Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Hospitals, doctors moving out of poor city neighborhoods to more affluent areas

Source: Lillian Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 14, 2014

Hospitals and family doctors, the mainstays of health care, are pulling out of poor city neighborhoods, where the sickest populations live…. The Post-Gazette/Journal Sentinel analysis shows that nearly two-thirds of the roughly 230 hospitals opened since 2000 are in wealthier, often suburban, areas. As health systems open those facilities, they have been closing their urban counterparts. The number of hospitals in 52 major cities in the United States has fallen from its peak of 781 in 1970 to 426 in 2010, a drop of nearly 46%, according to a separate study…. Between 1990 and 2010 alone, 148 nonprofit hospitals closed in the largest American cities, along with 53 for-profit hospitals. In addition, five public hospitals closed, according to Alan Sager of Boston University, who has tracked and studied hospital closures in the United States. His research shows it’s not just poor-performing hospitals being closed; the ones that shut down often are rated as being more efficient than those that remain…. The shifting economics of health care pulled hospitals from what had once been their primary purpose: serving the needy. As hospitals saw poor patients as toxic to their financial health, the percentage of charitable care given by U.S. hospitals dropped…..

Opinion: What’s Obama’s Problem With School Choice?

Source: Gov. Bobby Jindal and Gov. Scott Walker, Politico, July 8, 2014

Why would the federal Department of Justice cite the Civil Rights Act and the specter of segregation to try and block a school choice program where more than nine in 10 participants come from racial minority groups? Or use the Americans with Disabilities Act to claim another school voucher program discriminates against individuals with disabilities, without so much as a single complaint from a student or parent to prove their case? Yet that’s exactly what the Obama administration’s Justice Department is doing—taking actions designed to stifle, and even block outright, programs that give children and parents more educational choices.

Possible outsourcing of security guards questioned

Source: Georgia Pabst, Journal Sentinel June 25, 2014

Some 19 security officers who guard the Milwaukee County Courthouse sent a letter to County Executive Chris Abele Wednsday complaining about the possible outsourcing of courthouse security. The letter also complains about the “refusal” of administration officials to meet with the officers and their union, AFSCME District Council 48. … He produced a letter to Boyd McCamish, executive director of AFSCME District Council 48, dated April 24 in which he notifies him that the county “is contemplating utilizing an existing contractor to supplement security services” at the courthouse…But McCamish said in his statement that: “Poor management of existing staff has created an unnecessary problems that cannot be solved simply by outsourcing the responsibility for courthouse safety to an out-of-state corporation…

Wauwatosa School District lays off 34 custodians / Audience outraged at school board’s vote

Source: Rory Linnane, Wauwatosa Now, May 20, 2014

Despite repeated pleas from residents to look at other options, the Wauwatosa School Board voted 5-2 Monday, May 19, to outsource about half of its custodial staff and lay off 34 district employees for the next school year. District staff expects the move will save $850,000 annually. Without the change, they were estimating a budget shortfall of at least $325,000 next year looking only at a one percent increase to teacher salaries and 5 percent increase in health insurance costs, and being limited by state revenue limits….But many people who attended the meeting said there were other ways to save money that had not been thoroughly explored….Steve Domurat, head custodian at Underwood Elementary School, said he emailed board members with a proposal to reduce the hourly wages of district custodians like him by $4 for those on the higher end and by $3 for those on the lower end, or other amounts to meet the district’s goal. He suggested the district consider ending its contribution to custodians’ pensions, eliminating health insurance benefits at retirement and reducing their vacation time….Under the new contract with Dan Plautz Cleaning Services, custodians will make as low as $10 per hour at night and an average of $13 per hour, according to Buildings and Grounds Manager Tom Kulczewski. Currently, $13 is the minimum the district offers for an entry level cleaning position, with most custodians making $19-23 an hour, Kulczewski said….
Wauwatosa School District could lay off 40 custodians, outsource their jobs
Source: Rory Linnane, Wauwatosa Now, May 6, 2014

Preparing for a difficult budget cycle, Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Phil Ertl is asking the school board to outsource 40 custodial positions to save an estimated $925,000 annually…. Parents and teachers took the microphone one after the other, choking up as they shared examples of the impact custodians have had on their schools. One teacher recalled the custodian who watched from a school window to make sure she was safe walking to her car at night. Another teacher said a custodian equipped her with a flashlight and security lights after her lights went out on her first week of teaching. … Ertl said it was hard to hear the comments, but they didn’t sway him…..

…Wauwatosa isn’t the first district to consider outsourcing custodial work. The Mequon-Thiensville School Board laid off 17 custodial staff members in 2010 to save $700,000 over the next two school years. In 2012, New Berlin laid off 45 custodians to save about $500,000 annually. Demond Means, Mequon-Thiensville superintendent, said although the decision was one of the most difficult he has ever made, the district’s savings allowed it to hold down class sizes and maintain its textbook budget and other areas of “academic support.” “The men and women impacted by the decision weighed heavily on me,” Means said in a statement. “However, the funds that the district was able to save and re-direct to the classroom was significant.”…

Legislators order full audit of medical transportation program

Source: Gitte Laasby, Journal Sentinel, April 24, 2014

Wisconsin’s Legislative Audit Bureau will be conducting a comprehensive audit of the state’s nonemergency medical transportation program that legislators can consider when making financial allocations in the next budget session. The state’s joint committee on audit unanimously approved the audit after a public hearing Thursday, hoping it can lead to improvements. The original audit scope was limited to complaints from BadgerCare and Medicaid recipients who cited late, no-show and unavailable rides through MTM Inc. The company has dispatched rides under the program since August. The proposed audit also sought to outline how MTM resolves complaints. … Several local government representatives, interest groups and transportation providers testified that complaints logged with MTM wouldn’t capture all the problems because many members stopped filing complaints when MTM, which logs its own complaints, failed to resolve prior problems. The groups urged the committee to request an audit that addressed more fundamental questions about privatization through a broker…. Under the privatized program — which took effect with LogistiCare as the first broker in 2011 — a company contracted by the government dispatches rides to Medicaid-covered services for poor and elderly residents who have no other way to get to their appointments. The company is paid a fixed amount per eligible member, not for the number of rides provided. ‘Perverse incentive’ Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said Thursday that when a company gets paid regardless of whether it provides services, it creates a “perverse incentive” to provide as few rides as possible as cheaply as possible because the company makes more money that way. …
Wisconsin to pay $6.3 million more annually for LogistiCare replacement
Source: Gitte Laasby, Journal Sentinel, April 14, 2013

State taxpayers will be shelling out an extra $6.3 million per year for medical transportation for Wisconsin Medicaid recipients once MTM Inc. takes over for LogistiCare, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis of bids. Just a few years ago, state officials estimated that having a private firm dispatch rides would save the state $4 million a year. The Journal Sentinel analysis raises questions about whether the privatization really saves state taxpayers money….

…Department of Health officials estimated that the broker model, or privatization, would save the state $4 million over the course of a year, from 2012 to 2013. LogistiCare started dispatching rides for the entire state in September. The state, however, had underestimated severely the number of rides to be provided in the greater Milwaukee area. Within 2½ months of starting services, LogistiCare said it was losing money and quit its contract….

Contract proposal for patient rides allows leeway
Source: Gitte Laasby, Journal Sentinel, January 3, 2013

After Wisconsin selects a new medical transportation provider to replace the embattled LogistiCare, patients may spend more time on the phone when they call to make reservations or complaints. And their service complaints will still be processed by the same company that messed up, rather than a third party. …. The company has received thousands of complaints since taking over services in the Milwaukee area on Sept. 1.

Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Source: Gordon Lafer, Briefing Paper #375, April 24, 2014

From the summary:
During the past year, Wisconsin state legislators debated a series of bills aimed at closing low-performing public schools and replacing them with privately run charter schools. These proposals were particularly targeted at Milwaukee, the state’s largest and poorest school district.

Ultimately, the only legislation enacted was a bill that modestly increases school reporting requirements, without stipulating consequences for low performance. Nevertheless, the more ambitious proposals will likely remain at the core of Wisconsin’s debates over education policy, and legislative leaders have made clear their desire to revisit them in next year’s session. To help inform these deliberations, this report addresses the most comprehensive set of reforms put forward in the 2013–2014 legislative session.

Backers of these reforms are particularly enamored of a new type of charter school represented by the Rocketship chain of schools—a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces the curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day. Rocketship proposes that its model—dubbed “blended learning” for its combination of in-person and computerized instruction—can cut costs while raising low-income students’ test scores (Rocketship Education 2011).

The call for public schools to be replaced by such tech-heavy, teacher-light operations comes from some of the most powerful actors in local and national politics: the major corporate lobbies, including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). It is these groups, rather than parents or community organizations, that provided the impetus for legislators to consider proposals for mass school closure and privatization in Milwaukee….

This report evaluates the “blended learning” model of education exemplified by Rocketship and seeks to understand how the “school accountability” legislation debated during the most recent legislative session would likely affect Milwaukee schools. This briefing paper also explains how such proposals might fit within the broader economic agenda of both local and national corporate lobbies. Above all, the report questions why an educational model deemed substandard for more privileged suburban children is being so vigorously promoted—perhaps even forced—on poor children in Milwaukee….

What We Know – And Still Need to Learn – About the Impact of Vouchers on Students and Schools

Source: Joshua Cowen, Scholars Strategy Network, SSN Basic Facts, April 2014

After two decades of trial-runs, school voucher programs occupy a growing place across the U.S. educational landscape. In Arizona, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin, public funding supports private school attendance by students with varied needs and limited family resources. At least ten states offset private tuition with refunds or credits offered through their tax codes. As such programs proliferate, it is important to take stock of what researchers have found so far about the impact of vouchers on student achievement and school performance….

UWMC moves to outsource custodial work

Source: Keith Uhlig, Daily Herald, March 16, 2014

The nine workers on the custodial staff at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County will be laid off in the coming weeks if negotiations with an outside janitorial company are successful.UWMC leaders say outsourcing the school’s custodial work could save the college $150,000 at a time when it needs to trim an estimated $400,000 from a $4 million operating budget. That budget cut, said Keith Montgomery, the UWMC campus dean, is partly fallout from a $62 million cut of state funding to the budget of the entire UW System and partly from a slightly declining student population. … Montgomery said contract negotiations are ongoing with a firm selected through a bidding process that began in January. Part of the contract, he said, will stipulate that the company needs to interview the current janitorial employees….

Panel backs making courthouse janitors county positions

Source: Steve Schultze, Journal Sentinel, March 13, 2014

A Milwaukee County Board panel Thursday voted to revert to using county employees for 21 previously privatized janitorial jobs at the courthouse. The move was aimed at re-employing some of the dozens who were laid off in late 2009 when the housekeeping service was outsourced as a cost-saving measure. Those laid-off janitors will get no special preference for the new jobs because a three-year county job preference window for laid-off workers expired more than a year ago. The board’s finance committee voted 6-3 in favor of creating the 21 jobs, prompting applause from some of the laid-off workers. The move would increase county costs by $418,000 this year and $631,000 next year, according to an estimate. … José Rodriguez said he had worked 14 years as a janitor with the county when he was laid off and passed on an opportunity to work for Mid American, the private firm that now cleans the courthouse. The company offered about $8 an hour, he said. “I was making $14 (as a county employee) and I was struggling,” Rodriguez said. He said he was embarrassed now to have to rely on help from a son and food pantries to make ends meet. …

Milwaukee County won’t rehire us, laid-off housekeepers say
Source: Steve Schultze, Journal Sentinel, August 27, 2013

Milwaukee County housekeepers laid off more than 3 1/2 years ago say they have been unfairly denied transfers to other county jobs. Few of the nearly 90 former county housekeepers landed other county positions, despite multiple applications made….

…The housekeepers were paid between $13.95 and $15.75 an hour at the county. They received a chance to apply for jobs with the private company hired to replace the county janitors, and at least two did that. Putaraksa and many others did not go that route because they said the pay and benefits were inferior — $5 to $8 an hour less. That was not enough to live on, said Clairette Riley, who worked nearly nine years as a county janitor. …

…MidAmerican Building Services holds the contract for cleaning the courthouse and nine other county buildings and has been paid $3.8 million since 2010, county records show. A different firm — CleanPower — was chosen as the preferred bidder for a new housekeeping contract at $3.3 million a year that includes all county facilities. But the County Board has not yet acted. Submission of a proposed contract for board approval was delayed in a dispute over whether Clean Power’s bid met the county’s minority hiring goal….

Supervisors seek new bus contract bids, with county-run option in play

Source: Steve Schultze, Journal Sentinel, March 5, 2014

Milwaukee County supervisors on Wednesday called on the county to quickly seek a new round of bids for operation of the Milwaukee County Transit System. But that process could take a year or more and require extending the contract with the current management firm, Milwaukee Transport Services…. Complicating the issue further: an April 1 deadline that requires the county to prepare to have the county run the transit system with its own employees. The county’s transportation staff should adopt a two-prong strategy of rebidding the contract, but also planning for a possible “insourcing” of the service, supervisors said….

Editorial: Milwaukee County should reopen bids soon to find a transit operator
Source: Editorial, Journal Sentinel, February 28, 2014

…..Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele told us Wednesday he’ll be working on several options to ensure that bus service in Milwaukee County stays up and running once the current contract with Milwaukee Transport Services expires at the end of the year. Still burning from a County Board panel’s rejection of the last bidding process, which saw the contract to run the transit system awarded to Dallas-based MV Transportation, Abele told us, “I will work as hard as I can” to make sure that service isn’t interrupted, and to provide quality service at a reasonable price. The panel said the bidding process was flawed and arbitrary. Abele told us he is considering appealing the panel’s decision, which means going to court, but that he also will issue a new bidding process and start working on plans to move the service under direct county supervision as required by a county resolution. The resolution says that if the county does not have a contract by April 1, the county should start the process of moving it in-house. … For their part, supervisors on the appeals panel that rejected the award to MV Transportation essentially didn’t buy MV’s low bid. The award was appealed to the panel by two of the losing bidders, MTS and Veolia Transportation, which argued to the panel that MV’s bid was unrealistically low and that MV might return to the county for more money once it had been awarded the contract. …

Milwaukee County taxpayers may be stuck with $8 million bill from transit snafu
Source: Gitte Laasby, Journal Sentinel, March 25, 2013

Taxpayers are likely stuck paying more than $8 million too much over the next three years for paratransit services under two emergency contract extensions. As the Journal Sentinel reported last week, Milwaukee Transport Services signed the contracts in October on behalf of the Milwaukee County Transit System after bad planning, legal challenges over a botched signature and a tight timeline made it impossible to accept a “best value” bid that was $8.4 million cheaper than the emergency extensions. Angry about the lost savings, county officials are exploring whether they can get out of the contracts. But while the potential savings are obvious, ways to get them are not…The most expensive three-year emergency contract pays Transit Express $24.7 million to serve the north side. That’s $2.2 million to $4.5 million more than what other bidders had offered to do the job, bid documents show…. The other three-year emergency contract pays more than $15.5 million to First Transit for serving the south side. That contract, too, can be canceled through default or failure to perform. But it may also be canceled “for convenience” if the county pays $150,000 in damages….