Tag Archives: District of Columbia

The case against Chartwells

Source: CBS News, August 17, 2018

… Imagine the only meal a schoolchild ate came from a school’s kitchen dishing out spoiled and rotten food. It happens, Mills found out. … In 2010, he took a hefty paycut to take a job as director of food services for Washington, D.C.’s public schools, where he would oversee feeding some 50,000 students. … He took over a system where the food was supplied by Chartwells, a multibillion dollar company that managed the menus and made all the purchase agreements for the food. He was shocked by what he saw. … Mills found the food was poorly prepared, not healthy and, in some cases, unsanitary. … He took his concerns to Chartwells with no real change. Then the contract was up for renewal by the District, and Mills called for an audit. He maintained the school district was being overcharged millions. The school district removed Mills and his team from oversight of the auditors. Mills was told to back off. Three years after he was hired, he was fired. He then sought an attorney for wrongful termination – and as a whistleblower. …

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Auditor: DC Schools Should Stop Outsourcing Food Service
Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2016

A report from the District of Columbia auditor said the city’s school system should stop turning over food service to outside contractors. The report released Friday said outsourcing food service has not saved the city money as school officials promised and will continue to cost the system millions of dollars a year. In their response to the auditor’s report, school officials said they continue to oppose bringing food services back in-house. Former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson repeatedly argued that food service was not a “core competency” of the school system. …

Chartwells Era Ends As DCPS Selects New Food Providers – Following a whistleblower lawsuit last year
Source: Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper, May 23, 2016

The school-food provider at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit in 2015 that revealed substandard food quality and fraud will not serve D.C. Public Schools students next academic year. DCPS announced in a statement on Friday that it has chosen DC Central Kitchen and SodexoMagic, with Revolution Foods as a subcontractor, to provide meals at more than 110 facilities. … The announcement follows a request for proposals DCPS posted in December, featuring a one year contract with four options years to renew. Still, which entities applied for the RFP won’t be publicly available until the contracts are approved because of procurement rules. Under the proposal, 12 schools in Ward 7 would be served by DC Central Kitchen, while the rest would be served by SodexoMagic and Revolution Foods. DC Central and Revolution served hundreds of thousands of meals last year. ….

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Metro shuttle bus operator in trouble for distracted driving

Source: Nick Iannelli, WTOP, July 27, 2018

Metro has ordered a private contractor to pull a bus driver off a work zone shuttle route after he was caught on camera talking on a cellphone behind the wheel. In a video posted online by Metro’s largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, the driver can clearly be seen talking on the phone while operating a bus at the Fort Totten station Thursday morning. … In a statement, Metro called the video an “obvious and egregious safety violation” and ordered the contractor, Coach USA, to permanently bar the driver from providing service to Metro. …

Amid push for privatization, Metro outsources portion of bus operations

Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, August 11, 2018
 
Metro will pay a private company $89 million over the next five years to operate and maintain buses for nine bus lines in Northern Virginia, in an agreement that could pave the way for increased privatization at the transit agency.  According to the agreement, the French transportation company Transdev will be responsible for driving and repairing the buses that will be housed at the soon-to-be-opened Cinder Bed Road bus facility in Lorton.  Transdev will be responsible for about 5 percent of the bus service that Metro provides, with routes that primarily serve areas around Alexandria, Pentagon station, Franconia-Springfield station, Burke Centre and Fort Belvoir. …

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With two weeks of private bus shuttles, Metro dips a toe into outsourcing
Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, December 9, 2017
 
Metro riders inconvenienced by a two-week partial shutdown on the Red Line probably didn’t give much thought to the branding of the bus shuttles carrying them on their plodding ride between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations.  But those buses — private coaches with drivers hailing from out-of-state — could be a sign of things to come at Metro: more privatization, with a focus on outsourcing bus service.  It’s a shift that’s been forecast by Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, and cheered by politicians and Metro board members who see it as an opportunity to save on costs.  The transit agency recently announced that it is seeking proposals from outside contractors interested in handling bus operations and maintenance at Metro’s new Cinder Bed Road bus garage in Newington, Va. The contract would hand over the operation of 17 bus routes to a private company, and that company would be responsible for providing an estimated 129,599 hours of service to passengers each year. …

Metro workers protest privatization of bus routes
Source: John Gonzalez, WJLA, December 7, 2017

WMATA has a proposal on the table to use private contractors to manage and operate nine existing Metrobus routes. The buses would eventually come out of a new facility in Lorton – but not everyone was pleased with the new proposal. On Thursday, angry Metrobus drivers showed up at the site of the new facility to protest. The workers, with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, blocked the facility’s entrance and attempted to disrupt a meeting that the transit agency was holding with contractors. “Paul Weidefeld is gonna destroy this transit system. We want transit to not be privatized. We want it to be ungovernable. To be able to have a say-so in what our public transportation looks like,” said union representative Anthony Garland. …

State, federal lawsuits pin defective DC Metro concrete on contractor

Source: Kim Slowey, Construction Dive, July 13, 2018

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Commonwealth of Virginia have filed suit against Universal Concrete Products Corp., the manufacturer of concrete panels for the Washington, D.C., Metro’s $5.8 billion Silver Line project, alleging violations of the False Claims Act and Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, as well as unjust enrichment and payment by mistake, according to court documents. Universal was working on the project under a $6 million purchase order contract with design-builder Capital Rail Constructors (Clark Construction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure South). In the July 9 action against Universal and co-defendants Donald Faust Jr., company president and co-owner, and Andrew Nolan, former quality control manager, the Justice Department and Virginia authorities claim that Universal knowingly provided panels that did not have the required air content for use on the Silver Line project and falsified documents so that it would appear the panels met the project specifications. …

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Contractor botches Silver Line concrete
Source: Associated Press, April 25, 2018

Concrete panels installed in the $2.6 billion project extending the D.C. region’s Metrorail Silver Line to Dulles International Airport are not as durable as they should be. Thousands of areas along the extension will need to be dealt with. And some of the concrete will need to be completely thrown out, despite being already installed. Charles Stark, director of the Silver Line project, said the concrete is supposed to last 100 years but was not mixed properly by a subcontractor. …

Teachers File New Labor Charge Against Cesar Chavez Charter Network and TenSquare, a Consulting Firm

Source: Rachel Cohen, Washington CityPaper, July 6, 2018

An ongoing legal battle between unionized teachers at Chavez Prep Middle School in Northwest D.C. and their charter school escalated today. The union filed a new unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, this time naming TenSquare Group, a charter school consulting firm, a joint-employer of the school. This is the fourth charge the union has filed against the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School network since August, but the first time TenSquare has also been named liable. In its latest complaint, the union alleges that the charter network and TenSquare have illegally changed the school’s calendar for the 2018-19 school year in ways that affect terms of employment, have bargained in bad-faith (referred to as “surface bargaining”), and have walked out of a bargaining session before its scheduled end time, “thereby disregarding their bargaining obligation under the [National Labor Relations] Act.” …

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Behind the Consulting Firm Raking In Millions From D.C. Charter Schools
Source: Rachel Cohen, Washington CityPaper, May 24, 2018

“Everybody’s afraid.” That’s a D.C. charter school administrator’s assessment of TenSquare, one of the city’s most connected, lucrative, and controversial charter consulting companies. … Even in education circles, most people have never heard of TenSquare, a national for-profit consulting firm that currently operates in seven states and the District. It markets itself as a universal fixer for troubled charters—a one-stop shop for facility financing, staff recruitment, back-end operations, teacher training, and academic turnarounds. … But a five-month City Paper investigation has raised a host of questions about TenSquare’s work. Available data do not show consistent improvements across the D.C. schools that hired TenSquare, and several schools got worse. Its business dealings reveal a criss-crossing web of repeat players, potential conflicts of interest, and in one instance the recurring appearance of an alleged far-right activist. Yet it’s not a coincidence that TenSquare has landed some of the most remunerative charter contracts in the city: While not every school leader disparages TenSquare, a number have said they felt real pressure from the PCSB to hire the company. …

DC: Teachers Hit the Picket Line at First Charter School to Unionize in D.C.
Source: Liana Loewus, Education Week, December 1, 2017

A growing number of charter school teachers have begun to start seeing unionizing as an option, as we’ve written. Among the most recent charters to organize is Chavez Prep Middle School in Washington, part of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School network. Teachers there voted in June to form a collective-bargaining unit affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers. And now those teachers are saying the charter school’s administration isn’t negotiating with them as is legally required. “By law after our vote, any changes to our working conditions have to be negotiated with us,” said Christian Herr, a science teacher who headed the organizing effort. “Our board continues to make significant changes—adding job duties without additional compensation, things like that—without bargaining with us.” …

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D.C. Circulator operations contract going to a new provider

Source: Luz Lazo, Washington Post, June 4, 2018
 
The District plans to award a 5-year, $140-million contract for the operation of the D.C. Circulator to RATP Dev, a provider of transit systems in cities across four continents, including Washington where it runs the D.C. Streetcar.  The goal is to have a contract in place by July 1 to allow for a 90-day transition; RATP Dev would be the operator effective Oct. 1. The deals needs approval by the D.C. Council.  RATP Dev will run day-to-day operations of the six-route bus system, taking over from First Transit, which has run the Circulator since its inception in 2005. …

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Exclusive: Audit finds DC Circulator buses crumbling, unsafe for service
Source: Max Smith, WTOP, April 7, 2016

Ninety-five percent of DC Circulator buses inspected by an outside firm had at least one safety problem so significant they should have been pulled from service, according to an audit obtained exclusively by WTOP. Transit Resource Center, an independent transit consulting firm, conducted the audit last August, but it was closely guarded until now. The audit found an “unacceptable” number of the most serious safety defects in the Circulator fleet. … Overall, the audit finds the D.C. Department of Transportation and Metro have failed to carry out effective oversight of First Transit, the private contractor that operates the Circulator. DDOT owns the buses, and contracts with Metro to oversee First Transit. The audit notes that First Transit keeps buses for the Potomac and Rappahannock Transit Commission in Northern Virginia up to industry standards with about three smaller defects per bus, but falls woefully short when it comes to the Circulator.

District Exploring a Semi-Privatized Streetcar, Bus System
Source: Lydia DePillis, Washington City Paper, Housing Complex blog, June 26, 2012

Well, this could be a way to build a massive infrastructure project without busting the city’s budget: The District Department of Transportation is asking for ideas on how to bring in private capital for a 22-mile chunk of the original 37-mile streetcar system, and build it over the next five to seven years.

A request for information issued today also includes a proposal for a non-regional bus network, possibly independent from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, that would include and expand upon the Circulator.

Metro gets serious about outsourcing Silver Line service

Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, January 9, 2018
 
A proposal to outsource operations of the Silver Line took a significant step Monday, when Metro officials issued a formal “request for information” from potential contractors who might be interested in the job. …. Metro’s opportunities for privatization are limited, because of its existing union contracts. But the agency is allowed to seek help from outside contractors when considering how to manage operations on new segments of the system. Officials have already met with potential contractors to outsource bus operations and maintenance at the newly-constructed Cinder Bed Road bus garage in Newington, Va…..

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D.C. May Seek To End Private Contracts For Public Transit
Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, November 30, 2017

A coalition of organized labor and social justice groups are calling on D.C. lawmakers to stop the District from contracting out public transit services, saying the private firms that operate the Circulator bus system and D.C. Streetcar fail to provide reliable service to riders and treat their employees poorly.  “We are concerned about privatization of good public-sector jobs,” said Barbara Kraft of the Washington Interfaith Network, which is teaming with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and individual bus and streetcar operators to lobby the D.C. Council to bring all District transit operations in-house. …

Union: Look to Circulator and D.C. Streetcar for evidence of why Metro shouldn’t be privatized
Source: Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
 
Reliability problems with the D.C. Circulator and planning and construction shortfalls of the city’s streetcar system are examples of why the District and Metro should be wary of privatizing more services, the transit agency’s union said Tuesday.  Although the District Department of Transportation owns the Circulator buses and oversees the D.C. streetcar, Amalgamated Transit Union International says there’s an implicit warning for Metro.  “Fix the service you have; take responsibility for the quality of service you have,” said Michael McCall-Delgado, a strategic researcher at ATU International and author of a new report, “Fool D.C. Twice.” … The union report holds the District partially responsible for the decline of the region’s transit system, saying that instead of investing in Metro, local leaders pushed seemingly “hip” and “premium ridership” projects to attract millennials to the city. …

… ATU, which represents more than 9,000 Metro employees through its Local 689 chapter, has rejected Wiedefeld’s shift toward privatization, including a proposal that would use private contractors to fill station manager or track inspection jobs on the second phase of the Silver Line. Contractors could also be used to operate such facilities as new bus garages. Separately, Metro has nearly doubled its spending on private contractors over the past two years. In its report, however, the union takes D.C. officials to task for failing to hold contractors accountable for construction, planning and service failures. The report highlights how the Circulator, operated by Cincinnati-based First Transit, has been beset by maintenance problems for years “while avoiding government oversight,” according to the union. Circulator buses have a notoriously poor reliability record, with the 2016 audit finding an average of 22 defects per bus. Many of the defects — nearly three per bus — were tied to safety equipment and should have been caught during routine inspections, the audit said. And the problems have persisted: A report this week from WAMU said reliability issues have left the Circulator up to 10 buses short of its quota when buses depart its lots each day. …

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What a New Study on Vouchers Means for Trump’s Agenda

Source: Leah Askarainam, The Atlantic, April 28, 2017

… But a report released Thursday found largely negative results for students who participated in the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, suggesting that many of the program’s beneficiaries might actually fare better if they turn down the private-school money.  The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) compared test scores for two groups of students: students who, through a lottery process, were selected to receive vouchers, and students who applied for yet didn’t receive them. The study compared the progress of both groups of students from spring of 2012 to 2014 and found that, a year after they applied for the scholarship, math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. What’s more, after narrowing the pool of students down to those in kindergarten through fifth grade, both reading and math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. …

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A Federal Funding Fight Over D.C. Vouchers
Source: Hannah Hess, Roll Call, Hill Blotter blog, March 17, 2015

Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to protect the D.C. school voucher system, a GOP pet program championed by Speaker John A. Boehner and others. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans are gearing up to move forward on a bill reauthorizing vouchers in the nation’s capital, an initiative known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They are concerned the White House has again signaled the demise of the federally funded private-school program in its fiscal 2016 budget request…. The president’s budget includes $43.2 million to remain available until expended, a reduction from $45 million in fiscal 2015. The administration wants $3.2 million of the proposed figure to be used for an evaluation of the program…..

Graduation rates up for D.C. public schools, down for charter schools
Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, March 17, 2015

D.C. Public Schools’ graduation rate increased last school year by two percentage points, to 58 percent, but the city’s public charter schools recorded a drop of nearly seven points, to 69 percent, according to new data. The citywide average for the Class of 2014 — 61 percent — was almost unchanged from the year before, according to data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The city’s graduation rate remains far below the national average of 81 percent….

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AMR’s D.C. Crews Vote to Form Local Union

Source: EMS World, March 24, 2017

Nearly 200 EMS professionals at American Medical Response (AMR) have voted to form a local union with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducted the union election on Tuesday and Thursday. The NLRB counted ballots Thursday evening with more than 70% voting in favor of unionizing. EMTs and paramedics at AMR transport patients to and from facilities across the metro area and provide backup 9-1-1 medical response in coordination with the DC Fire Department. The private EMS provider signed a contract with the district in 2017. Workers formed a union to address ongoing issues that impact patient care, such as scheduling, fatigue, training, equipment and employee turnover. …

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D.C. private ambulance drivers consider unionizing
Source: Sam Ford, WJLA, March 21, 2017
 
In the year since the American Medical Response private ambulances came on, the number of horror stories around D.C. ambulance care have mostly gone away. But workers are voting Tuesday and Thursday on whether to have the AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, union represent them. Since march of last year, AMR’s private ambulances take the low priority patients in D.C. freeing up the city’s ambulance for the more serious cases. But some of the EMTs and paramedics of AMR are saying they are pushing for a union, hoping for better equipment, better training and scheduling. … D.C. currently spends $12 million a year with AMR.

EMTs for DC contractor say personal vehicles being broken into while they respond to 911 calls
Source: Tisha Lewis, FOX5, February 9, 2017

[Ed. Note: AFSCME is currently organizing these workers]

Several first responders for a city medical transportation contractor said thieves are breaking into their cars while they are responding to emergency calls across the District.  Ambulances for American Medical Response are dispatched to several hospitals around Washington D.C. But their employees said a parking problem at work is making their cars targets to theft.  Paramedic Kyle Seymour said his employers refuses to move the ambulances in their parking lot to give workers a place to park in. …

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School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

Source: Martin Carnoy, Economic Policy Institute, February 28, 2017
 
Betsy DeVos, the new U.S. secretary of education, is a strong proponent of allowing public education dollars to go to private schools through vouchers, which enable parents to use public school money to enroll their children in private schools, including religious ones. … This report seeks to inform that debate by summarizing the evidence base on vouchers. Studies of voucher programs in several U.S. cities, the states of Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and in Chile and India, find limited improvements at best in student achievement and school district performance from even large-scale programs. In the few cases in which test scores increased, other factors, namely increased public accountability, not private school competition, seem to be more likely drivers. And high rates of attrition from private schools among voucher users in several studies raises concerns. The second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools. In the only area in which there is evidence of small improvements in voucher schools—in high school graduation and college enrollment rates—there are no data to show whether the gains are the result of schools shedding lower-performing students or engaging in positive practices. Also, high school graduation rates have risen sharply in public schools across the board in the last 10 years, with those increases much larger than the small effect estimated on graduation rates from attending a voucher school.

… The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear. The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. …

Read full report.