Audit finds state lacks documented oversight of new foster care model

Source: Allie Morris, San Antonio Express-News, April 1, 2018

A recent audit found flaws in the state’s oversight of a new foster care model that further privatizes the system and is set to roll out in Bexar County soon. In the new model, a contractor manages foster care providers within a certain region, instead of the state. The Legislature approved expansion of the model last session as a way to improve the embattled foster care system, which is facing a long-running class-action lawsuit by foster children who claim they faced abuse, constant movement and overmedication. The state audit found the Department of Family and Protective Services conducted site visits to ensure contractor ACH Child and Family Services was in compliance. But the state didn’t have documentation to show whether it verified that ACH monitored all 107 foster care providers in its seven-county area, which includes Fort Worth, or whether their oversight was effective. In one instance, state auditors reported that ACH hadn’t monitored one foster care provider for more than 18 months as children continued being placed there. …

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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? …

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. …

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New Jersey bill seeks P3 expansion

Source: Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, April 13, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
New Jersey lawmakers are pushing again for an increase in the use of public-private partnerships to jump-start infrastructure improvements in the cash-strapped state. Two and a half years after former Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed an expansion of New Jersey’s P3 program, a state senate committee advanced legislation on April 5 that if enacted would permit localities to enter into P3 agreements for building and highway infrastructure projects. The measure would make local governments, school districts, public authorities and state colleges eligible to enter into P3s where the private entity would assume full or partial financial and administrative responsibility for capital projects. …

Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidates ready to reverse Medicaid privatization

Source: Paige Godden, Des Moines Register, April 11, 2018
 
Six Democrats in the running to be Iowa’s next governor made it seem as though nearly all the state’s problems could be solved by reversing Medicaid privatization during a recent forum hosted at Simpson College. Candidates were asked questions ranging from how they’d help veterans to how they’d save rural Iowa, and their answers kept circling back to Medicaid.…

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Iowa lawmakers stake out positions on state’s privatized Medicaid woes
Source: Jason Clayworth, Des Moines Register, April 8, 2018
 
There’s a lot of politics entangled in Iowa’s privatized Medicaid problems. Since then-Gov. Terry Branstad first proposed transferring management of the state’s Medicaid program to for-profit companies, back in April 2016, Democrats and Republicans have staked out positions on the wisdom of the plan. Since then, Iowa’s privatized Medicaid program has come under fire for failing to do right by the state’s 680,000 poor or disabled patients. …

Boulton unveils his labor agenda
Source: Ed Tibbetts, The Courier, February 22, 2018
 
Iowa would reverse the year-old limits on collective bargaining rights for public employees, start a new family and medical leave plan for workers around the state and raise the minimum wage under an agenda Democratic candidate for governor Nate Boulton unveiled this week. Boulton, a state senator from Des Moines, is one of seven candidates for the party’s nomination for governor. And his plan is an attempt to lay out a vision for Iowa. … In releasing the plan, Boulton’s campaign said he would seek to implement it in his first legislative session if elected. The agenda essentially packages a number of proposals he and other Democrats have introduced in the Republican-controlled Legislature that have gone nowhere. The proposals include reversing the move to put the state’s Medicaid program under the management of private insurance companies and closing the state-run mental health institutions. …

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Escapes, Riots and Beatings. But States Can’t Seem to Ditch Private Prisons.

Source: Timothy Williams and Richard A. Oppel Jr, New York Times, April 10, 2018
 
In Arizona in 2015, a riot broke out in a private prison where previously three inmates had escaped and murdered a vacationing couple. After order was restored, the state revoked the contract of Management & Training Corporation and hired another private prison firm, the GEO Group. Three years earlier, the GEO Group had surrendered its contract to run a Mississippi prison after a federal judge ruled that the inmates had not been protected from gang violence. The replacement: Management & Training Corporation. The staying power of the two companies shows how private prisons maintain their hold on the nation’s criminal justice system despite large-scale failures. The field is dominated by a handful of companies who have swallowed the competition and entrenched their positions through aggressive lawyering, intricate financial arrangements and in some cases, according to lawsuits by the Mississippi attorney general, bribery and kickbacks. Though a federal review found private prisons are more dangerous than government-run prisons for both guards and inmates, the Trump administration indicated earlier this year that it will expand their use. …

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Private Prisons Boost Lobbying as Federal Detention Needs Grow
Source: Dean DeChlaro, Roll Call, October 25, 2017
 
One of the country’s largest private prison companies is spending record amounts on lobbying amid efforts by the Trump administration to detain more undocumented immigrants, federal records show.  The GEO Group, which has contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bureau of Prisons and the Marshals Service, has spent nearly $1.3 million on lobbying from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, according to new lobbying records filed with Congress. That tops $1 million spent last year. The firm spent at least $400,000 on seven lobbying firms in the third quarter alone, the disclosures show.   GEO’s increased spending comes as ICE is seeking proposals for five new immigrant detention facilities and the Homeland Security Department is asking Congress to fund more than 51,000 beds, up from the current 34,000. ICE is the Florida-based prison company’s biggest customer, according to its 2016 annual report. …

Immigrants Are Dying in U.S. Detention Centers. And It Could Get Worse.
Source: Brendan O’Boyle, Americas Quarterly, July 17, 2017

… Trump’s policies are already increasing the number of people held in detention centers, further straining the system. … The administration has signaled its commitment to private prison companies, which also operate immigrant detention centers. This alarms detainee advocates, since five out of the seven detainees who died this year were being held by privately operated providers, and multiple investigations have found privately operated prisons to be more dangerous for inmates. … As it pushes for more detentions, the Trump administration also reportedly has plans to weaken protections for immigrant detainees. …

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Push to end privatized prison food clears first hurdle

Source: Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News, April 10, 2018
 
A state House budget panel Tuesday unanimously approved Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to end controversial privatized food service in Michigan prisons, meaning the proposal to rehire state workers for kitchen jobs cleared an early hurdle. But legislators and the Michigan Department of Corrections are at odds over a separate budget provision that would require the state to close its third prison since 2016 due to a steadily declining population. Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature voted to privatize prison food service in 2012, a move that was projected to save the state $16 million a year as contract workers replaced more than 370 state employees. …

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Gov. Rick Snyder: State to end problem-plagued privatization experiment with prison food
Source: Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, February 7, 2018
 
Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday that the state will end a four-year experiment with privatizing its prison food service after years of maggots in food, smuggling by kitchen employees, kitchen workers having sex with inmates, inadequate staffing levels and other problems documented by the Free Press in a series of articles. … The Free Press, using Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, documented a litany of problems, including meal shortages, maggots in the kitchen, the smuggling of drugs and other contraband by kitchen employees, kitchen workers engaging in sex acts with prisoners and even attempting to hire one inmate to have another inmate assaulted.  Nick Ciaramitaro, legislative director for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, whose members used to staff the prison kitchen, said many of the more than 300 former workers have moved on to other jobs or retired, but he expects there will be a core workforce available to train new hires.  “It was a shocker,” Ciaramitaro said of Snyder’s announcement.  “I give him credit. It’s one thing to try something — it’s another thing to admit that it didn’t work.” …

… The state and Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia opted to end their $145.1-million contract about 18 months early in 2015 after the state balked at billing changes requested by Aramark. The state switched to a $158.8-million contract with Florida-based Trinity Services Group, but problems continued. Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington said the state plans to bring about 350 state workers back into the prison kitchens when the Trinity contract expires July 31. The state and Trinity have mutually agreed to part ways after Trinity sought price increases, she said. …

Michigan Department of Corrections, Trinity Services Group mutually agree to end contract
Source: Upper Michigan Source, February 7, 2018

The Michigan Department of Corrections will return to state-run food service operations this summer after coming to a mutual agreement with Trinity Services Group to end the partnership when the contract expires. The change, which would bring about 350 state workers back to correctional facility kitchens, was announced in Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget recommendation presentation Wednesday. … Budget language first approved in 2012 required the open bidding of food service operations to reduce correctional costs. The boilerplate language requiring the open bidding of food service is no longer in place, but the change would still require the Legislature to appropriate sufficient funds for these operations moving forward.

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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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Chico Animal Shelter to continue offering animal control and sheltering

Source: Dani Anguiano, Chico Enterprise-Record, March 26, 2018

The city of Chico will keep its animal control and shelter services in house. In December, the city announced it would re-examine contracting out those services and requested proposals from local groups to see what other providers could offer in regard to animal services and if that could help improve practices or cut costs. Butte Humane Society and Friends of the Chico Animal Shelter submitted proposals in response to the request, and supporters and representatives from those groups passionately made their case in letters to this newspaper and City Council members. City Manager Mark Orme made the determination not to recommend outsourcing animal control and sheltering services at this time, he said, and the matter will not come before the council unless requested. That is standard practice, Orme said, adding that one aspect of his job is to examine the viability of operations in the city on a continuous basis. …

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Letter: Animals deserve care offered by city government
Source: Sarah Downs, Enterprise-Record, December 14, 2017

Recently an article was published in the E-R regarding the city considering contracting out animal shelter services in the hopes of saving the city money. However, it took seven years to gain control of the shelter from the Butte Humane Society, and it wasn’t entirely to save money. BHS ran the shelter for over 25 years, and there were big problems regarding animal care and general operations and costs. Since the city took over, the shelter has been run cleanly, efficiently, with a high level of care, and the euthanasia rate has plummeted. It’s been five years since the city took over, and I think the operations are something we can be proud of. … Finally, historically speaking, relations between BHS and the city have often been strained. With all of the information I’ve personally been able to gather, it seems contracting out to BHS would result in resorting to old practices causing a detriment to the animals of our community. …

Chico Animal Services, Animal Control could be contracted out
Source: Ashiah Scharaga, Enterprise-Record, December 1, 2017

The city could be contracting out the services at the Chico Animal Shelter, as well as those provided by Animal Control. City staff will start gathering program proposals this winter and present everything to the City Council in the coming months, according to Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin. … The city may chose to contract out all, some or none of the services, and the decision will ultimately rest with the City Council. Animal Services Manager Tracy Mohr said the city animal shelter has done a fantastic job of reducing euthanasia rates and having positive outcomes for animals. … Four years ago, the city considered contracting out services at the shelter and many other departments when the city was not as financially stable. …

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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