Tag Archives: Kentucky

Kentucky’s first charter school director resigns after less than a year. Here’s why.

Source: Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader, May 9, 2018

Less than a year after he was hired as the first director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s charter school division, Earl Simms said he is resigning May 25 so that his wife can go back to her previous job in St. Louis. Simms told WDRB-TV in Louisville and the Herald-Leader that he was not leaving because former Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt suddenly resigned in April at a state school board meeting, one day after Gov. Matt Bevin appointed several new board members. The board of all-Bevin appointees that same day hired charter school proponent Wayne D. Lewis Jr. as an interim Commissioner. … Though the charter school movement appears to be stalled, Lewis has said he will work with Kentucky Department of Education officials to determine if there is a path for charter schools that doesn’t require the General Assembly to approve a funding mechanism. …

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A closer look at the future of charter schools in Kentucky
Source: Emilie Arroyo, WKYT, April 18, 2018

The Kentucky Board of Education is taking a new direction after the resignation of education commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt and Gov. Matt Bevin’s appointments of new board members this week. Many expect that direction to be a stronger push for charter schools, but Kentucky’s legislature ended its 2018 session with no funding process in place. … While it’s unclear when Kentucky will see it’s first charter school, we do know how it will work. …

Kentucky Lawmakers Approve Charter School Law
Source: Lesli A. Maxwell, Education Week, March 15, 2017

After years of failed attempts, Kentucky lawmakers have approved a charter school law. The measure passed the state Senate on a vote of 23-15 Wednesday afternoon, largely along party lines. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin—an enthusiastic supporter of charters—is expected to sign the measure. The Kentucky House approved the bill—HB 520—last week and will still have to sign off on changes made by the Senate. … Kentucky has been one of the hardest places to pass a charter law, but with the 2016 election, Republicans in the state took control of the legislature and the governorship, clearing the way for a charter bill to succeed. The bill says nothing about how charters in Kentucky will be funded. Under its provisions, there will be no limit on the number of charter schools that can be authorized. … And while the bill says that parents, community members, public organizations, school administrators, and nonprofits can apply to operate a charter school, there is nothing in the legislation that prevents charter school operators from contracting out all of their management and operations to a for-profit entity. …

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Huge federal contractor ‘failed’ to pay workers $100 million in wages, union says

Source: Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, April 23, 2018
 
One of the country’s largest federal contractors has been accused of underpaying about 10,000 workers who run help hotlines for public health insurance programs, including the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, by up to $100 million over the past five years, according to four complaints filed Monday to the Labor Department.  The complaint brought by the Communications Workers of America alleges that General Dynamics Information Technology misclassified employees at call centers in Kentucky, Florida, Arizona and Texas to suppress their wages.  The union, which does not represent the workers, said the contractor hired or promoted workers into roles that require special training but paid them below government-set rates for the jobs they performed. The complaint covers the period since 2013, when GDIT started a $4 billion, 10-year contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. …

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Contractor that handles public’s Medicare queries will do same for Affordable Care Act
Source: Susan Jaffe, Washington Post, June 20, 2013

Within days, the company that handles a daily average of more than 60,000 calls about Medicare will be deluged by new inquiries about health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The six Medicare call centers run by Vangent, a company based in Arlington County, will answer questions about the health-care law from the 34 states that opted out of running their own online health insurance marketplaces or decided to operate them jointly with the federal government. ….. Running the 800-Medicare call centers may provide valuable experience, but Vangent’s track record reveals that it was slow to adapt when changes in the Medicare program caused dramatic spikes in demand. ….. Vangent, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Information Technology, will run both Medicare and the federal health exchange call centers under a contract worth $530 million in its first year.

Lexserv to Temporarily Shut Down While City Takes Over Service

Source: WTVQ, May 8, 2017

A temporary shutdown of the LEXserv online and phone bill payment system has been scheduled as Lexington’s Division of Revenue takes over the service from Greater Cincinnati Water Works. Beginning May 15, the city will manage all LEXserv customer service and billing services, eliminating the need for outsourcing. Officials say some of the many benefits include:

  • City will save taxpayer dollars by moving system in-house;
  • Customer service will be handled by LFUCG staff in Lexington, creating jobs;
  • Payments will be mailed to a Lexington address for processing;
  • New web portal for customers to make payments, review billing. …

JCPS contractor: Study still good despite error

Source: Allison Ross, Courier-Journal, March 22, 2017
 
The contractor that compiled a salary study for Jefferson County Public Schools admits its error made it seem the district was paying a lot more in “premium” salaries than it actually was, but said the error was limited to a supplemental report and does not negate the entire study. “There was one error in one report, and we took responsibility for that,” said Carolyn Long, vice president of Virginia-based Management Advisory Group International Inc., which conducted the salary study. Long said the roughly $40 million error was in some extra information her firm provided as a courtesy in an addition to the original report on salaries that JCPS had requested. … Stovall said the initial release of the salary study caused employees to feel undervalued and underappreciated for the work they do. He said that now, his members feel like the error is a “slap in the face.”  Ron Richmond, political director for the regional chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, agreed.  Richmond said more than 4,000 of his union’s members were “directly impacted by this miscalculation” and said he hopes JCPS will take action over the flawed results. …

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Management Performance Review of Certain Policies, Procedures, Controls, and Financial Activity of the Jefferson County Public School District
Source: Kentucky Auditor Of Public Accounts, May 2014

From the press release:
Auditor Adam Edelen on Wednesday unveiled a comprehensive examination of the Jefferson County Public Schools, exposing an unchecked bureaucracy that has become bloated and inefficient at the expense of the classroom. The largest review ever conducted by the Auditor’s office identified outdated and inefficient operations that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, a school board that doesn’t provide adequate oversight, an inconsistent contracting process, a toothless internal audit system and serious security and privacy concerns…

Murray State Board of Regents Discuss Budget, Legislation, More in February Meeting

Source: Matt Markgraf, WKMS, February 25, 2017

… The Board considered options to reform or outsource healthcare and mental health services for students, faculty and staff, based on recommendations from consulting group Hodgkins Beckley on Friday. Options include increasing the budget for services provided, outsourcing services to a contracted health provider as Western Kentucky University has done, shifting costs out of the budget by adding a mandatory fee of around $150 dollars per student or implementing insurance and Medicaid. … MSU health services currently cost around $925,000 a year: $529,000 for health care and $396,000 for counseling. The board weighed pros and cons of six options as presented. … The third option outsources health services but keeps counseling services on campus. Urgent care clinics would be contracted to come on campus to operate services. Students would pay for the visit or use insurance or Medicaid. Employees could use insurance. While this option would significantly reduce costs, there would still be some cost the university attached. Western Kentucky University has a model like this one. The fourth option outsources services, provides funding for short term counseling, health services would be based on insurance. This is different than the third as it’s more insurance-based. … Regent Chair Steve Williams said the presentation was “food for thought” and offered a starting point for further discussion. …

Republican States Look to Customize Medicaid Expansion, Not Eliminate It

Source: Christine Vestal, Stateline, January 23, 2017

… As Congress prepares to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, 14 other states with GOP governors that opted to expand Medicaid under the law may face the same reality Bevin and Hutchinson did: Taking health insurance away from hundreds of thousands of people is a complicated and risky proposition. Medicaid spending for all states was about $532 billion in 2015, with about 63 percent funded by the federal government and the rest by states. In expanding Medicaid under the ACA, Republicans in expansion states chose economics over politics, even though it meant cooperating with a law that nearly all conservatives abhor. That calculus won’t change with the transition in Washington, according to Matt Salo, who heads the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

… In upcoming legislative sessions, many GOP-dominated states are likely to preserve expansion while adding so-called personal responsibility policies that have been proposed in Kentucky and adopted in Arkansas and five other states. Those policies include monthly premiums, copays and work requirements for low-income beneficiaries. … Under the Obama administration, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana and New Hampshire received federal approval to expand their low-income health care programs for adults under different rules than traditional Medicaid. Arkansas, with its so-called private option, was the first state to receive federal approval for an alternative expansion plan in 2013. Instead of enrolling newly eligible adults in its traditional Medicaid plan, which serves primarily children, pregnant women and the elderly and disabled, the plan for low-income adults substituted private insurance for traditional Medicaid. A bipartisan collaboration between former Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature, the plan has managed to come in under budgeted costs while covering far more people than originally projected, said Amy Webb, a spokeswoman for the state’s human services agency. After it was approved, Iowa and New Hampshire proposed similar plans. … If the Medicaid expansion remains intact, Kentucky could be the first state to get approval for an alternative plan under the Trump administration. With enough latitude, even holdouts such as Florida, Texas and Virginia might be persuaded to accept federal money to cover low-income adults.

EKU weighs outsourcing custodians, ground workers

Source: Dan Klapheke, The Eastern Progress, September 15, 2016

In Kentucky’s current state of budget-strangling and uncertainty, Eastern Facilities Services in the hotseat with the possibility of outsourcing custodial and grounds maintenance staff. The news came August 29 after the office of Finance and Administration informed Facilities Services personnel that EKU would be requesting proposals from third party vendors for custodial and grounds services. The request for proposal (RFP) was sent out September 9. … According to the RFP, companies that bid on the project must include proposal for both custodial and grounds services together, as well as one for each service separately. It also stipulates that all current EKU custodial and grounds employees be offered a full 40-hour, 52-week position with the new company and no break in health insurance coverage, according to the RFP. … But workers are worried. Rumblings and rumors have circulated throughout the affected employees, and eight year custodian Carl Shanks said staff is frustrated and waiting anxiously. …

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EKU will look at outsourcing custodial, grounds services
Source: Bill Robinson, Richmond Register, August 30, 2016

As Eastern Kentucky University looks for cost savings in the wake of continued state funding cuts, it has asked for proposals from vendors that could take over its custodial and grounds-keeping operations. As directed by the board of regents, facilities services personnel were told Monday that a request for proposals from potential vendors will be advertised as early as next week, according to a statement released Tuesday on behalf of Barry Poynter, EKU Vice President for Business/Finance. … If it chooses to outsource custodial and grounds keeping services, EKU’s goal will be to have current staff hired by a third-party vendor that will offer “comparable benefit packages,” the statement added. It acknowledged the RFP would likely raise “questions and concerns” among university employees, which it did. Some contacted The Register and said they feared the briefing was an early warning that custodian and grounds employees could eventually lose their jobs or find themselves working for a third-party employer that offers less desirable benefits. EKU employees receive tuition waivers as well as health insurance and retirement contributions from the university. … RFP responses are expected by Oct. 10. They will be evaluated and presented to the regents for review at their October meeting, according to the statement. …

State politicians debate private prison contract

Source: Elizabeth Murray, Burlington Free Press, August 23, 2016

After the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would eliminate the use of private federal prisons last week, Vermonters are weighing in on whether the Green Mountain state should follow suit. Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard said in an email last week that her agency is focused on applying best correctional practices to manage its inmate population and reduce the number of inmates held for lack of housing. Menard said this focus has helped reduce the number of out-of-state prisoners, but the state’s reliance on private prison contracts for inmate overflow has remained intact. …

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DEFENDER GENERAL REASSURED ABOUT INCIDENT AT PRIVATE PRISON
Source: Elizabeth Hewitt, VT Digger, June 13, 2016

After an investigation into an incident at an out-of-state prison that houses Vermont inmates, a leading state official said he is not concerned. Two attorneys from the prisoners’ rights division of the defender general’s office traveled to Michigan last week to investigate a smattering of reports about conditions, including some reports that inmates were left without clothing and food. …

REPORTS FROM MICHIGAN PRISON PROMPT CONCERNS ABOUT CONDITIONS
Source: Elizabeth Hewitt, VT Digger, June 8, 2016

A series of disturbances at a private prison in Michigan that houses Vermont inmates prompted investigation by state officials. In late May, the advocacy group Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform heard reports that inmates in the segregation unit of the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan, had been stripped and their mattresses removed from their cells. The prison, which holds 236 Vermont prisoners, is run by the GEO Group. … Suzi Wizowaty, of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, said it is very difficult to get the full truth behind reports that come out of the private prisons that house Vermont inmates out of state. … According to Defender General Matt Valerio, the details of the incidents are still unclear. The reports have varied greatly, he said, and he will hear from the attorneys after they return to Vermont. … Defender general’s office staff members are in correctional facilities in Vermont every day, he said. They have relationships with superintendents, caseworkers and officers, and have opportunities to hear about issues directly from inmates. Distance is a challenge when it comes to maintaining oversight of the conditions out of state, Valerio said. The GEO Group has always been “accommodating and pleasant and professional” with the prisoner’s rights office, Valerio said. He added that he can’t say his office has “a close working relationship with them at all.”

Inmate sues private prison company alleging he was sexually harassed by a prison nurse
Source: Casey Tolan, Fusion, June 8, 2016

An inmate in Michigan is suing the second-largest largest private prison company in the country, alleging he was sexually harassed and molested by a nurse at his prison. In a handwritten lawsuit he filed against the GEO Group last week, Bernard Carter says a nurse at the North Lake Correctional Facility forced him to expose himself to her and touched him sexually without his consent. … But his suit is only the latest example of misconduct claims from Vermont inmates like himself who are sent across the country to the private facility. … According to Carter, 46, his harassment began in August 2015, soon after he arrived at the prison. It started with the nurse talking about his penis and how she wanted to have sex with him, but soon escalated, even after he told her to stop. … There are currently 195 inmates from Vermont who live at North Lake (at a cost to the state of $61.80 per person per day). …

Vermont’s Arrangement to House Inmates in Michigan Could Be at Risk
Source: Mark Davis, Seven Days, April 19, 2016

A plan gaining momentum in the Michigan Senate would see that state’s DOC close two of its oldest prisons, and send  inmates to North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Mich., which is privately owned by The GEO Group. The state of Michigan would lease the entire prison and run North Lake as a state facility, according to various media reports. Currently, 230 Vermont inmates are held in North Lake under a two-year, $30 million contract inked by the Vermont DOC and GEO last year. That contract allows either party to void it with five months notice. The Vermont DOC is aware of the proposal and has been in contact with key officials at GEO and the Michigan DOC in recent weeks, said Mike Touchette, Vermont DOC’s director of facility operations. … But Vermont may no longer be an important client for GEO. The DOC has slashed its out-of-state population to 236 inmates, down from 340 a year ago and  500 in 2014. …

Vermont Inmates Pine for Their Old Kentucky Prison
Source: Mark Davis, Seven Days, December 2, 2015

Five months later, inmates and the officials who advocate for them say they were better off in Kentucky. They claim the transition to the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Mich., has been rife with problems. Inmates accustomed to the open dorm-style living in Kentucky are now stuck in Michigan in windowless cells and allowed little freedom of movement. They no longer have access to many of the jobs, classes and activities that helped them pass the time — and stay out of trouble — in Kentucky. … Inmates who engaged with Seven Days described a chaotic transition during which rules were unclear and GEO seemed ill prepared to host them. North Lake, which had been mothballed for several years, received them just two months after GEO announced the two-year, $30 million contract with Vermont and began hiring new guards. In fact, the Vermonters are the only inmates in the 1,740-bed prison, which is about three hours northwest of Detroit.

Vermont official: Ky. prison monitored inmates before fight
Source: Wilson Ring, Associated Press, August 12, 2015

Vermont’s top advocate for prison inmates said Wednesday the staff at a private Kentucky prison did all it could to monitor two inmates before they got into a fight that landed one in the hospital in the weeks before his death. … A Kentucky State Police official said earlier that the agency had begun an investigation into the fight that injured Nicholson, but they learned of his death after being asked about it by The Associated Press. At Wednesday’s hearing Vermont Corrections Department officials told members of the committee that Corrections Corporation officials had informed the Kentucky State Police that Nicholson had died. After the hearing, Dominic Damato, the out-of-state manager for Vermont Corrections, said Vermont officials were told June 2 by Corrections Corporation that the Kentucky State Police had been informed of Nicholson’s death, but he could not say when that notification was made. … Corrections Corporation officials were asked repeatedly by the AP about why they hadn’t notified police of Nicholson’s death and they never answered specific questions about the notification. Jonathan Burns, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, on Wednesday referred any additional questions to the Vermont Department of Corrections or Kentucky State Police.
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States Diversifying Use of Public-Private Partnerships in Infrastructure

Source: Sean Slone, Council of State Governments, May June 2016

When U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx finished his remarks at the recent InfraAmericas conference on public-private partnerships, or P3s, in New York City, Kentucky state Rep. Leslie Combs was first to the microphone for the Q&A. “We just passed P3 legislation in Kentucky,” said Combs, who this spring authored the legislation that allows Kentucky, like 33 other states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, to enter into P3s to build infrastructure projects. … But Kentucky’s first announced infrastructure P3 is not a toll road or a major bridge project. In fact, at the behest of anti-toll interests in the northern part of the state, Kentucky’s legislation specifically prohibits the use of tolls on any P3 project connecting Kentucky and Ohio, such as a potential replacement for the functionally obsolete Brent Spence Bridge. Instead, the commonwealth’s first P3 project is KentuckyWired, a partnership to create a statewide, open-access fiber optic broadband network. …

… Indeed many of the infrastructure P3 projects garnering the buzz at this year’s InfraAmericas forum were somewhat different from those the U.S. P3 industry has become accustomed to over the last decade. The conference highlighted projects at major U.S. airports and on university campuses. There were transit project P3s, alternative fuel, highway lighting and water infrastructure projects and a variety of social and civic infrastructure projects—public buildings and the like—in the spotlight as well.

WKU staff respond to news of new employer

Source: Monica Kast, WKU Herald, May 5, 2016

Employees who will be moving to employment by Sodexo will receive a pay increase, and the starting wage will now be $10.26, one dollar more than the current starting wage. Sodexo will also reimburse employees who want to take courses that will further their career path, according to Russell. Despite the welcome of Sodexo and assurances from administration, not every employee is confident that the change is for the best. Brenda Whitaker has been an employee at WKU for 26 years. She currently works as a BSA on campus. Because she is near retirement, she will remain employed by WKU, but she said she didn’t agree with moving others to Sodexo. … At the forum, BSA employees were able to voice some of that negative feedback. Most concerns were about retaining vacation days and potentially losing tuition benefits that are currently offered to employees. Yost said employees would begin acquiring vacation and sick days with Sodexo on August 1. “Holidays will be determined by Sodexo USA management,” Yost said. “Under Sodexo USA, employees will be awarded a beginning vacation leave balance based upon their years of service at Western Kentucky University. Effective August 1, 2016, employees will accrue vacation and sick time, both of which will be based upon Sodexo USA’s accrual schedule and their years of service to Western Kentucky University.” …

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Frustrations and concerns voiced at WKU budget cut forum
Source: Aaron Mudd, Bowling Green Daily News, April 29, 2016

Frustrations and concerns about a planned budget cut of more than $6 million at Western Kentucky University brought students and staff together for an open forum Thursday. … On Wednesday, the university announced a plan to spread out a $6,039,200 budget cut in fiscal year 2017. The cut was possible by trimming from 24 different areas, Ransdell said, and it had to be done without threatening filled faculty positions, credit-bearing academic programs and core student services.  Some programs were consolidated, reduced or eliminated, Ransdell said. About six current WKU employees will lose their jobs, he said.  Ransdell said a move to transfer 202 building services and grounds employees to private contractor Sodexo will save 25 jobs and about $750,000. A 48 percent employer contribution increase to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System is a notable cost to WKU. … Compared to the 10 vacation days WKU provides in December, Sodexo provides three days. Bryan Russell, WKU’s chief facilities officer, said the university will buy out any unused vacation time when the employees transfer to Sodexo in July.  Despite the budget cut, WKU is also phasing in a 3 percent salary increase for all full-time employees between July 1 and July 1, 2017. …

WKU Building and Grounds Employees Voice Concerns in Budget Forum
Source: Lisa Autry, WKU Public Radio, April 28, 2016

The president of Western Kentucky University says building services attendants will get “pretty similar” benefits when their work is transferred to a private contractor. … Under the change, employees will get fewer sick days. That’s a concern for Paul Barbour, whose wife works as a BSA.  Barbour says she’s taken a lot of time off because of ailments related to a car accident. Barbour fears the Sodexo will put productivity over people. … Sodexo is also expected to offer less paid vacation time around Christmas time.  Employees will get three days off in December compared to the 10 days they were given by WKU.   No BSAs will lose their jobs.  They’ll also receive a one dollar per hour raise when they transfer to Sodexo.

WKU plan privatizes 202 staff positions
Source: Jacob Dick, WKU Herald, April 27, 2016

WKU custodial, building services, groundskeeping and waste management employees working on the Bowling Green campus will be employed by a private company starting in August to save money in the 2016-17 budget. On Wednesday, university administration informed faculty and staff that Sodexo, a private employment management service, would be taking over as employer for an additional 202 WKU workers. The change is supposed to save $745,000 for the next fiscal year. … Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell confirmed at a media briefing Wednesday that 18 staff with 20 or more years of employment would remain under WKU. … Russell said employees hired at the starting rate of $9.26 would receive that raise, and staff who were paid more than that amount will have their salaries adjusted with smaller raises. Russell also said children of staff currently enrolled in the university will still receive tuition discounts for attending WKU. Staff will receive discounts until 2017. … WKU has had a contract with Sodexo for 20 years, and the contract will be amended at the end of the fiscal year to include additional staff.

WKU ground and service employment to be privatized
Source: WKU Herald, April 27, 2016

WKU custodial, building services, landscape and waste management employees working on the Bowling Green campus will no longer be employed by the university effective this August. On Wednesday, employees were informed that their employment with the university would end in July and that a private employment management service, Sodexo, would be taking over as their employer. … It continued to state that areas within the Department of Facilities Management, Housing and Residence Life and Downing Student Union would not be impacted.