Judge sides with House speaker in lawsuit in Florida Lottery contract dispute with Scott administration

Source: Associated Press, March 8, 2017

In a move that could escalate tensions further among Florida’s Republican leaders, a Tallahassee judge on Tuesday sided with House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a lawsuit that contends the administration of Gov. Rick Scott approved an illegal contract. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers on Tuesday ruled the Florida Lottery lacked the legal authority to sign off on more than $700 million contract with IGT Global Solutions to run lottery games. Gievers declared the contract, which is supposed to run until 2031, “void and unenforceable.” … Corcoran sued the state’s lottery secretary last month, arguing that the contract approved last fall exceeds the Florida Lottery’s authorized budget. During a daylong hearing on the lawsuit held this week, top aides who work for the Florida House also testified that the contract also was structured in a way to sidestep legislative oversight. They noted that lottery officials last fall asked legislators for more money to pay for the contract. … Florida had a contract with Gtech, one of the world’s leading lottery operators. It merged with International Game Technology and changed its name, and IGT Global Solutions is a subsidiary. State records show the old contract — which started in 2005 — was worth roughly $387 million. The new contract is worth as much as $717 million. …

Missouri House approves increase charter school funding

Source: Ryan Matheny, KMA Land, March 17, 2017

Legislation that would expand charter schools in Missouri has passed one side of the General Assembly. By a narrow 82-to-76 margin, the Missouri House approved HB-634 — sponsored by Republican Rebecca Roeber of Lee’s Summit — which would allow charter schools to be established throughout the state. Currently, charter schools — which are publicly-funded and tuition-free schools that operate independently of the public school system — are only allowed in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas. … Many Republicans in the House backed the bill because it increases choices for education, while opponents hold that the state cannot hold the schools accountable. … Governor Eric Greitens has already signaled support for the proposal. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration, where a similar proposal is already in committee.

Ishpeming won’t privatize busing

Source: Jerry Tudor, WLUC TV6, March 17, 2017

After plenty of discussion and deliberation the Ishpeming School District has decided not to privatize its busing operations. Talks began about nine months ago, and one company did a presentation during a school board meeting explaining their interest. The deadline for proposals was March 1st. Since that time, school officials discussed and researched the proposal and determined it wouldn’t be in the school’s best financial interest. … Bus drivers in Ishpeming will remain in their current contracts and will continue at the same pay rate. …

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Community unites against privatizing transportation in local school district
Source: Chelsea Birdsall, ABC 10, February 23, 2017

With a deficit in its budget, the Ishpeming Public School District has been looking for ways to cut the budget to leave more money for education. One idea going through the Board of Education is privatizing the busing system for the district. Rallying against the idea, community members came to voice their opinion against privatization. Dressed in black and adorned with yellow buttons, over fifty community members were in attendance at Wednesday night’s Ishpeming Board of Education Meeting. The hot topic of discussion was whether or not the district should privatize transportation in order to satisfy a more balanced budget. According to Superintendent Carrie Meyers, the Department of Treasury has inquired about the fiscal state of the district, and while it hasn’t been determined to be under fiscal stress quite yet, they’re looking for ways to avoid it without affecting students in the classroom. Over the last year, the board has mulled over the concept of privatization and has heard a handful of presentations from potential candidates while launching their own investigation into the matter.

Ishpeming School Board weighs privatization of busing
Source: Lisa Bowers, Mining Journal, November 22, 2016

The Ishpeming School Board is considering privatization of its busing system as a potential cost saving measure. The board heard a presentation from Dean Transportation, a company out of the Lansing area, and Checker Transport of Marquette. Dean Transportation representative Patrick Dean said his company currently partners with 125 different school districts in the Lower Peninsula in 35 locations with approximately 1,400 school busses. The company provides a variety of services including general education transportation, regional special education transportation, field trips, driver support services and transportation management services, Dean said. … Dean Transportation will work in concert with Checker Transport of Marquette. Checker currently provides busing services for North Star Academy. … According to its website, Lamers Bus Lines Inc. offers services in locations throughout the state of Wisconsin, one in Florida and one in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Lamers currently provides busing services to the Calumet – Laurium District Schools, Houghton Public Schools and Hancock Public Schools. Betty Mongiat, who has been a bus driver in the Ishpeming School district for 29 years, said she had concerns about how a private company would handle day-to-day problems with the buses. … IPS Superintendent Carrie Meyer said the presentations were just the first step in the process. “We are just in the preliminary stages with looking at privatizing busing,” Meyer said. She said she is in the process of creating a request for proposals that will include information about the buses the district has and the routes they cover. Meyer said she expects the RFP to be ready to go before the Finance Committee in December. The Finance Committee will then make a recommendation to the school board as to whether or not to send out the RFP and then post for bids. …

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IT contractor to pay $45 million to settle software overcharge

Source: Mark Rockwell, Federal Computing Week, March 13, 2017

Systems software vendor CA will pay $45 million to resolve allegations of overcharging the General Services Administration for software licenses and maintenance. The settlement, announced by the Justice Department on March 10, resolves allegations that CA misrepresented its commercial pricing to GSA in a 2002 software license deal, which was extended in 2008 and 2009. … CA allegedly provided false information to GSA about the discounts it gave commercial customers for its software licenses and maintenance services. Under its contract with GSA, CA’s pricing was supposed to track with discounts available to commercial customers. Additionally, DOJ said the settlement resolves claims that CA violated the price reduction clause in the contract by not providing government customers with additional discounts when commercial discounts improved. The case was spurred by a whistleblower complaint by a former CA employee. …

Why did Congress renew this embattled Pentagon program?

Source: Lloyd Chapman, The Hill, March 7, 2017

Something very interesting happened with the passage of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Some unknown member of Congress included language in the bill that renewed the Pentagon’s embattled Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program (CSPTP) until 2027. .. Every year since 1989 the CSPTP has been renewed one year at a time for the last 27 years and now suddenly, Congress renewed it for a decade. … I think Congress and the Pentagon were afraid all the negative publicity my litigation has caused would make it difficult if not impossible to renew the CSPTP in the 2018 NDAA. Their solution: renew it for the next 10 years. 

In 1989, the CSPTP was adopted under the guise of “increasing subcontracting opportunities for small businesses.” In reality, the CSPTP was designed to eliminate all transparency for the Pentagon’s largest prime contractors. It prevents people like me from obtaining data from the Pentagon that prove they are violating federal contracting law and cheating American small businesses out of billions in federal contracts and subcontracts. The CSPTP also eliminated any and all penalties for non-compliance with federal small business subcontracting goals. Think of the absurdity of a program that eliminates all transparency in Pentagon small business subcontracting programs and eliminates all penalties for non-compliance with small business subcontracting goals and then test that theory for 38 years to see if it increases opportunities for small businesses. … In 2004, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a reportthat found there was no evidence the CSPTP had ever helped small businesses. In 2014, the Pentagon finally admitted the CSPTP had actually reduced subcontracting opportunities for small businesses. …

Private financing wrong direction for Canadian infrastructure bank

Source: CUPE, March 20, 2017

A new report written by CUPE economist Toby Sanger warns that private financing of the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank could double the cost of infrastructure projects, and shows how the bank can instead provide low-cost, public financing for much-needed projects. The study was published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in advance of the federal budget, where more details of the proposed bank are expected to be unveiled. Sanger outlines the dramatic shift from Liberal election promises of a bank with low-cost financing to the current plan, which focuses on higher-priced private borrowing. The shift will increase pressure to privatize key infrastructure, and will mean less public funding is available to deliver public services and infrastructure. … The study outlines how the federal government could establish a Canadian infrastructure bank that works in the public interest by providing low-cost financing for public infrastructure.

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Blurred Lines: Public School Reforms and the Privatization of Public Education

Source: Erika K. Wilson, Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 51, December 13, 2016

Abstract:
This Article critically examines the rise of market-based public school reforms. It argues that market-based public school reforms result in quality public education being normatively conceptualized and treated as what political economists call a private good rather than a public good. While public education is admittedly not a pure public good, it is widely recognized as a quasi or impure public good that benefits society as a whole in many ways. Yet market-based public school reforms situate public education as a private good by diminishing public education’s ability to truly bring positive externalities to society as a whole. They do so by situating the positive externalities associated with a quality public education in ways that do not benefit the greater society. Instead, market-based public school reforms allow a shallow subset of people to take advantage of market-like exchanges to select — rather than be assigned to — a particular school that they believe will provide a quality public education for only them. Little regard is given to the overall quality of education received by students collectively. Instead, market-based public school reforms allow students to individually improve their own lot, while failing to address systemic issues that plague many low-quality public schools. For these reasons, this Article makes a normative argument in favor of re-thinking market-based reforms as the primary vehicle for improving educational opportunities for poor and minority students.

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Charter schools bill hotly debated in hearing

Source: Margaret Reist, Lincoln Journal Star, March 18, 2017

Public school advocates and their equally passionate school choice counterparts painted very different pictures of what Nebraska’s education system would look like if it authorized charter schools during hours of testimony at a Legislative hearing Tuesday. … The bill (LB630), introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, would allow charter schools in districts with low-performing schools. The charter schools would be overseen by a new Independent Public School Authorizing and Accountability Commission created by the bill. Larson said he planned to offer an amendment to strengthen accountability measures in LB630 and to address constitutional questions raised by Nebraska Department of Education officials. Nebraska is one of seven states that does not authorize charter schools. The full Legislature is unlikely to debate the bill this session because it wasn’t prioritized. Still, that didn’t stop proponents from holding a news conference Tuesday in support of it, or from more than 150 people gathering for a rally in opposition to it. …

Magnolia Health Corporation to Pay $325,000 To Settle EEOC Class Disability Discrimination Case

Source: Press Release, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, March 8, 2017

Magnolia Health Corporation, a Visalia, Calif.-based company that operates health care and assisted living facilities throughout California’s Central Valley, will pay $325,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. EEOC filed suit against the company in September 2015, charging that since 2012, Magnolia had discriminated against a class of applicants and employees on the basis of their disability, having a record of a disability, or being perceived as having one. EEOC said that Magnolia denied employees accommodations for their disabilities, and refused to hire, or fired, applicants and employees who had disabilities or were regarded as such. EEOC also said that Magnolia rescinded employment offers when applicants’ post-offer medical examinations indicated that they had a record of a disability or had current medical restrictions. EEOC further charged that Magnolia required employees be completely free of medical restrictions to work. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). …

NIFA warns Nassau about contract start dates

Source: Paul LaRocco, Newsday, March 14, 2017

Nassau’s financial control board is warning the county not to pay vendors for work done before contracts are approved, weighing in on a controversy that has caused a rift between Republican County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration and GOP county lawmakers. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority last week added language to its contract approval forms that explicitly states its guidelines on vendor payments. It says: “NIFA approves this contract/amendment, but no time charges shall be recognized or paid for services rendered prior to” the agreement’s final execution. NIFA counsel Jeremy Wise said the board took action because Nassau had allowed work to begin on numerous pacts before they’d come before county legislators. The county this month identified 47 such contracts, some dating back eight years. … The county administration for years has allowed some vendors to start work without legislative approval, but the practice began generating consistent complaints from GOP lawmakers only in the last month. … But [county procurement compliance director] Cleary said the problem isn’t unique. New York City, where Cleary worked previously, reported more than 600 retroactive contracts in 2013, records show.