FEMA Contract Called for 30 Million Meals for Puerto Ricans. 50,000 Were Delivered.

Source: Patricia Mazzei and Agustin Armendariz, New York Times, February 6, 2018
 
The mission for the Federal Emergency Management Agency was clear: Hurricane Maria had torn through Puerto Rico, and hungry people needed food. Thirty million meals needed to be delivered as soon as possible.  For this huge task, FEMA tapped Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past. FEMA awarded her $156 million for the job, and Ms. Brown, who is the sole owner and employee of her company, Tribute Contracting LLC, set out to find some help. … By the time 18.5 million meals were due, Tribute had delivered only 50,000. And FEMA inspectors discovered a problem: The food had been packaged separately from the pouches used to heat them. FEMA’s solicitation required “self-heating meals.” …

How many billions of dollars does it cost taxpayers to keep Kansas and Missouri prisoners healthy?

Source: The Kansas City Star Editorial Board, February 1, 2018

On Monday, a Kansas legislative committee on corrections got answers to questions they should have been asking all along. Rep. J. Russell Jennings, Chairman of the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight, called the hearing after The Star detailed the nearly $2 billion Missouri and Kansas will pay to Corizon Health over a decade to provide health care to inmates. Despite the cost to taxpayers, legislative oversight has been lax, particularly in Missouri. That needs to change. The Tennessee-based company has been sued more than 280 times by inmates in Missouri and Kansas, which should be a red flag for lawmakers. … At Jennings’ request, the Kansas Department of Corrections detailed how a University of Kansas Medical Center team conducts monthly reviews of the care being provided to the state’s approximately 9,800 inmates at a cost of about $68 million a year. … The committee learned that Corizon was penalized more than $1.7 million in 2017 for infractions, including failing to meet staffing or compliance standards for mental health treatment. Corizon has been sued 48 times in Kansas since 2014. So far, there have been no adjudications, settlements or findings against the state, the University of Kansas Medical Center or Corizon. … Missouri has been even less responsive. A state grant once paid a nursing professor to oversee the contract. But then Corizon was allowed to begin paying the fee. So the person who was scrutinizing Corizon was paid by Corizon. ….

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Privatization of Waste Hauling Expands Nationwide

Source: Maura Keller, American Recycler, January 2018

There’s one thing we know – it is becoming more difficult for municipalities to manage and maintain their waste facilities and fleets in a cost-effective manner. Josh Allen, chief executive officer of Global Disposal, said that many municipalities are switching from open market programs and non-exclusive franchises to exclusive franchise programs. … Moreover, responsible waste and recycling solutions often require a combination of local, regional, out-of-state and overseas solutions, which may be challenging for municipalities to manage on their own. Allen said another key component driving this change is the passage of legislation such as California’s SB 1383 (requiring 75 percent landfill diversion) which requires a more aggressive and progressive approach. … According to John Fumero, a government affairs and environmental attorney with the law firm of Nason Yeager who represents municipalities in waste hauling issues, more than half of U.S. cities contract out all or a portion of their residential waste management services, including residential waste pickup. …

Charter School Group, Known for Battling the Mayor, Will Close

Source: Kate Taylor, New York Times, February 5, 2018
 
Families for Excellent Schools, a charter-schools organization known for its battles with Mayor Bill de Blasio and its close relationship with Eva S. Moskowitz, the mayor’s frequent antagonist and head of the city’s largest charter school network, Success Academy, said on Monday that it was shutting down.  The organization announced last week that it was firing Jeremiah Kittredge, its chief executive officer, after an accusation of “inappropriate behavior toward a non-employee.” But the decision to close seemed to reflect financial problems rather than the loss of a single employee. …

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Stringer: Success Academy stiffed city
Source: Patrick Donachie, Times Ledger, December 22, 2016

Success Academy Charter Schools billed the Department of Education for special education services that may not have been delivered, an audit released by city Comptroller Scott Stringer found. Stringer’s audit additionally found that Success Academy was inconsistent in the financial statements submitted to its authorizer in fiscal year 2015, leading to a situation where the organization looked like it was spending more funds directly on students than it actually was. “We found situations in which Success Academy was violating its own standards, or those of oversight agencies. We hope Success Academy will embrace our recommendations and adjust its practices,” Stringer said in a statement following the release of the audit. “This isn’t about district vs. charter schools—it’s about protecting taxpayer dollars.” The scope of the audit spanned fiscal years 2013 through 2015. The audit included a broader analysis of Success Academy’s finances, along with a detailed examination of a particular school, Success Academy Harlem 3. Success Academy was founded by CEO Eva Moskowitz in 2006. It currently operates 34 public schools throughout New York City, 15 of which are in Queens.

Cities experiment to reduce homelessness with “pay for success” finance

Source: Carey L. Biron, Reuters, February 1, 2018
 
Although he had tried to find a home during that time, he was discouraged by the paperwork and process. But shortly after Easter last year, a social worker contacted him and said he had been selected to participate in a new housing program.  “Within two weeks, I had a place to stay,” Cushinberry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Denver. “They gave me housing first, and then we tried to work out all the other kinks in my life.”  The program is one of a rising number of initiatives around the world bringing together government departments, service providers, foundations, banks, pension funds and more to address complex social problems.  The key innovation is how they these programs are financed.  Rather than rely on handouts by cash-strapped governments, private investors step in to provide money through a financing tool known as a social impact bond. …

In a Historic First, the Chicago Teachers Union and Charter School Teachers Have Joined Forces

Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, February 1, 2018
 
With the approval of a historic union merger, teachers in Chicago are positioning themselves to mount a greater challenge to privatization and austerity.  On Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced that its members had voted in favor of amalgamating with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), which, since 2009, has organized about 1,000 educators at over 30 charter school campuses.  While cooperation between unionized educators at charters and district schools in the United States is common, this is the first known case in which teachers from both types of schools have merged into a single union local. …

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Chicago Teachers Are Trying to Organize the Biggest Charter School Union in the U.S.
Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, March 9, 2017

As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls for expanding charter schools and voucher programs in the name of “choice,” teachers at Chicago’s largest charter school have declared their choice to form a union. Announcing the creation of the Union of Noble Educators last Friday, workers from Noble Network’s 17 charter high schools hope to follow in the footsteps of teachers and staff from 32 other Chicago charter schools who have already unionized with the help of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).If successful, the 800 or so educators and staff at Noble would comprise the largest unionized charter school network in the country.

… Launched in 2009, Chicago ACTS is at the forefront of the movement to organize charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the Chicago Teachers Union. … Teachers with A Council of Educators, the Chicago ACTS affiliate at ASPIRA charter school, recently voted to strike over stalled contract negotiations and could walk off the job as soon as March 17. Last October, a planned strike by unionized teachers at UNO Charter Network Schools was only narrowly averted by a last-minute agreement. Nationally, AFT has made organizing teachers at charter schools a priority since 2007, supporting educators in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New Orleans. According to the Center for Education Reform, 10 percent of charter schools in the United States are now unionized, up from 7 percent just five years ago. …

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Could Destroy Our Nation’s Water Systems

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, January 30, 2018
 
The draft outline of the zombie infrastructure program has resurfaced again with a leak to Axios—and confirms what many feared: The White House hopes to privatize areas of government at a discount, opening up more public services to abuse at the hands of corporations. Trump plans to expand private-activity bonds for infrastructure construction, “to benefit the public,” with a definition of “public benefit” that’s more solid-gold toilet than Hoover Dam. Exhibit A is the plan to expand private management of our waterways, including efforts to mitigate pollution and environmental harm that tends to result from the same private-sector control. In other words, laundering public money to help corporate America break stuff and then buy it. There’s a heavy focus on funding privately managed road and bridge projects, and goodies like highway-rest-stop commercialization and encouraging private leasing of infrastructure. …

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Cashing in on Water Crises: Public-Private Partnerships Are Not the Solution
Source: Julia Kassem, Truthout, January 13, 2018

Across the US, cost-cutting municipalities are looking to private companies and contractors to fix aging infrastructure. However, these privatization practices contribute to increased water bills and jeopardize water quality, endangering one of residents’ most basic needs. We can gain some perspective on the consequences of water privatization by looking to a glaring overseas example: In Lebanon, mismanagement of infrastructure has provided ample opportunity for privatization to proliferate. … The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the privatizing wing of the World Bank Group, continues to invest in water privatization companies such as Veolia, and more recently, SUEZ. The companies are setting their sights on ailing infrastructural systems in the Global South in places like the Arab world, particularly in response to the abandonment of public-private contracts in some large US cities. … In Lebanon and around the world, the basic issues of water quality and safety must find a place in policy-oriented discussions over water. If this occurs, countries and municipalities stand a chance of eschewing private-public partnerships — and ensuring that water is not treated as simply another commodity to be sold.

$300 Billion War Beneath the Street: Fighting to Replace America’s Water Pipes
Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, November 10, 2017
 
America is facing a crisis over its crumbling water infrastructure, and fixing it will be a monumental and expensive task.  Two powerful industries, plastic and iron, are locked in a lobbying war over the estimated $300 billion that local governments will spend on water and sewer pipes over the next decade. … To more directly reach towns and counties across the country, the plastics industry is also leaning on the American City County Exchange, a new group that gives corporations extraordinary capacity to influence public policy at the city and county levels. The group operates under the auspices of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a wider effort funded by the petrochemicals billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch that has drawn scrutiny for helping corporations and local politicians write legislation behind closed doors. …

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Do School Vouchers Work? Milwaukee’s Experiment Suggests an Answer

Source: Tawnell D. Hobbs, Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2018
 
Almost three decades ago, Milwaukee started offering the nation’s first-ever school vouchers. Starting small, the program allowed poor children to use taxpayer money to attend private schools. Today, about a quarter of Milwaukee children educated with public funds take advantage, making the program a testing ground for a big experiment in education.  Did students in the program get a better education? That depends on how participating schools handled a critical issue: how many voucher students to let in.  A Wall Street Journal analysis of the data suggests vouchers worked best when enrollment from voucher students was kept low. As the percentage of voucher students rises, the returns diminish until the point when there is little difference between the performance of public and private institutions. …

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A new study suggests that school vouchers could actually hurt organized religion
Source: Matthew Rosza, Salon, February 15, 2017

Although school vouchers may be a boondoggle to churches, a new study from The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that “they offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.” The National Bureau of Economic Research found that more than 80 percent of private school students in the 2011/2012 school year attended a religiously-affiliated school, with Catholicism being the most common religious affiliation. The authors studied 71 Catholic parishes in Milwaukee from 1999 to 2013. … Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether one believes that religious institutions should focus on religion or on making money by supplanting public schools. … “Our numbers suggest that, within our sample alone, the Milwaukee voucher program has led over time to a decline in non-educational church revenue of $60 million. These large effects are driven by the large size of the voucher program itself,” the authors wrote. …

More Graduates, Less Criminals? The Economic Impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
Source: Will Flanders and Corey A. DeAngelis, University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform Working Paper, February 3, 2017

Abstract:
Although an abundance of research indicates that private schooling can benefit individual children through higher test scores, the effects on society are less clear. We monetize and forecast the social impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) in the United States. We use existing literature on the impacts of the MPCP on criminal activity and graduation rates. Between 2016 and 2035, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate additional economic benefits of $473 million associated with higher graduation rates, and $26 million associated with fewer felonies and misdemeanors, relative to their traditional public school peers.

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Fight Club: Audit documents Florida juvenile justice failures

Source: Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, January 19, 2018

Florida juvenile justice administrators sometimes fail to report the deficiencies of their privately run youth programs, and don’t always ensure breakdowns are corrected even when they are documented, says a new report by the state’s Auditor General. The state’s top government auditor reviewed the Department of Juvenile Justice’s oversight of contracts for 10 of 54 privately run residential programs — totaling $251.3 million in state dollars — examining the department’s compliance with state laws, as well as department rules and policies. The review, which is dated January 2018, looked at agency contracts for the budget year 2016. …

… The 21-page audit was released about three months after a Miami Herald series exposed long-standing, far-ranging lapses in oversight and accountability throughout the state’s juvenile justice system. The Herald investigation, called Fight Club, revealed a broad range of abuses, including the hiring of youth care workers with criminal records and histories of violence and sexual misconduct, the widespread use of unnecessary and excessive force, the sexual abuse of detainees and the outsourcing of discipline by staff members — who sometimes offer teens snack foods as a reward for doling out beatings. The series also highlighted a troubling history of medical neglect by officers, youth workers and even nurses assigned to youth programs. Lax contract monitoring was a persistent theme in one of the stories reported by the Herald in October. …

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Fight Club: A Miami Herald Investigation Into Florida’s Juvenile Justice System
Source: Miami Herald, October 2017

… Documents, interviews and surveillance videos show a disturbing pattern of beatings doled out or ordered by underpaid officers, hundreds of them prison system rejects. Youthful enforcers are rewarded with sweet pastries from the employee vending machines, a phenomenon known as “honey-bunning.” The Herald found fights staged for entertainment, wagering and to exert control, sex between staff and youthful detainees and a culture of see-nothing/say-nothing denial. Herald journalists also examined 12 questionable deaths of detained youths since 2000. In the end, untold numbers of already troubled youths have been further traumatized. With a one-year recidivism rate of 45 percent, it is a justice system that is supposed to reform juvenile delinquents, but too often turns them into hardened felons.

Handpicked Cedar Haven owner lost control within months, to county’s surprise

Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, January 26, 2018

The Lebanon County commissioners took great efforts in 2014 to ensure they sold the county-owned nursing home into good hands – but within months, those hands had been forced out of any involvement with Cedar Haven. Now, the union representing Cedar Haven nurses is involved in a bitter, three-month-old strike with current owner Stone Barn Holdings and its managing partner Chas Blalack. Union leadership says the county commissioners deserve some of the blame for not sufficiently scrutinizing the financial situation of the purchaser when it sold the home. …

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Lebanon County Commissioners letter to Stone Barn Holdings, the group that owns Cedar Haven
Source: Lebanon Daily News, January 26, 2018

The following is a letter from the Lebanon County Commissioners sent Jan. 18 to the owner of Cedar Haven nursing home, Chas B. Blalack with Stone Barn Holdings. …

Two months in: When will the Cedar Haven strike end?
Source: Daniel Walmer, WITF, December 21, 2017

The Cedar Haven Healthcare Center nurses’ strike reached its two-month point this week with little fanfare from the union – but behind the scenes, there have been nurses crossing the picket line, an aborted attempt at a negotiation and business dealings by Cedar Haven’s owner. … Here are the basics: There is still no contract agreement on the horizon. The parties met for a mediated negotiation session on Dec. 4, but Cedar Haven owner Stone Barn Holdings rejected it despite “movement” on the part of the union, said AFSCME Council Director Steve Mullen.

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