A shortage in helium is going to ruin some celebrations…not just parties either, but some age old traditions. Nebraska’s 70-year tradition of releasing red balloons into the air after the first touchdown of every game has been put on hold and the reason, according to Purdue chemist Greg Michalski, boils down to privatization. Michalski says a government storage facility that was started in the 1920’s when blimps were strategically important, was closed down, but uses for helium continued. In the 1990’s the helium storage facility became a budget cut, and the helium sold off, driving prices down, and causing helium producers to end production because it wasn’t worth the expense.
First Student, the largest provider of school bus service in North America, is implementing shuttle service aimed to reduce transportation costs for high school students who attend Lorain City School District west of Cleveland as well as school bus consortium in Nebraska’s panhandle.
Nebraska’s last private child welfare contractor will get less money this year to care for abused and neglected children in the Omaha area. Starting July 1, the state began paying the Omaha-based Nebraska Families Collaborative by the case instead of a fixed amount per month. The change, according to a World-Herald analysis, means the difference between a potential $65 million for the year and an estimated $58 million under the new contract….
…The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services contracts with the collaborative to manage child welfare and juvenile-services cases for Douglas and Sarpy Counties. The collaborative contract is all that remains of the state’s 2½-year experiment with privatizing child welfare services. State workers again manage cases in the rest of the state….
Another blow to child welfare privatization
Source: Martha Stoddard, World-Herald, February 21, 2012
Top Nebraska officials plan to change course on child welfare after the state’s experiment in privatization suffered a major blow Tuesday. The Kansas-based KVC announced that the company will stop managing child welfare cases as of Feb. 29. The announcement leaves the state with only one private contractor, [Omaha-based Nebraska Families Collaborative] meaning that state workers will once again be responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of the majority of abused and neglected Nebraska children. But, in a key difference from past practice, State Department of Health and Human Services officials plan to hire enough workers to keep caseloads at manageable levels….
KVC had sought contract changes that would have increased the state’s costs by well over the $19 million figure, HHS officials said….KVC officials previously said they had lost $14 million on their contract with Nebraska. The company threatened last fall to drop its contract at the end of December but agreed to continue after the state provided an additional $1.8 million and promised to negotiate on the case rates….
– Child welfare changes a step closer
Source: Martha Stoddard, World-Herald, March 8, 2012
– NE turns to more traditional child welfare system
Source:: Grant Schulte, Associated Press, April 15, 2012
Source: Associated Press, March 19, 2012
Nebraska state agencies that want to award contracts worth more than $15 million to private providers would have to submit their proposals to stricter state scrutiny under a measure that won first-round legislative approval Monday.
The bill by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln was inspired by oversight problems with Nebraska’s child welfare privatization effort, which has led to ballooning costs and prompted four of five private agencies to back out of their child welfare contracts. Nebraska has reclaimed case management duties for children statewide, except in two Omaha-area counties, since the privatization move began in 2009.
This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.
If the national movement to “reform” public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of “virtual schools”–charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet–as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits….
Lamenting this series of defeats, Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010. Levesque noted that reform efforts had failed because the opposition had time to organize. Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a unionbusting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”
If Levesque’s blunt advice sounds like that of a veteran lobbyist, that’s because she is one. Levesque runs a Tallahassee-based firm called Meridian Strategies LLC, which lobbies on behalf of a number of education-technology companies….
…But Levesque wasn’t delivering her hardball advice to her lobbying clients. She was giving it to a group of education philanthropists at a conference sponsored by notable charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.
The union representing Grand Island’s wastewater treatment plant is urging the city council to stop the talk about turning sewer operations over to Veolia Water North America….Brown said there was a lot of misconceptions. First and foremost was that the city is privatizing the plant, she said. “This is not privatization,” Brown said. “This is a management agreement.” Privatization means the city would be selling the plant, and that’s not the case, she said. The city would continue to own the plant. Veolia would simply operate it, she said. The city would set the rates.
…For the past six years, several aspects of the state’s child welfare programs have been fully privatized, including foster care and adoption….
Since privatizing, the state has reduced the number of children in foster care from 30,000 to 20,000. The state also has one of the highest adoption rates in the country and facilitated more than 3,000 adoptions last year.
But the state hasn’t privatized all functions. Florida draws the line at the investigation of reports of abuse and neglect, which is seen as a critical function of the state, Wilkins said….
Nebraska is a newcomer to privatizing child welfare services, but the road to reform so far has been a bumpy one. Just 20 months into a plan to privatize services in the state, some parts already have been put on hold and the plan itself has received some prominent criticism.
State officials said Wednesday they are turning over the last state-managed child welfare cases in the Omaha area to a private contractor. The Nebraska Families Collaborative has signed a contract worth $30 million this year to take over the cases, said Kerry Winterer, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. ….. Their cases have been handled by state workers since April 2010, when a former private contractor declared bankruptcy and abruptly ceased services.
LINCOLN — A national expert warned Nebraska lawmakers Thursday that privatizing child welfare can take a decade or two to yield results. Even then, the experiences of other states show the benefits are not clear-cut, said Jack Tweedie, director of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Children and Families Program….He focused on Kansas and Florida, the two states that have turned over key responsibilities for ensuring the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children statewide. The legislative panel met as part of an investigation into Nebraska’s venture into child welfare privatization, which began in November 2009.
Shifting child welfare duties from state workers to private contractors has not improved the lives of Nebraska’s foster children, a new report shows. The shift made some conditions worse, produced no change in others and created several new concerns, according to the state Foster Care Review Board. The board released a report on the state’s child welfare reform effort Thursday, along with its annual report for 2009….The board’s findings call into question the state’s rationale for privatizing child welfare….
…In November 2009, the state contracted with five private agencies to provide and coordinate all services for children and families in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Since then, three of the five agencies have lost or dropped their contracts. In October, HHS officials announced plans to turn over more responsibilities to the private contractors, replacing state child welfare workers. The transfer is set for Jan. 3…
…Among problems worsened by the reform, Mario Scalora of Lincoln, vice chairman of the board, said the report found “significant gaps” in documentation of cases since the reform began. Documentation is key to determining whether children are safe and getting needed services, whether parents are making appropriate changes and whether courts should reunify families or terminate parental rights…Among the new concerns is a 13 percent decline in licensed foster homes and a drop in the number of therapists and other service providers working with foster children and their families. According to the report, pay for foster parents has dropped to an average of $600 per month, down from $725 per month before reform. Foster parents no longer receive clothing allowances or paid respite time….
More child care in private hands
Source: Martha Stoddard, World-Herald, Friday December 10, 2010