Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the first round of investments in rural infrastructure projects through the U.S. Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund. Through the Fund and its expanded public-private partnerships, USDA has facilitated the investment of nearly $161 million in private capital 22 critical water and community facilities projects in 14 states… Investments include 11 community facilities projects in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin, including building new nursing homes, constructing new preschool and day care facilities, constructing a new facility for a rural ambulance service that covers a 685 square mile area in South Dakota, and building or upgrading two new critical access hospitals in rural Illinois and North Carolina. In addition, the Fund invested in 11 critical water projects in California, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. Projects include upgrades to existing water systems and the construction of a new reservoir. At least 38 additional critical infrastructure projects are in the pipeline for investment. …
…. A reservation fee that is assessed in virtually every transaction involving a state campground reservation also is tacked on to the cost. Most of the revenue generated from that fee goes to a private contractor, which collects more than $1 million every year from residents and tourists, Gannett Wisconsin Media has found. The company, ReserveAmerica, has been paid an estimated $16.4 million since 1999, when it first entered a contract with the state Department of Natural Resources to manage online and phone reservations for state camping sites, according to data released by the DNR. The company, ReserveAmerica, has been paid an estimated $16.4 million since 1999, when it first entered a contract with the state Department of Natural Resources to manage online and phone reservations for state camping sites, according to data released by the DNR. Of the $9.70 reservation fee, the DNR keeps $1 and the rest goes to ReserveAmerica.
Monona city officials continue to gather information from other communities regarding staffing and other issues regarding fire department and EMS personnel, as they strive to put together a plan to address their own needs for the foreseeable future. The second meeting of an ad hoc committee to address those needs met June 9. Karl Franz, village administrator in Shorewood Hills, discussed the shuttering of its department and contract with the Madison Fire Department for those services, while Mike Wolf, clerk, treasurer and administrator in the town of Blooming Grove, reviewed the talks with Madison that will see the town’s fire and EMS services close effective June 30. Monona Fire Chief Scott Sullivan said his department has been steadily losing volunteers for several years, and the city must soon decide what course of action to take to continue to meet the emergency needs of residents and businesses.
As he prepared to kick off his presidential campaign, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the state budget Sunday after using his veto powers to excise grants for conservation groups and a provision that would have given payday lenders new authority. …. The two-year, $72.7 billion spending plan doesn’t raise taxes, freezes tuition at University of Wisconsin campuses, cuts university funding by $250 million and puts off until later a lasting solution for funding highways…Walker also used his veto powers to:
Make changes to an overhaul of the state’s long-term care programs known as Family Care and IRIS. Those elements dictated the process used to make sure rates paid to integrated health agencies were sound, specified the state had to have at least five regions for the programs, and put limits on when open enrollment periods could be held for the programs. The changes clear the way for Walker to establish one statewide program if he wants, instead of having it carved into regions. That would make it difficult for existing regional nonprofit entities to continue participating in the program and make it more likely that national for-profit corporations would…Kill a requirement that half the money the state receives for selling public land be used to pay off debt and half set aside for future land purchases. Walker said he wanted all the money to go toward paying off debt.
Twenty-five years ago, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed the nation’s first school voucher bill into law. Pitched as social mobility tickets for minority students, Wisconsin vouchers allow children to attend private, and sometimes religious, schools on the taxpayers’ dime. But as shown by the murky history of the voucher movement, and by the way voucher programs have developed in Wisconsin and other states, racial equity had nothing to do with it. It was a scheme cooked up out of an ideological disdain for public schools and teachers’ unions, and first used to actually preserve school segregation in the South. Today, vouchers bills are on the move in multiple states and on Capitol Hill. GOP presidential hopefuls, who want to boost their free market bona fides for a 2016 run, have been outbidding themselves in touting vouchers as educational panaceas that will not only help minority children close education gaps, but cut corporate and property taxes in the process…..
….Viewing the result of the 1978 ballot proposal as a partial success, ALEC would go on to inundate lawmakers with a massive nationwide push toward private school vouchers in 1981. A voucher bill was sent to “16,000 state and federal officials, including every state legislator in the country,” ALEC boasted in the November 1981 issue of the internal newsletter The State Factor. In a lengthy analysis of what the implications of school vouchers might be, ALEC admitted to a few disadvantages, such as ”flight of the middle-class from inner-cities to private schools, thereby causing segregation and racial tension.” But this, ALEC went on to argue, is more than made up for by the fact that vouchers are true to the principles of federalism by empowering individuals at the expense of government…..
Perhaps realizing that it was doomed before the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, the proposed contract to privatize the Milwaukee County Zoo’s food, catering and concessions services was sent back to committee for further revisions. A major sticking point for supervisors had been granting exclusive catering rights at the zoo to the Denver-based Service Systems Associates (SSA) as part of the proposed 10-year contract. Local caterers would be considered for just 10 zoo events annually. As a result of their concerns, the Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee voted 5-3 on April 16 to not recommend the contract….
Milwaukee County Zoo’s concessions may be privatized
Source: Georgia Pabst, Journal Sentinel, September 7, 2014
The Milwaukee County Zoo will consider privatizing its $5 million-a-year food service, catering and retail operations in the 2015 budget. The zoo issued a request for proposals in July and received six plans by the August deadline, said Charles Wikenhauser, the zoo director. A contract would be for five years. The six proposals were evaluated by a team of five — four zoo staff members and Rick Biddle, of Schultz & Williams, a Philadelphia consulting firm, Wikenhauser said.
Exclusive: Milwaukee County Zoo Food, Catering and Retail Concessions May Be Privatized / No public warning on fast-tracked bid requests
Source: Lisa Kaiser, Express, August 20, 2014
With no public discussion, the Milwaukee County Zoo offered a request for proposals (RFP) to operate and manage its lucrative food service, catering and retail operations from interested private vendors. … The RFPs were sent out on July 18, on-site visits were scheduled for July 30 and 31, and bids were due last Friday, Aug. 15. The five-year contract would begin Jan. 1, 2015, if the county decides to move forward with privatizing these operations, which generated $5.8 million in revenue in 2013. But you’d have to be an insider to know about this fast-tracked privatization plan. The matter never came before the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, nor was it included in last year’s budget….But the RFP is mentioned in the zoo’s 2015 budget request, drafted this summer, saying that the department is “in the process of evaluating whether a concessionaire for catering, novelty sales and concessions is more financially beneficial than running the operations in house.”… The Abele-backed Act 14, which stripped the board of much of its oversight of contracts, only allows the board to review contracts worth more than $300,000 once Abele decides to award a contract to a vendor. This RFP would seem to be worth far more than that, so it would appear that supervisors could review the final contract, if one is awarded….Little is said about the affected workers in the RFP, but it appears that they will become the employees of the operator, not the county. … McCamish called the zoo’s attitude toward its employees in the RFP “an afterthought.”…
We’re all for consolidation in government around Wisconsin if doing so can save the taxpayers money and still provide the services citizens require. So we’re predisposed to support Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to merge the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Two big state agencies with some overlap in mission — so why not combine them? Because such a move could create numerous problems for both agencies, especially since there would be no public officials on the board after the merger was consummated….
Center probe finds disparities in reported registered nurse staff levels that are especially pronounced for blacks, Latinos. …
… Although homes with residents of all racial groups had lower registered nurse staffing levels listed in the cost reports, the discrepancy was particularly pronounced in nursing homes where the majority of residents were either black or Latino. And the overall gap in this type of care for minorities was even more dramatic.
Hundreds of majority-black homes throughout the country were listed in Nursing Home Compare as providing a little more than a half-hour of registered nurse care per day. But the average daily level of registered nurse care at those facilities calculated through the Medicare cost reports was just about 20 minutes a day. Medicare cost data was not available for Alden Wentworth. The amount of registered nurse care is widely considered an important measure of quality care.
This staffing gap was even more stark in nursing homes where Latinos composed more than half of the residents. …
… Nearly all of the majority-black and Latino facilities were operated on a for-profit basis and on average had larger patient populations than the majority-white nursing homes. …
Union members picketed the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents in Oshkosh to oppose UW-Superior’s proposal to hire a private company to handle custodial and grounds-keeping services. The university issued a competitive request for proposals for a contract to perform those services starting in December. Current UW-Superior employees must be considered for jobs a company will create under the contract….
Protesters demonstrate at regents meeting
Source: Noell Dickmann, Northwestern Media, August 21, 2014
Union members picketed outside a UW System Board of Regents meeting Thursday in Oshkosh, speaking out against a proposal to privatize custodial and grounds-keeping services at UW Superior. Paulette Feld, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 24 and a IT network specialist at UW-Oshkosh, said members are opposed to outsourcing union jobs to private companies…. Earlier, regents unanimously approved a request asking Gov. Scott Walker for $95 million in additional tax dollars in the state’s next two-year budget agencies despite the governor telling agencies to not expect any additional tax dollars in his 2015-17 budget….
UWS Employees March Against Job Outsourcing
Source: WDIO.com, July 26, 2014
Over 100 people are marching in solidarity with UWS custodians and ground crew members on Saturday to protest the university’s consideration of a plan to outsource the jobs to private companies. … The university is considering cutting 28 jobs to help make up a $4.5 million deficit, however, 18-year UWS employee Glen Kahalar questions recent choices made by the administrators. …. . Many members of the Wisconsin State Employees Union joined the UWS workers on Saturday.
AFSCME labor union backs UWS custodial workers over threat of outsourcing
Source: NNCNow, July 27, 2014
UWS crews protest job outsourcing
Source: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram, June 10, 2014
….The university is evaluating options as it seeks to identify $4.5 million in cuts and revenue growth over the next five years, said Lynne Williams, UWS spokeswoman. About $2 million of that has to be found within two years. … The university has made no decision on the custodians and grounds crew yet, Williams said. Sending the proposal out for bid will take at least six weeks, and that process has not started yet. The proposals would be evaluated to determine if it would be feasible to outsource some or all of the work. There is no timeline on the decision, but the current contracts for custodial and grounds staff end this summer…..
Of all the self-interested scams perpetrated by school “reformers” against public education, the school voucher scam may be the most dishonest. In their undiluted form, these programs are a sop to right wingers and religious fanatics convinced that teaching children that the Founding Fathers were all upstanding Christian gentlemen and evolution should be doubted somehow prepares them for life in the 21st century. This week in Raleigh, N.C., a judge named Robert Hobgood called out North Carolina’s version of the swindle for what it was: a raid on the state treasury. …. “Private schools receiving Opportunity Scholarships are not subject to any requirements or standards regarding the curriculum that they teach, are given no requirement for student achievement, are not obligated to demonstrate any growth in student performance, and are not even obligated to provide a minimum amount of instructional time.” The voucher law, he observed, doesn’t require that the recipient schools “provide their students with instruction in any subject,” or that teachers or principals “be trained, certified, or qualified,” or that the schools themselves be “certified by any public or private agency.”
Large, out-of-state donors fuel North Carolina’s school “choice” movement
Source: Lindsay Wagner, NC Policy Watch, May 21, 2013
In March of 2012, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and ten other state lawmakers flew to Florida on the dime of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), an organization known for endorsing conservative education reform initiatives, including school vouchers. In the year that has followed, North Carolina has absorbed a flood of more than $90,000 in campaign contributions to lawmakers friendly to the school choice movement….
…Since the Florida gathering, lawmakers in the North Carolina legislature have introduced more than 20 bills related to school choice. Rep. Marcus Brandon, one of the eleven lawmakers who went to Florida, argues that “it is unconstitutional not to give students a choice” when it comes to their education. He has introduced six bills related to school choice this session, including two bills that would bring vouchers to the state.Brandon was also one of several lawmakers who, in 2012, received campaign donations from PEFNC’s PAC as well as individual PEFNC funders….
…Previously known as Advocates for School Choice, AFC rebranded itself in March 2010 and also joined with the Alliance for School Choice, which was previously known as the Education Reform Council. Both of these groups have received considerable amounts of funding from the late John Walton, an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune. Their board members include Dick DeVos, heir to the Amway fortune who has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars of seed money into school choice groups, and his wife Betsy DeVos, who actually runs AFC and is known for her conservative Christian right-wing ideology and for having poured millions into promoting voucher programs across the country…. In February, the AFC contributed $800,000 to pro-voucher ad campaigns for two voucher-friendly candidates running for the legislature in Tennessee. In Wisconsin, the AFC has been very active in reaching out to disability groups to garner their support for vouchers, and has also pitched to them the idea of getting disability vouchers into the state budget….