Tag Archives: Illinois

“Culture Of Incompetence”: For-Profit Foster-Care Giant Is Leaving Illinois

Source: Aram Roston, BuzzFeed, April 17, 2015

National Mentor, a $1.2 billion company with a history of trouble at its homes for at-risk children, says departure from the state has “absolutely” nothing to do with a critical inspector general investigation… Investigators from the inspector general of the Illinois child welfare agency found that Mentor, the subject of a recent BuzzFeed News investigation, put two girls in the troubled home of a foster mother it oversaw even though she had previously committed fraud and had abandoned a 9-year-old special-needs foster son by leaving him at Mentor’s own office “without notice or explanation.” The girls, 11 and 12 years old, “frequently appeared dirty and unkempt,” the report said, and the older one regressed in school. … In February, BuzzFeed News examined problems at the company, including violent child deaths and sex abuse. In Maryland, a National Mentor foster father sexually molested foster son after foster son over an 11-year stretch. In Texas, in 2013, a 2-year-old named Alexandria Hill was murdered by her National Mentor foster mother, Sherill Small. Mentor’s problems in Texas were widespread: Mentor ranked dead last among large foster care providers, based on the rate of severe violations found by state inspectors. Over the last two years, Mentor racked up more “high” deficiencies — the worst kind — per home than any other provider with at least 200 homes. Former workers told BuzzFeed News that the search of high profit margins meant child safety suffered — a charge the company denies. … In Illinois, investigators also faulted Mentor for a key part of its business model. In several states, including Illinois, Mentor itself does not contract with the state. Instead, it works with a nonprofit, Alliance Human Services Inc., which wins the contract and pays much of the money to Mentor. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company explained that it uses this strategy “for states and local governments that prefer or choose not to enter into contracts with for-profit corporations” to provide foster care or other services. …

Why Urban Hospitals Are Leaving Cities for Fancy Suburbs

Source: Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, April 14, 2015

….Currently, hospital relocations are planned or underway in South and Central Florida, eastern Tennessee, central Georgia, Birmingham, Ala., and northeast Ohio. Some have stirred controversy, as in Belleville:

— Just west of Fort Lauderdale, HCA Inc., a for-profit hospital chain, plans to close Plantation General Hospital and open a new hospital seven miles away in more affluent Davie, near a medical school. “It’s all about greed,” said Plantation Mayor Diane Bendekovic. When HCA offered to keep some outpatient services in town, she told them: “Don’t throw Plantation any crumbs.”

— Tennova Healthcare is moving its flagship Physicians Regional Medical Center near downtown Knoxville, Tenn. closer to higher-income suburbs eight miles west. “Clearly …they want to be near the better zip codes” said Tony Spezia, CEO of Covenant Health, owner of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, which will become the last general hospital downtown. Tennova is owned by Community Health Systems, a large for-profit hospital system.

— Just outside Cleveland, Lakewood Hospital in Lakewood, Ohio, which is managed by the Cleveland Clinic, is slated to close in 2016, and patients will be directed to the Clinic’s newer Fairview Hospital three miles away or to another facility being built in Avon, 13 miles away. Both Fairview and Avon are higher-income towns. Lakewood officials say losing the hospital and its 1,000 employees could have a prolonged impact…..

….Hospital officials point to their aging, landlocked facilities and argue it is cheaper to build, rather than renovate. What they don’t say publicly is how geography is often economic destiny for a hospital, especially at a time of increasing financial pressure as a result of Medicare funding cuts, including penalties that may result from new pay-for-performance measures in the Affordable Care Act. By moving to wealthier areas, hospitals can reduce the percent of uninsured and lower-paying Medicaid patients, while increasing the proportion of privately insured patients – what hospitals refer to as attracting better “payer mix.” That’s also why they locate outpatient centers and medical offices in affluent suburbs. But relocations often spark anger from those left behind, who worry about loss of jobs and of access to care, particularly for the poor. When the hospitals are nonprofits, like St. Elizabeth’s, questions loom larger because they are exempted from taxes in exchange for providing benefits to the community. “Hospitals were established in inner cities where the greatest needs were and now, essentially, that charity obligation has gone by the wayside as they are looking at their bottom line,” said Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Even nonprofit hospitals want to be near wealthier residents. “You move to where the money is,” he said….

Opinion: Time for a moratorium on charter schools – Charters have failed to deliver, and their expansion should be put on hold

Source: Amy B. Dean, Al Jazeera America, April 14, 2015

Charter schools are everywhere. Not long ago, these publicly funded but privately run institutions were a relative rarity. Those that existed served mostly as experimental academies whose successful lessons could be applied elsewhere in their host school districts. But in the last 15 years, swaths of the U.S. public education system have been turned over to charters. In fact, they are being used as a means to crush teachers’ unions and to pursue high-stakes testing.

Charter advocates justify this ascent by promising an antidote to the disappointing outcomes of traditional public schools in segregated and underfunded urban districts. But the research is in: Charter schools have failed to deliver on their promises.

It is time lawmakers freeze their growth and consider how to provide the best education possible for all students.

Underwhelming performance

There are recent precedents for a moratorium on charter schools. Philadelphia, which issued dozens of charter licenses before 2008, did not allow any new ones from 2008 to 2015. The Chicago School District declared a freeze on charters for the 2015–16 school year. Connecticut and Delaware are considering similar actions. Other school boards and states should follow suit.

As a bevy of recent studies prove, charter schools are not substantially outperforming neighborhood public schools. In Arizona, for example, “on average, charter schools in Arizona do no better, and sometimes worse, than the traditional public schools” according to a study by the Brookings Institution. A similar study in Ohio showed that public schools were producing better results than their charter peers in most parts of the state. In Illinois the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity found that Chicago’s charter schools are “less likely to be racially or ethnically diverse” than and “consistently underperform” their public school peers……

Under Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Opens the Door to Privatizing Half its Public Housing

Source: Rebecca Burns, In These Times, March 31, 2015

Residents fear that a new redevelopment initiative will usher in another wave of displacement…. Chicago, long a pioneer of privatization, is poised to embark on a sweeping experiment with the city’s public-housing stock. The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) plans to court private investment in as much as half of its public-housing units through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a new federal program billed as a way to “revitalize” housing for the poor and address a $26 billion backlog in needed repairs…. Housing advocates fear that the CHA’s transformation into an asset manager, rather than a direct provider of housing, is about to be intensified through RAD. (The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the initiative). The CHA has submitted the largest RAD request of any U.S. city, for nearly 11,000 public-housing units. The agency is still waiting for approval from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but is moving ahead with plans to implement RAD, stirring suspicions among public-housing residents that they will be left out of crucial decisions….

As CTU and Chuy Garcia Endorse $15/hr Contract Demand, Fight for 15 Goes Beyond Fast Food

Source: David Moberg, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, March 25, 2015

The Fight for 15 and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have joined together to demand that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employees should earn at least $15 an hour, including contract workers such as the janitors provided by Aramark in a controversial privatization of school sanitation that has provoked protests by public school principals….The CTU announced it would include a demand for all CPS employees to receive a $15 per hour minimum wage in their contract proposal to the Chicago Board of Education. The proposed language reads: “The CTU will require the BOARD to report which employees do not earn at least a $15/hour minimum wage and to then require that all CTU members must earn at least $15/hr. and that all CPS subcontractors must earn at least $15/hr. and/or that all CPS employees must earn at least $15/hr.”…

With Revamped Code Website, Chicago Tackles ‘Ridiculous’ Municipal Problem

Source: Michael Grass, Government Executive, March 18, 2015

In many state and municipal governments, the general public must pay to access legislation, laws and regulatory codes. That’s often because, as GovExec State & Local detailed last summer, many governments don’t actually host their own public information and instead have contracts with companies to host that information on proprietary information platforms. Chicago has been one of a handful of municipal governments trying to change that and give the public easier access to public information. …. On Wednesday, ChicagoCode.org, which had been in beta testing since November 2013, was officially re-released. Since the beta site was released for public consumption, 45,000 people have accessed its information, according to the OpenGov Foundation, which worked with Mendoza’s office, the city of Chicago and its codification partner, American Legal Publishing, to execute the digital transformation of the city’s municipal code as part of The State Decoded project. That project, spearheaded by the OpenGov Foundation, has helped a handful of state and local governments create more accessible code websites, including the cities of Baltimore and San Francisco and the states of Florida, Maryland and Virginia….

If the Government Competes Against the Private Sector, Everybody Wins

Source: Eric Schnurer, The Atlantic, March 11, 2015

When civil servants are pitted against businesses, they actually secure most of the contracts put out for bid. … Chicago is not alone in pursuing managed competition. It is ubiquitous in the United Kingdom, which has had at least 3,500 such competitions. In this country, cities including Phoenix, Charlotte, Indianapolis and Philadelphia have pursued managed competition as a strategy for cutting cost and improving service. ….

…Construction workers repairing sidewalks were working the standard eight-hour shifts, five days per week. Pouring a load of cement, though, takes about five hours to complete, meaning they could only pour one load per day, or five per week. If the city went to a 10-hour, four-days-per-week schedule, however, as the unions suggested, the crews could pour two loads per day, eight per week—a 60 percent increase in productivity at no additional cost and with savings on fuel and equipment rental. … The Phoenix trash-hauling operations have become legendary as the fountainhead of managed competition…. In 1992, Goldsmith targeted roughly 80 city services for privatization. Again, as public employees began to realize that their futures lay in competing, they began to win more and more of the contracts. Indianapolis’ fleet services department got so good at what it did, in fact, that it started expanding its “business” to service other quasi-governmental entities….

…..It may surprise some people to know that, in most instances where such “managed competition” has been tried, the in-house government workers have almost always beaten out the private sector. …In sum, there’s no good reason why the private sector shouldn’t be allowed to compete to provide many, if not most, government services—but there’s no good reason why government shouldn’t, and can’t successfully, compete back….

O’Fallon considers privatizing water system

Source: Associated Press, March 10, 2015

A growing southwestern Illinois bedroom community is considering leasing the city’s water and sewer systems to a private company to generate money for citywide improvements. Voters in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon will consider dueling, non-binding ballot measures on the topic in the April 7 municipal election. One was written by city officials who support leasing the city-owned water and sewer systems to one of three interested private companies. The other was crafted by opponents of the city plan and asks voters to also consider a possible sale….

CSEA declares end of GTECH contract at Lottery

Source: Times Union, February 26, 2015

CSEA declared victory recently when the last contract worker recently left a pilot program at the Lottery Division. The union reported in its magazine Work Force that state officials awarded GTECH — an Italian multi-billion-dollar company that manages lotteries worldwide — a $25 million contract in September 2012 to create a pilot program that had private sector workers do jobs identical to those of civil service workers at the Division. ….
CSEA: Lottery Outsourcing Jobs To Firm That’s Big Cuomo Contributor
Source: Mark Toor, Chief Leader, December 16, 2013
(subscription required)

The Civil Service Employees Association is redoubling its efforts to fight a pilot program by the State Lottery to hire employees of a private company to do the work usually done by civil-service Lottery Marketing Representatives. The union has opposed the program since summer but has made no progress, said CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz….The company, GTECH, is a multi-billion-dollar international corporation that manages lotteries around the world. GTECH’s political-action committee had contributed $40,000 to Mr. Cuomo as of last January, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group…. “It’s a sign of the times, this outsourcing,” he told THE CHIEF-LEADER last week. “It’s costing more and you’re not getting better service. In the long run, even with the health-care and pensions, civil service is still cheaper.” He noted that the GTECH representatives “sell less tickets, and they make less money.” A CSEA official who asked not to be named said that “every time one of our members leaves they put in a GTECH person…It’s this huge company coming in and taking over state jobs in New York City. Eventually they’ll probably spread out across the state.” … Mr. Skoufis wrote a letter Dec. 11 to Gardner Gurney, Acting Director of the State Lottery, asking why the agency was hiring workers from GTECH instead of civil-service Lottery Marketing Representatives. …

CSEA seeks ethics probe / Request targets former director of Division of Lottery
Source: James M. Odato, Times Union, May 6, 2013

The head of the contract administration for the Civil Service Employees Association has formally requested a state ethics probe of the former director of the Division of Lottery. Ross Hanna requested the investigation because Gordon Medenica took a job as a consultant for GTech, the major lottery services contractor that received a $25 million contract shortly before Medenica resigned his Lottery position….

CSEA wants Medenica hiring investigated
Source: Casey Seiler, Times Union, Capitol Confidential blog, April 17, 2013

CSEA wants to see the hiring of former State Lottery Director Gordon Menedica by GTech Corp., the Lottery Division’s biggest vendor, investigated by the Legislature, the Inspector General and the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Medenica’s new job was the subject of Jim Odato’s column on Monday, though somehow CSEA fails to mention that in their release. In that article, Medenica noted that he waited 30 days before pursuing the job, and says that GTech will use him as a consultant in New Jersey, Illinois and Indiana, but not in New York.

County board presses ahead with Hope Creek changes

Source: Eric Timmons, Quad-City Online, February 17, 2015

The Rock Island County Board on Tuesday approved preliminary by-laws for the Hope Creek Care Center’s new board of directors and approved starting the search for a private company to run the county-owned nursing home. Last month, the county board voted to hire a private company to run the home, with oversight provided by a board of directors instead of the county board. Hope Creek will remain a county-owned nursing home.
Workers at Hope Creek have agreed to forego a pay raise this year and to cut starting salaries for new hires by $1 an hour. ….
Private firm will run Hope Creek
Source: Eric Timmons, Quad-City Online, January 21, 2015

The Rock Island County Board on Tuesday voted to hire a private company to run Hope Creek Care Center and create a panel to oversee the county-owned nursing home. The option — one of four presented to the board last week — received 18 of 24 votes. Other options included selling the home, leasing it or creating a commission to oversee it without hiring private managers. Board member Bob Westpfahl, R-Milan, was the only Republican supporting the winning proposal with all the other votes coming from Democrats. Four of the board’s seven Republicans voted to sell Hope Creek; two others supported leasing it. ….. Board member Ron Oelke, R-Andalusia, who voted to sell the home, said Rock Island County’s earlier use of a management firm to run Hope Creek ended in failure. In 2009, the county hired Management Performance Associates of St. Louis to run Hope Creek, but terminated the three-year agreement in 2011 with no detailed explanation for ending the agreement. ….

RI County board rejects option of selling Hope Creek
Source: Thomas Geyer, Quad-City Times, January 21, 2015

Members of the Rock Island County Board voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to retain ownership of Hope Creek Care Center and create a governing board that will hire a management company to oversee the facility’s daily operations. …. The governing board will hire a management company to oversee the daily operations of Hope Creek. The cost of hiring a management company is one of the details that remains to be determined. …. Meersman said a management company can bring to the table things that the county board cannot, including a lobbyist in Springfield, the ability to collect bad debts, and access to legal advice from attorneys who specialize in the healthcare industry. The management company will report to the committee, and the committee will submit reports to the county board. Licensure will remain in the hands of the county, Meersman said, adding that he would like to have the committee and management company in place within 90 days. ….

Hope Creek To Remain County Home
Source: KLJB, January 20, 2015

A decision is in for the future of Hope Creek Care Center. The Rock Island County Board chose to create an independent board to oversee the nursing home. The decision means a management firm will run the day to day operations. The county has followed a similar path in years past….

Rock Island County Board Chooses Management Firm and Independent Board For Hope Creek
Source: Mark Stevens, KWQC, January 20, 2015

A decision is in for the future of Hope Creek Care Center. The Rock Island County Board chose to create an independent board to oversee the nursing home. The decision means a management firm will run the day-to-day operations. The county has followed a similar path in years past….

Union demands Hope Creek stays public
Source: Brian Wellner, Quad-City Times, October 16, 2013

Union leaders are pleading with Rock Island County to keep Hope Creek Care Center a public nursing home….Hope Creek is the only public option in the county. The next closest public nursing home is in Geneseo, in Henry County, Close said… The $24 million facility opened in 2009 after the county closed Oak Glen Home in Coal Valley. Oak Glen had operated for 50 years. The county has operated a nursing home since 1839. According to the county, reimbursement from Medicaid is about $70 less than the nursing home’s actual cost per patient per day, which results in an annual deficit of more than $2.5 million in Hope Creek’s operating budget….

County Board to discuss sale of Hope Creek
Source: Jonathan Ketz, WQAD, October 15, 2013

The Rock Island County Board will discuss the sale or lease of the Hope Creek Nursing Home at its board meeting Tuesday, October 15, 2013. Nursing home workers found out on October 11th and 12th that the county was interested in selling or leasing the property. The county owns the building on Kennedy Drive in East Moline. Funding from the state and federal government has declined over the past five years. Board members say that costs have increased at the nursing home. The county owned facility faces a $2.5 million budget deficit.