Tag Archives: North Carolina

Charter school moves to Johnson C. Smith University campus

Source: Andrew Dunn, Charlotte Observer, September 2, 2014

After years of working to prepare at-risk children for college, the leaders of Kennedy Charter in Charlotte have landed on a new approach: moving the school onto a university campus. Kennedy’s high school students began classes last week in a building tucked onto the campus of Johnson C. Smith University. Kindergarten through eighth-grade classes will soon follow, when a new building finishes construction nearby. The move marks a new chapter for a charter school created in 1998 to serve students moving through the foster care system. … Kennedy Charter is affiliated with Elon Homes and Schools for Children, a nonprofit that originally started as an orphanage in 1907 and is now one of the largest foster care programs in the region. The organization first explored a school to serve the students it oversaw in the mid-1990s. …

It’s Time To Respond to Populist Opposition

Source: Robert W. Poole, Jr., Public Works Financing, Vol. 295, July/August 2014
(subscription required)

In April the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard published a five-page cover story called “HOT and Bothered,” which characterized the express toll lanes project on the Capital Beltway (I-495) as “another nightmare from the suburbs-hating traffic planners.” The article grossly misrepresented how this Fluor/Transurban toll concession project came about, and also attacked the principle of express toll lanes as horribly elitist: the cover illustration showed an overhead sign separating traffic into “Express Lanes” and “Riff-Raff.”…

The case against school vouchers in one blistering court ruling

Source: Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2014

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.”

Related:
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….

Department of Health and Human Services-Division of Medical Assistance-Medicaid Provider Eligibility

Source: Beth A. Wood, State Auditor of North Carolina, August 2014

Background:
All individuals or organizations (providers) who deliver health services or goods to Medicaid recipients must apply through an application process. The application review process investigates the providers’ past and verifies all licenses and credentials. Without approval, the providers cannot receive Medicaid payments for provided services.

The screening and enrollment of Medicaid providers is required by federal laws and regulations implemented to help prevent fraud, waste and abuse. Federal laws instruct the states on screening providers based on categories of risk for fraud and abuse. High risk providers receive the highest level of scrutiny.

Federal laws do not set standards or criteria to determine a provider’s enrollment qualifications. That decision is left to the state Medicaid agency.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Medical Assistance (Division) is responsible for setting qualification requirements and enrolling providers. Within the Division, the Provider Relations Section is directly responsible for ensuring that approved Medicaid providers meet qualification requirements.

The Division outsources the application review process to Computer Sciences Corporation, Inc. (Contractor). The Office of Medicaid Management Information Systems Services oversees the contract with the Contractor. The portion of the contract that covers provider enrollment accounted for $4.6 million in fiscal year 2012 and $5.3 million in fiscal year 2013.

The provider enrollment process is the first step in program integrity efforts to help prevent fraud and abuse in North Carolina’s Medicaid Program. Currently, Medicaid spends about $13.5 billion annually in federal and state funds.

Report Summary:
The results of our audit disclosed deficiencies in internal control that are considered reportable under Government Auditing Standards. Specifically, the Division did not have adequate documentation and evidence to support approving 65% of higher risk providers during calendar year 2012. In addition, the Division’s Contractor’s enrollment review procedures allowed a 30% error rate in performing and documenting mandatory verification checks. These deficiencies in the Medicaid Provider enrollment process increase the risk of unqualified providers participating in the Medicaid Program. Further, the contract for provider enrollment lacks adequate performance measures to hold the Contractor accountable for processing applications accurately and reliably. The Department of Health and Human Services generally agreed with our findings and recommendations, however, an auditor’s response was necessary to clarify certain statements in the Department’s response. Details about each item are provided in the Audit Findings, Recommendations and Responses section of the report.

Key Findings:
• Deficiencies in the enrollment process increase the risk of unqualified providers participating in the Medicaid Program.
• Documentation to support higher risk provider applications is often not available or insufficient to support the application approval.
• The Contractor’s enrollment review procedures do not provide reasonable assurance that only qualified providers are approved to participate in the NC Medicaid program.
• The Contractor does not always have evidence to support that mandatory verification checks were completed.
• Quality assurance reviews were not conducted or were ineffective.
• Contract lacks adequate performance measures to hold the Contractor accountable for processing applications accurately and reliably.

New NC Senate bill shields salaries of for-profit charter school staff

Source: Ann Doss Helms, charlotteobserver.com, July 25, 2014

Tensions rise over NC charter school rejections Charter freedom doesn’t mean higher teacher pay Conflict over disclosure of charter-school salaries flared anew Thursday as House Democrats said a Senate-approved bill shields for-profit management companies from revealing who they hire and how much they pay….
Related:
State official: Disclose charter salaries or face penalty
Source: Ann Doss Helms, charlotteobserver.com, April 24, 2014

North Carolina’s top charter official warned schools Thursday that they could lose their charters, which authorize them to get public money, if they refuse to comply with public records requests for salaries. …. The Observer, which has long published salaries from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other public bodies, requested the charter school salaries in March. So far seven schools have provided all the information requested and four have provided salaries but withheld some or all employee names. Nine have not responded or say they are still reviewing the request.

Editorial: Charter schools: Public funding, public record
Source: Times News, April 24, 2014

It’s disappointing that officials of some N.C. charter schools are trying to evade full disclosure of who gets paid what at the schools. Charters are “public” schools and should be subject to the same transparency requirements as all other public schools. It’s the right thing to do. Apparently at least a few state leaders get that. Two in Mecklenburg County told the Charlotte Observer so and we agree. Republican State Rep. Charles Jeter and State Sen. Jeff Tarte stepped to the plate and do have more than a little skin in the game. Jeter, who has children at Pine Lake Preparatory charter school told the Observer, “You can’t pick and choose when it’s convenient (for disclosure). If they (charter schools) want to play in that arena, they need to play by public law.” …

In North Carolina, school resegregation by charter?
Source: Sue Sturgis, Institute for Southern Studies, January 25, 2013

North Carolina could soon see a dramatic increase in the number of charter schools, with as many as 150 of the public-private hybrids opening across the state next year. But new research from Duke University suggests the charter school boom will result in greater racial imbalance in the state’s public education system — and that can have negative educational consequences for students….An authoritative 2009 study by Stanford University researchers found that 37 percent of charter school students showed poorer academic gains than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Only 17 percent of charter school students experienced academic gains that were significantly better than their traditional public school students, while 46 percent showed no difference….

…Last week, researchers at Duke University in Durham, N.C. released an update of their earlier study on racial and economic disparities in the state’s public school system. They found that the racial balance in North Carolina’s public schools has remained steady over the past seven years, ending the previous decade’s trend of growing racial disparity.

However, they also found that charter schools are much more likely than traditional public schools to be racially unbalanced. According to a an announcement about the study from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy:

“Whereas 30 percent of regular public school students attended a racially unbalanced school (one with less than 20 percent or more than 80 percent minority enrollment), more than 60 percent of charter school students attended a racially unbalanced school.”…

Woman sentenced for paying man to damage Pamlico County water system

Source: WCTI, May 13, 2014

A Pamlico County woman has been sentenced for paying someone to vandalize county water pipes that she was hired to repair. A New Bern judge sentenced 52-year-old Judy Hardison, of Alliance, Tuesday morning to between 10 and 14 years in prison, plus 12 months of post-release supervision, District Attorney Scott Thomas told NewsChannel 12. In addition, Hardison agreed to pay $40,000 in restitution. Hardison was the operator of Triple H Construction, which Pamlico County hired to repair the county’s water system. But Hardison paid Rodney Lynn Brame to damage several pipes in the county so her company could repair them, according to the Pamlico County Sheriff’s Office. Hardison’s company would then fix the damaged pipes at nights, on weekends and on holidays so it could charge more for the repairs….
Related:
Deputies: Pamlico County contractor conspired to break water pipes on purpose/ Repairs cost county $41K, deputies say
Source: WXII, December 18, 2012
A contractor Pamlico County hired to fix water pipes was arrested on suspicion of hiring someone to deliberately break the pipes and charge the county even more for repairs. Judy Hardison, of Alliance, was charged with six counts of felony damaging a water system and one count of obtaining property by false pretense. Pamlico County deputies accused Hardison of paying Rodney Lynn Brame to damage pipes so that repairs would be made after hours, on holidays or on weekends. The contractor could charge more for the work since it took place after hours, deputies said. The county spent nearly $41,000 to repair the broken pipes, deputies said….

Financial advisor recommends against divesting TVA

Source: Robert Varela, Public Power Daily, June 9, 2014

An independent strategic review by an financial advisory firm, Lazard, Frères & Co. LLC, has recommended that the federal government not divest the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA said it is pleased the report “supports TVA’s financial and operational plan.” The utility engaged Lazard to assist in analyzing financial data for the Obama administration’s strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, including the possible divestiture of the utility. The Lazard report “concluded that the business model with TVA’s financial and operational plan is the best current option for the citizens of the [Tennessee] Valley and others,” TVA noted….The high level of complexity associated with a possible divestiture “would likely lead to a costly, multi-year process to execute any such strategy, during which time TVA would experience organizational disruption and which would result in an uncertain outcome,” the report said. The complex network of TVA stakeholders would add to the difficulty of divesting TVA “in a manner that creates value for all parties,” Lazard said. …TVA released the Lazard report on June 4 as part of a mandatory Form 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 8-K document is available on the TVA website.
Related:
Study findings: TVA should not be sold; analysts reject Obama’s call to privatize utility
Source: Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, June 5, 2014

Selling TVA wouldn’t yield much for American taxpayers, but it could prove costly for Tennessee Valley residents and the region’s economy and environment, according to an outside financial review of America’s biggest government utility. In $1 million study prepared for White House budget planners, Lazard Freres & Co. said if TVA had to earn the financial returns of private utilities, electricity rates would jump by 13 percent. At the same time, dismantling its power and nonpower programs could hurt TVA’s recreation, economic development and environmental programs.

Unions fear a ‘New Deal’ sell-off
Source: Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, March 11, 2014

Labor unions are going on the attack against a proposal buried deep in President Obama’s budget that they charge is a move to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority …. But while the utility is now self-financing, the government could pocket a hefty profit by selling its stake. Obama proposed studying that option in his last two budgets, angering a trio of major labor unions that have thousands of members at TVA facilities. …… In this year’s budget, the administration said it “continues to believe that reducing or eliminating the federal government’s role in programs such as the TVA, which have achieved their original objectives, can help mitigate risk to taxpayers.” That language was included over the strenuous objections of labor unions, which approved a resolution at the AFL-CIO convention in September urging Washington to reject all efforts to privatize the TVA.

TVA to meet with budget officials over privatization
Source: Eric Snyder, Nashville Business Journal, May 20, 2013

Executives with the Tennessee Valley Authority will meet with officials from President Obama’s administration this week to discuss privatization of the utility, WPLN 90.3 FM reports. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the groups to discuss a possible sale of TVA since the idea was floated in Obama’s budget proposal earlier this year.

Shocker: Republicans Fight Obama Plan to Privatize the Hugely Popular, Cheap Energy Source of the TVA
Source:Gar Alperovitz, Thomas Hanna, AlterNet, May 19, 2013

US electricity giant rejects privatisation plan
Source: Ed Crooks and Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Financial Times, April 29, 2013
(subscription required)

The head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the US government-owned electric company and a pillar of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, has rejected an Obama administration plan to explore privatisation….But in an interview with the Financial Times, Bill Johnson, who took over as chief executive of the TVA in January, said the authority “isn’t broke” and could fund the investment it needed while staying in the public sector. His comments reflect an upsurge of support, led by typically pro-privatisation Republicans from Tennessee, for retaining government ownership of one of the largest electricity companies in the US…

Politics can obscure history’s reasons
Source: Edward Lotterman, Bismark Tribune, April 28, 2013

If you like irony, the kerfluffle about the Obama administration’s proposal to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority provides plenty… Stalwart congressional Republicans like Richard Shelby of Alabama and Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who are all for small government, free enterprise, and lowering the national debt are decrying this move…

So why are GOP congressmen from the region now all opposed to its sale?

The simplest answer is that under private ownership, without an implicit federal guarantee of its debts and faced with the same requirements to pay state and federal taxes as any other private corporation, electricity rates would go up and TVA employment would go down. That would be politically unpopular. It is a case of “I’m against big government except when big government benefits me and my constituents.” Cynics may say that it also reflects the fact that the guiding principle for the GOP right now is “whatever Obama is for, we are against.”…

The Tennessee Valley Authority: Dammed if you don’t / Barack Obama mulls privatising America’s biggest public utility

Source: Economist, April 27th 2013

Eighty years ago Franklin Roosevelt signed a law creating America’s biggest public utility. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was charged with delivering cheap hydropower to the rural South, which it did by damming the Tennessee river (see map)…. Privatising the TVA would end the perception of an implicit federal debt guarantee. (A similar implicit guarantee for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage-financiers, ended up costing taxpayers untold billions.) Divestiture would also free the TVA to raise more capital than the $30 billion debt cap allows—though, as the bond spike earlier this month hinted, it would probably pay steeper interest rates….

Role reversal: GOP attacks Obama plan to sell Tennessee Valley Authority, icon of New Deal
Source: Matthew Daly, Associated Press, April 16, 2013

North Carolina awards $3 million contract to fix Medicaid

Source: Joseph Neff, Charlotte Observer, February 7, 2014

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services late Friday announced a $3 million sole source contract for a Washington, D.C.-area consulting firm to fix the problems in the state’s troubled $13 billion Medicaid program. Alvarez & Marsal will help the department with virtually every aspect of management: contracting, setting Medicaid rates, auditing, budgeting and managing information technology and privacy concerns. …. Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos also announced a half-million-dollar sole-source contract with the consulting firm Navigant to improve the department’s ability to detect fraud and aberrant billing. Wos has been criticized for previous sole-source, or no-bid, contracts: a $312,000 annual contract for former State Auditor Les Merritt, and another worth $310,000 a year for Joe Hauck, a vice president at the firm owned by Wos’ husband….

Related:
Medicaid providers can access NC system again
Source: Associated Press, February 5, 2014

The web portal that doctors, hospitals and medical providers use to access North Carolina’s new Medicaid billing system is accepting claims again after being down for more than 18 hours. The outside vendor that built and operates the NC Tracks system says it came back online early Wednesday morning. It shut down about 8 a.m. Tuesday. It was the first significant outage for NC Tracks since it was turned on July 1. Computer Sciences Corp. attributed the cause of the outage to a hardware failure in a network switch. The delay is not expected to delay the next batch of reimbursement payments to providers but it did lead to longer wait times at NC Tracks call center Wednesday.

Doctors sue NC over Medicaid billing system
Source: Lynn Bonner, News & Observer, January 16, 2014

Doctors are suing the state, a software vendor and consultants over the troubled Medicaid claims system, saying that complications and errors resulted in financial losses and harm to patients. The medical practices are suing the state Department of Health and Human Services, Computer Sciences Corp., which built and is operating the system, SLI Global Solutions, a company hired to test the software, and Maximus Consulting Services, which provided independent reviews. Seven medical practices filed the suit Thursday in Wake County Superior Court. They ask to be certified as a class, saying a majority of the state’s 70,000 Medicaid providers suffered damages that should be recovered. NC Tracks’ flaws have been chronicled in state audits, news reports and medical workers’ comments at legislative hearings. The NC Tracks system was trouble almost as soon as the state started using it on July 1. …. Last month, a group of doctors sued the department and a software vendor over the failure of NC Tracks to pay claims. In December, the agency put the privacy of 48,752 children at risk by mailing Medicaid insurance cards – which include their names, dates of birth and Medicaid identification numbers – to the wrong addresses. ….

Mayor Cannon’s parking firm says it will correct tax errors

Source: Steve Harrison, Charlotte Observer, January 13, 2014

Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s parking management company, E-Z Parking, says it will change how it pays its city taxes after the Observer questioned why the company incorrectly filed business licenses on the roughly 20 lots and decks it manages. A parking management company is required to pay a Business Privilege License tax annually on each lot or deck it operates. But E-Z Parking has licenses only for its headquarters and two decks in the past year and hasn’t obtained separate licenses on all of its decks or lots for several years, according to a review of county tax records. Cannon, the chief executive, and Jeff Feemster, the chief operating officer, said E-Z Parking wasn’t aware it needed individual licenses for each lot or deck. But both men said the company has paid its taxes on all of its revenue, and they said they are certain they don’t owe the city of Charlotte any money. Ultimately, they say, the company’s only error is the technicality of not obtaining a license for every lot. …

Democrats blame big business for botched rollout

Source: Anna Palmer and Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico, January 9, 2014
 
Democrats taking heat back home for Obamacare’s rocky online rollout say don’t blame them — blame Big Business.  Facing an onslaught of constituent frustration over problems with online exchanges, several Democrats have started pointing fingers at the companies and senior executives in their home states that have contracts to get the health care websites up and running.   ….   Case in point: Sen. Jeff Merkley.  The Oregon Democrat called out software developer Oracle and its president and Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz by name in town hall meetings and to local media over the Christmas recess. He said they’re responsible for the state’s “Cover Oregon” website problems. …. Putting the blame on contractors comes as Democrats are increasingly on the defensive in their home states over the law’s botched rollout. … In North Carolina, Hagan, who faces one of the Senate’s toughest reelection races, has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the HealthCare.gov rollout, with several pointed questions for the contractors’ roles. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said Wednesday that she is considering suing CGI over its work on the state’s exchange. Gov. Deval Patrick wouldn’t say whether he wants to sue but made it clear that he’s upset with the company. …