Archive for December, 2016

Why Is Government Purchasing So Complicated?

Monday, December 19th, 2016

December 19, 2016

 

Why Is Government Purchasing So Complicated?

 

In a recent article Daily News article it was reported as follows. “Shelby County Commissioners hold their third meeting of the month Monday, Dec. 19 – and there could be a fourth, depending on what happens on one of two ordinances that would establish new programs for a larger share of county government contracts for locally owned, minority-owned and women-owned businesses.”

 

The locally owned small-business contracts ordinance establishes that 20 percent of the annual purchases of goods and services by county government will be awarded to locally owned small businesses.

 

A local County official told me the following.

 

The Locally Owned Small Business (LOSB) ordinance was passed in 2007 and established a target of 20% of all purchases to be awarded to LOSB’s. There is a bidding advantage for LOSB’s of 5% for contracts up to $500,000; 3.5% for contracts up to $750,000; 2.5% for contracts up to $1,000,000 and 2% for contracts over $1,000,000.  For large construction projects we normally establish an LOSB percentage requirement.  The ordinance does not address minority or women owned businesses, only LOSB’s. The County official stated that they have met the LOSB target each year. That ordinance appeared on its way to final passage at Monday’s meeting, with a nine-vote, two-thirds majority required.

 

The voting problem comes on the ordinance for minority owned businesses. Are we willing to pay from 2% to 5% extra (or even more) to minority owned businesses to satisfy this principle?

 

When I look at the Shelby County website and at the contract reporting page it does not show the losing bids on competitive contracts nor does it show in single source contracts an explanation of why there is only a single source.  I have no problem with paying up to a 5% extra over a limited period (say 2 years) until the minority firms gets their feet on the ground. But the taxpayers should know the facts of the winning and losing bidders and how much extra it is costing the taxpayers to satisfy this minority purchasing principle.

 

Minority firms need to learn to compete for public and private business but we need to open the purchasing records to the public and to make the process easier for firms to bid on public business without all the red tape and paperwork that it now requires. What do you think?

Is Tenure In Education A Good Thing?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

December 13, 2016

Is Tenure In Education A Good Thing?

 

There was an article yesterday in the CA concerning the question of how to get rid of bad teachers and how the Shelby County School System (SCS) rates. The report is from the Thomas Fordham Institute. Although the SCS system is rated “Difficult” to dismiss an ineffective teacher, it is still much better than the famous “rubber room” teachers of the New York City school system.

Working people who have to make a living in the private business world are faced every day with the truth that their jobs depend on several things, that is their skill level in marketable skills (computers, medicine, electrical, mechanical etc. etc) and the general business environment which is growing or not. Unions were formed and grew when management abused their power and held wages down regardless of skill level. The principle of tenure (job security based on years of service) is a part of the local teachers’ union contract. Management would like to have job security based on a teacher’s skill level. The union therefore wants provisions in their contract that somewhat protects teacher dismissals from something other than a lack of teaching skills.

Now comes along charter schools, private and parochial schools, home schooling and vouchers. All of these alternatives do away with the tenure principle and job security depends on teaching skill level. With the probable increase of charter schools and vouchers under the Trump administration, the future of tenure will be probable.

This change is coming at the K1-12 level. I have always thought that the real abuse of tenure is at the higher university education level. Real reform should come at this level and let those tenured professors, who in many cases go off the rails on political opinions, face the real world job market based on their marketable skills. Maybe then the price of higher education will come down and the outcome of this college education will improve. What are your thoughts?

What Is The Best Way To Educate Little “SHUTUP”

Monday, December 5th, 2016

December 5, 2016

What Is The Best Way To Educate Little “SHUTUP”

Last week I wrote about Betsy DeVos, the possible new  federal Secretary of Education. She favors competition in education by giving parents a choice between public, charter, private or parochial  schools with the education tax money following the student.

I received a number of thoughtful replies some of them heart wrenching.  One person told me about a young child in first grade when asked his name said it was “SHUTUP”.  Apparently this is not an uncommon happening. Another person told me about two 5th grade boys that he mentors from time to time. They both see professional sports as their only future. One of those students has eleven kids in his dad’s family, and nine in his mom’s.

These stories are not uncommon and it points to the basic problem which is the breakdown of the family structure. It takes a family to raise children, not a village. I do not have the answer to restoration of the basic family structure, but the one problem that I think can be solved is to give a choice to those families that still have an existing family structure and let them choose where their children have the best chance to break out of the poverty/crime cycle that exists today.

Now some good news on SCS transparency. I sent an open records request to Superintendant Hopson asking him for data on Shelby county charter schools and the amount of money given to each. I asked that this be sent electronically and they in fact did send it electronically. I have attached it for our readers’ review. I also looked at the 2015 CAFR (comprehensive annual financial report) of the school system and found that there were 109,950 students (charter schools included) and that the amount of money available per student was $11,583 each. The charter school allocation per pupil was $7734 without transportation and $8030 with transportation. The difference obviously is the cost of the school system bureaucracy and possibly the salary and benefits to the administration employees and the meeting of federal and state regulations.

The new school system CAFR for 2016 should be available soon and I will take a look at it and report. In the meantime I would like your thoughts on the various ways forward to improve educational outcomes of our students. Improvement is critical to our future.