Tag Archives: Arizona

How the Kochs are trying to shake up public schools, one state at a time

Source: Kimberly Hefling, Politico, October 30, 2017

With school choice efforts stalled in Washington, the billionaire Koch brothers’ network is engaged in state-by-state battles with teachers’ unions, politicians and parent groups to push for public funding of private and charter schools.  One of the newest campaigns is the Libre Initiative, a grassroots drive targeting Hispanic families in 11 states so far, under the umbrella of the Charles and David Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, a powerful conservative and libertarian advocacy group. … The group has had some initial success — for instance, helping to thwart a moratorium on charter school expansion in New Mexico. But it’s also created bitter divisions in the Latino community and led to accusations the Kochs are trying to undermine public education — and even in some cases, to subvert the Democratic process.

… Despite such criticism, the group is hunkering down for the long haul in states it views as ripe for change even as it eyes new states for expansion. Lima says it’s on track to make contact with more than 100,000 Hispanic households this year on school choice. Besides Nevada and New Mexico, Libre is organizing in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Its recent efforts, with other Koch-backed groups, include:

  • A planned “six-figure” spend in Nevada on “deep canvassing” in Hispanic neighborhoods to build support for educational savings accounts, which enable families to use state tax dollars to pay for private school. …
  • A lawsuit brought by Americans for Prosperity, among others, aimed at stopping a 2018 Arizona referendum asking voters whether they want to keep a school choice law passed earlier this year. …
  • A “six-figure” Libre and Americans for Prosperity campaign in Colorado this summer to promote charter schools and education savings accounts and another ahead of a Nov. 7 school board race by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation to push choice-friendly issues.
  • A seven-figure investment In Virginia’s gubernatorial race by Americans for Prosperity that includes a video criticizing Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, for his opposition to education savings accounts.
  • Mailings in Spanish and English supporting a Florida law that encourages charter schools in communities with low-performing schools. After Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, signed it into law, the state Democratic Party said he’d “declared war on our public schools.” …

Phoenix To Outsource Low Income Housing Program

Source: Christina Estes, KJZZ, October 9, 2017
 
Phoenix is looking to outsource daily operations of its most popular low-income housing program. The move will lead to an annual contract worth up to $1 million.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sends cities money to cover administrative costs for the Section 8 voucher program.  Phoenix Housing Director Cindy Stotler said after years of overfunding, HUD has spent the last seven years reducing the money it sends. She told council members it’s no longer enough to cover the cost of 34 full-time positions. … Frank Piccioli, president of AFSCME Local 2960, thinks outsourcing is a bad idea.  “When you start giving away such control from public servants to a private corporation, you change that basic goal,” he said. “The goal becomes profit and not service.”  Currently, 27 city employees and seven temporary agency staff handle the program. The Housing Department said it will work with affected staffers to fill vacant positions throughout the city. …

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. …

Low Staffing Levels at Arizona Prisons Could Lead to Big Fines

Source: Jimmy Jenkins, KJZZ, August 9, 2017

A federal judge will appoint an outside expert to address low health care staffing levels in Arizona prisons and could soon issue economic sanctions against the state. For years the state has failed to comply with performance measures from a settlement between the state and the inmates. The main reason for the failures is staffing, and Judge David Duncan said economic currents are to blame. At a status hearing Wednesday, Duncan said the state’s private contractor, Corizon, has made the decision to simply pay fines instead of paying for full staffing at state prisons. … Duncan became increasingly incensed when hearing of the state’s failure to comply with measures that guarantee inmates access to their prescribed medicine. He repeated his threat that the state is facing steep fines and suggested economic sanctions to counter Corizon’s profit motive. …

The Answer Sheet: What the Public Isn’t Told About High-Performing Charter Schools in Arizona

Source: Valerie Strauss and Carol C. Burris, National Education Policy Center, March 30, 2017

… One of the best illustrations of the “non-public” nature of charters is the much heralded BASIS charter schools that began in Arizona, a state with extremely lax charter laws. A close look at BASIS provides insight into how charter schools can cherry-pick students, despite open enrollment laws.  It also shows how through the use of management companies profits can be made — call hidden from public view. … There is no doubt that BASIS provides a challenging education. What is questionable is just how “public” their charter schools really are. … It is important to keep in mind that BASIS Educational Group, LLC. also known as Basis.ed, is also managing for-profit private schools, and it intends to open more.  These private schools are located in Silicon Valley and upscale neighborhoods of New York City. Could the taxpayers of Arizona, along with all U.S. taxpayers be indirectly subsidizing these schools and their expansion? …

15 Lawmakers Plotting to Privatize America’s Public Lands

Source: EcoWatch, March 17, 2017

…Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America’s public lands and only want more. In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of “Public Lands Enemies” that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:
1. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
2. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah, 1st District)
3. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
4. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz., 4th District)
5. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
6. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah, 2nd District)
7. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska, At Large)
8. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
9. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho, 1st District)
10. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, 3rd District)
11. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev., 2nd District)
12. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
13. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M., 2nd District)
14. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif., 4th District)
15. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

Read full report.

Related:

How Politicians Are Using Taxpayer Money To Fund Their Campaign To Sell Off America’s Public Lands
Source: Matt Lee-Ashley, ThinkProgress, June 18, 2014

…According to a ThinkProgress analysis, the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states to claim ownership of federal lands — has collected contributions of taxpayer money from government officials in 18 counties in Utah, 10 counties in Nevada, four counties in Washington, three counties in Arizona, two counties in Oregon, two counties in New Mexico, and one county in Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming. In total, county-level elected officials have already paid the ALC more than $200,000 in taxpayer money. A list of these counties and their “membership levels” can be seen on the ALC website. Since its inception in 2012, the ALC has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative front group backed by the oil and gas industry and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over federally owned national forests and public lands to Western states. So far, Utah is the only state to have signed a law calling for the seizure of federal lands, but Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have passed bills to study the idea and further action is expected in statehouses during 2015 legislative sessions….

ICE detainees are asking to be put in solitary confinement for their own safety

Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, March 10, 2017

… Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts out many of its detention facilities to private prison corporations like CoreCivic — formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) — and the GEO Group, which have seen significant increases in their stock prices since Donald Trump’s election. Hundreds of logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act Request detailing the use of solitary confinement at three of these privately run ICE facilities provide a window into the conditions of desperation and violence that immigrants, including those diagnosed with mental illness, can face inside such detention centers. The logs show that life inside the facilities can be so dangerous and hostile that numerous detainees have voluntarily admitted themselves to solitary confinement just to seek refuge from the general population. In other cases documented in the logs, detainees were disciplined with isolation for perpetrating acts of violence, sexual assault, or disruption; yet others were placed in solitary for more minor infractions, such as charging detainees for haircuts or “horse-playing.” In dozens of instances at a Georgia facility, detainees were placed in solitary confinement for hunger striking; in one case, an detainee with a mental illness was placed in isolation at the request of ICE for reasons that facility officials writing the log readily admitted they did not understand.

Encompassing the entirety of 2016, the logs cover two CoreCivic facilities in Lumpkin, Georgia; Eloy, Arizona; and a third center in Pearsall, Texas, operated by the GEO Group. The logs were generated for ICE headquarters to detail two categories of detainees: those placed in isolation for more than two weeks, and those who had a range of “special vulnerabilities,” including physical or mental health diagnoses, detainees who had been the victims of sexual assault or those at risk for suicide. In total, the logs list more than 300 instances of this sort of confinement being used last year at the three facilities, with the Lumpkin facility deploying the use of this confinement at a significantly higher rate than the other two detention centers. …

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EXCLUSIVE: ICE PUT DETAINED IMMIGRANTS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR HUNGER STRIKING
Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, February 27, 2017

Beginning last April, and picking up in the weeks following the November election, dozens of detainees at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in rural Georgia went on hunger strike in protest of their detention. The private prison corporation that runs the facility, CoreCivic — formerly Corrections Corporation of America — responded swiftly to the expanding demonstration: as immigrant detainees refused to eat, CoreCivic staff began immediately locking them in solitary confinement for their participation in the non-violent protest. According to ICE detainment logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act request, more than two dozen detainees were put in solitary confinement for hunger striking — some simply for declaring they would refuse to eat, even if they hadn’t yet skipped a meal. The logs also show that CoreCivic may have attempted to gather information on hunger strike organizers through cultivating detainee informants, who were later locked in solitary confinement themselves for protection. …

KEY FINDINGS

  • Dozens of immigrant detainees were locked in solitary confinement after going on hunger strike
  • Immigrants were simply demanding to have access to their deportation officers
  • ICE has previously been accused of using solitary confinement to punish hunger strikes
  • Private prison firms like CoreCivic are set to benefit from President Trump’s policies
  • After Six Years, ESA Program Still Vexed by Financial Accountability

    Source: Don Harris And Lisa Irish, Arizona Education News Service, February 22, 2017

    The Arizona Department of Education is credited with taking several steps to provide financial accountability for the state education funds provided to parents who opt their student out of public schools, but a state audit says that’s not quite enough. Since the program’s inception, $99.7 million has been provided on personal debit cards for education related expenses through Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. About 4,102 students currently receive ESAs, and bills before Arizona’s House and Senate would expand the program to all students by 2020. Despite the improved scrutiny ESAs are receiving, examples of abuse continue to surface, like a parent who used the money she received from the state – money specifically earmarked for the education of her child – to purchase a big screen TV. … ESA supporters say the misuse of ESA funds is relatively rare, but the examples of abuse reported in the media have led to changes in how the program is managed and proposed revisions to the laws. … The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council’s draft of the “The Education Savings Account Act,” on which Arizona’s program is based, included numerous financial accountability standards, yet, legislation passed in Arizona to create ESAs included just some of them. … As concerns  have mounted over the financial accountability of the ESA program, legislation was introduced this session that would give program administration, including financial management and accountability to private sector money managers. Senate Bill 1281 introduced last month by Arizona State Rep. Steve Smith, R-District 11, would let the Arizona Department of Education contract with private financial management firms to process applications, determine eligibility, administer financial transactions, and approve eligible expenses. …

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    Analysis: School Vouchers Could Cost Tens of Millions
    Source: Bob Christie, Associated Press, February 15, 2017

    The Legislature’s independent budget office estimates that expanding a school voucher program to all Arizona schoolchildren over the next four years could cost more than $24 million, a number that could go much higher. That’s because more public school students are likely to take state cash for private schools and children who never went to public schools would qualify, according to the report from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. … Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko, of Peoria, is pushing the proposal to expand what started several years ago as a small program that has since been revised to cover about 186,000 of 1.1 million public school students. Lesko has repeatedly said in recent weeks that she expects taxpayers to save money overall, and implied that the general fund cost would be minimal. … Backers argue the program gives parents choice in where to send their children. Opponents say it starves already-underfunded public schools that have to take every child that shows up while private schools can exclude more difficult or expensive students. …

    Republicans fast-track school-voucher bill in Arizona Legislature
    Source: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Rob O’Dell, The Republic, February 9, 2017

    Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature are attempting to fast-track a plan to eventually offer vouchers to every public-school student and, in separate legislation, privatize oversight of the public money given to parents to pay private-school tuition and other expenses. The Legislature is training its sights on the plan to broaden eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a school-choice program created six years ago for disabled children. Under the legislation, all of Arizona’s 1.1 million students would be eligible for the program by 2020. … The first hearing on the expansion bills, on Thursday, ran for hours before the Senate Education Committee passed the measure, 4-3. … Senate Republicans have also introduced another bill that would privatize oversight of the program and force the state Department of Education to deposit money into ESA accounts as soon as the parent agrees to the terms of the program. …

    Arizona was the first to create an ESA program. It has since been adopted in other states, including Nevada, Florida and Mississippi. … Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program was initially created to help students with special needs get tailored therapies, educational resources and curriculum. Republican lawmakers have since expanded the program to include the children of active-duty military parents or guardians, siblings of those in the ESA program, students who attend public schools with a state grade of D and F and others. … Critics say expansion of the program would siphon away too much money from public schools, that too much money from the program is being misspent, and that the program would subsidize better-off families, while poorer families would be unable to use the program because they may not be able to afford the remaining costs of private schooling, including tuition and transportation. … Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, said the expansion of ESAs is really an attempt to privatize education. … In the Senate, where Republicans narrowly control the chamber, it is unclear if the expansion legislation will muster enough votes to advance. …

    Arizona lawmaker pushes to cut vehicle fleet by using Uber for state workers

    Source: Associated Press, February 11, 2017

    An Arizona lawmaker has proposed legislation requiring the state to cut its vehicle fleet by 20 percent and to launch a program that could use ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft or other companies to provide transportation for state workers. … Weninger’s House Bill 2440 requires a 20 percent cut in the state car and light truck fleet and the creation of a pilot program using rental cars, fleet management services, ride hailing services, vehicle for hire companies or private-public partnerships. …

    Another death at Eloy migrant-detention center

    Source: Daniel Gonzalez, Arizona Republic, November 28, 2016

    Another detainee from the deadliest immigration detention center in the nation died this week. The  detainee, a 36-year-old woman from Guatemala, died Sunday at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. She was being held at the Eloy Detention Center, which an investigation by The Arizona Republic found to have the highest number of deaths in the U.S. … Calderon is the third person in ICE custody to die since the start of fiscal year 2017 on Oct. 1 and the 15th tied to the Eloy Detention Center since 2003. The 15 deaths represent 9 percent of the 165 immigration detainees who have died in ICE custody since 2003, according to ICE statistics. A 2015 analysis of ICE data by The Republic found that there have been more deaths tied to the Eloy Detention Center than any other detention facility in the nation. …

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    Guatemalan Detainee Dies In ICE Custody In Arizona
    Source: Roque Planas, Huffington Post, November 29, 2016

    A 36-year-old Guatamalan woman died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sunday, the third death of a detainee in two months. Raquel Calderón de Hildago died at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center in Arizona after a series of seizures, according to an ICE press release. Border Patrol agents caught her crossing into the U.S. from Mexico illegally on Nov. 17, according to ICE. She did not have a criminal record.   Calderón was sent to Eloy Detention Center on Nov. 23 to await deportation proceedings, but was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after the seizures started, ICE said. Some 15 immigrant detainees have died while confined at Eloy since 2003, according to The Arizona Republic ― the most of any immigrant detention center. Five deaths at Eloy since 2005 have been suicides, Latino USA reports. One was José de Jesús Deniz Sahagún, a 31-year-old Mexican national who was found dead at Eloy three days after being locked up there in May 2015. He was found with a sock stuffed down his throat in solitary confinement in an apparent suicide, according to two-part series by Latino USA. …

    Immigration Detention Center in Arizona Failed to Contain Measles Outbreak
    Source: Julia Preston, New York Times, July 12, 2016

    Health officials in Arizona are pressing federal officials for better cooperation after an outbreak of measles at an immigration detention center was prolonged because some employees were slow to be vaccinated. The outbreak started in late May in the detention center in Eloy, Ariz., and has grown to 22 cases, currently the largest episode in the country of the disease, which was once eradicated in the United States. The cases include nine employees of the facility, which is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency. … The facility, 65 miles southeast of Phoenix, holds about 1,250 immigrants from many countries, both men and women, who are awaiting court proceedings or deportation. They include migrants who have come in recent months from three violence-torn countries in Central America. The center is supervised by the federal agency but operated by a private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, which has more than 300 employees. …

    MEASLES: Shots finally on rise
    Source: Tri Valley Central, July 8, 2016

    Almost 75 Corrections Corporation of America employees stationed at the Eloy Detention Center got vaccinated on Thursday and Friday of last week after an article appeared in the Casa Grande Dispatch detailing the low number of employees who had provided proof of immunity, according to Pinal County Health Director Tom Schryer. … Of the 353 CCA employees, 317 have now gotten vaccinated or provided proof of immunity. …

    Largest US measles outbreak in Arizona
    Source: Associated Press, July 7, 2016

    Health officials in Arizona say the largest current measles outbreak in the United States is in part because some workers at a federal immigration detention center refuse to get vaccinated. Authorities have confirmed 22 measles cases in Arizona since late May. They all stem from the Eloy Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility managed by the private Corrections Corporation of America. … The facility includes about 350 CCA employees and an unknown number of ICE staffers, although Schryer estimates it’s about 100. ICE doesn’t publicly release staffing levels, nor does it require employees to be immunized. There are currently over 1,200 detainees being held at the facility. …

    Prison employees risk more cases
    Source: Tanner Clinch, TriValley Central, June 30, 2016

    Although the entire detainee population at Eloy Detention Center has been inoculated for measles, mumps and rubella, as many as 40 percent of the facility’s employees have not provided proof of immunity to health officials. At the beginning of the measles outbreak that started at the detention center May 26, health officials had the facility’s leadership send an urgent request to all employees to provide proof of immunity. While the majority have provided their paperwork, more than 100 employees have not, according to Tom Schryer, director of Pinal County Public Health. … The facility is owned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, contracted out to be run by Corrections Corporation of America, and there are various subcontractors and federal employees throughout the facility. Other than the federal employees who do health work at the facility, none of the employees are required by law to show proof of immunity in order to work and cannot be barred from working even if there is an active outbreak. …

    Health Department Confirms 19th Case of Measles at Eloy Detention Center
    Source: Miriam Wasser, Phoenix New Times, June 27, 2016

    Despite mitigation efforts, a measles outbreak at the Eloy Detention Center in Pinal County keeps getting worse. Over the weekend, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced the 19th confirmed case and expanded the list of potentially contaminated areas in Pinal and Maricopa counties. (See below for full list.) The facility, located about 60 miles south of Phoenix, is owned by a for-profit company, Corrections Corporation of America, and houses about 1,500 immigrants who are awaiting the outcome of their deportation proceedings. … It’s unclear how many people have been exposed or when the outbreak will be contained, but Pyritz says the detention center is taking precautions to keep sick detainees isolated and to get everyone on the premises vaccinated. Pyritz was unable to say how many people remain unvaccinated. …

    CCA irons out agreement to house inmates in Arizona prison
    Source: Nashville Business Journal – 12:09 PM CST Friday, February 24, 2006

    Corrections Corp. of America has signed a deal with the city of Eloy, Ariz., to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees through an agreement between the federal government and the city. The agreement enables ICE to hold detainees in CCA’s 1,500-bed Eloy Detention Center. As of Feb. 23, that prison had a total population of 920 inmates. In January, the Federal Bureau of Prisons notified Nashville-based CCA (NYSE: CXW) that it would not renew an option to have inmates held at the Eloy facility. Eloy has housed federal inmates as well as immigration detainees. The detainees were held through an agreement between ICE and the Bureau of Prisons. The way this new agreement works, ICE contracts with the city which, in turn, contracts with CCA to house the detainees. The company expects that the facility “will be substantially occupied” by ICE detainees.

    CCA operates 63 correctional facilities, including 39 it owns, in 19 states and Washington D.C.