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. … 

KDADS Secretary makes pitch to privatize Osawatomie

Source: Melissa Brunner, WIBW, August 30, 2017
 
The Kansas Dept. for Aging and Disability services is making the case to privatize the Osawatomie State Hospital.   Secretary Tim Keck presented information Wednesday to state lawmakers and community leaders. Over nearly two hours, Keck detailed the history Osawatomie, the issues it has experienced in recent years and steps the state has taken to address the problems.  Looking to the future, Keck detailed a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions to rebuild and run Osawatomie, which lost federal certification in 2015. Correct Care runs mental health facilities around the country. …

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State officials hope to replace, privatize Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Peter Hancock, Lawrence Journal-World, August 30, 2017

State officials in Kansas began laying out their case Wednesday for why they think the state should replace the aging and troubled Osawatomie State Hospital with a new facility and hand over management of the facility to a for-profit, out-of-state corporation. Tim Keck, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which manages the psychiatric hospital, said the hospital has become too challenging for the state to manage, and it is time for the state to make a decision. …

Kansas Lawmaker Leary Of Plans To Privatize Osawatomie
Source: Celia Llopis-Jepsen, KMUW, August 23, 2017

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has unveiled a proposal to build a new mental hospital at Osawatomie, which a Tennessee company would run. But Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward says the agency should be exploring in-house options. “This administration has a terrible history of privatization. Whether it be child support collection, DCF, KanCare,” Ward says. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck says the private operator would bring expertise and the ability to recruit mental health professionals. But, he says, his department is keeping an open mind. …

Kansas agency may privatize state psychiatric hospital working to regain federal funds
Source: Allison Kite, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 16, 2017
 
The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is considering privatization for a troubled state psychiatric hospital that has now passed an initial step toward regaining some federal funding. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said the department was considering a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, which runs other mental health facilities across the country, to rebuild and privately run Osawatomie State Hospital.  The department also announced in a press release Wednesday that the acute care unit at the state psychiatric hospital had passed an initial survey required to get that part of the hospital re-certified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. …

Kansas Official To Outline Privatization Plan For Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Jim McLean, KCUR, August 14, 2017
 
One way or another, Tim Keck wants to replace the state’s aging Osawatomie State Hospital with a new mental health treatment facility.  Though he is meeting with some resistance, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is pushing lawmakers to consider privatizing the state-run psychiatric hospital, which in recent years has been beset by operational problems.  On Tuesday Keck will outline a privatization plan submitted by a Tennessee-based company to stakeholders and legislators during a 1 p.m. meeting at hospital’s administration building. …

Osawatomie Contract Bidder Has History Of Safety Issues At Its Florida Psychiatric Facilities
Source: Meg Wingerter, KMUW, February 23, 2017

Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee-based company that is the sole bidder for a contract to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida. Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) declined to provide details this week on Correct Care’s bid to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state facilities for people deemed a danger to themselves or others. The department is evaluating the proposal and hasn’t given a timeline for whether or when it would bring it before the Legislature. Under a law they approved last year, lawmakers must approve the contract before KDADS can move forward. …

‘Tough’ Budget: New Funding Unlikely For Kan. Mental Health System
Source: Meg Wingerter, Hays Post, February 12, 2017

A key Kansas lawmaker says the state doesn’t have the money to fix problems in its mental health system, which a new report says are getting steadily worse. The report, the second from a task force created in 2015 to advise the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, says the system has continued to deteriorate. The task force’s first report, issued about 18 months ago, concluded the system was “stretched beyond its ability to provide the right care at the right time in the right place.” Rep. Brenda Landwehr, who chairs the House Social Services Budget Committee, agreed there are substantial gaps in the system but said lawmakers are virtually powerless to respond because of the depth of the state’s budget problems. … Given the amount of projected red ink, Landwehr said the state can’t afford to implement task force recommendations that would require significant new spending. Specifically, she said, it can’t afford to add psychiatric residential services for people covered by KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. … In the updated report, task force members also signaled their opposition to privatizing Osawatomie State Hospital, citing concerns about the quality of care delivered by for-profit contractors in other states. … More than 60 [House members] have signed on to a bill that would prohibit the privatization of either of the state’s mental health hospitals unless authorized by the Legislature. …

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Privatization considered at Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Charity Keitel, Miami County Republic, November 23, 2016

After more than a year of improvements, renovations and the pursuit of recertification, the Osawatomie State Hospital’s (OSH) future continues to remain in a state of flux. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Interim Secretary Tim Keck recently announced that a request for proposal (RFP) for privatization of the operation of OSH has been put into effect. The RFP entails several specifications and could allow for a partial privatization of the hospital or a full bid for the entire operation. The RFP states that the state may award one contract to assume responsibility for providing at least 206 inpatient beds within the state of Kansas, but a minimum of only 94 inpatient beds would be required to be maintained at the current Osawatomie State Hospital campus. The remaining beds could be maintained at the OSH campus or at another KDADS-approved facility within the state hospital’s 45-county catchment area. Despite the RFP, Keck said it in no way means that privatization is a certainty in OSH’s future. He said he believes it is worthwhile to consider all the options even those that may not come to fruition. The RFP can be rescinded at any time for any reason at the state’s discretion. … Jones went on to say that he does not agree with an RFP that plans to move beds away from OSH and not increase functions there. He said the RFP seems to allow for a move of beds away from the state hospital as an option, which he does not favor. … It’s his belief that the legislators need to push back and make sure the RFP does not make it through the legislature. …

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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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Massena town, hospital make non-disclosure deal, supervisor says brings asset transfer a step closer

Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, August 31, 2017 
Following a closed-door session on Wednesday, the Massena Town Council ratified a non-disclosure agreement that the town supervisor brings them a bit closer to a Massena Memorial Hospital asset transfer deal.  “The board authorized me to sign a non-disclosure agreement that basically says we’re not going to disclose the information we’re negotiating … details of the transfer. The hospital’s attorney and our attorney worked back and forth over the last few weeks to finalize the terms of our agreement,” Town Supervisor Joe Gray said.  MMH is in the process of becoming a private, non-profit entity. The Town of Massena now owns them.  Part of the transition process is negotiating how the town will be compensated for losing the MMH asset. …

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Massena Memorial Hospital CEO says they will ask workers comp carrier to help them reduce number of incidents leading to claims
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, July 25, 2017

Massena Memorial Hospital’s CEO says he will call on their workers compensation carrier to help them reduce workplace incidents leading to claims, after the county announced plans to move to a risk-based funding system for the insurance plan. “We are going to be asking for the workers compensation carrier to help us reduce our incidents. If we’re going to pay a premium we’re going to get service, not somebody who processes claims and says ‘you’re doing a bad job,’” MMH CEO Robert Wolleben said at the Monday Board of Managers meeting. County legislators recently voted to modify the Workers’ Compensation insurance contribution formula to a risk-and-use-based system, resulting in massive savings for many municipalities, but a 267 percent increase for the Town of Massena.

Massena Memorial CEO won’t give regular privatization updates to town board as transfer negotiations continue
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, July 20, 2017
 
The Massena Memorial Hospital CEO will no longer give regular updates on the hospital’s privatization process at monthly Town Council meetings.  The town board and the MMH board are negotiating an asset transfer deal to determine how the town will be compensated for its asset once MMH privatizes. … In addition to the asset transfer, the hospital is waiting for their 501c3 application from the IRS, and trying to pick an affiliate.  Wolleben earlier this year at a town board meeting said he hoped at the MMH meeting the following week, but it didn’t happen. That was in February. The only updates he has given in public is they are looking at two potential affiliates, one in eastern New York and one in the western part of the state.  Gray implied that MMH officials may have whittled that number down to one. …

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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. …

Trump and DeVos fuel a for-profit college comeback

Source: Michael Stratford, Politico, August 31, 2017
 
For-profit colleges are winning their battle to dismantle Obama-era restrictions as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolls back regulations, grants reprieves to schools at risk of losing their federal funding and stocks her agency with industry insiders.  More than seven months into the Trump administration, DeVos has: Moved to gut two major Obama-era regulations reviled by the industry that would have cut off funding to low-performing programs and made it easier for defrauded students to wipe out their loans; Appointed a former for-profit college official, Julian Schmoke Jr., to lead the team charged with policing fraud in higher education — one of a slew of industry insiders installed in key positions. …. Stopped approving new student-fraud claims brought against for-profit schools. The Education Department has a backlog of more than 65,000 applications from students seeking to have their loans forgiven on the grounds they were defrauded, some of which date to the previous administration. …

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Trump changes higher ed with rollback of Obama-era consumer protections
Source: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post, July 9, 2017
 
Step by step, the Trump administration is walking back policies and rules in higher education that its predecessor said were needed to protect students who rely on federal funding to pursue a degree. … Through the first half of the year, the department led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has withdrawn, delayed or announced plans to revamp more than a half dozen Obama-era measures involving federal student aid. …

Betsy DeVos delays 2 Obama-era rules designed to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, June 14, 2017
 
The Trump administration is suspending two key rules from the Obama administration that were intended to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges, saying it will soon start the process to write its own regulations.  The move made Wednesday by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was a victory for Republican lawmakers and for-profit colleges that had lobbied against the rules. Critics denounced it, accusing the administration of essentially selling out students to help for-profit colleges stay in business.

Trump’s Administration Is Making It Easier for For-Profit Colleges to Screw Over More Students
Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, March 31, 2017
 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s controversial pick for a special assistant—for-profit college corporate lawyer Robert Eitel, may be a portent. As counsel for Bridgepoint, the parent company of the now-tainted brands of Ashford University and University of the Rockies, was forced by the Obama administration last year to refund $24 million in tuition and debt costs to students, plus civil damages, after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that its heavy marketing scheme for its online programs, and “deceived its students into taking out loans that cost more than advertised.” …

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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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Fact Meter: Kansas budget director’s chart offers misleading view of KanCare waiting list

Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 28, 2017
 
The fate of thousands of Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities who don’t receive benefits for which they’re qualified remains a contentious issue more than four years into operation of the state’s privatized $3 billion Medicaid system. Shawn Sullivan, budget director for Gov. Sam Brownback, discussed during a presentation to a House and Senate oversight committee the need for sustained state government revenue growth to shrink the waiting list for home- or community-based services through Medicaid. …

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Kansans share KanCare concerns with legislative panel
Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 22, 2017

Individuals and associations representing enrollees in Kansas’ Medicaid program shared frustration Monday with difficulty securing services for thousands of people eligible for assistance as well as with Gov. Sam Brownback’s declaration of policy victory for saving the state treasury $1.4 billion after turning the system over to three insurance companies. … Dozens of issues were raised at the Capitol during a hearing of the Kansas Legislature’s joint committee on KanCare oversight. Testimony in support of the KanCare insurance providers and state agencies blended with complaints raised repeatedly over the years. This inquiry by legislators occurs at a time of transition, with Brownback preparing to leave office and the state applying to the federal government for permission to continue with KanCare, which serves more than 400,000 low-income adults, pregnant women and people with disabilities. …

Feds stop requiring bi-weekly Kansas reports on Medicaid
Source: Associated Press, July 12, 2017
 
Federal officials are no longer requiring Kansas to file bi-weekly reports on a large backlog of applicants for the state’s privatized Medicaid program.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was notified last week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that the state can discontinue the reports it has been sending since early 2006. At the time, Kansas had more than 7,000 backlogged applications that had been pending for more than 45 days for its Medicaid program, called KanCare. …

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FAA airport privatization program grounded by financing concerns

Source: Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, August 24, 2017 (subscription required)
 
A 20-year-old federal pilot program of airport privatization has found few takers because of restrictions on how the Federal Aviation Administration allows private operators to fund related infrastructure projects, the Congressional Research Service said. A CRS report, released earlier this month, points to challenges that may lie ahead for the Trump administration, which says it is preparing a 10-year, $1 trillion plan that will focus on leveraging private investments in infrastructure through public-private partnerships.  The CRS focused on the FAA’s Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP), created by Congress in 1996 to increase airports’ access to private capital for infrastructure projects. Only two airports have been privatized since the law was enacted, and one of them, Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y., reverted back to public ownership after seven years in private hands. …

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Airport Privatization: Limited Interest despite FAA’s Pilot Program
Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-15-42, Published: November 19, 2014

From the summary:
Since the FAA started to accept applications to the Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP) in 1997, 10 airports have applied to the pilot program (see figure). Of these 10, 2 were privatized, 7 did not complete the program, and one application is currently under FAA review. Public-sector airport owners’ objectives for full privatization varied, but the overriding reason cited was financial benefit. The 7 applicants that withdrew did so for varied reasons, such as changes in market conditions that reduced expected privatization benefits.

Several factors reduce both public and private sector interest in airport privatization in the U.S.—such as higher financing costs for privatized airports and the possible lack of state and local property tax exemptions. Also, while the APPP reduces some of the challenges to privatization that we identified in 1996, privatization still requires considerable time and cost to navigate. Furthermore, public sector airport owners have found ways to gain some of the potential benefits of privatization without ceding control under full privatization, such as entering airport management contracts and joint development agreements for managing and building an airport terminal.

The potential effects of airport privatization on airport efficiency, the federal aviation trust fund, federal tax revenues, and airport employees and concessionaires are difficult to determine. Privatization’s impact on these areas depends on many different factors such as how each airport privatization is structured, making it difficult to estimate the overall impact.

Different airport ownership and financing structures and motivations have driven more extensive overseas privatization efforts, as at least 450 airports around the world have been privatized to some degree. Stakeholders mentioned a variety of lessons learned from the U.S. and international experience, including ensuring public-sector due diligence, involving all stakeholders and creating a transparent privatization process. Stakeholders also provided a range of suggestions for modifying the APPP, from increasing the clarity of the program’s rules to reducing the federal role in airport privatizations.

Private Prison GEO Group to Pay $60,000 To Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment And Retaliation Lawsuit

Source: EEOC Press Release, August 25, 2017
 
The GEO Group, Inc., operator of the Central Arizona Correctional Facility (CACF) in Florence, Ariz., will pay $60,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.  According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, GEO allowed its employees and managers to sexually harass Roberta Jones since June 2007. For example, the agency alleged that certain male superior officers and coworkers would frequently stand around bragging about their sexual exploits. At least two superior officers were alleged to have put their hands on Jones in an unwanted manner. GEO failed to adequately respond to Jones’s complaints of sexual harassment, the EEOC said. The lawsuit also alleged that Geo assigned Ms. Jones to less desirable posts, disciplined, and terminated her after she complained about the harassment and participated in protected activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. …

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Florence Private Prison GEO Group Sued a Second Time by EEOC for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), September 25, 2015

The GEO Group, Inc., operators of the Central Arizona Correctional Facility in Florence, Ariz., violated federal law by sexually harassing a female correctional officer and then retaliating against her for having participated in a prior lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against GEO alleging systemic sexual harassment, EEOC charged in a lawsuit it filed today. According to EEOC’s lawsuit, GEO allowed its employees and managers to sexually harass Roberta Jones since June 2007. …