Thursday, August 1, 2013

Florida schools chief quits over outsourcing scandal in Indiana

The former Indiana school superintendent caught changing the grade of a wealthy political donor's charter school today quit his job as education commissioner in Florida.

The Associated Press reports:
Tony Bennett announced his immediate resignation at a news conference, saying that he while he did nothing wrong he didn’t want to be a distraction to Gov. Rick Scott’s efforts to overhaul Florida’s education system. Emails published by The Associated Press this week show that Bennett and his Indiana staff scrambled last fall to ensure Christel DeHaan’s school received an A, despite poor 10th-grade algebra scores that initially earned it a C.
Bennett, it turns out, also outsourced Indiana public education to a firm that now -- surprise! -- employs his wife. Matthew Tully at the Indianapolis Star tells us:
Charter Schools USA earlier this year hired Tony Bennett’s wife, Tina, as a regional director based in Florida, where Tony Bennett was hired late last year as commissioner of education. And, so, the bottom line is this: Tina Bennett is now earning a paycheck from the company her husband hand-picked to take over schools in Indiana, a decision that was very good for the company’s financial fortunes.
This is what you get when you outsource services that belong to the government: corruption and control by Wall Street..

This is what else you get: A vast army of the working poor who rely on food stamps, Medicaid and heating aid just to survive. Private prisons that are dangerous to the community and barbaric hellholes for the inmates. And you get the military supporting al-Qaeda sympathizers in Afghanistan.

We're not kidding. Bloomberg reports,
Supporters of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have been getting U.S. military contracts, and American officials are citing “due process rights” as a reason not to cancel the agreements, according to an independent agency monitoring spending. 
The U.S. Army Suspension and Debarment Office has declined to act in 43 such cases, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said today in a letter accompanying a quarterly report to Congress. 
“I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract,” Sopko said.
We've learned about that army of the working poor from the National Employment Law Project, which recently released a study that reported on government jobs outsourced to private contractors:
...many of the roughly 2 million federal contract workers—whose jobs range from manufacturing military uniforms to serving fast food to driving port trucks—have been excluded from coverage. Roughly a fifth of these workers live in poverty; two-fifths earn less than a living wage. And employers with a track record of violating labor laws easily obtain contacts and renewals. 
As federal contracting has increased—now accounting for more than a half trillion dollars a year and more than two-fifths of all federal employees—enforcement of standards appears to have lagged. As contracts go to the lowest bidder, who often offers the lowest wages, more and more of these employees rely heavily on government programs from Medicaid to food stamps to survive.
And here's the latest on outsourced prisons:
Walnut Grove juvenile detention center in Malone, Miss., was run by GEO Group, the private prison company in Florida that wanted to take over nearly half of the state's prisons last year. (They failed.) 
The state finally took control of Walnut Grove back from GEO Group in 2012, fed up with its dangerous and derelict care. Bloomberg reports,
Staff shortages, mismanagement and lax oversight had long turned it into a cauldron of violence, where female employees had sex with inmates, pitted them against each other, gave them weapons and joined their gangs, according to court records, interviews and a U.S. Justice Department report.
Makes you think twice about outsourcing. (If you haven't already.)