care task force to study the system.  The task force would collect data from the Kansas Department for Children and Families on the foster care system and its contractors and make recommendations for improvement. …

Audit finds problems in privatized foster care system, faults DCF for lax oversight
Source: Peter Hancock, Lawrence Journal World, April 28, 2017
 
The private nonprofit agencies that manage Kansas’ foster care system do not have the capacity in many parts of the state to handle the volume of cases they deal with, and the Kansas Department for Children and Families often does not conduct adequate oversight of those contractors.  Those are the findings of a Legislative Post Audit report on the foster care program that was delivered to lawmakers Friday.  However, auditors also said there would be enormous costs for the state if it decided to take back control and operation of the program itself. The report was the third and final part of a comprehensive audit that lawmakers ordered following two deaths in 2014 of children who were in the foster care system. …

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New York’s prevailing wage law: A cost-benefit analysis

Source: Russell Ormiston, Dale Belman, and Matt Hinkel, Economic Policy Institute, November 1, 2017

… State prevailing wage laws across the country have increasingly been assailed by those who appeal to lawmakers’ other responsibility—minimizing taxpayer costs—in an attempt to weaken or repeal these policies. These nationwide campaigns are built almost entirely upon a single argument: higher wages must equate to higher taxpayer costs. … And with a recent publication by the Empire Center (McMahon and Gardner 2017), it has become apparent that some in New York will attempt to pitch the same narrative to state lawmakers. There’s one problem. According to the most advanced economic research on state prevailing wage laws, the simple narrative largely isn’t true.

To separate fact from fiction as it relates to New York’s prevailing wage law, this report provides a thorough cost-benefit analysis of state policy relying extensively on independent, peer-reviewed research. As summarized in this report, academic economists from around the country have made prevailing wage laws a research priority over the last 15 years. In study after study, economists have found no evidence that these laws have had any significant cost effects on the biggest drivers of New York’s capital budget: highways and institutional buildings (e.g., schools). …

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