Tag Archives: Georgia

Garbage Fight Coming To Macon-Bibb

Source: Laura Corley, GPB News, August 19, 2013

Among the many big decisions facing the soon-to-be-consolidated Macon and Bibb County government is how to deal with trash. The city and the county have two entirely different systems, and officials say the garbage issue is likely to cause a stink.

As of now, county trash is picked up by a private company called Advanced Disposal and trucked away to a landfill in Twiggs County. For residents, pick up costs $12.75 monthly. In Macon, the city picks up trash once a week for $15 a month….

Unlocking stories behind bars

Source: Susannah Nesmith, United States Project, July 25, 2013

…Yet despite problematic records in other states, and even in Florida, the two companies privatizing healthcare at Florida prisons—Corizon Inc. and Wexford Health Sources—have received little recent scrutiny here.

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald statehouse bureau has written about the court fight to stop the privatization, which state workers ultimately lost in June. The Times/Herald team has also noted that Corizon, the company that is about to take over healthcare at every Florida prison north of Palm Beach, to the tune of $230 million, has faced problems with contracts “from Maine to Idaho.”

But these companies can be hard to track. Corizon was created in 2011 with the merger of Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services, companies that have had their own issues in the past. For example, Prison Health Services had to pay $5 million in fines and restitution in 2004 to resolve a Florida Medicaid fraud case, and has periodically lost contracts around the country because of concerns about cost overruns or problems with service. Correctional Medical Services has had its own difficulties in other states, and even in Florida. It has lost or walked away from contracts as close to home for Florida reporters as Palm Beach County.

The for-profit prison healthcare industry is hard to penetrate, with tangled relationships and complex histories. A year before Palm Beach County dumped CMS in favor of a local company, Armor Correctional Health Services, Broward County dumped another company, Wexford Health Sources, in favor of Armor (which also has a contract with Hillsborough County jails). Armor was founded by the founder of Prison Health Services, and is “politically connected,” according to a story this month by The Tampa Bay Times that looked at the challenges and high costs of jail healthcare….

Former MCSD employee discusses custodian outsourcing

Source: Sara Lim, WTVM, July 17, 2013

No teacher layoffs will be necessary for the schools in the Muscogee County School District, and there will not be any furlough days for workers either. While this is great news for the school district, about 80 custodian workers from middle and high schools were let go in the process. The board voted to outsource custodial services in order to assist the overall operations of the school district and school savings. … Workers in elementary schools were not affected, and custodians from middle and high school had to experience the cut. …

National Charter School Study 2013

Source: Edward Cremata, Devora Davis, Kathleen Dickey, Kristina Lawyer, Yohannes Negassi, Margaret E. Raymond, James L. Woodworth, CREDO at Stanford University, 2013

From the press release:
A new, independent national study finds improvement in the overall performance of charter schools, driven in part by the presence of more high – performing charters and closure of underperforming charter schools.

The National Charter School Study 2013, released today by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, is an update and expansion of CREDO’s 2009 landmark 16-state study, Multiple Choice, the first study to take a comprehensive look at the impact of charter schools on student performance. The 2009 study found a wide variance in quality among charter schools, with students in charter schools not faring as well in the aggregate as those attending traditional public schools.

The National Charter School Study 2013 looks at performance of students in charter schools in 26 states and New York City, which is treated separately as the city differs dramatically from the rest of the state. In those states (and New York City), charter school students now have greater learning gains in reading than their peers in traditional public s chools. Traditional public schools and charter schools have equivalent learning gains in mathematics….

ALEC v Kids: ALEC’s Assault on Public Education

Source: Progress Florida, Better Georgia, Progress Iowa, Progress Michigan, Progress Missouri, Progress Now Nevada, Progress Texas, Alliance for a Better Utah, Progress VA, 2013

From Progress Iowa’s summary:
Read the new report detailing the damaging influence the corporate front group ALEC has on public education policy. The report, ALEC v Kids, demonstrates the growing influence ALEC holds in Iowa and across the country, including its secretive access to elected officials and the drafting of ‘model’ education policy designed to benefit ALEC’s corporate funders which compliant lawmakers pass off as their own then push into law.

Among the key findings in ALEC v Kids:

Iowa enacted ALEC’s indirect voucher policy in 2006, a tax giveaway to defund public education and instead provide tax breaks for attending private schools

ALEC is attempting to expand charter schools across the country, including in Iowa. Governor Vilsack signed legislation in 2002 establishing a pilot program of charter schools, and although this year’s legislation did not pass, ALEC and its ally Students First appear to be gearing up for renewed legislative efforts in our state.

Bridgepoint Education, a corporate member of ALEC’s education task force, operates one of their two online universities in Iowa (Ashford University in Clinton). Bridgepoint has an abysmal track record, one of the worst of any of their competitors (84.4% of students seeking an associates degree withdraw from school).

ALEC v. Kids focuses on nine states, and analyzes the disastrous effect of ALEC’s education policy. The report details examples at the state level, specifically the negative effects of ALEC policies and the coordination between ALEC and its allies. By examining the real world effects of ALEC policies and coordination across a single issue, this report examines ALEC from a unique perspective.

Parental Triggers for Failing Schools

Source: Adrienne Lu, Stateline.org, July 1, 2013

…In reality, trigger laws, which allow parents to intervene in a struggling school, are a lot more complicated and controversial. Versions of parent trigger laws have been proposed in at least 25 states and adopted by seven, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In real life, parent triggers have been attempted only a handful of times….Opponents say parent trigger laws are a veiled attempt to privatize schools and that they have caught on only because of the money being poured into groups like Parent Revolution, whose funders include the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (There really was a Hollywood movie, “Won’t Back Down,” produced by Walden Media, about two mothers, one a teacher, who join forces to save their failing school.) According to tax documents, Parent Revolution received $7.5 million from 2007 to 2011 to support its efforts….

…In addition to Parent Revolution, parent trigger laws have been promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit coalition promoting conservative principles that provides model legislation to its members. ALEC claims 2,000 state lawmakers among its membership.

In Florida, a parent trigger bill died in a dramatic tie vote in the state Senate on April 30, echoing the defeat of a similar bill last year also in the Senate. Proponents, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, argued the legislation would have empowered parents. Teachers unions and parents’ groups countered the measure was an attempt to privatize education by handing over schools to private charter school operators.

A parent trigger bill in Georgia sailed through the House this spring but was withdrawn in the Senate in March for lack of votes. Under the bill, parents or teachers could have petitioned to convert public schools into charter schools or to impose a turnaround model, such as removing school personnel or allowing parents to send their children to other public schools.

In Oklahoma, a parent trigger bill that would have allowed parents to convert an underperforming public school to a charter school or fire administrators cleared the Senate but not the House….

In Louisiana, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal in June signed into law what might be considered a reverse parent trigger bill, which will allow parents to shift control of a failing school from the state-run Recovery School District back to the local public school system. Louisiana’s original parent trigger law, approved by the legislature last year, allows parents to shift control of a failing school to the Recovery School District, which is run by the state’s Department of Education and helps manage chronically low-performing schools.

In California, the only state where parents have actually succeeded in activating the so-called trigger, the principal at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts lost her job in May after parents petitioned to oust her. The California law allows parents to activate the trigger if a school has been subject to corrective action under No Child Left Behind for at least one academic year and scores below 800 on the state’s Academic Performance Index (on a scale of 200 to 1,000). The law also excludes the lowest-scoring 5 percent of school districts, which qualify for other turnaround strategies….

River restoration projects revitalize ecologies, economies

Source: Derek Prall, American City and County, June 19, 2013

Urban river restoration – the process of using already existing resources to improve local ecologies and economiesis – is a growing trend in waterfront cities. Cities such as Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City, Ala., have seen benefits from such projects, and Grand Rapids, Mich., recently announced its $2.7 million plan to restore rapids to the Grand River.

The namesake rapids of Grand Rapids gradually disappeared during the mid-19th century, according to a report in the Aspen Daily News, due to to two human means of interference: riverbed quarrying and the cutting of canals to provide power. Similar to problems in Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City, Ala., the Grand River flowing through Grand Rapids provided few economic or recreational benefits to residents.

…Recognized by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Grand Rapids project is one of 11 newly selected additions to the Urban Federal Waters Partnership. Designed to revitalize urban communities, particularly those under economic stress, the partnership includes 13 federal agencies working to support community river restoration efforts with federal funding….

…The economic benefits of the project are expected to take time, according to GBP, but Whitewater Columbus is estimated to create 700 jobs and have an economic impact of $42 million per year….

States Get Creative to Fund Transportation Projects

Source: Mary Branham, Council of State Governments, E-newsletter Issue #117, June 20, 2013
The big picture regarding transportation infrastructure funding typically centers around the rapidly declining revenues that are tied to the primary funding source for roads—the motor fuels tax. But the real picture is even bigger than that for state governments….

…Georgia used alternative financing models, such as public-private partnerships and design-build-finance, to fund needed projects. It also looked at expanding sponsorship opportunities and focused on negotiating contracts with pay based on performance…

…The Virginia legislature did pass a proposal for funding transportation in the 2013 session—a compromise between Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate the motor fuels tax and a variety of Senate bills to increase them…That includes public private partnerships, toll roads, reform at the state Department of Transportation, and the use of bonds and debt to fund infrastructure projects. But the public is growing increasingly intolerant of tolling and the state was “pretty maxed out on the credit card,” Powell said. …

States Act to Bolster Transportation Funding
Source: Council of State Governments, Webinar, June 14, 2013

Insourcing: Reclaiming Public Control

Source: In the Public Interest, Backgrounder Brief, May 2013

From the abstract:
This backgrounder brief provides examples of cases where, when cost savings aren’t realized or service quality declines, many governmental entities are turning to reverse privatization, or “insourcing,” to bring contracted functions back in-house. It explains the benefits of insourcing for the general public interest and addresses examples from multiple levels of government across a wide array of sectors including corrections, water, IT services, and more. It includes an appendix with more examples.

Cornelia garbage privatization ‘trashed’ in favor of rate increase

Source: Rob Moore, AccessNorthGa.com, June 5th 2013

The Cornelia City Commission voted Tuesday night to continue providing sanitation services for city residents. Following concerns by residents over a proposed $3-per-month rate increase, the city advertised for bids for the possible privatization of household garbage collection in the city, including providing rolling carts to 300 customers who currently don’t have one. City Manager Donald Anderson said the city received six bids, ranging from $8.50 per month per residence to $13 per month per residence….

…Both Ward 4 Commissioner Tony Cook and Mayor J.C. Irby said they received calls and comments praising the services currently provided by the city….Cook made the motion to maintain city sanitation services, raising rates to $18 per month. Ward 1 Commissioner Wes Dodd seconded the motion. In addition to their votes, Ward 2 Commissioner Janice Griggs voted in favor. Ward 3 Commissioner Don Bagwell was absent….