Pro-charter school group pays $425,000 for failing to disclose donors in Massachusetts ballot fight

Source: Shira Schoenberg, Masslive.com, September 11, 2017

An advocacy organization that gave more than $15 million to a Massachusetts ballot campaign to lift the cap on charter schools has agreed to pay $426,500 to settle allegations of campaign finance violations. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance alleged that Families for Excellent Schools contributed money to the ballot campaign in a way that was designed to hide the identity of its donors. The organization denies any wrongdoing. This is the largest settlement ever collected by Massachusetts’ Office of Campaign and Political Finance….

… Under the settlement, Families for Excellent Schools paid the state of Massachusetts $426,500 – the total amount that the organization had in cash as of Aug. 21. It registered as a ballot committee and filed a retroactive campaign finance report disclosing its donors. Its affiliated organization Families for Excellent Schools is barred from campaigning in Massachusetts for four years. According to the campaign finance report, many of the major donors to Families for Excellent Schools worked in the financial industry for various investment management firms. Most, though not all, of the donors, were from Massachusetts….

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Baker: Back to drawing board on charter schools
Source: Andy Metzger, Sentinel & Enterprise, November 10, 2016

Rejected by the voters in his bid for an expansion of charter school access, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday he will explore other means of reducing the gap between the achievement levels of white students and students of color. Speaking a day after Question 2 went down, with 37.8 percent in favor and 62.2 percent opposed, Baker mulled extensions to the school day or models similar to a Springfield partnership where schools within a public school district have authority over making their own hiring, scheduling, budgeting and curriculum decisions. … The Republican governor had backed the ballot question, which would have allowed for up to 12 additional charter schools per year beyond statutory caps, asserting that charters “have been in many cases the single biggest thing that have closed the achievement gap.” A popular Republican governor who was elected by a 40,000-vote margin two years ago in a predominantly Democrat state, Baker campaigned for Question 2 and against Question 4, legalizing marijuana. … While Question 2 had immense financial backing, spending $24 million compared to opponents’ $14 million, local school committees, mayors and teachers unions mobilized against it. Despite the roughly $10 million spending advantage, the question was defeated by a substantial margin. Only Question 3, which mandates protections for farm animals, had a more lopsided margin. A town-by-town map of results published by WBUR-FM shows opposition was widespread and nearly unanimous through cities and rural towns. A string of support in a prosperous part of Metrowest stretches from Lincoln to Sherborn, while other towns supporting the measure include Nantucket, Cohasset and Manchester-By-The-Sea. …

Massachusetts Ballot Measure on Charter School Expansion Fails
Source: New York Times, November 9, 2016

Voters in Massachusetts rejected a $26 million effort to increase the number of charter schools in the state, delivering a blow to that movement and a victory for the unions that also spent heavily trying to defeat it. The measure lost, 62.6 percent to 37.4 percent. … There was little dispute from either side that the existing 78 charter schools have performed well. But the state caps how much money communities can send to charter schools, and nine communities, including Boston, have hit the cap or can open only one more school, and thus have long wait lists. The battle turned to the question of equality: Would bringing more charters help close the achievement gap for minority children in those cities? Or would it drain money from traditional public schools and create a tiered education system? … Polling suggested the question would be answered mostly along partisan lines, with Republicans like Gov. Charlie Baker supporting expansions and Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren opposing them. …

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Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AALL 2017 attendees weigh in on library outsourcing

Source: Deborah Schwarz, LibSource, August 24, 2017

Last month at AALL’s Annual Conference in Austin, TX, HBR Consulting Managing Director Donna Terjesen and I participated in a panel discussion, Outsourcing Library Services, moderated by Cornell Winston, Law Librarian and Records Center Supervisor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We were expected to discuss our perspectives on outsourcing library services and were prepared to answer some tough questions from an audience of law librarians. My fellow panelists and I are grateful to AALL for providing a session to have a candid discussion about a topic that has often been the cause of much anxiety. I would like to share some of the thoughts expressed in our library outsourcing session, and also include opinions/comments that are often we hear. …

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Niles Township High School Union Contract Ushers In New Era

Source: Tom Robb, Journal & Topics Online, August 23, 2017

The Niles Township High School Dist. 219 Board of Education on Aug. 15 approved a new contract for the Niles Township Federation of Teachers and Support Staff, who earlier the same day voted to accept the July 1, 2017-effective agreement. … Under the new agreement, 37 staff support positions currently performed by outsourced contract workers will become direct district employee positions. The contract also covers 369.5 full-time teachers and 205 support staff.
Maintenance, clerical and librarian jobs that were contracted would become district union employee positions. Cafeteria, janitorial, security and transportation workers would remain contracted. District and union officials said district employees would have preference in hiring to fill those positions.

… The shift from contracted workers to direct district employees is significant. According to union President Ann Goethals, former Supt. Nanciann Gatta was on record as wanting to have only teachers and paraprofessionals working as classroom teacher aids to be in union bargaining units. Before her departure in 2015, Gatta told the Journal she was trying to outsource non-core educational positions in the district. Supt. Steven Isoye said the having the majority of workers in the school as direct employees generates better productivity. Union members complained bitterly at a school board meeting last year about contracting and outsourcing positions. …

Judge: IBM Owes Indiana $78M For Failed Welfare Automation

Source: Associated Press, August 7, 2017

A judge has ruled that IBM Corp. owes Indiana $78 million in damages stemming from the company’s failed effort to automate much of the state’s welfare services. … Indiana and IBM sued each other in 2010 after then-Gov. Mitch Daniels cancelled the company’s $1.3 billion contract to privatize and automate the processing of Indiana’s welfare applications following numerous complaints. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last year that IBM breached its contract. The justices affirmed a lower court’s award of nearly $50 million to IBM in state fees, but that ruling allowed Indiana to seek more than $172 million in damages from IBM.

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IBM contests judge’s removal petition in welfare-privatization suit
Source: Dave Stafford, Indiana Lawyer, May 25, 2016

The state’s petition to remove a trial court judge who oversaw the civil lawsuit over the canceled $1.3 billion contract with IBM to overhaul Indiana’s welfare system is “factually incorrect,” according to an attorney representing IBM. Andrew Hull of Hoover Hull Turner LLP said in a statement that Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer did nothing to merit removal and didn’t violate Indiana Trial or Appellate Rules in an order issued on remand from the Indiana Supreme Court, as Barnes & Thornburg LLP lawyers representing the state argued in briefs filed Monday. Their petitions and brief seeking writs from the Supreme Court argue Dreyer overstepped his authority by issuing the order without proceedings, called into question his impartiality in the matter, and asked the court to vacate his order on remand and bar him from issuing further orders in the case.

Indiana Seeks New Judge After No Damages Awarded in IBM Case
Source: Rick Callahan, Associated Press, May 10, 2016

Attorneys for the state are challenging a judge’s decision not to award Indiana damages in its long-running fight with IBM Corp. over the company’s failed effort to privatize state welfare services, saying a new judge should be appointed to handle the case. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in March that IBM had breached its $1.3 billion contract to automate much of Indiana’s welfare system. The high court directed the trial court judge to determine what damages IBM owed the state, opening the door for Indiana to seek up to $175 million. But on Friday, that judge, Marion County Superior Court Judge David Dreyer, ruled that “the costs for which the State seeks reimbursement were not adequately proven, and thus cannot be recovered as damages.” The state’s private attorneys in the case quickly filed a motion seeking a new judge to oversee the case. … The resulting lawsuits between Indiana and IBM were assigned to Dreyer, who found in 2012 that Indiana had failed to prove IBM breached its state contract and awarded the New York-based company about $50 million in state fees. Indiana appealed that ruling, and the state Court of Appeals found in February 2014 that IBM had committed a material breach of its contract by failing to deliver improvements to the state’s welfare system. But it also found IBM was entitled to nearly $50 million in state fees.

Mediation coming in IBM, Indiana contract dispute
Source: Associated Press, December 10, 2014

IBM Corp. and the state of Indiana are turning to mediation in hopes of settling their dispute over IBM’s failed attempt to privatize Indiana’s welfare services. The two parties said in a Monday court filing with the Indiana Supreme Court that they have agreed to mediation and chosen John R. Van Winkle of Indianapolis-based Van Winkle-Baten Dispute Resolution to hear their differences at a Feb. 25 mediation session. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the welfare-privatization contract dispute on Oct. 30. The following week, Chief Justice Loretta Rush suggested that the parties consider mediation “to seek a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute.” Rush’s order also said that if mediation failed, the court would move ahead to reach a decision in the long-running dispute.

Appeal of IBM-deal fees heard
Source: Niki Kelly, Journal Gazette, November 26, 2013

The fallout from the failed $1.3 billion IBM welfare modernization contract continued Monday as the Indiana Court of Appeals heard arguments over $100 million in disputed fees. … Attorney Peter Rusthoven, representing the state, said the system was plagued with problems from the outset and IBM refused to hire more people to add to the “human dimension.” …. But attorney Jay Lefkowitz, on behalf of IBM, pointed out that Indiana was trying to hire IBM to run the new hybrid system up until the day the company was terminated.

IBM, state in court Monday
Source: Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, November 20, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Monday in the legal battle over a $52 million judgment the state has been ordered to pay IBM over the failed attempt to privatize public welfare services under former Gov. Mitch Daniels. …. The state is appealing a Marion Superior Court judge’s 2012 ruling awarding $52 million to IBM after the state canceled a contract Daniels had hailed in 2006 as the solution for fixing one of the nation’s worst welfare systems. …. “Neither party deserves to win this case,” he wrote in his 65-page ruling. “This story represents a ‘perfect storm’ of misguided government policy and overzealous corporate ambition. Overall, both parties are to blame, and Indiana’s taxpayers are left as apparent losers.”

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Part of food stamp website offline for two weeks
Source: Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, November 6, 2013

Earlier this year, state contractor RCR Technology wrongly released the private information of Indiana welfare recipients. Now, part of the state’s benefits website administered by the company is broken. …. The problems come just four months after revelations that RCR wrongly revealed private data of FSSA clients, including Social Security numbers. … RCR was initially an FSSA subcontractor, but was later elevated to prime contractor after Gov. Mitch Daniels fired IBM over a botched 10-year, $1.37 billion deal to overhaul the state’s welfare system, Gavin said.

Ind. court sets hearing on IBM welfare lawsuit
Source: Associated Press, September 3, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals has set a November hearing in the state’s legal fight with IBM Corp. over a failed attempt to overhaul Indiana’s welfare system. The state is appealing a Marion County judge’s ruling last year awarding $52 million to IBM after then-Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled what was a 10-year, $1.37 billion contract to process applications for food stamps, Medicaid and other programs….

The Unequal State of America: Indiana’s rocky road to welfare reform
Source: David Rohde and Kristina Cooke, Reuters, December 20, 2012

In 2006, Gov. Mitch Daniels privatized the management of the welfare-benefits system with a project led by IBM. Two-thirds of Indiana’s social-service agency’s staffers became employees of IBM and its partners. In a process dubbed “welfare modernization,” recipients would apply for benefits online and by phone rather than meeting social workers face to face. It was, by Daniels’s own admission, a failure…..

JEditorial: Human toll of FSSA deal laid bare
Source: Journal Gazette, July 24, 2012

Editorial: Decision to privatize state welfare system a mistake from start
Source: Evansville Courier & Press, July 22, 2012

Judge denies Indiana claim over failed IBM project
Source: Charles Wilson, Associated Press, July 18, 2012

A judge on Wednesday spurned Indiana’s efforts to recoup roughly $170 million from IBM Corp. over its failed effort to overhaul the state’s welfare system as part of a broader privatization push that was an early hallmark of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ tenure. Marion County Judge David Dreyer said in a 75-page order that neither side deserved to win the dispute, and awarded IBM only a small fraction of what it was seeking. … Dreyer blamed “misguided government policy and overzealous corporate ambition” for the failure of the system, which he called an “untested theoretical experiment.” … Dreyer said Indiana failed to prove that IBM breached its contract, and he denied the state any of the money it sought.

IBM questions Daniels’ resistance to deposition
Source: Carrie Ritchie, IndyStar.com, December 19, 2011

In court, state and IBM spar over welfare system’s design
Source: Carrie Ritchie, Indianapolis Star, March 9, 2012

IBM to begin making case in welfare trial
Source: Indianapolis Star, March 21, 2012

IBM: Indiana canceled deal because of budget woes
Source: Associated Press, April 3, 2012

IBM, state in final arguments at welfare system trial
Source: Carrie Ritchie, Indianapolis Star, April 3, 2012

Judge orders Gov. Daniels be deposed in IBM lawsuits
Source: Carrie Ritchie, IndyStar.com, December 16, 2011

A judge has ordered Gov. Mitch Daniels to share his knowledge of a canceled $1 billion contract with IBM to help resolve a legal battle between the state and the company.

Attorneys for the state had said a law protects Daniels and other high-ranking state officials from testifying….

Charter Schools Insist: Our Teachers Are Public Employees! Or Private Employees! Whichever Means They Can’t Unionize!

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, American Prospect, September 5, 2017

… In February 2017, the NLRB voted 2-1 against IHS’s challenge, concluding that the teachers are indeed private workers under their purview rather than public employees. Yet IHS, still refusing to bargain, is now taking its case to the Fifth Circuit—the first time a federal appellate court will rule on such a challenge. The outcome of this suit could affect labor law for charter teachers not only at IHS, but throughout all the Fifth Circuit states—Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. …

… But which side of the public-or-private controversy charter schools come down on seems to vary with political geography. While in the IHS case, the state charter associations insist that all charter schools should be considered political subdivisions (and therefore public) under the “Hawkins test,” when charter teachers at the Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy filed for union representation with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in 2010, the school responded by saying its teachers fell under the purview of the NLRB, because their charter was a privately incorporated nonprofit, governed by a corporate board. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the most prominent national charter advocacy organization, filed an amicus brief in support of CSMA’s position, arguing that “charter schools are intended to be and usually are run by corporate entities that are administered independently from the state and local governments in which they operate.” …

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Teachers at a fifth New Orleans charter school seeking a union
Source: Jessica Williams, The Advocate, March 28, 2017

Teachers are unionizing at another of New Orleans’ independent charter schools. And, as usual, things have gotten contentious. This time, the faculty at Mary D. Coghill Charter School is pushing for union representation. It’s the fifth campus in the past few years where staff have sought to link up with the United Teachers of New Orleans, a union that once bargained for wages and benefits on behalf of thousands of employees before it was sidelined by the charter movement in the years after Hurricane Katrina. …

National labor board OKs Lusher, International High unions
Source: Danielle Dreilinger, The Times-Picayune, February 1, 2017

The National Labor Relations Board has shot down challenges to two New Orleans charter school unions. That means Lusher Charter School aides and International High School teachers have the right to collectively bargain employment contracts.
The 2-1 board votes came down Wednesday (Feb. 1). … International High plans to appeal the decision, attorney Brooke Duncan III said. … Charter schools are neither fish nor fowl, publicly funded but run by independent nonprofits. The National Labor Relations Board treats them as private employers, which under federal law must bargain with unionized workers. Elected Louisiana school boards don’t. Both schools argued that they should be considered public agencies. … The board’s majority disagreed, writing, “The employer was not created directly by the state so as to constitute a department or administrative arm of the government nor administered by individuals who are responsible to public officials or the general electorate.” …

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Park District golf faces day of decision

Source: Dave Reynolds, Peoria Journal Star, September 3, 2017
 
After a summer of community speculation and two impassioned public hearings in the past 10 days, the Peoria Park District Board of Trustees is poised to vote Thursday on whether to proceed with a plan to outsource management of its debt-ridden golf system.  The park district, which reported a $1.03 million deficit in its golf operations in 2016 and projects a similar shortfall this year, says it would save up to $250,000 in 2018 and could realize more than half-a-million dollars in savings over the life of the three-year contract, by outsourcing to GolfVisions Management Inc. … Park district employees who hold those positions would be invited to apply to keep their jobs under GolfVisions.  But the proposal raised concerns because seven of the current employees are represented by one of two unions — the Teamsters or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. GolfVisions employees are non-union. … 

Americans express support for traditional public schools in new poll, even as Trump disparages them

Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, August 29, 2017
 
… A majority of Americans polled also said they oppose programs that use public money for private and religious school education, policies that are supported by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And a majority said they do not think that standardized test scores  — which have been used for more than a dozen years as the most important factor in evaluating schools — are a valid reflection of school quality.  These are some of the findings in the 49th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the longest continuously running survey of American attitudes toward public education, released late Monday. … But 52 percent of Americans oppose using public funds to send students to private school and opposition rises to 61 percent when the issue is described in more detail, the report says, indicating that Americans broadly care about the issue of how public funds are spent. …

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NIFA report suggests eliminating crossing guards, closing Marine Bureau

Source: News 12 Long Island, August 31, 2017
 
A new report by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) suggests the county should eliminate crossing guards, privatize ambulance services and close its Marine Bureau in an effort to close a $54 million deficit.   CSEA President Jerry Larrichuita says he’s outraged by language in the report that suggests many of the proposed cuts would not have an impact on county services.  “I think they should stick to banking, which is their job, and stay out of government operations,” says Larrichuita. …

Construction of long-awaited Purple Line begins in Prince George’s

Source: Sara Gilgore, Washington Busines Journal, August 28, 2017
 
The latest investment in the 16.2-mile, $5.6 billion project is a $900 million infusion of federal dollars, including the $325 million already appropriated for the project — funding the Trump administration had proposed cutting but saved partly because the public-private partnership building the Purple Line could serve as a model for other U.S. transit systems. The Purple Line P3, to be funded by the federal, state and local governments and the private sector, is the largest in the country’s history.  The system’s construction alone will mean thousands of jobs for the state — more than 6,000 construction positions and more than 400 ongoing jobs — and is expected to generate millions of dollars in economic development. …

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MD: ARTBA: Purple Line legal woes seen as bad precedent for transportation P3s
Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, August 25, 2017 (subscription required)
 
A year-long legal delay in Maryland’s $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail system being financed as a public-private partnership poses risks for the future of similar transportation P3 projects, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association said in a brief filed with a federal appeals court. In its friend-of-the-court brief, ARTBA contends that federal Judge Richard Leon of the District Court for the District of Columbia misapplied the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when he revoked the project’s environmental permits, stopping work on the project.  “Unless reversed, this precedent will have adverse consequences for complex transportation and related infrastructure projects across the country.” ARTBA said. “The district court’s holding injects new delay and litigation risks, thereby stifling the growth of this key financing mechanism to leverage and combine governmental and private dollars and responsibilities to meet the nation’s exigent transportation needs.” …

Purple Line P3 back on track for $900 million federal transit grant
Source: Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, August 22, 2017 (subscription required)

Maryland and federal officials will sign a federal funding agreement next week for a promised $900 million federal grant to help fund the construction of the $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail system being financed as a public-private partnership. The Purple Line would connect with the Washington Area Mass Transit Authority’s Metrorail system and Amtrak at several points on its 16-mile route through the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. A spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said late Monday that the Transportation Department agreed to move ahead on the grant following “very productive, high-level conversations” between Hogan and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. …

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