Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fasano says it's 'ill-advised' to pull funding for AMIkids

The decision to eliminate funding for a well-regarded nonprofit alternative school for troubled youth has sparked a backlash from a key Pasco lawmaker.

In a letter sent Thursday to the Department of Juvenile Justice, state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, called it "ill advised" to pull funding for most of the Central Florida operations of AMIkids.

Fasano said he's seen firsthand how children have benefited from the mix of education and counseling provided by AMI, formerly called the New Port Richey Marine Institute.

"The Marine Institute has been making significant differences in the lives of at-risk children for many years," he wrote.

Under a new contract announced this week, Melbourne-based Paxen Learning Corp. will provide a scaled-back program starting in July in eight Central Florida counties, including Pasco.

AMI's New Port Richey program has about 50 students enrolled in the alternative school. Paxen would serve 20 kids in an after-school program only. AMI's programs also will be reduced in Hillsborough and Pinellas and eliminated in three other Central Florida counties.

Fasano spoke with DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters on Wednesday evening to express his concern about the decision.

"To say the least, I wasn't happy with her responses," Fasano said. "I'm a bit concerned as to if she even knows why this contract was given."

Department spokesman C.J. Drake said officials are reviewing the letter and will respond to Fasano. Drake said the department uses data and research in its contracting program and "puts the needs of troubled kids, not contractors, first."

Paxen provides educational materials and also offers classes in alternative education and life skills. A year ago, the company hired Richard Semancik as its chief operating officer. In 2000, he founded Tampa-based Sunshine Youth Services, which treats kids with mental health problems. That company was taken over by G4S Youth Services in 2009.

Paxen spokesman Ken Zeszutko said he would not comment about the contract until next week. He said the department has only issued an intent to award the contract and won't announce the official award for three days.

AMI has long held the DJJ's statewide contract for day treatment services. The contract changed this year when state juvenile justice officials split the award into three regions. They also split services into programs for kids who are on conditional release from a juvenile detention center and those who are placed on probation and sent to an alternative school.

Drake said the contract's new scope would focus services in the afternoon and evening, when most delinquent activity occurs. Splitting the contract in two parts would prevent children with different risk levels from being grouped together.

AMI won five of the six smaller contracts. Paxen will take over Central Florida's probation program under a $2.8 million contract. But the switch saves little money: AMI's proposal was $2.9 million. Overall, the department will spend $11.3 million this year on day treatment services. The total cost of the new contracts is $11.4 million.

"I understand that the state budget needs to be cut, however, it seems that the money being saved by taking this action is minimal," Fasano wrote. "How do you justify removing funding from an organization that has proven to reduce recidivism in at-risk youth for such little savings?"

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Fasano says it's 'ill-advised' to pull funding for AMIkids 05/31/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  2. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  3. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  4. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.
  5. Baghdad orders Kurdistan region to hand over borders, ports

    World

    BAGHDAD — Iraq's central government in Baghdad ordered the country's Kurdish region to hand over all border crossings and airports to federal government control late Sunday night, hours before the region is set to carry out a controversial referendum on support for independence.

    Iraqi Kurds climb the fence into a soccer stadium during a rally in Irbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, on Friday. Kurds will vote in a referendum today on the creation of their own country.