A key state contractor has been fined $500,000 by the Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged political contributions to candidates in the governor and attorney generals’ races in 2013 and 2014. Employees of Houston-based EnCap violated rules that govern donations from financial firms to candidates who, if elected, would play a role in their selection to invest public money. According to a cease-and-desist order from the SEC, the contributions include $25,000 to a gubernatorial candidate in September 2013 and a total of $60,000 to an attorney general candidate. The offending contributions were made between September 2013 and May 2014, according to the SEC. EnCap was also named for violating rules in Indiana and Wisconsin. … The SEC order contends that several state retirement systems, including the University of Texas, the Teachers Retirement System, and the Texas County and District Retirement System, collectively invested $2.27 billion in funds advised by EnCap. …
Middleton officials on Tuesday delayed action on a proposed psychiatric hospital after asking executives with the company behind it to explain its regulatory record, including immediate jeopardy citations in other states. “How are you going to apply the lessons which you have learned from other facilities to Middleton?” Mayor Gurdip Brar asked representatives of Strategic Behavioral Health, which plans a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in the city’s Airport Road Business Park. Jim Shaheen, founder and president of the for-profit company in Memphis, Tennessee, said the citations, reported by the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, stem from occasional problems at the company’s 10 hospitals in six states. … Strategic Behavioral Health has had nine immediate jeopardy violations at four facilities in three states since 2014, plus other sanctions in other states, the State Journal reported. Immediate jeopardy citations are rare and could indicate systemic problems, experts said, but they’re also given out more in some places than others.
An outside review of the Milwaukee County Jail found outdated policies, lengthy waits for inmate medical screenings, widespread use of overtime because of staff shortages and other problems. … Acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt asked the National Institute of Corrections to review all operations at the jail in the wake of seven custody deaths over two years. One of those deaths — that of Terrill Thomas who died of dehydration in April 2016 — led to criminal charges being filed against three jail staffers and Armor Correctional Health Services, the private medical contractor at the jail. …
Company Hired to Provide Health Care for Milwaukee Inmates Charged With Falsifying Records
Source: Marti Mikkelson, WVUM, February 21, 2018
The company that cares for inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail is facing criminal charges. Employees allegedly lied about checking on a man who died of dehydration, after water to his cell was shut off. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office on Wednesday charged Armor Correctional Health Care Services with seven misdemeanor counts of intentionally falsifying health records. The company is the latest defendant to face charges in the death of Terrill Thomas,who spent a week without water in his cell as punishment in 2016. …
Shortage of medical staff plagues Milwaukee jails
Source: Jacob Carpenter, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, October 29, 2016
The private contractor responsible for medical care at Milwaukee County’s jails has failed to meet basic standards of care and staffing mandates, putting inmates’ health at risk, newly obtained documents and interviews with former employees show. At one point this spring, a court-appointed watchdog found that 30% of all medical jobs at the county’s two jails weren’t filled, a rate he called “inconsistent with adequate quality of service.” Inadequate staffing by Armor Correctional Health Services and poor record-keeping by employees have led to a failure to deliver timely medical treatment, according to the records and former employees. … Armor’s issues come as investigators look into four deaths since April at the Milwaukee County Jail, including one reported on Friday. It’s not clear whether Armor’s performance contributed to any of the deaths, but one inmate died of dehydration and a woman gave birth to a stillborn child without jail or medical staff noticing. Armor’s failures are documented in a May report by Ronald Shansky, who monitors overcrowding and medical services at the Milwaukee County Jail and House of Correction. Shansky, a medical doctor, inspects the jail twice a year under terms of a 2001 legal settlement between the county and inmates. … In separate interviews with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the former staffers said they saw inmates who didn’t get necessary medications and went weeks without being seen by a nurse or doctor. Sandra Baumgartner, a former nursing supervisor at the House of Correction, said she was stretched so thin that she feared being unable to respond to a major medical emergency — which could put her nursing license at risk.
Source: Tawnell D. Hobbs, Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2018
Almost three decades ago, Milwaukee started offering the nation’s first-ever school vouchers. Starting small, the program allowed poor children to use taxpayer money to attend private schools. Today, about a quarter of Milwaukee children educated with public funds take advantage, making the program a testing ground for a big experiment in education. Did students in the program get a better education? That depends on how participating schools handled a critical issue: how many voucher students to let in. A Wall Street Journal analysis of the data suggests vouchers worked best when enrollment from voucher students was kept low. As the percentage of voucher students rises, the returns diminish until the point when there is little difference between the performance of public and private institutions. …
A new study suggests that school vouchers could actually hurt organized religion
Source: Matthew Rosza, Salon, February 15, 2017
Although school vouchers may be a boondoggle to churches, a new study from The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that “they offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.” The National Bureau of Economic Research found that more than 80 percent of private school students in the 2011/2012 school year attended a religiously-affiliated school, with Catholicism being the most common religious affiliation. The authors studied 71 Catholic parishes in Milwaukee from 1999 to 2013. … Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether one believes that religious institutions should focus on religion or on making money by supplanting public schools. … “Our numbers suggest that, within our sample alone, the Milwaukee voucher program has led over time to a decline in non-educational church revenue of $60 million. These large effects are driven by the large size of the voucher program itself,” the authors wrote. …
More Graduates, Less Criminals? The Economic Impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
Source: Will Flanders and Corey A. DeAngelis, University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform Working Paper, February 3, 2017
Although an abundance of research indicates that private schooling can benefit individual children through higher test scores, the effects on society are less clear. We monetize and forecast the social impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) in the United States. We use existing literature on the impacts of the MPCP on criminal activity and graduation rates. Between 2016 and 2035, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate additional economic benefits of $473 million associated with higher graduation rates, and $26 million associated with fewer felonies and misdemeanors, relative to their traditional public school peers.
Source: Aisha Morales, WBAY, April 17, 2017
Shutting down the Green Bay Correctional Institution and building a new one nearby is not a new conversation. But this week state Rep. David Steffen (R-Howard) says he’ll introduce his bill to the Legislature to turn the current facility into something that can make Brown County actual revenue. His remedy is to decommission the prison facility in Allouez and turn it into residential or retail space or a mix of the two, and have a new prison privately built in Brown County. … Although a location for a new prison has yet to be determined, Steffen wants it to be privately built and owned. The state would lease the space, and it would be run by state employees. …
Source: Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, April 17, 2017
Contractors won’t have to work with unions on taxpayer-funded building projects and parents will have an easier time getting an anti-seizure drug derived from marijuana, under legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed Monday. The measure on labor agreements, which passed the Legislature on party-line votes, is the latest in a series of moves to roll back union power by Republican lawmakers in recent years. Walker signed the law at Amerilux International, a De Pere distributor of construction materials. …
Walker to Sign Bill on Local Governments’ Labor Agreements
Source: Associated Press, April 14, 2017
Gov. Scott Walker will sign a bill Monday that blocks local governments from requiring collective bargaining agreements on public projects. … The Republican-controlled Legislature easily passed the legislation this session despite opposition from Democrats, who called it another attack on unions. …
Source: Senator Jennifer Shilling, Urban Milwaukee, April 5, 2017
Access to clean drinking water has become a major concern across Wisconsin. Pollution, contamination and over-pumping of groundwater have depleted water supplies and created major health and economic concerns. Rather than promoting a sustainable management plan, Republican politicians are rushing to pass Senate Bill 76 which will privatize water rights, eliminate oversight and prohibit the DNR from reviewing the cumulative impact of high capacity wells on local communities. … Republican in the State Senate passed Senate Bill 76 despite strong opposition from residents, health advocates and conservationists. Wisconsin’s water challenges have intensified in recent years as over-pumping has become more common and lax pollution enforcement from the Walker administration and Attorney General’s office has resulted in dangerous water contamination. …
Water privatization bill probably can’t be revived, GOP leader says
Source: Steven Verburg, The Journal Times, February 18, 2016
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Wednesday that Republicans who control the Senate weren’t satisfied with the proposal. “Senator Fitzgerald has said that while he believes the proposal has merit, AB 554 is likely dead this session after efforts to craft an amendment which addressed our members’ concerns were not successful,” spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said. The GOP-controlled Assembly passed the bill Jan. 12 and a Senate committee approved it on a 3-2 party-line vote Jan. 28. Late Monday, the proposal was added to the Tuesday agenda for the full Senate, but during the floor session it was removed without public discussion or announcement
Wisconsin Senate scraps water privatization vote
Source: The Wisconsin Gazette, February 17, 2016
Despite a push from private water companies, Senate Republicans failed to reach a consensus on a bill that would have made it easier to privatize water systems in the state. The measure was pulled and no floor vote took place earlier this week. The measure, which had passed in the Assembly, was opposed by union members, environmentalists, municipal water and sewer operators, local cities and citizens from across the state.
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. …
Genesis Behavioral Services, a private company, contracts with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide community corrections services to male offenders at a facility in Kenosha – including certified substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence intervention and cognitive intervention programs. However, a recent audit spurred by complaints from a whistleblower revealed that Genesis routinely violated the terms of its contract. … Beyond the discrepancies in the programs provided to residents by Genesis, the DOC audit cited various maintenance problems, including peeling paint, stained floors, missing tile in a bathroom and a non-working shower. There was also a lack of air conditioning that forced many residents to sleep outside their assigned sleeping areas; they were allowed “to bring their mattresses to the main floor at bedtime so [they] could sleep in the coolest part of the house.” … Interviews with residents found that some had been threatened with strip searches by Genesis staff. The interviews also confirmed that residents were only receiving six to eight hours of programming per day instead of the ten hours required by contract, and that they “were required to sign multiple sign-in sheets at one time for all groups conducted that day or for the week, whether the groups took place or not.” Genesis had no registered nurse at the facility, contrary to what it had stated during the contracting process. Also troubling was the apparent unfamiliarity of staff and residents with Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards, which was another contractual requirement. … Genesis was given until February 10, 2017 to submit a response to the audit and provide a corrective action plan, and the DOC indicated a follow-up review would be scheduled six months from the date of the final report to ensure remedial steps were taken to address the problems cited in the audit report.
Wisconsin now has more than 32,000 students statewide enrolled in its voucher plan, even though approximately three-quarters of the new students receiving that public money were already attending private schools. Now they are just doing so on the taxpayer’s dime. States across the country are draining funds from public schools that educate the vast majority of our children and diverting it to a few students in private schools. And while state governments are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on these schools, there is virtually no proof that voucher programs are effectively educating our kids. These schools have far less accountability and lower standards than public schools. … The GAO found that participation in taxpayer-funded voucher programs has more than doubled in the last five years, from 70,000 to 147,000 students. The bill to taxpayers has grown from $400 million five years ago to $859 million today. It seems to me that before you dramatically expand a program the way vouchers have ballooned, you might first want to know if they are somewhat effective at teaching our kids. … The GAO report also found that some taxpayer-funded voucher schools do not require the same teaching credentials as public schools. The report confirmed that many taxpayer-funded voucher programs do not require teachers to meet minimum standards for teacher preparation, further calling into question the legitimacy of these programs. Public schools are rightly required to educate all our children. Yet many voucher schools, according to the report, are able to cherry-pick which students they prefer. They could refuse to take in a child who might cost more to educate, such as a child with disabilities. Advocates for people with disabilities, including the ACLU and Disability Rights Wisconsin, have raised concerns that Wisconsin’s school voucher program, either tacitly or explicitly, allows voucher schools to discriminate against students with disabilities in their admission policies. Worse still, many of these programs cannot even meet the basic needs of students with disabilities who do enroll in their programs, leaving students and their families struggling to find appropriate educational services which would have been otherwise guaranteed in a public school. …
Opinion: Stop the privatization of public education
Source: Congressman Mark Pocan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 25, 2015
…And as someone who cares deeply about the strength of public education, I am dismayed at the recent attempts by Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson to use Wisconsin’s education system as a political poker chip by expanding and promoting the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher program.
The latest taxpayer-funded voucher expansion proposal, included in Walker’s proposed budget, would cut almost $50 million in funding for public school districts over the next two years and cost taxpayers $800 million over the next 10 years….In Wisconsin, approximately 79% of the students who received a taxpayer-subsidized voucher in 2013 were already attending private schools. This means taxpayer dollars are not being used to advance public education, but instead are being used to subsidize the education of a small number of students already enrolled in private schools at the expense of students in public schools in an attempt to further privatize education. Not only do voucher schools exhaust needed resources in public education, these schools also fail to serve all students. In Wisconsin, advocates for people with disabilities, including the ACLU and Disability Rights Wisconsin, have raised concerns that Wisconsin’s school choice program, either tacitly or explicitly, allows voucher schools to discriminate against students with disabilities in their admission policies.
What Gov. Scott Walker is about to do to Wisconsin’s public schools
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, Answer Sheet blog, July 8, 2015
…. What’s in that budget is deep cause for concern for Wisconsin’s public education system, as Bob Peterson, founder of the Rethinking Schools magazine and former president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, explains in this post, which appeared on his Education for Democracy blog and which I am publishing with permission…..
For Wisconsin’s schools, the budget is a blueprint for abandoning public education. In Milwaukee, in addition to insufficient funding, the budget includes a “takeover” plan that increases privatization and decreases democratic control of the city’s public schools. The budget was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate a few minutes before midnight Tuesday, with all Democrats and one Republican voting “no.” The Assembly is expected to pass the budget and send it to Walker by the end of the week. The attack on the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is in the context of a frontal assault on public education across the state. The budget cuts $250 million from the University of Wisconsin system, holds overall K-12 funding flat in the first year with modest increases in the second (which, given inflation, means cuts). And while programs promoting privately run charters are expanded, the budget eliminates Chapter 220 — a metropolitan-wide program designed to reduce racial segregation in public schools and improve equal opportunity for students of color. The budget is also expanding the statewide voucher program, under which tax dollars are funneled into private, overwhelmingly religious schools. (The program is modeled after Milwaukee’s private school voucher program which began in 1990 and which now includes 112 schools and 25,000 students.) The “takeover” plan for Milwaukee, where nearly two-thirds of the state’s African-American population live, was proposed by two suburban legislators, Sen. Alberta Darling (R) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R). Because the plan was inserted into the budget rather than proposed in a separate bill, there was never a public hearing…..
Complaint: Milwaukee Vouchers Segregate Students With Disabilities
Source: Nirvi Shah, Education Week, June 8, 2011
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have filed a complaint that accuses the state of Wisconsin and some private schools that accept vouchers of creating a system of segregated public schools. Data reported by the private schools shows that 1.6 percent of the students they enroll using vouchers have disabilities, while almost 20 percent of Milwaukee public schools have special needs. The schools that accept vouchers had to participate in state testing for the first time this school year. The data reported by those schools was one of the catalysts for filing a complaint, said Karyn Rotker, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU in Wisconsin.