Tag Archives: Louisiana

Consultant: BRF lacks cash, experience to adequately manage hospitals

Source: KTBS, October 10, 2017
 
Biomedical Research Foundation’s lack of cash could cause the state to lose funding for free and low-cost health care at the former public hospitals the foundation operates in Shreveport and Monroe.  Documents obtained by KTBS through an open records request show state officials are concerned the hospitals could lose Medicaid funding. That federal money helps cover the cost of treating poor people without insurance at the hospitals BRF operates as University Health through a wholly-owned subsidiary.  In September, state officials put BRF on notice it had breached its contract to operate the hospitals, in part because BRF has failed to pay doctors at LSU Medical School in Shreveport for treating patients. BRF also owes the state for a lease on the hospital property. …

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$135M boost going to LSU hospital managers under new deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, October 27, 2016

The private operators of LSU’s charity hospitals and clinics are in line for a $135 million boost in their payments as part of new deals struck by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, and the university’s medical schools will benefit from some of the new money. State lawmakers are being asked Friday to increase financing for the privatization deals to nearly $1.3 billion in the current budget year, only four months after lawmakers were told the previous level of funding was sufficient. … The money for the hospital and clinic operators is part of a larger budget adjustment requested by the Louisiana Department of Health at Friday’s meeting of the joint House and Senate budget committee. Jeff Reynolds, chief financial officer for the health department, said $135 million is a financing increase for the private managers that have taken over LSU’s hospitals, clinics and patient services. He said the additional payments are part of the renegotiated deals recently worked out by the Edwards administration. … The renegotiated privatization deals crafted by the Edwards administration included provisions in which some of the hospitals will be paying more money for the services of LSU’s doctors who work at the hospitals. … Henry said he wanted to know why the dollars weren’t available when lawmakers were crafting the budget in June, when they were told the previous level of agreed-upon financing was sufficient for the privatization agreements. …

Negotiating over, Edwards makes offers on LSU hospital deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, September 7, 2016

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration will make its offer Thursday to the operator of LSU’s hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe for a renegotiated contract with the state, as the governor pushes to rewrite all the LSU hospital privatization deals. Edwards’ lead negotiator on the contracts, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said Thursday’s presentation to the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana is the last offer to be made. … Dardenne wouldn’t provide details about what changes are being sought in the north Louisiana hospitals’ deal — or any others. But he said negotiations are over and hospital operators can either take or leave the reworked arrangements offered. … Former Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nine LSU-run hospitals and their clinics through no-bid contracts, with the earliest deal starting in April 2013. In most instances, the management company of a nearby hospital took over operations. Three contracts closed an LSU hospital — in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Pineville — and shifted its services to private hospitals. The Edwards administration says the deals were too hastily slapped together, with terms that aren’t favorable to the state. … LSU System President F. King Alexander described the arrangement to have the foundation, known as BRF, run the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals as dysfunctional from its start in October 2013. Alexander said the research foundation, which runs the two hospitals as the University Health System, doesn’t have the resources or experience, isn’t paying bills on time and isn’t providing enough support to the LSU medical school in Shreveport. BRF and University Health leaders say Alexander’s accusations are untrue and LSU’s Shreveport medical school has financial problems of its own making. They say the research foundation’s hospital management has improved health care. …

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Charter Schools Insist: Our Teachers Are Public Employees! Or Private Employees! Whichever Means They Can’t Unionize!

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, American Prospect, September 5, 2017

… In February 2017, the NLRB voted 2-1 against IHS’s challenge, concluding that the teachers are indeed private workers under their purview rather than public employees. Yet IHS, still refusing to bargain, is now taking its case to the Fifth Circuit—the first time a federal appellate court will rule on such a challenge. The outcome of this suit could affect labor law for charter teachers not only at IHS, but throughout all the Fifth Circuit states—Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. …

… But which side of the public-or-private controversy charter schools come down on seems to vary with political geography. While in the IHS case, the state charter associations insist that all charter schools should be considered political subdivisions (and therefore public) under the “Hawkins test,” when charter teachers at the Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy filed for union representation with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in 2010, the school responded by saying its teachers fell under the purview of the NLRB, because their charter was a privately incorporated nonprofit, governed by a corporate board. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the most prominent national charter advocacy organization, filed an amicus brief in support of CSMA’s position, arguing that “charter schools are intended to be and usually are run by corporate entities that are administered independently from the state and local governments in which they operate.” …

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Teachers at a fifth New Orleans charter school seeking a union
Source: Jessica Williams, The Advocate, March 28, 2017

Teachers are unionizing at another of New Orleans’ independent charter schools. And, as usual, things have gotten contentious. This time, the faculty at Mary D. Coghill Charter School is pushing for union representation. It’s the fifth campus in the past few years where staff have sought to link up with the United Teachers of New Orleans, a union that once bargained for wages and benefits on behalf of thousands of employees before it was sidelined by the charter movement in the years after Hurricane Katrina. …

National labor board OKs Lusher, International High unions
Source: Danielle Dreilinger, The Times-Picayune, February 1, 2017

The National Labor Relations Board has shot down challenges to two New Orleans charter school unions. That means Lusher Charter School aides and International High School teachers have the right to collectively bargain employment contracts.
The 2-1 board votes came down Wednesday (Feb. 1). … International High plans to appeal the decision, attorney Brooke Duncan III said. … Charter schools are neither fish nor fowl, publicly funded but run by independent nonprofits. The National Labor Relations Board treats them as private employers, which under federal law must bargain with unionized workers. Elected Louisiana school boards don’t. Both schools argued that they should be considered public agencies. … The board’s majority disagreed, writing, “The employer was not created directly by the state so as to constitute a department or administrative arm of the government nor administered by individuals who are responsible to public officials or the general electorate.” …

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More private prisons to be considered in Louisiana legislative resolution

Source: Julia O’Donoghue, New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 10, 2017
 
Louisiana lawmakers are taking a new look at privatizing management of five more state prisons. The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on Wednesday (May 10) sent the full House a resolution asking for a study of privatization, an option not recommended by a host of other political leaders and analysts who have been pushing prison reform in recent months.  Private operators already are in place at two Louisiana prisons: Allen Correctional Center at Kinder and Winn Correctional Center near Winnfield. House Concurrent Resolution 30 would require the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to look at privatizing five more — all except the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. … Louisiana recently concluded a 10-month task force study on how the state could reduce its highest-in-the-world incarceration rate and save money on incarceration. Privatization was not recommended. Nor has it been promoted by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican legislators who are pushing a criminal justice reform package in the current legislative session. … But Louisiana has had budget shortfalls consistently since 2009. To tighten its belt, the state downgraded the Winn and Allen sites from certified prisons to jails in 2016. No other state has made a similar move, essentially an administrative maneuver that lets a state work around prison regulations and save money. …

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Louisiana considering closing 2 prisons in budget cuts
Source: Kevin Litten, New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 19, 2016

The Louisiana Department of Corrections is considering closing closing two privately operated prisons as it tries to cut $14.1 million in spending to help close the state’s $940 million budget shortfall. Winn Correctional Center and Allen Correctional Center, are operated by two separate companies. The two closures would save an estimated $4.6 million. Another option the Department of Corrections is floating — and the one the department most prefers — is to temporarily reduce the rate the state pays the two companies that operate Winn and Allen prisons, for a savings of $2.6 million. … The proposal for the two private operators of the prisons, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and the GEO Group, sets up a difficult ultimatum: Either accept the lower per-prisoner pay rate or face total shutdown. The department currently pays $31.52 per day; the local rate the department wants to pay is $24.39 per day.

Corrections outlines plans for $14.2 million shortfall, including plans to potentially shut down two privately run prisons, reducing sheriffs’ pay for housing state inmates
Source: Bryn Stole, The Advocate, February 19, 2016

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections may shutter two privately run prisons and reduce the rates it pays parish sheriffs for housing state inmates as it faces a $14.2 million shortfall for the budget that ends June 30. … Shutting the two facilities would cost about 630 jobs, LeBlanc said, but it will allow the corrections department to save an estimated $2.3 million by shuffling the roughly 3,200 inmates to parish jails. Other savings would be made up by reducing overtime pay and slashing the rates that are paid to local jails.

School bus driver fired after video shows driver ignoring stop signs

Source: WBRZ, March 22, 2017

A school bus driver has been fired after video surfaced showing the bus driving through stop signs in a suburban area without stopping. Shocking video taken by a driver shows the bus plowing through stop signs in the Woodland Ridge neighborhood. The bus serves the Louisiana School for the Deaf, but the school contracts bus services through a private company called First Student. First Student announced Wednesday that the driver had been fired, one day after our initial report on the video. …

Private water system in Haughton faces audit over billing complaints

Source: Melody Brumble, KTBS 3, March 17, 2017

A private water system in Haughton is in hot water over widespread billing complaints. Auditors will comb the books of Country Place Utilities after the Louisiana Public Service Commission decided to investigate the company. Country Place Utilities serves about 300 homes in Country Place subdivision in Haughton. The company provides water directly to residents and has a contract with the Bossier Parish Police Jury to bill for sewer service. … The PSC ordered the audit after residents complained that bills weren’t mailed for months at a time. Customers also complained of irregularities and discrepancies in usage and charges on bills; and the failure of the system’s staff to communicate with customers. Foster Campbell, the public service commissioner for north Louisiana, said the PSC also tried — without success — to resolve the situation by talking to the system’s operators. … The company could even lose the right to operate the water system, Campbell says. Country Place Utilities also is in hot water with the Bossier Parish Police Jury. In October, the police jury sued, claiming the company owes at least $60,000 in unpaid sewer fees. …

Pinecrest staffers face almost daily patient assaults in wake of cutbacks, officials say

Source: Mark Ballard, The Advocate, March 25, 2017
 
The state’s efforts to privatize and economize health care at the state’s remaining facility for the intellectually impaired have resulted in regular assaults on staff by patients, state officials have discovered.  Almost every day, sometimes several times a day, a mentally impaired resident at Pinecrest punches, bites or otherwise violently lashes out at the mostly middle-aged women who help the individuals dress, eat and function in the world. The sudden and dramatic increase in violent attacks is an unintended consequence of “real quick privatization,” says Louisiana Department of Health Deputy Secretary Michelle Alletto, whose responsibilities include the 95-year-old facility near Pineville. Looking to save money, the state slashed budgets, laid off personnel and in 2013 closed other public facilities, intending to send the bulk of the patients to small, privately-owned group homes in communities around the state where their needs could be addressed on a more individualized basis. Pinecrest Supports and Services Center got the rest. … Budget cuts in other state agencies limited programs that treated these individuals in the past.

… For the 12 months prior to Feb. 28, the staff filed 524 reports, required by workers compensation regulations, for incidents at the facility where three years ago virtually no violence took place. … Perry, an officer in the employees union, says worker’s comp forms are only the tip of the violence iceberg because no publicly available forms are filled out unless the “slap leaves a mark.”  Local 712 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees began collecting statements from its members that provide a little more detail. … Many of the statements collected by the union complained about how they are unprotected by police and, often, are removed from direct patient care. … But the staff has lost its patience, says James Ray, AFSCME field representative and a Methodist minister. “They always say be patient, it’s going to get better. But the state, as an employer, has a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace, which they are not doing,” he said.

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Health firms make privatization pitches
Source: Michelle Millhollon, Advocate, February 14, 2014

In an overheated Holiday Inn banquet room Thursday morning, business leaders made pitches for privatizing a $2 billion slice of the state’s health care business. United Healthcare, Amerigroup Louisiana, Louisiana Healthcare Connections and LifeShare Management Group are interested in managing the long-term care needs of 73,000 Medicaid-eligible people. The companies want to oversee the personal care, doctor’s visits, transportation, hospitalizations and other daily needs of people with disabilities, as well as those with age-related or adult-onset challenges.

DHH Wants More Medicaid Privatization, Stakeholders Hesitant
Source: Ashley Westerman, WRKF, November 5, 2013

The state Department of Health and Hospitals is taking preliminary steps to further privatize Medicaid in Louisiana. In August, DHH released a concept paper about reforms to long-term care for the developmentally disabled and low-income elderly.

In a nutshell, the department wants to bring in a private managed care organization – or MCO – to create a network of healthcare providers to serve those populations. Proponents of private MCOs claim they save money, cut down on fraud and improve the quality of care. The state Dept. of Health and Hospitals is looking to privatize the managed care for Medicaid patients with developmental disabilities and low-income elderly. Other stakeholders and advocates for the disabled and elderly throughout the state, for the most part, welcome reform but skepticism remains….

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$2M savings may result in $42M loss for La. Medicaid

Source: David Hammer, WWL, March 8, 2017

When former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration ended a $2 million debt-collection contract in 2014, nobody batted an eye. After all, the state faced a mind-blowing $1.6 billion budget deficit and welcomed any bit of spending that could be cut. But that small savings may have actually created a $42 million loss for the state’s federally funded Medicaid program over the last two years. That’s more than the $40 million the Legislature recently had to slash from the Health Department to cover yet another budget shortfall. By letting a contract with New York-based HMS expire in December 2014, the state went more than 14 months without anyone identifying and recovering money for Medicaid bills that should have been paid by third parties – like an auto insurance company on the hook for a Medicaid recipient’s health expenses after a crash, or a private health insurance plan that should have covered an illness but didn’t, instead leaving Medicaid, the taxpayer-funded payer-of-last-resort, holding the bag.

.. When Gov. John Bel Edwards took over last year, his Department of Health was facing $29 million in these uncollected third-party liabilities. And the former contractor responsible for collecting third-party liabilities, HMS, was embroiled in a trade-secret lawsuit with a competitor, Public Consulting Group Inc., which was also seeking the collection contract in Louisiana. Finally, Public Consulting Group settled the lawsuit last year and agreed to not compete with HMS for contracts for seven years. Louisiana rehired HMS under a $2.1 million emergency contract last summer. According to a state legislative audit, HMS estimated the uncollected amount of third-party liabilities at $42 million by the end of 2016, but because of the large gaps in collections work, the Department of Health couldn’t be sure of that figure. … But the audit also identified $18 million in receivables the state may never be able to recover. … There was some hope that by shifting to what’s called a managed-care payment system, the state’s Medicaid program wouldn’t need to pay a company like HMS to collect third-party liabilities; the private managed care organizations hired by the state to make Medicaid payments would take care of that duty. But a significant portion of Medicaid costs in Louisiana are still paid under the old fee-for-service model, without a private managed care organization acting as a middle man. …

These For-Profit Schools Are ‘Like a Prison’

Source: Sarah Carr, Francesca Berardi, Zoë Kirsch and Stephen Smiley, ProPublica, March 8, 2017

… Over six months in 2013 and 2014, about a half-dozen parents, students and community members at Paramount Academy — billed as a “therapeutic” day program — complained of abusive behavior by the school’s staff. … Thirteen Camelot students have alleged in interviews or documents that they were shoved, beaten, or thrown — assaults almost always referred to as “slamming” — by Camelot staff members, usually for the sin of talking back, in separate incidents that span 10 years and three states. … Two additional students, and five Camelot staff members, say they have personally witnessed beatings or physical aggression by staff. The abuse allegedly occurred in Camelot programs in Reading; Lancaster; Philadelphia; New Orleans; and Pensacola, Florida. … Despite such allegations, Camelot has continued to expand. It contracts with traditional school districts to run about 40 schools across the country — schools that serve kids who have gotten into trouble, have emotional or behavioral issues, or have fallen far behind academically. In 2015, Camelot reported more than $77 million in revenue, more than a third from contracts with the school districts of Philadelphia, Houston, and Chicago. … About half a million students in the United States attend alternative schools, which are publicly funded but often managed by private, for-profit companies such as Camelot. Camelot’s story illustrates the risk that for-profit schools, which are favored by the Trump administration and new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, may put earnings ahead of student welfare. It also exposes the dismal educational options available to some students that traditional high schools don’t want to serve, because they are disruptive, severely disabled, years behind in school, or have criminal backgrounds.

… Add it all up, skeptics say, and the Camelot experience starts to resemble the nation’s incarceration system: racially biased, isolated, punitive, unnecessarily violent and designed, above all else, to maintain obedience and control. … Public school districts typically contract with Camelot to run one of three types of programs: “transitional schools” for kids with behavior issues; “therapeutic programs” for those with special behavioral and emotional needs; and “accelerated programs” for students who have fallen far behind. … Most Camelot students share two characteristics. They are nearly all poor. And they are overwhelmingly peopleof color. … The incidents at Camelot tended to follow a similar pattern, according to multiple accounts from students and staff members. Nonacademic staff members (usually the behavioral specialists and team leaders but sometimes higher-level employees) were permitted by administrators and school leaders to manhandle students as a form of intimidation — whether the teenagers had acted out or not. They preyed most often on students who had the least recourse to complain: social pariahs whose parents were disengaged or unable to advocate effectively, because they didn’t speak English, for instance. School leaders condoned the abuse and in some cases even encouraged it, according to Jandy Rivera and others. … In most middle- and upper-income communities, parents provide an informal yet crucial form of accountability for schools — protesting, and even suing over, mistreatment of their children. But this safety net is largely missing in the Camelot schools, where parents lack the knowledge, confidence, resources or language skills to complain. Those who have come forward say that few people in positions of power, including school officials, lawyers and police officers, take them seriously — if they listen at all. …

Can a Private Company Teach Troubled Kids?
Source: Alexia Fernandez Campbell, The Atlantic, August 27, 2016

Disruptive students are a headache for public schools. They distract from lessons, skip class, and often bring down the graduation rates. That’s why school districts across the country have resorted to opening alternative schools in recent decades, with hopes that smaller classes and individual attention might help these students get their diplomas. But even these alternative schools (which differ from charter schools in that they are still part of school districts and thus answer to superintendents) can be a burden: They’re expensive to run, and their graduation rates are still pretty low. Desperate for help, many school districts are now hiring private companies to manage these alternative schools and educate their most troublesome students. … Richmond is one of the latest cities to experiment with outsourcing education. In July, the city hired a Texas-based company called Camelot Education to run the Richmond Alternative School, which last year served 223 students from across the city in grades 6 through 11. Nearly all of the students at Richmond Alternative are black (97 percent) and most are poor (87 percent qualify for free lunches). Some black parents once dubbed it the “colored children’s prison” and it has been criticized for contributing to what’s called the school-to-prison pipeline—Virginia is the state that refers the most students to law enforcement. …

… The turn to the private sector is not new for Richmond. In 2004, the city hired a private company to run a previous iteration of its alternative school, which was then called the Capital City Program. The $4.6 million agreement with a Tennessee-based company called Community Education Partners was the school district’s most expensive contract that year. … The quality of the education provided by Community Education Partners turned out to be substandard, according to a Richmond Magazine investigation, which found that a third of the school’s teachers were not credentialed. Elsewhere, schools run by Community Education Partners were not faring much better. The American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia sued the company in 2008 for allegedly providing “fundamentally inferior” education to students at an alternative school in Atlanta—an environment “so violent and intimidating that learning is all but impossible.” Atlanta canceled its contract with the company, and a year later, so did the city of Philadelphia. …

… The teachers who have been working at Richmond Alternative the past few years will have an opportunity to interview for teaching positions with Camelot, Bock says, but, if hired, they will be required to undergo the company’s de-escalation and behavior modification training. Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union. … This may be the first time that Richmond will work with Camelot, but data on the company’s presence in Philadelphia provides a fuller picture of its track record. Camelot was one of half a dozen companies running Philadelphia’s alternative schools in the past decade, the largest experiment in privatizing alternative education to date. …

The Steady Destruction of America’s Cities

Source: Gillian B. White, The Atlantic, March 9, 2017
 
How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood, a new book by the journalist Peter Moskowitz, brings some much-needed clarity to thinking about a slippery concept. … Moskowitz tells of how gentrification has swept through some of America’s biggest cities, writing case studies of Detroit, San Francisco, New York, and post-Katrina New Orleans. In each city, there are specific problems and circumstances that helped the process along, but it’s striking how similar the choices made by politicians, business leaders, and developers and their effect on poor really are across the country. … While Moskowitz includes the important stories of those who called a neighborhood home long before coffee shops and luxury condos appeared, it’s his outline of the systemic process of displacement that is the most devastating.  He convincingly shows how the choices that a city and its government make in the name of a booming economy assign value to some residents and not others: From choices on where and how to fund affordable housing, to invest in public schools, to support new local businesses, but not old ones, the process that goes by the name “revitalization” is often something more pernicious.

… And despite stable economies, liberal leanings, and high involvement in municipal politics in both New York and San Francisco, policies that could potentially help poorer residents have been much slower to come and less robust than the influx of new private capital that devours neighborhoods and displaces residents. In just about every city Moskowitz examines, he finds that choices by city and state governments limited the creation of affordable housing and changed public-housing policies, giving poorer residents little refuge in increasingly expensive cities. Ultimately, Moskowitz says that a big part of the problem when it comes to the unremitting pace of gentrification is that it is a process that often involves the investments and decisions of the private entities, including developers and big corporations, that decide to set up shop in new neighborhoods. In some ways, that’s great for areas that are floundering, but when city leaders become too reliant on the plans and dollars of the private sector, the people who had been living and working in these neighborhoods all along have no one to look out for them and the lives they’ve built. Private organizations have different interests and responsibilities when it comes to making plans to spruce up a neighborhood. And that can mean that their investments don’t happen an egalitarian manner, or benefit a diverse group of residents.  ….

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. …

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