Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category

In a state drowning in consulting contracts, what’s one more?

Bobby Jindal is a lame duck governor who long ago set his sights on bigger and better things. He has abdicated every aspect of his office except the salary, free housing and state police security that go with the title. In reality, he has turned the reins of state government over to subordinates who are equally distracted in exploring their own future employment prospects.

His only concerns in almost eight years in office, besides setting himself up to run for President, have been (a) appointing generous campaign donors to positions on state boards and commissions and (b) privatizing state agencies by handing them over to political supporters.

To that end there has been a proliferation of consulting contracts during the Jindal years. The legislative auditor reported in May that there were 19,000 state contracts totaling more than $21 billion.

So as his term enters its final months and as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols has less than a month before moving on to do for Ochsner Health System what she’s done for the state, what’s another $500,000?

LouisianaVoice has learned that Nichols signed off on a $497,000 contract with ComPsych Corp. and its affiliate, FMLASource, Inc. of Chicago, to administer the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program. FMLA CONTRACT

It is no small irony that Nichols signed off on the contract on May 19, less than two weeks after the legislative auditor’s report of May 6 which was highly critical of the manner in which contracts are issued with little or no oversight.

The latest contract removes the responsibility for approving FMLA for state employees and hands it over to yet another private contractor.

Apparently FMLA was just one more thing the Jindal administration has determined state employees are incapable of administering—even though they have done so since the act was approved by Congress in 1993.

Because no state employees stand to lose their jobs over this latest move, the contract would seem to simply be another consulting contract doled out by the administration, obligating the state to more unnecessary expenditures.

Whether it’s farming out the Office of Risk Management, Office of Group Benefits, funding voucher and charter schools, or implementing prison or hospital privatization—it’s obvious that Jindal has been following the game plan of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to the letter. That plan calls for privatizing virtually every facet of state government. If you don’t think the repeated cuts to higher education and health care were calculated moves toward ALEC’s goals, think again.

The contract runs from May 17, 2015 through May 16, 2016, and the state agreed to pay FMLAServices $1.45 per state employee per month up to the yearly maximum of $497,222.

Agencies for which FMLAServices will administer FMLA include the:

  • Division of Administration;
  • Department of Economic Development;
  • Department of Corrections;
  • Department of Public Safety;
  • Office of Juvenile Justice;
  • Department of Health and Hospitals;
  • Department of Children and Family Services;
  • Department of Revenue;
  • Department of Transportation and Development.

The legislative auditor’s report noted that there is really no way of accurately tracking the number or amount of state contracts. STATE CONTRACTS AUDIT REPORT

“As of November 2014, Louisiana had at least 14,693 active contracts totaling approximately $21.3 billion in CFMS. However, CFMS, which is used by OCR to track and monitor Executive Branch agency contract information, does not contain every state contract.

“Although CFMS, which is a part of the Integrated Statewide Information System (ISIS), tracks most contracts, primarily Executive Branch agencies use this system. For example, Louisiana State University obtained its own procurement tracking system within the last year, and most state regulatory boards and commissions do not use CFMS (Contract Financial Management System). As a result, there is no centralized database where legislators and other stakeholders can easily determine the actual number and dollar amount of all state contracts. Therefore, the total number and dollar amount of existing state contracts as of November 2014 could be much higher.”

The audit report also said:

  • State law (R.S. 39:1490) requires that OCR (Office of Contractual Review) adopt rules and regulations for the procurement, management, control, and disposition of all professional, personal, consulting, and social services contracts required by state agencies. According to OCR, it reviews these types of contracts for appropriateness of contract terms and language, signature authorities, evidence of funding and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, executive orders, and policies. OCR also reviews agencies’ procurement processes against competitive solicitation requirements of law. The contracting entity is responsible for justifying the need for the contract and conducting a cost-benefit analysis if required.
  • However, state law does not require that a centralized entity approve all state contracts.
  • According to the CFMS User Guide, OCR is only required to approve seven of the 20 possible contract types in CFMS. The remaining 13 types accounted for 8,068 contracts totaling approximately $6.2 billion as of November 2014. Exhibit 2 lists the 20 types of contracts in
  • CFMS and whether or not OCR is required to approve each type, including the total number and dollar amount of these contracts.
  • In fiscal year 2014, 72 agencies approved 4,599 contracts totaling more than $278 million.

The Office of Contractual Review was since been merged with the Office of State Procurement last Jan. 1.


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We couldn’t resist this one from our favorite cartoonist. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The timing could not have been better—or worse, depending upon your perspective.

But all things considered, Wednesday was a bad day for a certain Louisiana governor flailing away in a doomed quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

If he posed so much as a remote threat against any of his Republican opponents for the Republican presidential nomination, today’s events would surely be used against him in an campaign ad blitz. But he doesn’t and they won’t.

On the one hand, there was the survey released Wednesday (Sept. 24) by 24/7 Wall Street, the service that publishes all sorts of survey results from the best-selling cars to the worst-performing state governments. The latest survey shows Louisiana to be the fifth worst-educated state in the nation.

On the other, there was the story, also on Wednesday, that said Louisiana’s public colleges and universities have been told to “be prudent” with their current budgets—a not-so veiled way of saying get ready for more budget cuts.

The U.S., in case you haven’t been paying attention, has some of the most expensive college educations in the world—and the expenses have risen to record highs, the survey said. In fact, the cost of a college education has increased faster than the rate of inflation—24 percent just since 2012,

Only 22.9 percent of adults in Louisiana hold at least a bachelor’s degree, which ranks 46th in the nation and well below the national average of more than 30 percent. That puts the state two notches behind Alabama’s 23.5 percent and ranked higher than only Kentucky (22.2 percent), Arkansas (21.4 percent), Mississippi (21.1 percent), and West Virginia (19.2 percent). Massachusetts had the highest with 41.2 percent of its adults having attained at least a bachelor’s degree.

In fact, Louisiana ranks just ahead of our next door neighbor in so many surveys that rumor has it there may be a bill introduced in the next legislative session to change the state’s motto from “Union, Justice and Confidence” to “Hey, At Least We Aren’t Mississippi.”

Louisiana had the fourth lowest percentage (83.6 percent) of high school graduates.

Louisiana also ranked seventh lowest with a median household income of $44,555 in 2014 and even those among the 22.9 had the seventh lowest median earnings ($46,903) for bachelor degree holders. Even more depressing is the fact that the median income for holders of bachelor’s degrees managed to pull the overall median average up by less than $2,500 per year.

Nearly one in five Louisianians live below the poverty line, the third highest poverty rate in the nation. This, in a state with three of the 10 busiest ports in the nation (including the busiest, the Port of South Louisiana, and the 4th and 10th busiest, New Orleans and Baton Rouge) and three of the nation’s largest refineries (Marathon in Garyville, Exxon in Baton Rouge, and Citgo in Lake Charles).

Moreover, the state is embarrassingly rich in chemical plants, oil and gas reserves, sulfur, agriculture and seafood. But still we consistently lag behind the rest of the nation in every conceivable measure of progress and prosperity.

And yet, here we are, teetering at the edge of yet another midyear budget shortfall, or as State Treasurer John Kennedy said, “We have hit the trifecta, but not in a good way.” He was talking about the news that we have just learned that we’re going to have to make up for last fiscal year which ended June 30 with a deficit (though Bobby Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols won’t say how much). Together, Kennedy said, the combined shortfalls for last fiscal year and the current year combine to paint a bleak picture for next year as well, as the combined deficit is expected to approach $1 billion.

(Note to Kristy: Don’t let the door hit you on the backside as you exit next month on the way to grab your golden parachute with Ochsner Health System.)

Though the Jindal administration isn’t saying much about the latest crisis (you have to wonder how Bobby will spin this in his fiscal responsibility message on the GOP presidential campaign trail), Kennedy at least doesn’t duck the issue. He estimates it to be more than $100 million.

This budgetary news comes on top of the Medicaid shortfall of more than $300 million, a TOPS fund which is projected to be $19 million short and word that Jindal’s ill-fated hospital privatization plan has hit yet another major setback.

LSU, citing a breach of the public purpose, terminated its cooperative endeavor agreement with the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF) barely two years after the foundation took over operation of two north Louisiana hospitals.

Saying all avenues to resolve differences had been exhausted, LSU President F. King Alexander said that Academic Health of North Louisiana Hospital Management Co., Inc., will take over operation of University Health Shreveport and University Health Conway.

It was so bad for Jindal that he missed a golden opportunity when the Pope spoke to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

When President Obama visited New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina last month, Jindal sent a message asking that the President not talk about climate change when he came here. But when he had the opportunity to offer that same advice to Pope Francis, Jindal, a Roman Catholic, remained mute.

Perhaps he was just too busy traveling around Iowa telling anyone who would listen (that would be Timmy Teepell and Kyle Plotkin) what a great job he has done as governor of Louisiana and how he is uniquely qualified to run the country.

We are reminded of the Winston Churchill quote about Clement Atlee that could be adapted so easily to our governor: An empty taxi pulled up in front of the Iowa caucus and Bobby Jindal got out.

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The next time you see a couple of state troopers escorting Les Miles or Nick Saban at an LSU or Alabama football game, don’t get angry that the coach, surrounded by about 100 beefy football players, feels the need for additional protection from fans. It turns out they’re not there to protect the coaches; they’re there to carry their bulging wallets.

Of the highest paid public employees in each state, 40 are college football and basketball coaches who combined, pull in an eye-popping $129.1 million, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a service that provides research in several areas of business, education, economics and politics.

That’s an average of $3.225 million per year.

The remaining 10 highest paid were mostly in academics, including four college presidents, three state medical school professionals, a nursing supervisor, a commissioner of higher education and an associate professor.

Of the 40 coaches, only six—four football coaches and two basketball coaches—are paid less than $1 million a year and one of those, University of Massachusetts basketball coach Derek Kellogg, receives $994,500 per year.

The 28 football coaches make a combined $95.6 million, an average of $3.41 million per year in salary while the 12 basketball coaches combined to make $33.5 million, an average of $2.79 million annually.

The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban had been the highest-paid football coach at $6.95 million but the University of Michigan is paying first-year coach Jim Harbaugh a whopping $7 million a year. LSU’s Les Miles is paid $4.3 million a year.

For the most part, of course, their salaries are not primarily funded by taxpayers. Generally, their paychecks are underwritten by foundations supported by ticket sales and advertising deals. Harbaugh, for example, receives only $500,000 of his $7 million package from the school.

Still, the disparity in the salaries of coaches and typical state employees is enough to rankle some state employees. At Boise State University, for example, both the football and basketball coaches make a more modest salary of $500,000 but that is still more than 10 times the $40,000 or less earned by more than a third of Idaho state employees.

To counter criticism of the high salaries, some college athletic programs point out that successful coaches can bring a university tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Saban is an example of that. Before he was named head coach at ‘Bama, the school’s athletic program brought in $68 million. In 2013-2014, revenue was $153 million.

Still, critics say that athletic programs at the top tier schools like Alabama, constitute a business and coaches should not receive a cent of public funds in salary.

Which may have prompted the fable of a coach’s retort (and we paraphrase here): “I never saw anyone pay to watch a chemistry class.”

Here is the list of each state’s highest paid public employee:

ALABAMA:                NICK SABAN                FOOTBALL COACH              $6.95 M

ALASKA:                    JAMES JOHNSEN      COLLEGE PRES.                    $325,000

ARIZONA:                  SEAN MILLER            BASKETBALLCOACH          $3.07 M

ARKANSAS                BRET BIELEMA         FOOTBALL COACH              $4 M

CALIFORNIA             JAMES MORA            FOOTBALL COACH              $3.35 M

COLORADO               MIKE MacINTYRE     FOOTBALL COACH              $2.01 M

CONNECTICUT          KEVIN OLLIE             BASKETBALL COACH         $3 M

DELAWARE               EKEOMA WOGU       NURSING SUPERVISOR      $236,156

FLORIDA                    JIMBO FISHER          FOOTBALL COACH              $5 M

GEORGIA                   MARK RICHT             FOOTBALL COACH              $4 M

HAWAII                      NORM CHOW             FOOTBALL COACH              $550,000

IDAHO                        BRYAN HARSIN         FOOTBALL COACH              $800,000

ILLINOIS                    JOHN GROCE             BASKETBALL COACH          $1.7 M

INDIANA                    TOM CREAN              BASKETBALL COACH          $3.05 M

IOWA                          KIRK FERENTZ          FOOTBALL COACH              $4.08 M

KANSAS                     BILL SELF                    BASKETBALL COACH          $4.75 M

KENTUCKY               JOHN CALIPARI        BASKETBALL COACH          $6.01 M

LOUISIANA                LES MILES                  FOOTBALL COACH              $4.3 M

MAINE                        SUSAN HUNTER        COLLEGE PRESIDENT        $250,000

MARYLAND              MARK TURGEON        BASKETBALL COACH          $2.248 M


MICHIGAN                 JIM HARBAUGH        FOOTBALL COACH              $7 M

MINNESOTA              JERRY KILL                  FOOTBALL COACH              $2.5 M

MISSISSIPPI                HUGH FREEZE           FOOTBALL COACH           $4.3 M

MISSOURI                  GERY PINKEL               FOOTBALL COACH           $4.02 M

MONTANA                 CLAY CHRISTIAN     COMM. HIGHER ED              $351,000

NEBRASKA                MIKE RILEY               FOOTBALL COACH              $2.7 M

NEVADA                     KAYVAN KHIABANI   ASSOC. PROFESSOR          $981,475


NEW JERSEY             KYLE FLOOD             FOOTBALL COACH              $1.25 M

NEW MEXICO            BOB DAVIE                FOOTBALL COACH              $772,690

NEW YORK                SHASHIKANT LELE  MED SCH. DEPT. CHAIR    $551,000



OHIO                           URBAN MEYER         FOOTBALL COACH              $5.8 M

OKLAHOMA              BOB STOOPS              FOOTBALL COACH              $5.25 M

OREGON                    MARK HELFRICH      FOOTBALL COACH              $3.15 M


RHODE ISLAND        DAN HURLEY            BASKETBALL COACH          $627,500



TENNESSEE               BUTCH JONES           FOOTBALL COACH              $2.96 M

TEXAS                         CHARLIE STRONG    FOOTBALL COACH              $5.1 M

UTAH              KYLE WHITTINGHAM          FOOTBALL COACH              $2.6 M

VERMONT                  TOM SULLIVAN        COLLEGE PRES.                    $429,093

VIRGINIA                   FRANK BEAMER       FOOTBALL COACH              $2.42 M

WASHINGTON           MIKE LEACH             FOOTBALL COACH              $2.75 M


WISCONSIN               BO RYAN                   BASKETBALL COACH          $2.75 M

WYOMING                 CRAIG BOHL             FOOTBALL COACH              $832,000



50 TOTAL COACHES:                     $129.1 MILLION ($3.225 MILLION AVERAGE)

10 ACADEMIC, OTHER:                 $4.72 MILLION ($472,000 AVERAGE)

TOTAL:                                              $133.73 MILLION ($2.67 MILLION)

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Folks, if you don’t read anything else today, please read Bob Mann’s post. It should strike a chord with every person in Louisiana who struggles to make his or life a little better. It will break the hearts of teachers who see the effects that abject poverty has on children’s ability to learn. It will resonate with those who are unable to afford health care. It should infuriate those forced to pay higher tuition at our colleges and universities because the politicians can’t seem to find the funds to support higher education.

But it will clang with an empty thud with those who want to absolve themselves of any responsibility, who fail to see society’s problems as their own and who, instead of striving to find solutions, choose only to blame the federal bureaucracy in a sweeping dismissal of the ills that afflict us all—economically, physically, emotionally, and morally.

A survey released on Thursday (Sept. 17) shows that Louisiana is the 8th poorest state in the nation. With the abundance of natural resources that we have in this state, that should never be. It should an extreme embarrassment to our leaders, especially one so oblivious as to believe he is presidential timber. Here is the link to that survey: http://247wallst.com/special-report/2015/09/17/richest-and-poorest-states/?utm_source=247WallStDailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=SEP172015A&utm_campaign=DailyNewsletter

Bob Mann has said the things that I have wished a thousand times for the skill and the proficiency to articulate. Go here to read today’s post:


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“Danger, Will Robinson!”

Okay, for those of you not old enough to remember the ‘60s, that’s the catchphrase from the old CBS series Lost in Space.

But the warning might just as well be applicable for patients of Ochsner Health System come Oct. 15.

That’s the date Kristy Nichols will be leaving as Bobby Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration to become Ochsner’s Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs (read lobbyist). That was something of a surprise in that the smart money had her going to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana.

Even as Jindal was sending out an email blast informing all three of his Louisiana supporters that he had just landed in California for the Republican debate and that he was “fired up” (yes, he actually said that; we’re so lucky to be on his email list), Nichols was announcing her resignation.

In her own email sent to all Division of Administration (DOA) employees on Tuesday, Nichols said she will be helping Ochsner “to strategically manage their growth as a healthcare provider.”

In other words (well, not in other words; as Oscar Madison said to Felix Unger in The Odd Couple: “Those are the words”), she will be doing for Ochsner what she and her boss did for the state during her three-year reign.

There were some other classic quotes contained in Kristy’s email as well as the official announcement from Jindal’s office. “I believe that our accomplishments will provide lasting benefits for generations to come,” she said.

Well, the effects of her tenure will be felt for generations to come but to shoehorn the word “benefits” into that statement must’ve taken a bit of imagination on someone’s part.

“I am proud of the work that we have accomplished in making Louisiana a better place to live and raise a family, and I am confident that we will continue down this path going forward,” she added.

The amazing thing is she apparently said that with a straight face. In our upcoming book about Jindal, an entire chapter is devoted to why Louisiana is not a better place to live and raise a family. (A hint: there are nearly three dozen categories in which Louisiana ranks as the worst or near the worst in the nation—hardly a ringing endorsement of the claim of “a better place to live.”)

But for sheer brass cajones, the trophy has to go to Jindal who, in heaping praise on Nichols, said she has “fully dedicated herself to bettering the state of Louisiana,” and “Together, we’ve been able to reduce the size of government, improve health care across the state, and create a better, stronger Louisiana.”

No wonder the boy continues to languish at less than 1 percent in the Republican sweepstakes. Bobby, you may want to check out the 9th Commandment. That improved health care claim is a damned lie. There’s no other way to say it than to say our “Christian” governor is a damned liar. He knows it and we know it.

And as the state, barely two months into the current fiscal year, is already cutting $4.6 million in spending ($3.8 million of which fell on higher education), instead of sticking around to try to solve the mess, she bails. (But then again, we’ve had three years of her problem-solving and we know what that accomplished.)

Just as we learn that the TOPS free college tuition program will fall $19 million short, she lights a shuck.

Even as the projected budgetary shortfall for next year is already more than $700 million, she cuts and runs.

Most important, considering where she’s headed, the Legislative Fiscal Office informs us that Kristy’s office failed to account for $335 million in increased spending anticipated by the Department of Health and Hospitals. So, naturally, she’s going to work for Ochsner to (and we can’t repeat this often enough) do for them what she’s done for the state.

God help us but most of all, God help Ochsner, heretofore a premier provider of health care for residents of South Louisiana.

This is the individual who once said her job was to make Bobby Jindal look good. Well, we all know how that turned out.

She is the same one who commissioned an employee satisfaction/efficiency study only to find the results so devastating that she tried to keep them from becoming public. (Sorry to rain on your parade, Kristy, but it was leaked to LouisianaVoice which posted the results last October and which showed severe morale problems within DOA) http://louisianavoice.com/2014/10/02/employee-survey-of-doa-employees-reveals-simmering-morale-problem-no-one-more-popular-than-jindal-in-poll/

Then, after we ran the story, she set out on a crusade to find the leak and ended up punishing the wrong employees in the wrong agency. (How’s that for being proactive in addressing the problem of poor morale?)

She’s the same person who hired Alvarez & Marsal at $5 million and then promptly amended the contract (illegally) to $7.5 million for the company to find ways for the state to save $500 million. The 50 percent amendment was in violation of provisions that allow only a 10 percent maximum increase in contract amounts without legislative concurrence.

She’s the same one who orchestrated the Office of Group benefits debacle which raised premiums and lowered benefits for state employees, retirees, and dependents last year. That was after the state lowered premiums as a furtive means of lessening the state’s contribution obligations so that she and Jindal could use the extra money to patch over gaping budget holes—a tactic that depleted OGB’s reserve fund from $500 million to virtually nothing.

Kristy is the same one who has presided over budget disaster after budget disaster her entire tenure with this year’s patchwork effort barely lasting until legislators hit the door of the State Capitol to head back to their districts. Now, as higher education is facing even more budget cuts after the problem was supposed fixed, she smugly expressed confidence that the funds would be restored “if income forecasts improve.” She said she was “hopeful” about that possibility. http://neworleanscitybusiness.com/blog/2015/08/28/analysis-holes-and-worries-emerge-in-louisianas-budget/

And of course, we are all hopeful that we have the winning Power Ball ticket which would improve our own income forecasts.

And just last Friday (Sept. 11) a glowing press release was issued by DOA lauding the $75 million savings in the first year of the Office of Technology Services consolidation. http://www.doa.la.gov/comm/PressReleases/Consolidated%20Office%20of%20Technology%20Services%20Saves%20$75%20Million%20in%20First%20Year,%2009-10-15.pdf.

The only problem: the release was just one more in a long line of blatant lies designed to make the administration look good. And to be completely candid, it takes some real whoppers to do that.

Senate Bill 481 by State Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) created the Office of Technology Services (OTS) and was signed into law by Jindal as Act 712 of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session as part of an effort to consolidate information technology (IT) services across state agencies.

At the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), for example, the IT budget has not been reduced and in fact, may have been increased, according to sources within DOTD.

DOTD is paying for things under the consolidation that it has never had to pay for before, such as paying DOA to house the servers and mainframe (previously housed in-house at DOTD facility). DOTD is also paying more to DOA for services such as the LaGOV Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP),    the state’s data warehouse which provides “end-to-end” support for statewide and agency-specific administrative business processes.

Moreover, DOA has not allowed DOTD to purchase new equipment (which was budgeted) for the last three years. As much as 40 percent of DOTD computer equipment is six years or older, making it difficult to design roads and bridges with modern software.

So, while some savings may have been achieved by other departments and some general fund money saved (of which DOTD uses none), DODT Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) money is not being saved.

And while some savings might be realized in the future, in the short term it is most likely paper savings.

All these attributes are what Kristy Nichols will take with her to Ochsner.

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