Tag Archives: Mississippi

Mississippi charter school challengers seek quick judgment

Source: Jeff Amy, Associated Press, August 23, 2016

A group suing over how Mississippi’s charter schools are funded and governed is pushing for a quick ruling in the case. The Southern Poverty Law Center, representing a group of Jackson residents, filed a motion for summary judgment Monday, telling Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas that the only dispute in the case involves interpreting the state Constitution, making it ripe for decision. Law center lawyer Jody Owens told reporters Tuesday that plaintiffs want to speed the case along because they ultimately expect an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The challengers say charter schools are barred from getting state money because they are not overseen by the state superintendent or a local school superintendent, and thus under previous state Supreme Court decisions, don’t qualify as “free schools.” The state Constitution says only “free schools” can get public money. That part of the constitution is in a section banning public money for religious schools. … The plaintiffs project that the state and Jackson will transfer $4 million this year to three charter schools. About one-third of that money is collected from property taxes on buildings, vehicles and equipment. …

Related:

Parents suing State of Mississippi about charter schools receiving public money
Source: Beth Alexander, WJTV, August 23, 2016

The Southern Poverty Law center announced they’ve asked a Hinds County judge for a summary judgement. They hope to speed up the process to determine if charter schools can constitutionally receive tax payer money. Parents and lawyers want a decision and fast. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against the state in July saying that money taken from the Jackson Public School District and given to charter schools is unconstitutional and that property taxes shouldn’t be shared with schools they don’t control. ….

City to privatize 3 departments with ClearWater

Source: Mary Alford, Delta Democrat-Times, August 9, 2016

City Council has decided to go forward with privatizing three city departments with ClearWater Solutions.  After hearing presentations since July from two operations and maintenance companies, ClearWater Solutions and Optech Monette, both of which offered to manage the public works, water utility and fleet departments at the start of the 2017 fiscal year, City Council members opted to hear more from ClearWater Solutions.

Related:

DEATH INVESTIGATION; INDIANOLA SHOOTING; GREENVILLE SURPLUSE; CITY AGREES TO PRIVATIZE
Source: WXVT 15, August 8, 2016

After several weeks of deliberations, the Greenville City Council has come to a decision regarding the privatization of three departments. … With a five-to-one vote, the council agreed to privatize the city’s water, public works and fleet departments. … Ward 6 Councilman James Wilson voted against privatization, saying he was unhappy with the previous council’s lack of action. … Mayor Errick Simmons said bringing in Clearwater Solutions should have a positive impact on the Greenville community.             “The contract between our city attorney and Clearwater makes sure every employee would still be employed,” he said. “Every employee will receive a 5 percent pay increase. The health insurance will be less out of pocket for the employee. City residents will see better services.” …

It’s Been A Rough Few Weeks For The Private Prison Industry

Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, July 21, 2016

Despite the bizarre politics on display in Cleveland, sometimes knowing where someone stands on an issue is pretty straightforward. We can be sure about this: The private prison industry doesn’t share our goal of ending mass incarceration. In fact, they profit more the bigger our criminal justice system grows—the country’s two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, made $361 million in profits in 2015 alone. … In the past few weeks we’ve taken big steps towards getting our money back from the shareholders, executives, and Wall Street banks that profit from mass incarceration:

  • Colorado’s Kit Carson Correctional Center, operated by CCA, will close at the end of this month—it will be the fourth private prison to close in the state since 2009. …
  • In June, Mississippi announced that the notorious, privately operated Walnut Grove Correctional Facility will soon be closed. …
  • U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has introduced legislation that would make it harder for private prison companies to take advantage of federal rules that provide massive tax breaks. After converting themselves into special real estate trusts in 2012, CCA and GEO Group have avoided hundreds of million dollars in federal income taxes—they avoided a combined $113 million in 2015 alone.
  • Just last week, a federal judge ruled that the government must make contracts with private prison companies available to the public. …

Lowndes County School District to privatize cafeterias

Source: Katelyn Patterson, WTVA, June 28, 2016

Tuesday night the Lowndes County School Board voted 4-1 in privatizing the food services. Starting in the fall Sodexo Operations will be under contract and provide all of their cafeteria needs. Two weeks ago the board voted on this issue and it didn’t pass. … The recommendations from parents and the faculty were presented Tuesday to the school board. Dr. Ballard explains the benefits of having this new food service. … The privatizing of their food services will also offer a variety of healthier options. …

‘Fragmented’ School Districts: A Complicated and Controversial Issue

Source: Mark Maciag, Governing, April 2016

Numbers such as these have long drawn the ire of policymakers, and in an era of budget cutbacks, “fragmented” school districts serve as prime targets for consolidation. At the beginning of this year, lawmakers in Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma all introduced legislation aimed at merging school districts or combining their administrative duties. But such proposals frequently are met with fierce opposition from parents and teachers. School districts with very small enrollments are actually quite common across the country. A Governing analysis of federal data from the 2013-2014 school year found that a third of all local districts were made up of only one or two public schools. Nearly half of all districts nationally — 46 percent — serve fewer than 1,000 students. While many of these districts are in rural or outlying areas, 2,050 are in metro areas. … But is such a system really more efficient? Elementary and secondary education accounted for 15 percent of Hawaii’s total state expenditures in fiscal 2014, compared with 20 percent for all states, according to a report by the National Association of State Budget Officers. Still, it’s difficult to gauge how much savings any particular consolidation would yield, given how differently districts are structured throughout the country. Oklahoma and other select states have already passed laws that cap local districts’ administrative costs. …

Related:

How Does School District Consolidation Affect Property Values? A Case Study of New York
Source: William D. Duncombe, John Yinger, Pengju Zhang, Public Finance Review, Vol. 44 no. 1, January 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article explores the impact of school district consolidation on house values based on house sales in upstate New York State from 2000 to 2012. By combining propensity score matching (PSM) and double-sales data to compare house value changes in consolidating and comparable school districts, we find that, except in one relatively large district, consolidation has a negative impact on house values during the years right after it occurs and that this effect then fades away and is eventually reversed. This pattern suggests that it takes time either for the advantages of consolidation to be apparent or for the people who prefer consolidated districts to move in. Finally, as in previous studies, the long-run impacts of consolidation on house values are positive in census tracts that initially have low incomes, but negative in high-income census tracts, where parents may have a relatively large willingness to retain the nonbudgetary advantages of small districts.

Solid waste privatized in county

Source: Michael Simmons, Madison County Journal, March 23, 2016

County supervisors moved forward with the privatization of solid waste and awarded a five-year contract to Waste Management that will save taxpayers $371,000 in the first year alone. A request for proposal (RFP) was issued by the county and Waste Management came in well under the current cost of doing the work in-house for the 14,316 pickup spots in the county. Waste Management bid $8.84 per household, with the current in-house cost being $11 per household. Waste Pro bid $9.64 per household and Arrow bid $9.90 per household. …

Related:

County eyes privatization of garbage pickup
Source: Michael Simmons, Madison County Journal, February 3, 2016

Supervisors approved a Request for Proposal (RFP) to be sent out to get pricing on the privatization of solid waste, including recycling. County Administrator Tony Greer said solid wasted was private until 2007-2008 when the county decided to create a solid waste department and pick up trash. He said the budget is currently $2.3 million and the 3.95 mill tax levy is not enough to sustain the department at that level, given they had to dip into reserves last year to the tune of over $600,000. … District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin said they have privatized it before in the hopes of saving money and it ended up costing more. …

The For-Profit Probation Maze: A for-profit “offender-funded probation” payment system unfairly penalizes, and often traps, the poor

Source: J. Weston Phippen, National Journal, December 16, 2015

In the Mis­sis­sippi Delta town of Green­wood, a for-profit com­pany prom­ised city lead­ers it could take over its cash-strapped pro­ba­tion sys­tem without any ex­pense to tax­pay­ers. Not only that, but the com­pany said it could ac­tu­ally turn a profit for it­self, and the city, by col­lect­ing fines. Just eight months later, nearly 10 per­cent of the town’s 15,000 pop­u­la­tion was on pro­ba­tion for minor of­fenses like traffic vi­ol­a­tions and ow­ing fees to the com­pany. By the time city lead­ers real­ized the dam­age, the com­pany had en­titled it­self to profits of at least $48,000 a month, all paid for, as one county of­fi­cial said, “off the backs of the poor people.” …..

The For-Profit Probation Maze

Automatic Closure of Low-Performing Public Charter Schools

Source: Todd Ziebarth, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

As part of these accountability efforts, a growing number of states have enacted laws that require charter schools to close if they do not meet certain performance benchmarks. In states such as Ohio, these laws have sometimes been borne out of state lawmakers’ frustration that authorizers have not been making the tough decisions to close charter schools that have failed to meet the academic goals in their charter contracts. In other states, including Mississippi and Washingon, state lawmakers have enacted such provisions as more of a precautionary measure to ensure that as public charter schools open for the first time in these states, if there are under-performing charter schools, they will actually be closed. This document provides a brief description of existing state policies regarding the automatic closure of low-performing public charter schools. As of September 2015, 15 states had enacted such policies: Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississipi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

AMR manager discusses performance and response times

Source: Steve Phillips, WLOX, September 15, 2015

Harrison County supervisors heard from American Medical Response Monday about ambulance performance and response times. … He also answered questions from supervisors about a recent special report on WLOX by Doug Walker, which raised concerns about response time. … He defended AMR’s overall record and said with tens of thousands of calls, there will be cases when they could have been better.

Related:

Records review shows good emergency response time, but thousands of ‘exceptions’
Source: Doug Walker, WLOX, July 28, 2015

The contract between the county and AMR is very specific about response times. Ambulances have to respond to calls in the cities within seven minutes and 59 seconds. In rural areas of the county, they have to be on scene within 16 minutes and 59 seconds. Other areas have different times. After filing a public records request asking for response data from the past two years, I found out there a lot of exceptions to this rule. … Here’s an example: In 2014, AMR responded to 34,062 calls, meeting the response time goal about 90 percent of the time. Those numbers look impressive, but here’s the catch: AMR claimed 5,493 exceptions in 2014, a rate of 16 percent of all calls. … AMR officials defend the company’s performance saying the average response time in 2014 was 8 minutes and 25 seconds, well within the guidelines set by the county. There’s no doubt AMR is fulfilling the terms of the contract, and even exceeding it. But all of the exceptions are catching some county supervisors by surprise. It’s in a report they don’t even receive. … AMR response time concerns are not just limited to Harrison County.  In recent months, the cities of Brandon and Pearl have ended contracts with AMR over similar concerns.  Meanwhile, city leaders in Jackson, and nearby Ridgeland, both currently served by AMR, are also considering contracting with another ambulance service to provide emergency medical care.

Contractor Accused of Underpaying Mexican Guestworkers

Source: Laura D. Francis, Daily Labor Report, September 1, 2015 (subscription required)

A Mississippi landscaping company that received more than $9 million in state contracts to maintain rural shoulders and medians was accused Sept. 1 of violating federal law by underpaying its Mexican guestworkers and lying about it. … The amended complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, claimed that Culpepper Enterprises Inc. failed to pay the six workers the prevailing wage as required under the H-2B low-skilled, nonagricultural guestworker program. Instead, the complaint claimed the workers were paid the federal minimum wage—but illegal deductions for housing, combined with failure to reimburse travel and other costs, brought their actual wages below even that level, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.