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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ongoing corruption, graft and waste at the DOE

See today’s NY Times about the federal indictments of four DOE employees as a result of the bus scandal investigation – accused of soliciting bribes for amounting to at least $1 million, in exchange for giving preferential treatment on safety inspections to companies that provide transportation to thousands of special ed students.

These indictments result from a terrific investigative series of reports last summer by the Daily News– not anything uncovered by DOE itself or by Richard Condon, the school special investigator. See our blog for links to these stories. In fact, the News reporters complained of stonewalling by the DOE in the process of researching the safety problems and abusive behavior on the part of these companies.

In addition, the NY Post reveals a list of community groups that received money through the Mayor’s “own secret taxpayer-funded cash stash” in the reporter’s words, amounting last year to $4.5 million, which the Mayor used “to reward favored lawmakers” like Councilman Simcha Felder (who got $1.9 million for his favorite community groups), Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz ($900,000) and others.

Also on the list is Councilman Erik Dilan – who coincidentally or not, along with Felder is one of only four Council members who have refused to sign the resolution opposing budget cuts to schools. The Mayor’s office supplied $60,000 to a community group that happens to be run by Dilan’s wife.

Unlike those groups allocated discretionary funds directly from the Council, “Bloomberg's slush funds were channeled through various city agencies to 45 groups and weren't listed on the document released each year by the council …”

See also today’s oped in Daily News by Andrew Stengel of the Brennan Center– suggesting that the recent naming of a Queens campus of public schools for Senator Padavan might be considered a form of graft:

The state's Public Officers Law is clear on this: Elected officials cannot receive extra compensation or any gift of more than nominal value. Placing someone's name in a prominent place, whether it's an actual building or a tract of land, has monetary value. ….Naming a school after Padavan appears, at the very least, to violate the spirit of the law, which says that an elected official cannot "solicit, accept or receive any gift having a value of seventy-five dollars or more whether in the form of money, service, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing or promise, or in any other form ... in the performance of his official duties or was intended as a reward for any official action on his part.

Worse still, according to the chancellor's regulations, "schools may not be named after living persons." The chancellor and others worked around this rule by arguing - get this - that it doesn't apply to a campus. The naming is especially egregious in this case because Republican Sen. Padavan's district is a major battleground in the war over control of the state Senate, which is one seat from a tie and two from flipping to the Democrats.

But perhaps all this pales compared to the unfortunately legal, but incredibly wasteful spending practices of the DOE, which while proposing huge budget cuts to schools also intends to spend nearly $8 million next year on its so-called Accountability office – with only 18 staff members, averaging $432,757 per person! See this entry by the invaluable blogger, Eduwonkette:

On page 446 of New York City's FY09 budget, we learn that the Division of Assessment and Accountability is budgeted at $8,287,282. $7,789,623 will buy you 18 staff - that's $432,757 per person! What else could you buy for this money, according to Eduwonkette?

A) 3,894,812 subway rides
B) 15,579 pairs of Prada heels
C) 1812 hours with the Emperors VIP Club
D) 315 years of education at the Brearley School

I would also add a lot of smaller classes in our public schools, after school tutoring, and art programs.

Next time someone goes on about the corruption and waste that pervaded the system in the days before Mayoral control, perhaps you might mention one of the examples above.


Anonymous said...

Zolly Just before Shabbos
Aha! Everyone thought that the end of Community School Boards would mark the termination of corruption in the New York City school system. Nonsense! Corruption is alive and well. The DOE is bloated. Why are there so many failed principals sitting at Tweed Court House. I heard of one guy from south Brooklyn who wrecked his school and went off to somewhere else and now he is at Tweed. He got plenty of help from a very big honcho in his south Brooklyn district.

Anonymous said...

From Zolly:
We haven't come a long way at all. Years ago, it was a known fact that in certain slum districts $10,000.00 was paid to attain positions such as assistant principals. It's still the same old nonsense.
We should demand that the so called educational experts get back into the classroom and teach. Problem is that many of them never taught for an hour.