Get Maxim Healthcare Services Out of Our Schools
By Susan Anderson
As you go into your Winter Break I wanted to alert you to some very serious problems that you face in your schools. I have good news and bad news for you all. Please keep in mind that you have the power to correct the bad news I am about to tell you. I was a teacher in the Santa Barbara Unified School District and I have faith, admiration, and love for all of you. Because we are living in a time where leaders, who are adults, are so miserably failing all of us it is only natural that you become leaders in your own right. I know you’ll be successful.
First, let me tell you the bad news: the Santa Barbara Unified School District has done something unprecedented (not done before) and utterly harmful to you all. For the first time ever it has hired a privately held for profit corporation called Maxim Healthcare Services to staff para educator positions in Special Education classrooms throughout the district. The SBUSD did not tell any of you, and it didn’t have your consent (approval) to do so. Why is allowing Maxim Healthcare Services such a dangerous and destructive thing? It’s because the SBUSD by law has to hire individual para educators, it cannot hire a for profit corporation that is only there to make money. By law, all of you are allowed a “fair and appropriate” public education. Introducing Maxim Healthcare Services breaks many, many laws because it is a direct threat to your safety. I know there must be some questions here, so let me explain more.
Maxim Healthcare Services has committed multiple serious felonies: in 2011 it had to pay $150,000,000 to the Department of Justice as a part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement because it had been defrauding Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs of $61,000,000. Do you want such people around your personal information? No, you don’t and neither do your parents. You all want real teachers. Maxim has “mutually beneficial partnerships with juvenile and adult correctional centers, public school systems and state run medical facilities”. That means they make money with children’s jails. Does that sound like the kind of education you want? Again, the answer is no. As a teacher I am required to report child abuse to the State, but what can I do if the State itself is abusing children? I guess I can only appeal directly to the children themselves.
There is another ugly fact about Maxim Healthcare Services: they are the #3 Contractor for ICE in the State of California. That means that ICE is essentially working in the school district, and Maxim Healthcare Services cannot say that it isn’t. The contract Maxim Healthcare Services has with ICE is worth a whopping $70,000,000!!! Holy moly, that’s a lot of money! That’s one of the reasons they’re there: to find out information and turn little kids over to ICE. All someone would have to do is ask a little kid if their parents have papers. The conversation would go like this: “Juan, does your mommy have papers or is she worried about it?” A six year old would give someone the truth. Kids would even turn each other in for money or out of revenge. Maxim Healthcare Services makes schools very unsafe. This is how you would destroy education, period.
Remember, the SBUSD has hired a for profit corporation, not individual people. No one has interviewed these people- they are strangers! I’ve met some very nice people from Maxim Healthcare Services who are unaware that they’re working for such a bad and dangerous corporation. Not surprisingly, Maxim Healthcare Services has apparently been telling it’s employees that they cannot apply to the SBUSD for the first six months into their contract, which, if true, is flatly illegal. Their employees could take them to court if that is what has been happening. The SBUSD didn’t inform the Maxim Healthcare Services employees that they could even apply to the district, but apparently they’ve hired some of the good employees, but that in and of itself presents an issue because of what Maxim Healthcare Services is and has been.
The good news, kids and parents, is that you are in the driver’s seat!!! You can kick them out! Here’s how: organize a protest- pick a day, or even days, to boycott schools until the SBUSD gets Maxim Healthcare Services OUT of your precious public schools. Invite adults who are very wonderful to apply for para educator positions- they need to pass a background check and be good citizens. It’s a job many people could do- they just have to be a great person. Santa Barbara has many great people!
Starting in January of 2019 I wrote multiple emails to the School Board, yet they chose to re-hire Maxim Healthcare Services. I’ve never had to deal with people so out of touch with what the children really need. Talk about an utter failure to protect your basic rights. The fact that many teachers didn’t tell you or your parents about Maxim Healthcare Services even though they knew about it is beyond disappointing. How you and your parents handle the fact that so many knew about this but declined to do the right things is something that as a community you’ll have to reckon with. There are tons of good teachers and para educators that can be recruited. Teaching is SO WONDERFUL and we need twice as many teachers and para educators- we especially need men and men of color. The SBUSD has a hard time keeping para educators because they pay them below poverty wages and they do some of the hardest work. Support those who want to support you. Teachers who are unkind or harmful can be weeded out when more and more positive, well trained, and fairly paid teachers are hired. That’s a proven fact.
American Government teachers are going to have fun with this, it’s a teachable moment. Maxim Healthcare Services appeared shortly after Betsy DeVos was appointed Secretary of Education by Mike Pence. She wasn’t elected to that position. DeVos won’t release the financial details of Maxim Healthcare Service’s contracts or where they are located. I keep asking her on Twitter but she doesn’t want to answer obviously. Where they are and how much they are making are a total mystery. California has Maxim Healthcare Services in 55 school districts from what I know. I believe they’re making at least $1,000,000 per contract... if so, that would a cost of $55,000,000 to the taxpayers a year. California sends 53 Representatives to the House of Representatives in Congress. If Maxim Healthcare Services was evenly distributed through all 50 states it would mean that we taxpayers are spending approximately $432,000,000 million a year on this outfit. And, absolutely no Trump voter voted for this, even though it is like taking the rug out from under the feet of their own children’s education. Why does a for profit corporation with ties to “state run hospitals” want to be around kids, our kids aren’t sick? Why would school districts not tell students or parents? What is the effect of knowing that ICE’s #3 Contractor (in CA) is putting unvetted people on campus, specifically with the most vulnerable populations?
When I worked alongside Maxim Healthcare Services earlier this year I saw absolute destruction on so, so, so many levels. Maxim employees would be transferred in and out of classrooms and schools at a moment’s notice. They’d receive texts or emails telling them they needed to go somewhere else the next day. Usually they’d been there just long enough to get to know the kids and the routine a little and then they’d be gone. The sad thing was that a lot of the kids KNEW what was happening and were sad about it. It was the most UNPROFESSIONAL and DESTRUCTIVE thing I’ve seen. Remember, the school district is just relying on Maxim to provide the staff at any given day- that is so dangerous, especially when you’re working in Special Education. Kids HAVE to have stability—- this was literally preventing education to happen. Maxim Healthcare Services says that it has trained and gone through a bunch of qualifications but that is nothing compared to the outright damage I saw being done. A Maxim Healthcare Services employee who had been hired the week before was passed off as having the qualifications needed to work with some of the most precious and vulnerable children. This Maxim employee actually left a student in Special Education downtown by themselves. That’s when I quit: I knew the kids were in danger frankly. Also, in early June of 2019 Maxim Healthcare Services posted an on Craigslist for para educators saying that it especially encouraged “veterans with service-related disabilities” to apply. Any veterans with “service-related disabilities” should not work for $16/hour around some of the most volatile kids in our school system. Veterans deserve our respect, attention, and support in ways that are as healing and productive as possible. That CL ad should remove any doubt about whether or not this outfit has anyone’s best interest, let along public education, at heart.
Undoubtedly this situation will make people very, very upset. Students, parents and school staff are in the driver’s seat here, so it’s up to all of you to come together and change it. People protest, the boycott, they have sit-ins and teach-ins, adults should offer you free pizzas for your troubles. Adults need to be here to support you, and they will be. Be creative yet speak your minds. We all have the power to make schools even greater than they ever have been.
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