Make us your home page

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 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

  1. What you need to know for Monday, July 24


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    At 1.2 million gallons, the house of Harry Barkett in South Tampa used more water than anyone else in the Tampa Bay region between Jan. 1 and May 31 of this year, when Tampa was in a severe drought. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Discovering the true meaning of Black Forest cake in the German region itself


    The first time I had a taste of the Black Forest, it wasn't by way of cake.

    Black Forest Cake in Germany was granted legally protected status in 2013. It must use the gateau’s original ingredients, including kirsch, a brandy made from fermented sour cherries from the region.
  3. Gov. Scott's tough talk on Venezuela may not turn into economic action

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — To show his solidarity with Venezuelans, Gov. Rick Scott held a rally in South Florida and repeatedly promised to punish companies that do business with the Nicolás Maduro regime.

    Gov. Rick Scott held a rally July 10 at El Arepazo restaurant to show solidarity with Venezuelans. Scott has said he wants to punish companies that work with the Nicol?s Maduro regime.
  4. Paralyzed patients in Florida fear losing health care at home


    TAMPA — After a 1999 car crash left Albert Hort paralyzed, he lived for a while in a nursing home.

    Albert Hort, 54, is a quadriplegic and receives care at his Tarpon Springs apartment, thanks to a special state program.
  5. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.