higher education

Haslam lauds legislature for passing latest free tuition expansion

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today thanked the General Assembly for its partnership in making Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school graduates and adults – the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees and at no cost to taxpayers.

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New outsourcing contract gives JLL a bonus if cost-cutting exceeds expectations

Jones Lang LaSalle’s new contract potentially covers work now performed by about 3,000 state employees who are supposed to keep their positions though the pact gives the company a financial incentive to cut costs as much as possible, reports the Nashville Post.

The contract doesn’t specify an actual number the state will be paying JLL to pay other subcontractors for custodial, landscaping and maintenance work at state universities and agencies across Tennessee, as that will depend on how many campuses opt in or out of the contract. And how much JLL will get paid will also depend on the company meeting benchmark goals and customer satisfaction metrics.

However, the contract also includes a clause that awards JLL 10 percent of any cost savings above and beyond its projected baseline savings in the first year. After that, the percentage decreases each year by one percent, down to 1 percent of savings awards in year 10 of the contract. (The five-year contract has the option of being expanded another five years before the state would have to rebid it.)

…”That’s to reduce operational costs. If you look, it specifically prohibits a reduction in force, period. They cannot reduce the force,” said Mike Perry, the state’s chief procurement officer, during a press conference Thursday.

Yet the terms of the contract include multiple loopholes as to who can be considered “transition employees” and continue on with the subcontractors JLL will hire. Employees must have worked for the state for over 6 months at 30 hours a week or more and be considered to “provide services selected to be performed by the Contractor at a minimum of” 51 percent of their job duties. They must pass whatever background checks JLL deems necessary, along with a drug test. Currently the state does not require either for the majority of its positions.

…Even if employees do pass all the required checks, there’s still no guarantee they’ll be offered the same job, at the same campus. The contract only requires a position be offered in a 50 mile radius. Rehired employees are supposed to be given equitable compensation, but in JLL’s own bid proposal, it admits that an employee with a family of four would have their health insurance premiums double and the out-of-pocket max increase by $2,150. Meanwhile, paid time off will decrease. (A single employee’s health insurance costs will go down, the proposal says.) An employee would ostensibly be paid more to make up for the higher health insurance costs and lack of vacation time, but Perry admitted he had no idea how this would work in practice as far as taxes go.

Note: The post has a copy of the contract posted HERE.

Haslam helps Rhode Island gov pitch free tuition plan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s Democratic governor has invited a Republican counterpart to help make the case for her plan to provide free tuition for two years at public colleges.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam talked with Rhode Island business leaders on a conference call Thursday.

Tennessee three years ago became the first state to make community college tuition-free for new high school graduates, and is considering an expansion to include older adults. Raimondo’s plan would go further, including not just community colleges but the last two years at four-year institutions. She says it’s a workforce development initiative.

Further from Rhode Island Public Radio

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House panel spurns in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants

By a one-vote margin, a  House committee today shot down legislation that would grant in-state college tuition rates to undocumented students who have graduated from Tennessee high schools. Seven members of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee members voted against HB660; six for it.

A similar bill passed the Senate last year but failed on the House floor by one vote.

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Sex Week at UT-Knoxville — different this year?

The University of Tennessee’s controversial Sex Week, which got underway Sunday, may have started as a way to address sexual assaults on campus and more traditional issues around sexuality, but this year the event is tackling an even broader range of issues, reports the News Sentinel.

A somewhat contrasting report of the Sex Week events is offered by Tennessee Star. Excerpts from both follow.

From the KNS:

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JLL wins higher education privatization contract

Chicago-based real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle is the winning bidder of a potentially massive government outsourcing contract that could put facilities of all Tennessee higher education buildings under private management, according to the Times-Free Press.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration made the decision public to bidders on Tuesday.

Haslam press secretary Jennifer Donnals said in a statement the facilities management plan “is part of a two-year process. Our job is to provide the very best service for the very lowest cost to taxpayers.”

Donnals said “individual campuses will make their own determination whether to participate in this proposal or not. If they do participate, the proposed contract will protect the livelihoods of current facilities management employees. This is another tool for campuses to keep their costs low while providing high-quality service.”

Jones Lang LaSalle already manages a large number of general state government buildings under a process that generated enormous amounts of criticism from some lawmakers, as well as critical findings in an audit last year by state Comptroller Justin Wilson.

…JLL won the bid over Aramark and Compass Group, which also submitted proposals. All three companies were among an undisclosed number involved in a secretive process in which potential vendors were allowed to have input on how the contract would be shaped.

But the contract is not yet final. JLL and the Haslam administration will have to negotiate final price details before the five-year contract is signed.

According to the proposal, JLL plans to subcontract with Birmingham-based Diversified Maintenance for janitorial and housekeeping services, and with Pennsylvania-based BrightView Landscapes for groundskeeping and landscaping.

Gardenhire clash with talk show host depicted as ‘melt down’

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire “had a live on-air melt down” – as Tennessee Star describes it — during an interview with Nashville conservative talk show host Ralph Bristol when questioned about his bill to let the children of illegal immigrants living in Tennessee get in-state college tuition.

The bill (SB1014) is similar to one approved last year by the Senate, only to fall a couple of votes short on the House floor. This year, it cleared  the Senate Education Committee on a 7-2 vote last week and this week is scheduled for a vote in the House Education and Administration Subcommittee.

Tennessee Star, a recently-launched website with a right-wing orientation, has a fairly lengthy excerpt of the Bristol-Gardenhire exchange – and a link to the audio.

Is it fair, Bristol asked, to allow illegal immigrant students who are not American citizens to pay the much lower in-state tuition to attend Tennessee’s public colleges and universities when American citizens who reside in other states are required to pay the much higher out-of-state tuition.

…(A brief excerpt from the excerpt follows)

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Chattanooga NPR reporter fired after legislator complaints

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has fired a reporter at WUTC, a National Public Radio affiliate, after state legislators complained about her reporting on the so-called transgender bathroom bill, reports the Times-Free Press.

Jacqui Helbert, 32, followed a group of Cleveland High School students as they traveled to the state capital March 7 to meet with Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, about the legislation. They were advocating against the measure, which subsequently failed in a Senate committee.

(Note: The text of the offending story HERE. Much of it concerns a confrontation with Bell.)

The legislators say Helbert failed to properly identify herself as a reporter during meetings with the students. Helbert says it was “glaringly obvious” that she was, though she did not specifically say so, since she was wearing headphones, carried a 22-inch microphone and had an NPR press pass hung around her neck.

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Boyd’s community college campaigning prompts Regents political policy review

Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd’s campaign appearances at two Board of Regents schools – The Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Memphis and Northeast State Community College in Blountville – has prompted a review of Board of Regent policies on campaign events, reports the Associated Press.

Boyd was a key adviser in the creation of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program to cover full tuition at two-year schools. The Knoxville businessman and philanthropist said in Nashville this week that “a lot of my life’s work has been helping kids get into these technical colleges.”

But the campaign stops at the schools in Memphis and Blountville appear to run up against a state law that bans the use of public buildings or facilities for campaign activity — unless all candidates are given the same access.

The head of the Tennessee Board of Regents is considering an overhaul of policies on political campaigning in response to the Boyd rallies on two of the system’s campuses.

“These events are allowed under state statute, as long as reasonably equal opportunity is available for other candidates,” Chancellor Flora Tydings said in a statement.

“I plan to brief the board on such use of state-owned property and determine its potential interest in developing a more detailed TBR policy concerning political or campaign requests on our system’s campuses,” she said.

Dick Williams, the chairman of Common Cause Tennessee, called it “unfortunate” that Tennessee doesn’t have a ban on all political activity at public facilities.

“It would be better to have the clear prohibition that you don’t use the campus or facility, period,” he said. “It would be better policy just to delete that exception.”

Williams noted that a recent legal opinion by state Attorney General Herbert Slatery found that it is lawful for campaign fundraisers to be held at the state-owned governor’s mansion because elected officials are excluded from the ban on campaigning on public property. The same exemption also applies to qualified candidates.

“They have the law and the attorney general on their side,” Williams conceded.

But it’s unlikely that a Democratic candidate like former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean would be allowed to hold a fundraiser at the governor’s mansion, he said.

TBI ‘Crime on Campus’ report for 2016: Rape down, other assaults up

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has released to the public its annual crime study detailing the volume and nature of crime on the state’s college and university campuses. ‘Crime on Campus’ compiles data submitted to TBI by the state’s colleges, universities, and law enforcement agencies through the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS).

Among the report’s findings:

·         Overall, crime reported by Tennessee’s colleges and universities increased slightly, by 0.8% from 2015 to 2016.

·         In total, 27% of all 2016 offenses reported were categorized as Larceny/Theft.

·         Fraud Offenses increased by 8% in 2016, with a substantial increase in the category of Impersonation, with a 177% increase from 13 in 2015 to 36 in 2016.

·         Assault Offenses increased by 21% year-to-year.

·         There was a 27% decrease in reported Rape offenses, from 62 in 2015 to 45 in 2016.

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