Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 16, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Private Prisons

  |   Video
  • A recent escape from a private prison in Kingman has brought up the issue of private prisons. Chuck Coughlin of Highground and Tixoc Munoz of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association discuss the pros and cons of private prisons.
Guests:
  • Chuck Coughlin - Highground
  • Tixoc Munoz - Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association
Category: Law

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
An inmate and an alleged accomplice are still on the loose after three prisoners escaped from a private prison facility in Kingman. Officials are investigating the possibility that human error may have led to the escape. A unit warden and another official from the prison have resigned. Here to talk about for-profit prisons and whether or not they are good for Arizona is Chuck Coughlin from Highground. Also here is Tixoc Munoz, from the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association. Lets get more specific. Private prisons, why are they good?

Chuck Coughlin:
Well, they provide policy-makers an option in times where we've gone through some very difficult budget periods over the last several years. There are options in terms of incarceration, options for policy-makers which in some instances can provide greater 11 cost savings and equal security. There are instances where it fails, where it obviously failed last week or a week or two ago, and that's troubling. You're dealing with a very difficult, as Tixoc knows, a very difficult population and it's a very difficult environment for a public employee or for a private employee to work in. You try and create an opportunity for those private entrepreneurs and public employees to work in a safe and productive environment. We think having an option both is in the best interests of the state.

Ted Simons:
Best interests of the state?

Tixoc Munoz:
You can say that when the budget is tough. I can tell you something, we know now what happened in New Mexico, I would say for the best interests of the citizens, definitely not. One of the things we provide, something Chuck just mentioned a moment ago, we must realize that our training is more detailed and more compromised with public safety. The things we're talking about, we all know human error was involved because we were not prepared. The state definitely always will be public.

Ted Simons:
But is it an option? Should private prison still be an option?

Tixoc Munoz:
Sure. We as a group are not opposed to their existence. But not for this type of offenders.

Ted Simons:
How do private prisons differ from state-run facilities? 12

Chuck Coughlin:
I think in many instances, as Tixoc mentioned, there's a level of prisoner. The Governor vetoed that because that's ridiculous. Certain levels of offenders have to be incarcerated in institutions that there's a boundary line they are not going to go beyond. She's reviewing that now and that'll be a public policy discussion as we move forward. That's the kind of thing you look at, what kind of offender are you housing, what's the cost, what's the cost of transportation, what are the inmates' needs while there, the threat to the public. Those are all policy considerations made with an eye on the budget, as well.

Ted Simons:
Oversight and regulation, is there enough by the state over these facilities?

Tixoc Munoz:
You know, I do not believe that. I think we should have more people than we have now. I think we have about four people overseeing them. It's not enough for an institution with a few thousand inmates.

Chuck Coughlin:
I think it's a reasonable question to ask. It's one that we're looking at and I know the Governor's folks are looking at. Everybody in the industry was very upset and disturbed by what happened. It's not an acceptable practice in a public prison or a private prison, it's not acceptable, what happened there. We're under review right now, the Governor was in Lake Havasu this weekend. She met with representatives of MTC, she met with the head of corrections. There's a report that's provided, they are asking MTC to respond to that. That's going to be the subject of some discussion. As I said, it's not acceptable. Governor knows that, everybody in the industry is very concerned. On this particular facility there were some administrative decisions made in the last year of the Napolitano administration, it was originally sold as a DUI incarceration facility. It was changed with the attorney general's approval to house higher levels of inmates. It was a budget discussion, that's a budget consideration. When you do that, then what training requirements are in place? What are the things that need to be done to make sure the level of security and the level of protection for the guards and for the general public is there? So that's something that the governor's looking at.

Ted Simons:
But medium -- we've seen people convicted of murder in medium security prisons before, even lighter security prisons before. What happened up there? What went wrong?

Tixoc Munoz:
I cannot say what went wrong, I'm not privy to the investigation. I can tell you we went wrong when we went private. I can tell you the inmates were in medium security before, and never escaped. That's due to training and dedication. As Chuck mentioned a minute ago,it's for profit, they are there to make money. They will get around whatever it takes to make a penny, including putting the public at risk. That's just it.

Ted Simons:
What do you make of that?

Chuck Coughlin:
I understand the perspective, I appreciate that perspective. But the reality is there has to be options. The options also help the public prisons be more competitive, as well, to make sure there is a competitive atmosphere in which we're operating. I hesitate to compare public schools and charter schools with federal prisons, but the notion of having competition for public resources is always a good idea. There is a proper oversight? Are we doing that? The Governor was very concerned about this whole issue, Ted. She got in office and said, I'm going to stake my reputation on the fact that we're not going to duty further beyond where we need to go. She advocated for a sales tax election, which was supported by 64% of the electorate, and which saved corrections over $80 million of its own budget. There was going to be another $80 million correction in the alternative budget that was passed. It was the Governor's leadership that saw that and said, I'm not willing to go further. She has tried to navigate a road here. There is opportunities to go further in terms of oversight? I think always good things to look at. There are opportunities to look at the public sector, too on the 15 private side. Again, it's the population you're dealing with. This is not an easy job.

Ted Simons:
As far as the investigation is concerned, though, and because disclosure seems to be a concern, it was mentioned the last corrections chief said there was as low an oversight in Arizona as there was around the country for some of these private prisons. Two people were fired because of this incident and we can't get the full story because the disclosure is not there. That's something to look at, isn't it?


Chuck Coughlin:
The good thing, as you've just mentioned, heads have rolled already. Unfortunately again, the tragedy in New Mexico is played out in terms of people who are responsible. There will be accountability, and discussions. The Governor this weekend was in Lake Havasu meeting with the corrections director, with the head of mtc. I'm confident she intends to have a full airing of this issue and a discussion with the policy-makers with the legislature.

Ted Simons:
With more oversight and regulation and communication between the private prison agents state, can there be a place for private facilities in Arizona?

Tixoc Munoz:
Sure. We're not opposed to this type of facilities. We believe they belong close to us, too. We believe that oversight is the key element. 16 That we can see the books, exactly what they do. We are not allowed by law to see their books.

Ted Simons:
The company says, we can't allow that much -- we're a business. We're a for-profit business. We can't let you look at all of our books. Is that a deal-breaker there?

Tixoc Munoz:
Yeah, definitely. One thing to think b we always try to save money for the taxpayers, they don't. The more people in, the more money they make.

Chuck Coughlin:
When we talk about open books, we should talk about the open books on the unions, as well. You have the sciu and others, they have been actively engaged in spending money, to deny us the all-star game in 2011. Let's look at the whole picture. One of the things we've been talking about here is a very reasonable policy decision. But there are some very unreasonable people involved in the debate, and that is the people with things sciu, with the scew, they are part of Obama's electoral coalition. It's the number one and number two supporters behind the boycott effort. We've got recognize who we're dealing with when we deal with labor. I'm not suggesting that Tixoc's union is that. They have had a good relationship with the governor. There are people who do not have Arizona's best interests at heart.

Ted Simons:
How do you respond?

Tixoc Munoz:
The governor and I have had a relationship for years, we've been friends for years the Governor and I. Personally I do not support any -- I live here, I believe in the best interests of the public sector.

Ted Simons:
I have to mention as well there are some folks concerned about your position in this, lobbying for the private prisons and working so closely with the Governor. They see a connection and a concern.

Chuck Coughlin:
That's why I'm here and why I appreciate the opportunity. My client, Corrections Corporation of America, we've represented for about the last two and a half years, they have over 2300 employees in the state. They do not house Arizona prisoners, those are federal prisoners but they have a lot of employees in the state. They are like any other employer, paying taxes and being part of the system out here. That's one of the things we do for them is look out for them on all kinds of employee issues and corporate tax issues because they are a corporate entity here in Arizona.

Ted Simons:
But that's a pretty cozy relationship, isn't it?

Chuck Coughlin:
I've known the Governor for a long time, Ted. I disclose everything that we do. We have to file all of our paperwork, all the things we do. We're under a very open process, and the fact that we're talking about it, I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable knowing they need representation just as the public employees have representation. 9 corrections corporation of America need representation. People need to know what the company does.

Ted Simons:
Last question: When critics say the Governor is so much for immigration law, because it means federal lockup, you're involved with that, you're involved with her. What's going on there?

Chuck Coughlin:
Absolutely hyperbole. There are no private jails, those are public jails when someone gets arrested. There would be no transport into the state prison system where this happens. It's totally made-up by the very people I mentioned earlier, sciu, the uscw and organizations trying to politicize the issue.

Ted Simons:
I'll stop you right there, thanks for joining us, both of you.

Chuck Coughlin & Tixoc Munoz:
Thank you.

Race to the Top

  |   Video
  • Arizona is in the running to win nearly $250 million for public education in the federal Race to the Top competition. As one of 19 finalists, the state recently defended its application in Washington, D.C. Now, it waits to find out if it’s a winner. Eileen Klein, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, and Paul Koehler of WestEd discuss the state’s application.
Guests:
  • Eileen Klein - Chief of Staff to the Governor
  • Paul Koehler - WestEd
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Earlier this year Arizona tried to win a major education reform grant in the national "Race to the Top" competition, but the state didn't even come close to making the cut. Arizona is doing much better in round two. Indeed, the state is one of 19 finalists and still has a shot to win at much as $250 million. Here to talk about all this is the Governor's chief of staff, Eileen Klein, who just last week led a group to Washington, D.C., to present the application to a panel of judges. And Paul Koehler is here, he directs the policy center at West-Ed. He was brought in by the Governor to help prepare the application to round two. Good to have you here.


Thank you.

>> Thank you.

Ted simons:
Why did the second application work a whole lot better than the first?

Eileen Klein:
We certainly learned a lot from the first round. After we saw the original results we took an opportunity to review the comments made by the panelists. Then we went back and really looked to make sure we had the foundations for reform, that we really had the plan in place and the momentum, and mostly that we had the community's support. When we found we did, we made sure we engaged a consultant, 3 locally based, Dr. Koehler, who could help deliver that in round two.


Ted Simons:
Seems like things like science, engineering, math, technology, what changed in those?

Eileen Klein:
Obviously, many of the fundamentals were there. We just weren't able to tell our story as well as we could have in the first round. In the second round we really made sure to highlight the terrific things going on in Arizona. And to make sure we highlight science, math, improvements in standards that we've made, we needed to tell our story later.

Ted Simons:
Was it just a question of narrative here?

Paul Koehler:
It was question of narrative and also a question of focus. It had a much better management plan for round two, we were better able to describe how we would manage the money, what we would do with it. We linked the need to improve our education system to the economy in Arizona. We combined those things into a much more coherent application.

Ted Simons:
What about legislation in the past session, things like the third grade, 16-year-olds allowed to graduate, teachers' certifications being altered. All those things play a factor?

Paul Koehler:
A huge factor. The application was based on improving the standards and assessments, improving teacher and principal evaluation, improving the data system, and improving the struggling schools' approach to low-performing schools. There was legislation that came 4 out of the session sign by the Governor in every one of those areas. I think what we did in May and June was to pull that together around those assurances, and really say in the application, Arizona is ready, we can do these things. We need to do them anyway, but it would be great if we could get the funding behind us.
Ted Simons:
Is that how you saw it as well, how the legislature was moving, did those directions help the process?

Eileen Klein:
Absolutely, without a doubt. The great thing is Arizona has a strong tradition of reform. We have 30 years of solid reforms in the very areas the government was interested in seeing progress in. It was a historic year in 2010 of making improvements and all of those contributed to the success of our position in round two.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned the focus or targets. Turning around failing schools was one of them. What was the State saying it wants to do regarding failing schools? I mean, a letter grade is kind of interesting, but it's got to be more than that, doesn't it?

Eileen Klein:
Absolutely. What we looked at was what is our overarching goal? We need to make progress in getting more kids to graduate from high school. One of the great things about the applications, we've aligned those big goals with higher education goals for the year 2020. Building up to that, we need to 5 make sure every student has an opportunity to make progress every year. For instance, we need to make sure students are being taught by the most qualified teachers, that we have a pipeline of teachers available so that districts have the leadership in place, all of the support that students will need. We also had to make changes in curriculum, meaning in standards, to increase our standards and expectations. So the applications really centered on specific strategies. We really want to focus on those key transition areas working towards this graduation goal, improving that graduation rate, we really want to pay special attention at third grade, eighth grade, tenth grade, so we know students are hitting the mound.

Paul Koehler:
We went out and did this enormous outreach, talked to the business community, everyone in the education community, foundations, everyone that would talk to us about, if we were going do this again, what do we have to do differently and better? That was the advice, really focus on a terminal goal, improving the graduation rate, which is key. Our graduation rate, people argue about the number but let's say it's 70%, maybe 72%. It's not good enough in this economy for sure. We got great advice from the stakeholders who said, focus on something you can measure and go backwards to those transition points, third, eighth, tenth.

Ted Simons:
Very controversial is the linking of teacher pay to 6 student performance. That's something that apparently "Race to the Top" is focused on. What was Arizona's proposal and what are your thoughts on those lines?

Paul Koehler
The proposal was we had legislation in place, SB 1040. Arizona will develop a system that fairly and objectively links data to a teacher's performance. 33% to 50% should be based on data that's now over at the state board of Ed. They have a year and a half to figure out what that's going to be. Our proposal -- other states doing this, they are doing it and have done it very well. What process did they use? So we didn't start from scratch. The other thing, Ted, was a major outreach to the Arizona Education Association. We went to them early and often in the second round and said, look, we can't do this work without the teachers. You represent 34,000 teachers in the state. We need to have you with us, you need to be at the table helping us. They came across and said, you bet, we will.

Ted Simons:
How did they come across when something like teacher evaluations is so controversial and the union is not that excited about it?

Eileen Klein:
There have been challenges and teachers are feeling the pinch of the recession and reduced budgets. We talked through, and the key really from the Association's point of view is the ability to do things with them, together. 7 There is that strong commitment, as there is with education leaders across the state, to make sure we work through the implementation of these reforms together.

Ted Simons:
Seems like the "Race to the Top" folks are looking for that cooperation.

Eileen Klein:
They are, absolutely. One great thing Arizona can point to, ours is truly a statewide platform for reform.

Ted Simons:
Critics of "Race to the Top" say that it diminishes local control, that it's a federal intrusion into state policy, these sorts of things.

Eileen Klein:
Understandably, Arizona has a proud tradition and a very decentralized system of government and strong belief in local control. "Race to the Top" allows us to maintain that. It allows the districts to still choose how they are going to teach. They will be higher than the standards we have today, but schools will have discretion about how to get there. The State will provide resources and leadership training. And the other professional is tied to university academics. So districts have those resources to implement.

Ted Simons:
But still, I'm hearing criticism that you've got to toe the line and do X, Y and Z, and they are holding out the money for you to do what the federal government wants. How do you respond to that?

Paul Koehler:
Two answers to that, Ted. For sure, it's driven by the federal level, no question about that. Particularly the western states are sort of feeling that a little more than maybe some of the 8 eastern states. It's true, but on the other side, which of the four priorities would Arizona not want to do? Do we want better data systems for our schools? I think we'll sign on for that. Do we want to improve the lowest performing schools? We're doing it now without the funding. How about improving teacher and principal evaluations? Everyone agrees it has to be done. And how about better assessments and standards? The four things the government wants us to do, Arizona has started to do. As Eileen said, the way we're going to do it and still get the funding, we've got a huge win here.


Eileen Klein:
If we're going to be competitive in the global economy, we have to have improvements in student performance. We would be delighted to have the funding to support the effort.

Ted Simons:
I'm going to ask what you're going to do with the money, should we get it. Let's start with what you're going to do if you don't get it.

Eileen Klein:
Certainly we're hopeful that we will receive the dollars. If we don't, the terrific thing about the process is we have a lot of buy-in now to what's considered to be the blueprint for making progress in each of these performance areas. And we're not shooting for a goal 10 years down the road, but right away. By having this new blueprint 9 form we're going to be able to move forward. Certainly we'd like the funding help to do it.

Ted Simons:
Win or lose, you've got the blueprint. If you get the money, do the wonderful ideas get lost in a stampede? Is it just one big rumble out there?

Paul Koehler:
It better not be. I think the plan really describes how we're going to roll this out. There's a strong executive management team that'll be set up immediately to precede us. The regional centers that do the outreach, a lot of experts brought in. I think it's well organized and very purposeful. It lasts four years, half of the funds stay at the state to implement the things we're talking about. The other half, $125 million, are shared by the School Districts and charters signed on as partners. In the aggregate, we have enough School Districts and charters that represent 92% of the students in Arizona signed on. A good place for stakeholders and partners to start in.

Ted Simons:
Last question: When do we find out?

Eileen Klein:
We're hoping by the middle of the next week. August 26th or 27th.

Ted Simons:
I think most folks would say good luck.


Paul Koehler
Appreciate that. Thanks, Ted.

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