Tag Archives: Louisiana

Editorial: ‘We are ready’ for the new New Orleans school system

Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 7, 2016

It will take hard work to reunify New Orleans public schools by July 2018, but the Orleans Parish School Board took a major step last week. The board unanimously approved a transition plan Aug. 30 that lays out how charter schools from the state-operated Recovery School District will be blended into the city’s school system. The vote signifies the progress made in the 11 years since Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches, when the Legislature took the vast majority of city schools away from the School Board to be run by the state. … Lawmakers approved the return of recovery schools to the OPSB earlier this summer. Senate Bill 432 safeguarded charter schools’ independence, forbidding the School Board from interfering in personnel, collective bargaining, contracts, curriculum and other matters. The legislation set up an advisory committee to come up with the transition plan. That group held multiple public meetings this summer to get New Orleanians to help refine the system’s guiding principles.

Related:

Editorial: Hold onto reforms as New Orleans schools move back to School Board control
Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 15, 2016

New Orleanians who have chafed at having most city schools under the control of the state will be able to go to their elected School Board members with concerns again. But the new unified system won’t look like the pre-Katrina version, which was controlled by a massive central bureaucracy. … Once Gov. John Bel Edwards signs the bill, the committee has to come up with a plan to transfer services now being handled by RSD to the School Board. They are vital issues: enrollment, expulsion, truancy, a program for students in psychological crisis. The transition plan is due by Sept. 1, which is a quick turnaround. But the group will continue to meet over the next two years until reunification is complete. … Transitions like this aren’t easy. The RSD had a rough start in the first few years after Katrina as it took responsibility for dozens of schools. But over time, the state figured out how to provide important support to schools. … The legislation provides a good framework for that. But it will be up to the School Board, Mr. Henderson and his staff and individual school leaders to follow through. New Orleanians must hold them to it — and must commit themselves, as they have in the 10 years since Katrina, to ensuring every child has an excellent school to attend. The transformation of education in New Orleans can’t happen without the hard work of all of us.

Governor John Bel Edwards signs bill bringing New Orleans public schools under local control
Source: Jessica Williams, The Advocate, May 12, 2016

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law on Thursday a bill that will return public schools in New Orleans to local control, and officials named the members of a committee that will guide the transition as it plays out over the next few years. … The bill will start in motion a landmark transition for the city’s schools, most of which are now independent charter schools that fall under the state-run Recovery School District. Beginning in 2018, they will answer to the Orleans Parish School Board, the local body that lost control of a majority of city schools after Hurricane Katrina. …

New Orleans Plan: Charter Schools, With a Return to Local Control
Source: Kate Zernike, New York Times, May 9, 2016

Now comes another big moment in the New Orleans story: The governor is expected soon to sign legislation returning the city’s schools to the locally elected school board for the first time since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Strikingly, that return is being driven by someone squarely in the pro-charter camp, the state superintendent, John White. He is a veteran of touchstone organizations behind the efforts to remake public schools — Teach for America and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and its superintendent training program — as well as the hard-charging charter school efforts in New York City. … To Mr. White, the move to local control is not the retreat it may seem. He argues that it will make New Orleans a new model, radically redefining the role of central school boards just as many urban school districts are shifting increasingly large portions of their students to independently run but publicly funded charter schools. … This new model essentially splits the difference: The schools will keep the flexibility and autonomy, particularly over hiring and teaching, that have made charters most unlike traditional public schools. But the board becomes manager and regulator, making sure schools abide by policies meant to ensure equity and provide broad services, like managing the cost of particularly expensive special education students, that individual schools might not have the capacity or desire to do. …

Questions remain as New Orleans schools prepare to return to local control
Source: Andrew Vanacore, The Advocate, May 7, 2016

A bill now awaiting the signature of Gov. John Bel Edwards would unify the city’s school system under the Orleans Parish School Board by 2018, more than a decade after the state seized control of most New Orleans schools and began turning them over to charter groups, which are publicly funded but privately run. Right now, those schools answer to the state’s school board. By 2018 — or 2019, at the latest — oversight will fall to the OPSB. … In any case, the pairing of a locally elected board with scores of autonomous schools is something that hasn’t been attempted before on this scale. And the unification plan has generated a flurry of commentary from national education experts who have been watching New Orleans closely as a potential model for other struggling urban school systems. It is not just a question of whether OPSB members will try to impinge on how individual schools are run. The board will become the authorizer for all of the city’s charter schools, a role seen as critical in holding schools accountable for producing results and following the law. …

Bill Placing New Orleans Charter Schools Under Local Oversight Passes La. House
Source: Arianna Prothero, Education Week, May 6, 2016

A bill to return the majority of New Orleans’ charter schools to the oversight of the city’s elected school board has passed the Louisiana House of Representatives. Under the legislation, the schools will remain charters run by their own appointed boards, but the Orleans Parish School Board would have the authority to decide whether charter contracts are renewed or schools are shut down. … Today, Recovery School District oversees 52 charter schools while the Orleans Parish School Board oversees six district schools and 18 charters. The RSD would continue to run other charter schools in the state.  Both superintendents from the RSD and OPSB gave input on the bill, according to the Associated Press. A recent poll by Tulane University in New Orleans found that 38 percent of registered voters supported shifting oversight of the schools to the OPSB by 2018, 13 percent indicated the switch should happen even later, while 32 percent said they preferred the status quo. …

Returning New Orleans charter schools to local control a step closer to becoming reality
Source: Mark Ballard, The Advocate, April 27, 2016

… Despite their complaints, the House Education Committee voted 11-2 to advance legislation that would transfer control of 52 public schools — all charters — run by the state Recovery School District for the past decade to the Orleans Parish School Board by 2018, 2019 at the latest. Even with the move, charter schools would retain much of their autonomy. The legislation now heads to the full House. The state Senate already has approved the legislation without a single “no” vote. If endorsed by the House without any changes, the next step for Senate Bill 432 would be for the governor to sign it into law. …

Louisiana Senate Approves Bill to Return New Orleans’ Schools to Local Control
Source: Denisa R. Superville, Education Week, April 21, 2016 (Subscription Required)

A Louisiana Senate bill unanimously approved on Wednesday aims to return schools in the Recovery School District to the local school board by no later than 2019. The bill passed 36-0 and now has to be considered by the House of Representatives.   The measure came just a day after the Cowen Institute For Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University released its new poll of voter perceptions of public education in New Orleans  that showed 38 percent of respondents would like the schools under the Recovery School District to return to the Orleans Parish School Board by 2018. …

“HE WEIGHED 71 POUNDS. THAT WAS LIKE SOMEBODY STARVING.”

Source: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, August 2, 2016

I met Damien Coestly on my first day on the job as a guard at Winn Correctional Center, a private Louisiana prison then run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). I’d been sent to monitor the suicide watch cells in the segregation unit. … Prison records obtained from the Louisiana Department of Corrections by Anna Lellelid, the lawyer who currently represents his family, show that he went on suicide watch at least 17 times in the three and a half years before he died. … Mixed in with Coestly’s paperwork was a printout from CCA’s website on which he highlighted the phrase, “We constantly monitor the offender population for signs of declining mental health and suicide risk, working actively to assist a troubled offender in his or her time of need.” Yet mental health staffing at Winn was thin while I was there. It consisted of one part-time psychiatrist, one part-time psychologist, and one full-time social worker for more than 1,500 inmates. (CCA confirmed this, adding that “the staffing pattern for mental health professionals at Winn was approved by the Louisiana Department of Corrections.” However, DOC documents show that it had asked CCA to hire more mental health employees at Winn.) The prison’s single social worker told me that most Louisiana prisons had at least three full-time social workers. Her caseload, she said, included 450 inmates with mental health issues. …

Related:

What you see when you go undercover at a private prison for 4 months
Source: German Lopez, Vox, July 13, 2016

When Shane Bauer packed his bags, he didn’t know what to expect. He wasn’t headed to a far-off country. He wasn’t going to a cabin or a beach. Bauer was off to work for the next four months at a private prison in Louisiana: the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield. Bauer’s experience, documented in a long piece for Mother Jones this month, exposes a prison in disarray. The inmates are violent, with stabbings a regular occurrence. The guards are demoralized — too outnumbered, understaffed, and underpaid to create a genuinely safe environment. The facility regularly experiences all kinds of other issues, from failing to provide adequate medical care to inappropriate sexual relationships between guards and inmates. And the company that formerly owned the prison, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), offered little reassurance in answering the more than 150 questions Bauer sent them in a lengthy back and forth through email. It was a system so chaotic and broken that it began to creep into Bauer’s mind. The longer he spent in the prison, he said, the more he began to act and feel like a guard and less like a journalist. He felt more aggressive, finding himself overbearingly asserting his authority while at the prison and even hoping for a fight while shooting pool at the local bar. …

Louisiana’s Private Prisons Are Facing Deep Budget Cuts
Source: Becca Andrews, Mother Jones, July 6, 2016

In the face of deep budget cuts, Louisiana’s private prisons are going to have to scrape by with a lot less. A recently enacted $29.3 million reduction in the budget of the state Department of Corrections will mean much smaller payments to private prison companies, which will see their per inmate rates shrink from nearly $32 per day to around $25, close to what sheriffs are paid to house inmates in local jails. In comparison, Louisiana spends roughly $52 per inmate per day in its state-run institutions. The cash crunch in Louisiana’s private prisons isn’t new, as documented by Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer, who spent four months working in a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America. During the time he was at Winn Correctional Center, CCA received $34 per inmate per day. But the cost per prisoner at Winn, in real dollars, had dropped nearly 20 percent between the late ’90s and 2014, according to the state budget office. …

Opinion: Louisiana’s private and parish prisons are little more than warehouses
Source: Robert Mann, New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 1, 2016

The concerns that you and I should have with this are many. First, it suggests that Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) officials were paying insufficient attention to Winn’s operation. That raises questions about procedures at dozens of parish prisons across Louisiana, where 75.5 percent of parish prison beds are occupied by state inmates (the highest percentage in the nation), all housed for less than $25 a day. “Lock and feed is what I call it,” DOC Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc candidly told a reporter recently. Spend 20 minutes reading any one of Bauer’s stories and tell me if you feel comfortable knowing that people convicted of violent acts were supervised in such a cavalier fashion. … That said, it’s important to remember that Louisiana didn’t privatize Winn because corporations and sheriffs run superior prisons. They did so only to save money.  If you run a private or a smaller parish prison, “corrections” may be a foreign concept. It’s often about little more that housing inmates for the lowest cost to generate the most revenue. …

My four months as a private prison guard
Source: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, July/August 2016

I started applying for jobs in private prisons because I wanted to see the inner workings of an industry that holds 131,000 of the nation’s 1.6 million prisoners. As a journalist, it’s nearly impossible to get an unconstrained look inside our penal system. When prisons do let reporters in, it’s usually for carefully managed tours and monitored interviews with inmates. Private prisons are especially secretive. Their records often aren’t subject to public access laws; CCA has fought to defeat legislation that would make private prisons subject to the same disclosure rules as their public counterparts. And even if I could get uncensored information from private prison inmates, how would I verify their claims? I keep coming back to this question: Is there any other way to see what really happens inside a private prison? …

Why We Sent a Reporter to Work as a Private Prison Guard
Source: Clara Jeffrey, Mother Jones, July/August 2016

But while such investigations were commonplace in the muckraker era, they’ve grown increasingly rare. Why? First, there’s a real concern over ethics. When is it okay for reporters to not announce themselves as such? There’s no governing body of journalism, but a checklist written by Poynter ethicist Bob Steele provides guidelines for assessing when this kind of reporting is acceptable. … To see what private prisons are really like, Shane Bauer applied for a job with the Corrections Corporation of America. He used his own name and Social Security number, and he noted his employment with the Foundation for National Progress, the publisher of Mother Jones. He did not lie. He spent four months as a guard at a CCA-run Louisiana prison, and then we spent 14 more months reporting and fact-checking. We took these extraordinary steps because press access to prisons and jails has been vastly curtailed in recent decades, even as inmates have seen their ability to sue prisons—often the only way potential abuses would pop up on the radar of news organizations or advocates—dramatically reduced. There is no other way to know what truly happens inside but to go there. …

Shane Bauer Talks About His Four Months Working in a Private Prison
Source: Mother Jones, June 23, 2016

Mother Jones: How did you get the idea for this project?

Shane Bauer: The first time I thought about it was while talking to another reporter about writing about prisons. We were talking about Ted Conover’s Newjack, about his experience working as a guard at Sing Sing. I thought, “I should try that at a private prison.” There isn’t a lot of reporting on private prisons because they are not subject to the same public records laws as publicly run prisons and it’s pretty hard for journalists to get inside them. They’re a corner of the American prison system that we don’t know a lot about. …

MJ: How did Winn handle medical care and mental health care for prisoners?

SB: Prisoners regularly complained about medical care at Winn. I met a prisoner who had no legs and no fingers. He had lost them within the past year to gangrene. His medical records showed that he had made at least nine requests to see a doctor in that time. He would go to the infirmary and get sent back; the staff was suggesting that he was faking it. He said he showed the warden his feet, which were turning black and dripping with pus. But CCA had to pay to take a prisoner to the hospital, which costs a lot of money, especially when you consider it made $34 a day for each prisoner. …

Inside Shane Bauer’s Gripping Look at the Workings of a Private Prison
Source: Mother Jones, June 23, 2016

…Bauer’s article also includes profiles of guards and prisoners struggling to survive, “locked in battle like soldiers in a war they don’t believe in.” It also describes his reaction to the stress and risk of being a prison guard—a transformation that revealed the unsettling reality of one of America’s most difficult jobs. “More and more, I focus on proving I won’t back down,” he writes. “I am vigilant; I come to work ready for people to catcall me or run up on me and threaten to punch me in the face.” Shortly after Bauer left Winn in March 2015, CCA announced that it was backing out of its contract to run Winn Correctional Center. Documents later obtained by Mother Jones show that the state had asked CCA to make numerous immediate changes at the prison, including filling gaps in security, hiring more guards and medical staff, and addressing a “total lack of maintenance.” Another concern was a bonus paid to Winn’s warden that “causes neglect of basic needs.”…

The Corrections Corporation of America, by the Numbers
Source: Mother Jones, July/August 2016

The Corrections Corporation of America launched the era of private prisons in 1983, when it opened a immigration detention center in an former motel in Houston, Texas. Today the Nashville-based company houses more than 66,000 inmates, making it the country’s second-largest private prison company. In 2015, it reported $1.9 billion in revenue and made more than $221 million in net income—more than $3,300 for each prisoner in its care. …

CCA Documents
Source: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, June 23, 2016

Here are legal documents and other records that provided valuable information for Shane Bauer’s investigation into the Corrections Corporation of America’s private prisons. …

What We Know About Violence in America’s Prisons
Source: Mother Jones, July/August 2016

Safety is an issue in all prisons, but accurate data on violence in prisons can be hard to come by. Here’s a look at what we know about physical and sexual assault in America’s prisons—and what was reported at the private prison in Louisiana where Shane Bauer worked. …

Bossier City approves public-private partnership for water system

Source: Sara Machi, Shreveport Times, June 21, 2016

More than 40 Bossier City workers will look for new jobs as city council members voted 4-2 Tuesday afternoon to outsource water and sewer services to Manchac Consulting Group and avoid customer rate increases. … Bossier City will pay a little over $1 million to transfer operational management to the private company, but Manchac says the city can then expect an estimated $2.1 million savings in the first contract year. Wallette said those figures don’t add up when you look at fixed costs like chemical and material prices. … Wallette sat with a handful of other water and sewer department employees as the votes were cast. There were heavy signs and disappointment as the talley came up against them. Wallette said he immediately texted another coworker to let him know they’d lost their jobs. …

Related:

Bossier City Council approves outsourcing water, sewer department
Source: Victoria Shirley, KSLA, June 21, 2016

The Bossier City Council has approved to outsource the water and sewer division, cutting about 40 city employee jobs in the process. The issue passed in a 4-2 vote at the council meeting Tuesday afternoon. … In 2013, the council approved of a 41-percent sewer rate increase after a study by Manchac Consulting Group and Burns and McDonnell assured the council another hike wouldn’t be needed for another 10 years if they raised rates. But city leaders now say the enterprise fund is not paying for itself and voted for that same group, Manchac Consulting Group, to take over day-to-day operations. At the meeting, Jeffery Darby pointed out the initial study to raise sewer rates was wrong, causing them to be in this situation. … However in November of 2013, it was two consulting groups, Burns and McDonnell and Manchac Consulting, who presented the study and recommended rate increase to the city council at a Wastewater Financial Planning and Rate Design Public Workshop. … Calhoun is referring to campaign finance reports that reveal Mayor Lo Walker has received $3,500 in campaign donations plus a more than $2,000 fundraising dinner from Manchac Consulting Group and its CEO Justin Haydel. Councilman David Montgomery, Scott Irwin, and Larkin have also received campaign donations from Manchac or its CEO. …

Bossier City Council votes to outsource management of city dept., cut 40 jobs
Source: Victoria Shirley, KSLA, June 7, 2016

Dozens of Bossier City employees are on track to lose their jobs, 40 to be exact, now that the city council has taken a big step toward outsourcing their jobs. City workers packed the council meeting to protest the vote and the loss of jobs. Just 2 and a half years after a major sewer tax hike, city leaders insist they now need to make this change to save the city money. … During the meeting, several city workers told the council why they thought the public-private partnership with Manchac consulting was a bad idea. … In 2013, the council approved of a 41-percent sewer rate increase after a study by Manchac Consulting Group and Burns and McDonnell assured the council another hike wouldn’t be needed for another 10 years if they raised rates. But city leaders now say the enterprise fund is not paying for itself and voted for that same group Manchac Consulting Group to take over day-to-day operations. …

Public-private partnership in Bossier City threatens dozens of jobs
Source: Victoria Shirley, KSLA, June 6, 2016

Dozens of Bossier City employees could be fired if the city approves of public-private partnership to outsource the management of a city department.  According to City Spokesman Mark Natale, city leaders believe outsourcing the management and oversight of the water and sewer department to private company, Manchac Consulting, is in the best interest of tax payers. … According to Natale, 40 city positions would be cut if the public-private partnership is approved by the city council, but the agreement would save the city $3.5 million. … According to the Public-Private Partnership Agreement, Manchac Consulting Group would be paid a lump sum of $1,042,755 for the first year. $120,000 will be invoiced upon the execution of the agreement and $83,886.00 for the next 11 months.  The fee for the second year will be negotiated with the city 60 days prior to the end of the first year. The lump sum includes compensation for engineer’s services and services of engineer’s consultants, if any. According to the agreement, appropriate amounts have been incorporated in the lump sum to account for labor, overhead, profit, and reimbursable expenses. …

On negative effects of vouchers

Source: Mark Dynarski, Brookings Institute, May 26, 2016

Executive Summary:

Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools. The magnitudes of the negative impacts were large. These studies used rigorous research designs that allow for strong causal conclusions. And they showed that the results were not explained by the particular tests that were used or the possibility that students receiving vouchers transferred out of above-average public schools. Another explanation is that our historical understanding of the superior performance of private schools is no longer accurate. Since the nineties, public schools have been under heavy pressure to improve test scores. Private schools were exempt from these accountability requirements. A recent study showed that public schools closed the score gap with private schools. That study did not look specifically at Louisiana and Indiana, but trends in scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for public school students in those states are similar to national trends. In education as in medicine, ‘first, do no harm’ is a powerful guiding principle. A case to use taxpayer funds to send children of low-income parents to private schools is based on an expectation that the outcome will be positive. These recent findings point in the other direction. More needs to be known about long-term outcomes from these recently implemented voucher programs to make the case that they are a good investment of public funds. As well, we need to know if private schools would up their game in a scenario in which their performance with voucher students is reported publicly and subject to both regulatory and market accountability.

Two-Authorizer Structure Critical to Charter Schools’ Success

Source: Bureau of Governmental Research, April 2016

Introduction:
In the current legislative session, state lawmakers filed several bills directed at reducing the state’s role in governing Orleans Parish public schools. Recently, the Senate unanimously approved a bill providing for the transfer of charter schools from the state Recovery School District (RSD) to the Orleans Parish School Board (School Board).1 This would reduce the role of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) as a charter authorizer in New Orleans.2 These changes would depart significantly from the dual authorizer structure that has been an unsung hero in Orleans Parish public schools’ success story. Charter authorizing carries more significance than its name might suggest. Charter authorizers grant charters in the first instance, but then continue in an oversight and accountability role, enforcing charter contracts and performance standards. In essence, charter authorizers serve as charter school regulators. They must foster autonomy and accountability at the school level and support the system’s ability to deliver high-quality education. In a system of mostly charter schools, the quality of the authorizing function directly affects the system’s performance and its future growth. For that reason, legislators must approach the charter authorizing structure with care. As part of its ongoing reporting on public education issues, this report seeks to inform lawmakers and the public about the current structure and the potential risks that accompany a diminished role for BESE and the RSD in charter management. The report recommends ways to reduce those risks. To be clear, BGR is not currently taking a position on the issue of whether, when or to what extent RSD charter schools should be placed under School Board management. Instead, BGR seeks to ensure that, as lawmakers chart the course for Orleans Parish public schools, whether now or in future legislative sessions, they elevate the charter authorizing structure among the many issues that are essential to long-term charter school success.

Read full report.

School Board signs no-bid contract for monitoring state tests at some campuses

Source: Marta Jewson, The Lens, April 21, 2016

The Orleans Parish School Board is the latest organization to bolster state exam security by hiring an outside company to monitor a handful of the district’s schools during testing next week. They’re also the latest to do so by hiring test-security giant Caveon Test Security without going through a competitive bidding process, or seeking price quotes. … Testing starts Monday. The district follows the move of the Recovery School District, and its charter schools. Leaders of the charters pledged in February to hire third-party monitors for all state exams in the wake of two highly publicized cheating incidents. And like those organizations, the School Board is paying for monitors to visit schools on just one of several days of state testing, with two people visiting each school.  But unlike them, the board is only hiring monitors for about a third of schools it oversees or chartered. … But the department didn’t shop around before signing a no-bid contract itself for $49,500, just under the threshold that would require a formal process seeing proposals. Caveon is a nationally recognized company in this field, but its reputation took a hit when Georgia investigators said it vastly underrepresented the extent of the Atlanta Public Schools problems. Thirty-five educators were eventually indicted in what became the nation’s largest cheating scandal. … This week, we asked whether the district had hired Caveon. Good did not answer directly, and instead referred The Lens to the two-week old statement on the district’s testing plan. She said we could seek a contract through public records should one exist. So we did. The terms of the $32,000 no-bid contract were negotiated two weeks ago, and the contract was signed last week. The contract shows the district will monitor two of its direct-run schools and five charter schools, which are listed in the contract. The district operates six schools directly and oversees 18 charter schools.

Governments Struggle to Root Out Fake Minority Contractors

Source: Mattie Quinn, Governing, April 2016

It’s a problem that’s shown up all over the place. In Louisville, Ky., the metro sewer district banned two minority businesses from receiving future contracts after it was discovered that they were subcontracting with nonminority-owned businesses. An audit in Pittsburgh found the city didn’t even have a way to track how much work was going to DBEs. The city of Denver has also been dealt a blow by contracting scandals in recent years. … Nationwide data on DBE contracting programs is spotty. The National Association of State Procurement Officials doesn’t monitor them, and relies on state offices to track fraud and abuse. But states’ efforts vary widely. A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2011 found that the Federal Highway Administration did not have the right tools to properly monitor states’ DBE programs for transportation construction. The GAO has published a smattering of reports over the past 25 years on women- and minority-owned contracting programs with two main conclusions: More information was needed, and the contracting world in general lacks women and minorities. … Overhauls like the ones in New Orleans and Minnesota are cause for optimism, says the National Association of Minority Contractors’ Stemley. And while he says there’s plenty of room for improvement in DBE programs across the country, he believes the high-profile cases of fraud and noncompliance are the exception to the rule. Still, he says, the onus is on states and cities to step up their efforts to attract more minority- and women-owned businesses.

Civil Service staff takes issue with plan to consolidate 911 center dispatchers

Source: Charles Maldonado, The Lens, December 21, 2015

The New Orleans Civil Service Department on Monday came out against a key provision of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s long-stalled proposal to bring the city’s 911 operations under one agency. Department staff members, asked to review the plan, said there is no need to remove Civil Service protections from workers once they’re moved into the consolidated system. Call-takers and dispatchers now work for one of three agencies: police, fire or EMS. To improve call response times, the Landrieu administration has proposed consolidating call-takers and dispatchers under the Orleans Parish Communication District, which runs the 911 call center.  They would no longer be city employees, but would instead work for the Communication District, under a contract with the city. … Civil Service staffers didn’t address the collective bargaining agreement. But they did offer a counter-proposal. Rather than taking approximately 130 employees out of the Civil Service system, designed to protect merit-based hiring and provide employees with disciplinary appeal rights, the city could simply create a new, consolidated city department. …

Meal Plan Costs Tick Upward as Students Pay for More Than Food

Source: Stephanie Saul, New York Times, December 5, 2015

…For the first time this year, the University of Tennessee imposed a $300-per-semester dining fee on Mr. Miceli and about 12,000 other undergraduates, including commuters, who do not purchase other meal plans…..Tennessee’s contract with its dining vendor, Aramark, is just one example of how universities nationwide are embracing increasingly lucrative deals with giant dining contractors, who offer commissions and signing bonuses to help pay for campus improvements and academic programs. It is part of a new model of raising money through partnerships with private vendors, officials say, and with state funding for higher education still below pre-recession levels, a way to replace lost revenue. Under its contract, which runs through 2027, Tennessee will get 14 percent of all food revenues plus $15.2 million in renovations to dining facilities. In exchange for signing a 20-year contract that runs through 2034, the University of Virginia recently got a $70 million contribution from Aramark, based in Philadelphia — in addition to $19 million in renovations and annual commissions increasing to $19 million a year. Texas A&M announced a 10-year deal in 2012 with Chartwells, a subsidiary of the British-based Compass Group, that included a $22.7 million signing bonus and $25 million in capital investments…. At South Carolina State University, a historically black institution, a 2014 audit found that students paid $343 a year in “hidden costs” for food. The money was rebated to the institution by its vendor, Sodexo, a French company, partly to pay for a $5 million wellness center, which was never built….. An audit this year at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette found that the food vendor catered free parties for children of a university employee while inflating bills to the university.

Faculty Senate deliberates Child Care Center

Source: Katie Burkes, LSU Reveille, November 9, 2015

LSU Faculty Senate grappled with privatization of the LSU Child Care Center at its Monday meeting in the Student Union’s Capital Chamber. It ultimately tabled the discussion before an internal committee’s December deadline to produce a decision. … Hachmann reported companies the university administration is considering include Bright Horizons Family Solutions — the largest provider of employer-sponsored childcare in the U.S. — along with nationally recognized brands KinderCare and Children’s Creative Learning Centers — both part of Knowledge Universe, a private company. … However, Hachmann also acknowledged brewing fears about what privatization could mean for the CCC. Common concerns included weaker curriculum designs, rising teacher-to-student ratios, letting go of qualified teachers, less professional development opportunities and increased teacher turnover. She said parents expressed worries that “inflexible policies from a distant corporation will not account for the unique needs of the LSU community.”