Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Aramark's mess in Chicago schools pales in comparison to what they've done in Michigan prisons

Today's Detroit Free Press reports that a fired Aramark prison food worker filed a whistle-blower complaint Wednesday with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging she lost her job for complaining about falsified records and kitchen practices that endangered health and food safety.

McVay alleges she was harassed and retaliated against for complaining about a lack of temperature monitoring in cooking; the serving of raw or undercooked meat; falsified records related to dishwater temperature and cleaning solution quality; the serving of meat that had been dropped on the floor; changing the dates on stored leftover food so it could be served after its throw-away date; suspected inflating of the count of meals served — part of the basis for which Aramark is paid by the state — among other issues.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's privatization of school janitorial services, handing them over to Aramark and SodexoMagic,  has left schools in a filthy mess with principals and parents (not to mention hundreds of laid-off workers) howling for change. But Aramark's mess at CPS pales in comparison to what they're doing in Michigan's prisons.

Michigan's Tea Party Gov. Rick Snyder, has turned the state into the vanguard of privatization in an attempt to bust the state's unions and fire higher-paid, experienced public employees, including teachers, without due process.

Aramark Correctional Services has had an astonishing record of incompetence in state after state, says MoTown columnist, Jack Lessenberry  In Ohio, there have been several near-riots in prisons after they ran out of food. Florida fired Aramark long ago for contract violations and for boosting their profits by skimping on inmate meals.

Kentucky did the same, after lousy Aramark food service provoked an actual prison riot. Later, an audit discovered what the state said were food quality issues and overbilling.

Ohio editorial writers have been urging that state's governor, the right-wing ideologue John Kasich, to fire Aramark for issues that include maggots in the food, staffing shortages, and running out of food, presumably to maximize profits.

Last December, Aramark (ARMK) began running Michigan’s prison kitchens under a three-year, $145 million privatization deal which eliminated about 370 union jobs and was supposed to make food service more efficient while saving the cash-strapped state millions.

But according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report, privatization hasn’t quite worked out that way.
More than 100 Aramark employees have been fired for alleged misconduct that included sneaking cell phones into prisons, distributing drugs, and having sexual contact with inmates. On Sept. 23 an Aramark worker at an Ionia prison was fired on suspicion that he’d tried to pay one prisoner to beat up another. The next day a worker at a maximum-security prison, also in Ionia, lost her job after corrections officers found a 65-page love letter she wrote to an inmate with whom she was allegedly having an affair.
In August, before the latest revelations, Snyder announced he was appointing Edwin Buss, who has run prison systems in Florida and Indiana, to independently monitor the Aramark contract. Buss’s annual salary of $160,000 will be covered by a $200,000 fine levied on Aramark by the Michigan Department of Corrections following reports of meal shortages and maggots in food served to prisoners. An additional $98,000 fine for infractions that included a dozen instances of “overfamiliarity” between employees and inmates was waived in March.

Detroit News
According to the Detroit News,
When maggots were repeatedly discovered in Aramark prison kitchens over the summer, it was consistently reported that the company previously had paid a $98,000 fine to the state for previous contract infractions. We’ve now learned that was not true. While the fine was levied against Aramark, it was never paid after Corrections director Dan Heyns intervened and told Gov. Rick Snyder’s office he would “tone down [his] attack dogs, delay or cancel any fines.”
Aramark's next big move -- health care. Yikes!

So Mayor Emanuel, what is it you like so much about Aramark? Please tell us.

Friday, October 17, 2014

North Carolina's star charter hustler, Baker Mitchell

His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization and, if all goes well, healthy corporate profits.
ProPublica reporter Marian Wang, lays it all out there on Moyers' blog ("Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits"). She turns over a rock in N.C. and finds another big charter school hustler, a businessman named Baker Mitchell making millions by operating his chain of schools.

Baker Mitchell
People still ask me, how is it possible to make lots of money operating charters? I keep telling them, it's all about vertical integration. Take Mitchell's operation as a case in point.

Wang writes:
The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.
The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.
 Did I mention that Mitchell is part of Koch Bros. and ALEC networks? He also hangs out with conservative kingmaker Art Pope with whom he sits on the board of the John Locke Foundation. It's where he gets his political juice to operate regulation-free.

In Mitchell's defense, he claims his schools produce higher test scores. But they have comparatively low percentages of needy students and focus totally on test prep and rote learning.

Writes Wong:
Mitchell’s schools are also distinguished from public schools by their different tone. Staff and students pledge to avoid errors that arise from “the comfort of popular opinion and custom,” “compromise” and “over-reliance on rational argument.” Students must vow “to be obedient and loyal to those in authority, in my family, in my school, and in my community and country, So long as I shall live.”
The schools also use a rigid instructional approach in which teachers stick to a script and drill students repeatedly through call and response

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sinquefield is doing to Missouri what the Koch Brothers are doing to the entire country

Inside Philanthropy shines a light on hedge-fund school "reformer" Rex Sinquefield of Missouri. He's a major funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and bankrolls the Club for Growth. Despite their off-the-charts right-wing extremist views, Sinquefield and his wife Jeanne are powerful and influential forces for privatization of public space and decision-making and pour millions into the expansion of privately-run charter schools in the state. They are leading the charge against tenure and collective-bargaining rights for teachers.
Central to understanding the couple's education philanthropy is Sinquefield's involvement with the Show Me Institute (SMI), which he cofounded and where he serves as president. The institute aims to make big changes to the state's education system, including ending teacher tenure and enacting vouchers in the form of "tuition tax credits," along with other efforts that critics say would privatize education in the state.  
SMI is a member of American Legislative Council (ALEC), which advances conservative ideas at the state level, and many of the education initiatives that SMI promotes closely track with ALEC proposals, such as parent trigger legislation, which empowers parents to transform a school into a charter if it is performing poorly. The Sinquefields have been a steady funder of SMI, to the tune of around $1 million annually.
The Sinquefield's have also given least $925,000 to, which was organized to attack teacher tenure. Smaller sums have gone to the Missouri Education Reform Roundtable and Howard Fuller's group, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO).  

According to the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now, Sinquefield is doing to Missouri what the Koch Brothers are doing to the entire country. He told The Wall Street Journal in 2012 that his two main interests are "rolling back taxes" and "rescuing education from teachers' unions."

His latest Amendment 3 campaign to take away teachers collective bargaining rights and base teacher pay on student test score, ended in failure last month. 

Sinquefield's racist, off-the-cuff comments have made him an embarrassment even to his right-wing allies. 
"I hope I don't offend anyone," Sinquefield said at a 2012 lecture caught on tape. "There was a published column by a man named Ralph Voss who was a former judge in Missouri," Sinquefield continued, in response to a question about ending teacher tenure. "[Voss] said, ‘A long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got together and said how can we really hurt the African American children permanently? How can we ruin their lives? And what they designed was the public school system.' " 
Sinquefield is also a life trustee of DePaul University.