Tag Archives: Louisiana

La. governor’s ex-counsel draws in state contracts / La. Gov. Jindal’s former top lawyer draws in no-bid state contracts since leaving government

Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, July 25, 2013

A law firm run by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s former executive counsel has received more than $1.1 million in no-bid contract work from Jindal appointees and state agencies since leaving the governor’s office and is becoming a fixture in high-profile legal battles for the Republican administration. The Faircloth Law Group, headed by Jimmy Faircloth, has handled headline-grabbing cases that included the defense of the governor’s signature education laws creating a statewide voucher program and rewriting teacher tenure and pay policies. …

…But Faircloth acknowledged that he did little legal work for state departments before working for Jindal, and a review of agency contracts by the AP shows the Faircloth Law Group has handled at least two dozen cases across state government since 2012. Jindal hired Faircloth as executive counsel when he took office in January 2008. Faircloth and his law firm had donated $25,000 to Jindal’s gubernatorial campaigns, according to records from the Board of Ethics. Then in July 2009, Faircloth resigned to pursue an unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court. …

…The governor’s executive counsel is among those public employees prohibited from entering into state contracts for a year after leaving the job under Louisiana’s ethics laws. Faircloth was later fined $1,000 by the Board of Ethics for violating the law, but the fine was suspended as long as he remained in compliance with ethics laws. …

Prison Privatization: Canada Mulls Contracting Services To Companies Lobbying For Correctional Work

Source: Daniel Tencer, Huffington Post Canada, July 13, 2013

Faced with lawsuits and bad publicity in their home country, U.S. private prison corporations are lobbying to enter Canada — and the Canadian government is considering allowing them, news reports indicate. According to federal government documents obtained by Bloomberg News, the Correctional Service of Canada “may consider” contracting out certain prison services, such as cleaning and food preparation…

The Guardian reports that among the companies lobbying Ottawa for a piece of the prison action is Geo Group, a Florida-based corporation whose lobbyist met with Toews last year. … A federal judge described the Geo Group prison as “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.”…

…The other prison company confirmed by The Guardian to be lobbying Ottawa is Management and Training Corporation (MTC), which has had its own share of controversies. Following the escape of two convicted murderers from a Kingman, Arizona MTC facility, the the state of Arizona found the facility’s alarms were not functioning properly, and the company hadn’t carried out maintenance on them in more than a year. MTC’s marketing director, Mike Murphy, confirmed to the Guardian the company is interested in Canada. …

…Canada’s experience with private prisons so far has been limited and underwhelming. The country’s only existing private prison — the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario — had been set up by the province’s Conservative government in the 1990s, and was taken over by the province under the Liberals in 2006. A performance review of the facility found that public prisons of the same size had better security, health care and recidivism rates than the MTC facility. For its part, Geo Group built the Miramichi Youth Detention Facility in New Brunswick, but had its contract for the facility taken away in the 1990s after public protests against the incarceration of youth for profit. The company still has a maintenance contract for the prison….

Auditors: Risk management privatization saved $22 million

Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, July 18, 2013

Louisiana has saved more than $10 million in the first two years of a privatization contract for claims processing and loss prevention services for the Office of Risk Management, auditors told lawmakers Thursday …. Procopio said the two-year savings through June 30, 2012, were more than double the initial forecast of $4.8 million. … The contract was supposed to cost $68 million, but it was bumped up to $75 million in 2011.

Prisons keep LSU medical pact

Source: Marsha Shuler, Advocate, July 9, 2013

The state corrections agency reversed course on a contract that provides medical care for inmates in state prisons. Legislators had complained when the state Department of Corrections chose a Texas firm to provide “telemedicine services” to replace LSU….Corrections Undersecretary Thomas Bickham said Monday that talks with LSU have resulted in LSU’s School of Medicine retaining the contract to provide services for prisoners in south Louisiana penal facilities. The Texas firm — U.S. Telehealth — will have the telemedicine pact for state prisons in north Louisiana, he said. Bickham said final negotiations are taking place on three, one-year, renewable contracts. He estimated total costs of contracts with LSU and U.S. Telehealth would run about $1.8 million annually.

Related:
La. lawmakers question hiring Texas firm for prisoner care
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, June 23, 2013

Louisiana lawmakers are questioning a decison by the state Department of Corrections to hire a Texas company for telemedicine services for prisoners, rather than continuing to use the LSU health system. The change is set to take effect with the new fiscal year that begins July 1. It’s part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to privatize the university-run hospitals and clinics, which includes reworking the way prisoners receive health services that have been provided through LSU…. Louisiana lawmakers reviewing LSU hospital privatization deals said they were displeased that the state would contract with an out-of-state company rather than use its own university system for the services…

…According to information provided by the department, LSU proposed doing the work for $2.9 million a year, compared to $1.7 million for US Telehealth, which was the cheapest of the five bids submitted to the state. Three companies offered bids lower than LSU did, and the corrections department said the university system’s proposal didn’t include services for north and central Louisiana prisons….As part of the Jindal administration’s hospital privatization efforts, the corrections department will receive $50 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year to cover the costs of prisoner care, which had previously been paid through the LSU health care system….

..Murray said the corrections department should have returned to LSU to determine if the university system could match the price offered by US Telehealth. He said the loss of the contract will shrink funding for the medical schools, which he said likely will either ask lawmakers for more money to fill the gap or seek tuition increases on its students….

Private Prison Company Increases Profits as More Blacks Land in Prison

Source: Freddie Allen, Atlanta Daily World, July 16, 2013

Corrections Corporation of America opened its first immigration detention center in a renovated motel in Houston nearly 30 years ago and now leads the nation’s for-profit prison industry, generating billions of dollars in revenue for housing prisoners, most of whom are Black and Hispanic… As Black and Brown incarceration rates soared, over the last three decades, companies such CCA profited from that growth. “Now a multi-billion dollar corporation, CCA manages more than 65 correctional and detention facilities with a capacity of more than 90,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia,” stated the report. “The company’s revenue in 2012 exceeded more than $1.7 billion.”…

…“The low wages of most CCA employees certainly do not extend to its top executives,” stated the report. “In 2011, CEO Damon Hininger was paid $3,696,798, while Chairman of the Board John Ferguson received a salary of $1,734,793.” According to the most recent self-reported industry statistics recorded in 2000, “the average turnover rate was 53% in private prisons, 16% in public prisons.” Experts say that the practice of cutting benefits and pay to workers to increase corporate profits greatly impairs the sensitive prisoner-corrections officer relationship, often endangering public safety as poorly-trained, overworked, underpaid guards resort to breaking the law to make quick cash….

…CCA joined the American Legislative and Exchange Council’s (ALEC) model to promote legislation “to increase drug law enforcement presence on public school campuses and tougher sentencing for drug offenses in drug-free school zones.”…

…“This is a company that reinvests millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to ensure that its interests are met,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “It’s a very troubling trend in criminal justice and immigration and it’s difficult for us to move forward on a path where we are able to reduce the prison population and make smart public policy choices when you have a corporation that has that kind of political power involved in the game.”…

Jeff council clears way for hospital privatization / Privatization not up for parish vote

Source: Jeff Adelson, Advocate, July 11, 2013

The path is now clear for Jefferson’s public hospitals to be leased to one of three companies after the Parish Council removed a requirement that such a privatization be put to a vote of residents….

…The vote comes after years in which both East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center have seen their financial fortunes decline. The institutions are now operating in the red or on razor-thin margins. That prompted the hospitals’ boards to consider a privatization effort aimed at shoring up the medical centers. But proponents of that measure said that deal would be quashed if they had to slug it out in a public vote in which competing health care companies could try to undermine the effort….

…The Legislature scrapped the state law requiring a public vote earlier this year, at the request of parish and hospital officials. That left only the parish ordinance as a hurdle in the privatization effort. Under the proposal approved by the council, the hospital boards will be able to come to agreements with a private company that would take over the hospitals. However, the outright sale of the hospitals would still require a proposition be put before the voters….

…The hospital boards are currently considering proposals from three companies: Oschner Health Systems, which owns a large number of hospitals in south Louisiana; Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, which owns Children’s Hospital in New Orleans and is partnered with the state to run the New Orleans public hospital; and HCA, which runs Tulane Medical Center….

National Charter School Study 2013

Source: Edward Cremata, Devora Davis, Kathleen Dickey, Kristina Lawyer, Yohannes Negassi, Margaret E. Raymond, James L. Woodworth, CREDO at Stanford University, 2013

From the press release:
A new, independent national study finds improvement in the overall performance of charter schools, driven in part by the presence of more high – performing charters and closure of underperforming charter schools.

The National Charter School Study 2013, released today by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, is an update and expansion of CREDO’s 2009 landmark 16-state study, Multiple Choice, the first study to take a comprehensive look at the impact of charter schools on student performance. The 2009 study found a wide variance in quality among charter schools, with students in charter schools not faring as well in the aggregate as those attending traditional public schools.

The National Charter School Study 2013 looks at performance of students in charter schools in 26 states and New York City, which is treated separately as the city differs dramatically from the rest of the state. In those states (and New York City), charter school students now have greater learning gains in reading than their peers in traditional public s chools. Traditional public schools and charter schools have equivalent learning gains in mathematics….

Recovery School District wasted $33 million in construction oversight, inspector general says

Source: Danielle Dreilinger, Times-Picayune, June 27, 2013

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux says the state Department of Education wasted nearly $33 million in taxpayer money by overpaying the company that is overseeing the city’s $1.8 billion school building master plan. Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard objected strongly to the findings, calling them “totally inaccurate.”

The funds come out of the FEMA settlement that allows the city to rebuild and renovate its devastated school buildings. Many campuses were dilapidated even before Hurricane Katrina and the city had too many seats for the student body, necessitating a complete overhaul.

Quatrevaux argued in a letter Thursday that the state should have reduced Jacobs/CSRS’ contract in line with reductions in the number and dollar amount of school building projects. However, state Superintendent John White and Jacobs/CSRS director John Wallace said in letters released earlier this month that the company got a flat fee, and there was no way to reduce the payments. …

…The 2007 contract called for Jacobs/CSRS to manage about $484 million in school building construction. But only 48 percent of those projects were completed. Therefore, the company should have received only 48 percent of its contract, Quatrevaux said. The figures are similar for the 2010 contract: Only about half of the estimated $983 million in projects got done. …

Parental Triggers for Failing Schools

Source: Adrienne Lu, Stateline.org, July 1, 2013

…In reality, trigger laws, which allow parents to intervene in a struggling school, are a lot more complicated and controversial. Versions of parent trigger laws have been proposed in at least 25 states and adopted by seven, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In real life, parent triggers have been attempted only a handful of times….Opponents say parent trigger laws are a veiled attempt to privatize schools and that they have caught on only because of the money being poured into groups like Parent Revolution, whose funders include the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (There really was a Hollywood movie, “Won’t Back Down,” produced by Walden Media, about two mothers, one a teacher, who join forces to save their failing school.) According to tax documents, Parent Revolution received $7.5 million from 2007 to 2011 to support its efforts….

…In addition to Parent Revolution, parent trigger laws have been promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit coalition promoting conservative principles that provides model legislation to its members. ALEC claims 2,000 state lawmakers among its membership.

In Florida, a parent trigger bill died in a dramatic tie vote in the state Senate on April 30, echoing the defeat of a similar bill last year also in the Senate. Proponents, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, argued the legislation would have empowered parents. Teachers unions and parents’ groups countered the measure was an attempt to privatize education by handing over schools to private charter school operators.

A parent trigger bill in Georgia sailed through the House this spring but was withdrawn in the Senate in March for lack of votes. Under the bill, parents or teachers could have petitioned to convert public schools into charter schools or to impose a turnaround model, such as removing school personnel or allowing parents to send their children to other public schools.

In Oklahoma, a parent trigger bill that would have allowed parents to convert an underperforming public school to a charter school or fire administrators cleared the Senate but not the House….

In Louisiana, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal in June signed into law what might be considered a reverse parent trigger bill, which will allow parents to shift control of a failing school from the state-run Recovery School District back to the local public school system. Louisiana’s original parent trigger law, approved by the legislature last year, allows parents to shift control of a failing school to the Recovery School District, which is run by the state’s Department of Education and helps manage chronically low-performing schools.

In California, the only state where parents have actually succeeded in activating the so-called trigger, the principal at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts lost her job in May after parents petitioned to oust her. The California law allows parents to activate the trigger if a school has been subject to corrective action under No Child Left Behind for at least one academic year and scores below 800 on the state’s Academic Performance Index (on a scale of 200 to 1,000). The law also excludes the lowest-scoring 5 percent of school districts, which qualify for other turnaround strategies….

Privatization of state insurance services on track, but savings could drop, auditor says

Source: Lauren McGaughy, Times Picayune, June 24, 2013

The privatization of Louisiana’s lines of insurance and loss prevention services, initiated in 2010, is on track to save the state millions of dollars over the next few years. But due to an increase in contract costs as well as a dependence on old data, the total savings could drop by as much as 30 percent under current estimates. The contract awarded to F.A. Richard & Associates has been projected by the Office of Risk Management to save the state $22 million by the time the pact ends in 2015, according to a report released by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office on Monday. But the audit is based on old numbers and dependent on an acceleration in savings in the last two years of the contract, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said.