Home health care workers who sued three D.C. employers for back pay are now seeking class-action status for what they say could ultimately grow to a $150 million case. The workers’ bid for class-action status was filed Tuesday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court. The initial lawsuit was filed in December and included about 150 home health workers. Named defendants include Nursing Enterprises Inc., Vizion One Inc. and Health Management Inc., the latter of which has filed a motion to dismiss the case. ….. The group hopes to also include other home health care companies they allege didn’t pay employees. …. According to the lawsuit, the workers claim they were forced to work without pay following an FBI sting last year that uncovered $78 million in fraudulent Medicaid billing and rocked the local home health industry….
Maryland’s Forrester Construction made millions from the District government, but now it will have to part with some of it. Forrester will pay more than $2 million to settle a federal investigation into its contracting schemes, according to a new agreement with prosecutors. Forrester’s plans, unearthed two years ago in a Washington City Paper story, relied on the District’s Certified Business Enterprise program. Meant to help small or disadvantaged businesses win city contracts, the CBE program gave companies like Forrester bidding preferences if they teamed up with District firms. In exchange for the bidding help, the company with CBE status was supposed to handle at least half of the project. Forrester teamed up with a CBE called EEC of D.C. on three projects, including the construction of a new Department of Employment Services headquarters and the renovation of Anacostia High School. Forrester also made agreements on more projects with another CBE that isn’t named in the agreement with prosecutors, embedded below….
A Capital Bikeshare employee involved with the movement to organize a union was fired last week. The company that operates bikeshares across the country says the employee was a supervisor “not legally permitted to engage in union organizing,” while Fhar Miess disputes that. … A majority of Capital Bikeshare’s eligible workforce, 87 percent, have signed union cards. Miess’s card was contested, and he was fired after attending a convention put on by Transit Workers Union Local 100, which is supporting Capital Bikeshare’s unionizing. D.C. owns the bikes, docks and other equipment used by Capital Bikeshare, while it is operated by an outside company. …
Dept. of Labor Investigates Capital Bikeshare Unfair Wages
Source: Mila Mimica and Adam Tuss, NBC 4, June 18, 2013
The Department of Labor has opened up an investigation into unfair wages by Capital Bikeshare, a company one former worker says grossly underpaid him….”Some of the drivers started at $12 or $13 and they are actually supposed to be getting paid $17, $18 to start,” Apunte told News4. “Some of the bike checkers… they’re owed over $12,000. That’s individually.”
Alta Bicycle Share in Portland, Ore. owns Capital Bikeshare in the D.C. area as well as several other programs the U.S. and the world, including New York, the Bay Area and Melbourne….Eighteen Capital Bikeshare employees and former workers sent a letter to Alta president Mia Birk, calling for a repayment of their alleged unpaid wages…
Bikeshare workers turn up volume on wage complaints
Source: Stefanie Dazio, Washington Post, June 19, 2013
Several current and former Capital Bikeshare employees delivered petitions to city and company officials on Wednesday, applying new pressure as they call for a response to their allegations of unfair pay practices. Capital Bikeshare, which is operated privately through a contract with the District’s transportation department, is under investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division for alleged violations of a federal law requiring District government contractors to pay employees certain wages and benefits….
Source: Patrick Madden, WAMU, 2014
Does campaign cash have undue influence over how District of Columbia lawmakers approve contracts? In this special investigative report, WAMU 88.5’s Patrick Madden follows the money and explores whether the D.C. Council is perpetuating a “pay-to-play” environment for city contractors. All contracts worth more than $1 million go to the D.C. Council for review after a city agency has picked the winning contractor—a power granted to no other state-level legislature. WAMU and the Investigative Reporting Workshop used legislative records to examine more than 1,000 contracts that were sent to the D.C. Council for approval from 2007 to 2014. The reporters also analyzed more than 100,000 campaign contributions to D.C. officials and candidates using public records from the Office of Campaign Finance. The database includes donations from contractors, their employees and their family members. …
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Source: Len Boselovic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 13, 2014
(part 4 of 4 part series)
Many government officials see public-private partnerships as a convenient solution to their infrastructure woes. Enlisting investors and private sector know-how gets roads, bridges and other projects built long before government could do the work on its own. And it comes without career-jeopardizing tax increases, and sometimes with deal-sweetening upfront payments. “It’s such an easy sell to politicians, which is why we have such a hard time stopping it,” said Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, a citizens group fighting toll roads being built and operated by private investors in that state. One need look no farther than the federal highway trust fund, recently rescued from the brink of insolvency by a stopgap funding measure approved by Congress, to appreciate the lack of political will to do something about America’s deteriorating infrastructure. But states using public-private partnerships, or P3s, are discovering that what sounds like a straightforward, efficient process can be fraught with hazards. Those include negotiating an agreement that protects the public interest and monitoring that agreement over the decadeslong life of the project. Federal financing for many projects sparks concerns that taxpayers may be left on the hook. More importantly, critics question the fundamental premise of P3s: that they cost less. They say if P3s save one part of government money, there are costs incurred elsewhere.
Bridge initiative promises savings and efficiency
Source: Len Boselovic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 12, 2014
(part 3 of 4 part series)
Pennsylvania has ambitious plans to use a public-private partnership to erase its dubious distinction of having more structurally deficient bridges than any other state in the nation. Before the end of the year, state Department of Transportation officials are expected to select from one of four interested consortiums to design, build and finance about 600 of the nearly 4,200 state-owned bridges in dire need of replacement. More than 100 bridges in Allegheny County and the rest of Western Pennsylvania are being considered for the project. Construction of 50 to 100 of the bridges is slated to begin next year. At the end of the contract, which is expected to last 25 to 35 years, the private investors will turn over the bridges to PennDOT. The investors will be penalized if the bridges aren’t in good condition….
The’P3′ dilemma: Partnerships often fall short of taxpayers’ expectations
Source: Len Boselovic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 11, 2014
(part 2 of 4 part series)
When public-private partnerships work well, they are a boon to government and investors. They deliver much needed infrastructure years sooner and at a more affordable price. However, they frequently don’t live up to expectations. The result: citizen outrage over rapidly escalating user fees; unanticipated costs; a lack of transparency; and risks to taxpayers from the billions of dollars of federally guaranteed loans financing the projects. A prime example of the potential that so-called P3s offer can be found in Baltimore, one of the nation’s busiest ports. …
The ‘P3’ dilemma: How effective are public-private partnerships?
Source: Len Boselovic, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, August 10, 2014
(part 1 of 4 part series)
Cash-strapped governments around the country that are reluctant to raise taxes are increasingly plunging forward with bold experiments: enlisting investment banks, pension funds and other eager investors to fund billions of dollars of highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects…. Over the next four days, The Post-Gazette will examine why states are pursuing public-private partnerships, what kinds of projects they are undertaking, the private sector players involved, and whether the partnerships are living up to their potential. …
…Common contract models such as cost-plus, time and materials and firm fixed price have been used for decades to facilitate the delivery of goods and services to government. Now, a new approach to meeting mission goals has begun to gain traction with U.S. procurement officers and agency leaders.
Outcomes-based contracting is an approach to procurement that encourages accountability on the part of the government and the provider by linking payments to a contractor’s ability to achieve a set of defined outcomes. In other words, in an outcomes-based model, contractors are paid only for the results they deliver.
By focusing on outcomes — rather than processes and outputs — contractors are incentivized to perform quality work because their compensation is dependent on delivering measurable, sustainable results. The approach benefits the government further in lower cost for recompetes and contract options, and also improves the partnership between the government and contractor by ensuring the statement of work is aligned to its desired result. Unlike other program models, the government doesn’t assume all of the risk, because the contractor is held accountable for its ability to achieve the stated outcomes. If the contractor does not deliver the full intention of the contract, the government does not pay the full amount of the service fee. As a result, there is little or no “gray area” between the contractor’s delivery, the agency’s mission and the end-customer’s expectations….
…One program using its approach is the District of Columbia Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (D.C. TANF) jobs program, which supports participants and their families in overcoming barriers to employment….
….Outcomes-based contracting has important future application as well. Right now, leaders across the political spectrum are engaged in the bold and necessary legislative thinking that may result in federal immigration reform. …. Federal, state and local governments would likely turn to contractors for help in enacting the law because the private sector can supply both flexible and scalable solutions to meet the wide-ranging needs of such an effort. ….
Two D.C. schools, a traditional public and a nonunionized charter, are experimenting with socioeconomic integration.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson says better planning is needed to prevent a “cannibalistic environment” between charter schools and traditional public schools. Henderson’s comments to The Washington Post came in response to news that a science-themed charter school plans to open this fall across the street from a traditional school that serves the same grades and has the same academic focus. Henderson says she learned about the charter school’s planned opening on Twitter. She says there needs to be “a citywide conversation about how many schools do we need .. as opposed to continuing to allow as many schools as possible to proliferate.”…
New D.C. charter school highlights debate over planning
Source: Emma Brown, Washington Post, July 5, 2014
A new science-themed D.C. charter school plans to open its doors this fall across the street from a traditional school that serves the same grade levels and has the same academic focus, highlighting a lack of coordination that has drawn increasing scrutiny in recent months. As charter schools flourish, they often are competing with neighborhood schools for the city’s students, and the two sectors barely communicate about their plans. The move by Harmony School of Excellence-D.C. into a building across the street from Langley Elementary came as a surprise even to Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who learned about it on Twitter. Henderson called Harmony’s move an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars and a sign of a choice that the city is going to have to make: Does the District want to plan for the coexistence of charter schools alongside a system of traditional neighborhood schools? Or does the city want to continue with a laissez-faire approach that Henderson said could give rise to a “cannibalistic environment” in which “somebody gets eaten”?…
…But two decades since the schools began to appear, educators from both systems concede that very little of what has worked for charter schools has found its way into regular classrooms. Testy political battles over space and money, including one that became glaringly public in New York State this spring, have inhibited attempts at collaboration. The sharing of school buildings, which in theory should foster communication, has more frequently led to conflict.
And some charter schools have veered so sharply from the traditional model — with longer school years, armies of nonunion workers and flashy enrichment opportunities like trips to the Galápagos Islands — that their ideas are viewed as unworkable in regular schools.
In recent years, educational leaders, concerned about hostilities between the two types of schools, have worked to encourage warmer relations. In Tulsa, Okla., charter schools and district schools are working together to improve teaching quality. And in Spring Branch, Tex., charter school leaders are helping train district teachers and principals…..
…Education experts said it might prove difficult to encourage the kind of sharing of ideas that charter schools were originally supposed to foster, given competitive dynamics. Charter schools serve about 5 percent of public-school students nationwide, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, up from about 1 percent in 2003. In some cities, like Detroit, New Orleans and Washington, the percentages are much higher. (In New York, it is 6 percent.)
“It’s like putting a Burger King kitty-corner to a McDonald’s and expecting — in the same location and competing for the same families — warm and fuzzy cooperation,” said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
Charter schools are known for aggressive recruiting campaigns, and at schools with dwindling enrollment, every student counts: In New York, each brings more than $10,000 in education financing….
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….